Anpan (Red Bean Buns) Recipe - A Staple Snack Seen in Spirited Away, Gintama, Clannad, and More!

Do you remember the scene in Spirited Away where Lin, the bathhouse worker, brings a huge plate of some kind of white bread to Sen after a tough first day at work? The two of them devour that mysterious bread, and it helps Sen feel a lot better. That bread was likely a traditional Japanese bread called "anman," a soft bread stuffed with red bean paste that is steamed. There is also "anpan" which is basically the same but baked. These baked red bean buns have especially been a part of traditional Japanese food culture for a long time, and they’re still commonly enjoyed today.

So today you can step into an anime yourself and enjoy some red bean buns that you’ve made! Whether you want to pretend you’re in a traditional story set in Japan’s past or a modern school life story, red bean buns will be appropriate. Let’s have a look at what anime you can see them in, and then onwards to the recipe!

Bringing an Anime Snack to Life

So why does Lin give Sen a red bean bun in Spirited Away? While the film never states a reason, we have a theory. In many cultures, warm bread is seen as something comforting and calming, and also associated with being at home. Sen has had a rough time acclimating to life at the bathhouse and misses her parents a lot. So when Lin gives her a warm red bean bun, it’s meant to be a comfort to her after a hard day and to help her feel more at home in her new life. They’re also easy to make and easy to eat and digest, making red bean buns a great snack.

Spirited Away isn’t the only animation to feature red bean buns, though. They’re actually quite a common treat! Actually, Japan’s most famous children’s show, Anpanman, features a main character whose entire head is made from a red bean bun. But don’t worry, red bean buns appear in more age-appropriate media, too. Akatsuki from Log Horizon loves to eat red bean buns with green tea, Nagisa talks to herself about anpan often in Clannad, and red bean buns are used as a prize in Deadman Wonderland. Gintama is one of Japan’s most popular anime, and in one episode Sagaru Yamazaki even eats a red bean bun as part of a ritual (never mind that he goes insane from it...). For gaming fans out there, you can buy red bean buns at convenience stores throughout the Yakuza game series - mostly because you can buy them at real Japanese convenience stores, too!

Anpan (Red Bean Buns)( -8 buns)

What you need:

bread flour
1 3/4 cup

cake flour
1/4 cup

1/4 cup

1 tsp

instant yeast
1 tsp

large egg

3 1/2 tbsp

3 1/2 tbsp

butter, cubed
2 1/2 tbsp

Red bean paste (check your local Asian supermarket!)


large egg

2 tbsp

black sesame seeds
2 tsp

How to Cook It:

  1. 1

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, cake flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Mix all these dry ingredients together well.
  2. 2

    Then, beat the large egg in a small bowl, and stir it into the mixture.
  3. 3

    Add the milk and water in the large bowl as well, and stir everything well again to combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  4. 4

    Next, using either your hands or a wooden spoon (with flour on them), mix the dough to make it into a large, sticky ball. It will be REALLY sticky at first but be persistent and patient until it forms a ball. You can add a little extra flour if you need to but be careful not to add too much!
  5. 5

    Once you have a large ball, move the dough to a floured, flat surface and begin to knead it with your hands. The dough should start to not be sticky anymore, but if it doesn’t, you can add a little more flour as needed.
  6. 6

    When the dough had become more elastic, stretch it out and add the butter, cut into cubes, to the top of it. Then fold the butter in and continue kneading it into the dough.
  7. 7

    As the dough becomes smooth, you can start to bang it off of the surface to make it even more elastic. You should continue to knead the dough and bang it on the counter for about ten minutes until it’s smooth and silky in texture. You can now form the dough back into a ball.
  8. 8

    Place the ball of dough in a large bowl and cover it, then leave the dough to rise for 1-2 hours. It should double in size.

  9. 9

    Once the dough is ready, put it back onto the flat surface and press it out to release any air. Then fold it back into a ball, and cut it into eight equal pieces. These smaller pieces should then be formed into small balls themselves.
  10. 10

    Let these small balls of dough rest, covered, for 15 minutes on a baking sheet. Then press the dough into flat circles, approximately 3in in diameter, and add a spoonful of the red bean paste to the centre. Fold the dough back up around the filling and pinch the seam securely closed. Place the filled balls back on the baking sheet, seam down, and allow them to rise another 30 minutes covered.
  11. 11

    When the balls have doubled in size again, you’re almost ready to bake them! Sprinkle a few black sesame seeds to the top of each one if you wish, and then bake them in a preheated oven at 400F for about 14 minutes. When they’re browned evenly, they’re finally finished! Good job; you not only made bread from scratch, you made a famous Japanese snack!


Final Thought

Red bean buns are a simple, common sweet that are regularly enjoyed in Japan, and regularly enjoyed in anime, too! They’re easy to make, comforting to eat, and sweet without being too unhealthy. So next time you’re having a bad day, want a simple snack, or just want to feel like the main character in your own anime, consider making red bean buns. They’re also super easy to pack and share when you’re travelling or with friends, so when it’s time to start going to conventions and meet-ups again, you can be ready with one of anime’s most popular snacks!

Have you ever had red bean buns before? Did you try out our recipe yet, or are you going to soon? How did it turn out? What’s your favourite anime scene with red bean buns? Don’t leave without dropping a comment!

SpirtedAwayAnpan-700x378 Anpan (Red Bean Buns) Recipe - A Staple Snack Seen in Spirited Away, Gintama, Clannad, and More!


Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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