The Meaning, History, and Occasions for Enjoying Kohaku Manju



Kohaku manju, a traditional Japanese confection, is an essential item for special celebrations and festive occasions. In this article, we will explore the meaning behind its colors and name, its history, and the various occasions when it is enjoyed.

The Meaning of Kohaku Manju

Kohaku manju is an indispensable sweet for traditional Japanese celebrations, consisting of two colors: red (ko) and white (haku). These colors hold significant meaning in Japanese culture and have long been regarded as symbols of happiness, purity, and blessings.

The Meaning of Red

In Japan, red has been believed to possess the power to ward off evil and misfortune since ancient times. It is also a symbol of vitality and energy, making it a favorite color for celebrations and festivals. The strength and positive energy associated with red add vibrancy and depth to festive occasions.

The Meaning of White

White, on the other hand, is considered a color that represents cleanliness, purity, and sanctity. It signifies new beginnings and innocence, making it a popular choice for gifts during weddings, births, and other milestones in life. White is also seen as a symbol of peace and harmony, as it complements any other color.

The Combination of Red and White

By combining red and white, kohaku manju symbolizes the “harmony of happiness and purity.” This combination is in line with the concept of “kohaku” seen in traditional Japanese weddings, celebrations, and New Year’s events, making it an essential element for auspicious occasions. Giving kohaku manju conveys deep meanings of blessings and well-wishes, making it a delightful gift for the recipient.

Kohaku manju goes beyond being a simple confection; it embodies Japanese culture, traditions, and people’s wishes and blessings. Its colors bring happiness and purity to those who see them, making Japanese celebrations even more special.

The History of Kohaku Manju

The history of kohaku manju starts with its colors being deeply rooted in Japanese tradition and culture. Although there are few clear records of when kohaku manju first appeared, tracing its origins reveals that it gradually took shape throughout Japan’s long history.

Origins and Development

The origins of kohaku manju can be traced back to the Heian period (794-1185), when the colors red and white were already being used as auspicious colors. However, it is believed that these colors started being used in the form of kohaku manju during the Edo period (1603-1868), when Japanese confectionery culture flourished, and many traditional sweets were born.

During the Edo period, kohaku manju gained popularity as a confection for celebrations and festive occasions. It spread among the common people and became an essential item for celebrating special events. The background of kohaku manju being used in celebratory settings is due to red symbolizing the power to ward off evil and misfortune, while white represents purity and sanctity.

Cultural Significance

Kohaku manju became a popular gift not only for weddings, births, and seasonal festivals but also for New Year’s greetings and wishing for business prosperity. Giving kohaku manju on these occasions expresses wishes for the recipient’s happiness, health, and success.

Passed Down to Modern Times

Even as times change, kohaku manju continues to hold its value as part of Japan’s traditional celebratory culture. In modern times, kohaku manju has evolved into various shapes and flavors while still maintaining its traditions and incorporating new ideas. However, its essential aspect—the wish for happiness and prosperity—remains unchanged and continues to be cherished as a confection that adorns Japan’s special days.

When is Kohaku Manju Enjoyed?

As a traditional Japanese confection, kohaku manju is enjoyed on various celebratory and festive occasions. Due to the auspiciousness symbolized by its colors, it is often savored in the following situations:


At weddings and receptions, kohaku manju may be given to guests as a token of gratitude from the newlyweds. It may also be given to the bride and groom by relatives and friends as a wedding celebration gift. Kohaku manju symbolizes the blessing and wish for happiness and prosperity in the couple’s new beginning.

Births and Children’s Festivals

Kohaku manju is often given as a gift to celebrate the birth of a child, the first shrine visit, or the first seasonal festival. This is a traditional way of expressing wishes for the child’s long life and happiness.

New Year’s Greetings

When making New Year’s greetings to relatives, friends, or business associates, kohaku manju may be brought along as a gift. It is imbued with the meaning of wishing for good luck and prosperity in the new year.

Store Openings and Housewarming Celebrations

Kohaku manju may be given as a gift when a new store opens or a new house is built. By giving kohaku manju on these occasions, one expresses wishes for the prosperity and happiness of the business or household.

Longevity Celebrations

Kohaku manju is also used to celebrate milestones in longevity, such as kanreki (60th birthday), koki (70th birthday), kiju (77th birthday), sanju (80th birthday), beiju (88th birthday), sotsuju (90th birthday), and hakuju (99th birthday). During longevity celebrations, the meaning of kohaku manju is emphasized to wish for health and long life.

Graduation Ceremonies

Kohaku manju may also be enjoyed during graduation ceremonies. Graduation is an important milestone, marking the end of one’s education and the beginning of a new chapter in life. By sharing kohaku manju among graduates, their families, and teachers, it symbolizes the wish for happiness and success in the graduates’ future endeavors. In this way, kohaku manju is cherished as a way to celebrate the new beginnings that come with graduation.


Kohaku manju, with its vibrant red and white colors, is an indispensable confection for traditional Japanese celebrations and festive events. The color red symbolizes the power to ward off evil and misfortune, while white represents purity and sanctity. The combination of these two colors expresses the beautiful Japanese custom of wishing for happiness and prosperity.

Kohaku manju is chosen for life’s important milestones, such as weddings, births, seasonal festivals, New Year’s greetings, store openings, housewarming celebrations, longevity celebrations, and graduation ceremonies. This is because it holds deep meaning and the power to convey blessings. Through kohaku manju, people share happiness and express their wishes for the future.

This traditional confection continues to be loved by many for its visual beauty, auspiciousness, and, above all, its taste.