When people think about Japanese comfort food, they likely imagine a lot of rice dishes. And when they think about snacks, they picture Pocky, matcha, and maybe mochi. But did you know that, like many Western countries, one of the top comfort foods and snacks in Japan is actually bread?
In recent years, bread has become more and more popular in Japanese food culture. Of course, Japan had toasting bread, baguettes, and croissants just like most of the world. But did you know Japan has also developed it’s very own bread culture, with lots of breads that are unique to Japan?
Bread has become such a staple part of Japanese life that there are bakeries all over the place, from the middle of Tokyo to the countryside. Bread has even become a normal part of Japanese school lunches, with a few select kinds being particularly popular for children. While we could talk about all of these unique Japanese breads for ages, today we are going to focus on a few of the most popular ones - Japanese breads you can find in just about any bakery across Japan, and where you can find bread in the anime world!
What Bread is Special in Japan?
Most otaku have probably seen the meme of “anime character running late for school with a piece of toast in their mouth,” but there’s a lot more to the world of Japanese bread than just sliced white toast (though admittedly thick-cut Japanese toast really is something worth experiencing, too). Like we said previously, there are a lot of kinds of bread that Japan has either adapted or created to suit Japanese taste, but we are just going to touch on a few of the most popular and the most unique. Keep in mind that the Japanese word for bread is “pan.”
The first is one you’ve likely seen in anime before, or at least heard about - melonpan. Contrary to popular belief, melonpan isn’t named such because it has a melon flavour, but rather because of its appearance, which looks a bit like a cantaloupe. It's a soft, plain roll covered with a sugar cookie-like crust on the top, and is particularly loved by children. Sometimes it has chocolate chips, maple flavour, and yes, sometimes it does indeed have melon cream inside! We guess that kind is melon-melonpan.
Next up in our rollcall of interesting Japanese breads is yakisoba pan. Yakisoba is a Japanese fried noodle dish, with the noodles typically fried in soy sauce with vegetables. Yakisoba pan is a very simple concept - take a hot dog bun, but put yakisoba inside of it instead of a hot dog. Its basically the Japanese equivalent of putting spaghetti inside of a hot dog bun. It's certainly not for everyone, but for yakisoba lovers, it's an amazing carb party that fills you up and keeps you satisfied. If you ever see what looks like a noodle sandwich in anime or manga, it's likely this simple snack.
Finally, a Japanese bread that can easily be a light meal is curry pan. Curry pan is a savoury roll of white bread that has a delicious hot curry filling. The kind of curry can vary from Japanese to Indian-styles, cheese curry, and more. The only limit is the baker’s imagination! Curry pan is easy to eat on the go, and especially popular in the winter when it's warm in your hands and in your stomach. It's usually big enough to serve as lunch or a light meal, with the bread helping you not feel hungry and the curry giving you the protein and vegetables you need.
And that’s just a short introduction to the world of Japanese breads! There’s a lot more out there than these three staples, so if you get the chance to visit a Japanese bakery, don’t hold yourself back from trying anything that looks good.
I Want to See Delicious Anime Bread!
Are you ready for some anime about making bread? The best one to watch is a little bit older, but if you’re a bread lover or curious about the world of bread making from a Japanese perspective you’ve got to check out Yakitate!! Japan. In Yakitate!! Japan, the main character’s goal is to create a bread that is uniquely Japanese - and it uses a great pun, too, by calling the bread Ja-pan (remember, “pan” is the Japanese word for bread). It’s a feel-good anime and manga that actually can teach you a lot about the struggles of making bread, and it will definitely make you hungry.
Another fun bread anime that is easy to commit to watching is Pan de Peace! Each episode is only three minutes long, and explores the lives of four girls who just really love bread. We can all probably relate to that! While it may not have the deepest story, Pan de Peace! is still a fun and cute watch, and if you’re a fan of bread, you can at least appreciate the many breads that make an appearance in the anime! It’s also a short manga if you can’t get enough of the anime.
Of course, bread also shows up in other anime, even if bread isn’t the story’s focus. A lot of people became curious about melon pan after seeing it featured in Nichijou (My Ordinary Life). There’s an entire episode of Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) devoted to a curry contest which Sebastian wins by “inventing” curry pan and winning over the judges. If you’ve played Persona 5, you might have bought yakisoba pan, which serves as a health restorative item. Keep your eyes open for these three kinds of breads the next time you’re watching anime or playing games; you might just impress a friend by knowing what they are and a little about them.
Humans tend to love bread, and Japan is no different. Just as many countries have made their own unique bread dishes, Japan has also done the same. With both sweet and savoury kinds, Japanese bread is versatile and tasty - and like most food in Japan, always picture-perfect. While the flavour profiles of some breads in Japan may be unusual for a Western palette, they’re definitely worth trying. Plus it’s cool to know what kind of breads you are seeing in anime!
Have you ever tried any of these breads before? Which would you love to try? What’s your favourite bread scene in anime? Leave us a question or comment below!