Yakitate!! Japan

yakitatejapanbig.sidebar.jpgYakitate!! Japan is a popular manga series. So popular in fact that it's one of the few manga that's available (legitimately) in English. There was also an anime series, which so far is only (legally) available in Japan. It sort of belongs to a genre of manga called Gourmet (gurume) Manga, manga whose main theme is food-related. The Wikipedia Japan page for Gourmet Manga lists more than 100 titles in this genre, though as far as I know only Yakitate!! is available in English at the moment. (I'll be talking about other gourmet manga eventually.)

The Yakitate part of the title means "freshly baked". The Japan part is a pun of sorts: pan is the Japanese word for bread (the word was imported from Portuguese most likely), and the goal of the main character is to find the ultimate JaPan, or Japanese bread. The title sequence of the anime says that "There's furansu pan (French bread), igirisu pan (English bread), doitsu pan (German bread) but no bread to represent Japan". The story unfolds in the form of several big Iron Chef style baking competitions, where the main character Kazuma Azuma and others vie with each other for fame and glory. A running gag is that the bread creations are so delicious that they make the eaters, especially main judge Kuroyanagi, have extreme reactions like dying and going to heaven, or (from another judge) sprouting a live peacock out of his head.

I have up to volume 16 of the manga in Japanese, but the series really runs out of steam (sorry for the pan..er pun) somewhere around volume 9 or so, especially from the food/baking sense. To me, the humor and gags sort of get stale (argh) around there too. I don't have the concluding volumes, but judging from the 1.5-star review average of volume 25 on Amazon Japan a lot of people aren't happy with it. The earlier volumes though, which are the ones that have been translated to English so far, are quite fun.

Sprouting peacock heads and all that aside, is there any realism to the depiction of Japanese bread baking? Well not really, though a bread manufacturer Yamazaki Sei Pan did actually produce a link of Yakitate inspired breads that were sold in Lawsons convenience stores. It does at least give a glimpse into what kind of breads are popular in Japan. The base premise of the storyline, that there's no real Japanese Bread, is a bit of a lie - there are plenty of uniquely Japanese Breads, but a lot of them may not taste that good to non-Japanese people.

I actually think Yakitate!! Japan depicts Japanese culture and ways of thinking in non-bread ways. For instance, Pantasia and its rival Saint-Pierre are big bakery companies with tons of branches all over the country. While more people in Japan may be going into business themselves or working for smaller companies, it's still considered more desirable by a lot of people to work for a big corporation. You certainly wouldn't see working for a big bakery as the ultimate goal in a story set in France, or any other European or American culture. Another rather Japanese part of it is the contrast between the idiot savant type vs. the normal person who must work extra hard to achieve what the natural genius can get almost without thinking. This is a sort of recurring theme in a lot of Japanese literature (also the theme of Amadeus, where Mozart is the idiot savant and Salieri is the hard working, educated, regular shmoe). There are also depictions of Samurai-culture derived intense meditation and/or training leading to enlightenment and a better way to make bread. Not that you should read it so seriously of course - it's basically a slapstick comedy with bread.

Search for Yakitate!! Japan DVDs on Amazon JP

Addendum: Japanese breads

In general, Japanese people like bread that's soft, puffy, rather moist, doughy, whiter than white, and a bit sweet. Tastes are changing and expanding of course, but the core lineup available at most bakeries in Japan consists of these breads:

  • Shokupan - standard white bread, often sold sliced or sliced to order - much like Pullman bread or pain de mie, baked in a closed box with a soft crust. More like standard sliced white English bread in taste than French pain de mie though - puffy, soft, large slices. Shoku means 'food' or 'to eat' so this is 'eating bread'. It should be noted that bread machines turn out very good shokupan - no wonder, since the machines were invented in Japan.
  • Anpan - a slightly sweet bun with a sweet azuki bean paste filling (most often tsubuan, or the smoother koshian). Made popular by the cartoon character Anpanman.
  • Various kinds of okazu pan - savory filled breads. The breads are either filled then cooked, such as curry bread (recipe on site), or are sandwiches using a soft sweet roll rather like a hotdog roll. Some popular sandwich-type okazu pan include yakisoba pan, a soft noodle sandwich; katsu pan or katsu sando, a fried pork cutlet sandwich; and korokke pan, potato croquette sandwich...yes that's a sandwich bun with a deep fried potato croquette filling. Carbs!
  • Melon pan - a bun with a sweet sugar cookie dough topping. It's called melon bread because of the shape, not necessarily because it has melon flavor. If it does have melon flavor it's usually added in the form of melon extract to the cookie part. (I don't know of any melon pan recipe that calls for real melon.)
  • Kureemu Horn - a cornet shaped bread with custard/pudding filling. Related: Choco Korone - a cornet with chocolate flavored custard/pudding filling.
  • Various other sweet buns with sweeter fillings, like jam, custard cream, various bean pastes.
  • Koppe pan - A basic plain crusty bun.

(Years ago, a Japanese bakery/grocery in New York which shall remain nameless had a sign in their windows "We have Ham Sand". This was quite confusing to the average passerby. They had just used the Japanese word/abbreviation for Sandwich.)

Except for the rare fit of nostalgia I must admit that I don't miss Japanese breads like these at all, except for the standard shokupan, which makes wonderful sandwiches. But when I make it to a Japanese bakery in New York or London etc. I do raid them for a taste of the past. I can certainly go for a yakisoba pan or so once every few years. I do miss shuu kureemu, custard filled cream puffs, also a bakery staple, to make them myself sometimes.

If you are tempted to try the rice cooker bread in Yakitate by the way, don't bother. It takes more than 5 hours, and the result is quite...blah. Make some normal bread in the oven instead in half the time or less! But if you're really curious the recipe is floating around the interweb.

Filed under:  books and media bread japanese manga

If you enjoyed this article, please consider becoming my patron via Patreon. ^_^

Become a Patron!


I've seen the Yakitate anime and read much of the manga and loved it (probably because it's all about food). It introduced me to all types of Japanese breads and it's fun to try some of them for real (like the melon pan, and a kouign aman from one of the earlier chapters/episodes).

As for the rice cooker bread, we've tried to make it and came out pretty bad. I think it was because the online recipes' conversion to American measurements were off. Now that there is an officially conversion of the recipe, I think we'll have to give it another try.

I felt I need to state that, for the record, there's a huge range of manga currently available in English. Legitimately! Compared to the amount actually produced in Japan, I suppose it might seem like a small fraction, but many large book stores (such as Chapters, in Canada) have entire sections devoted to the many volumes of manga available! Amazon.com even has a section devoted to manga, listing over 10,000 titles.

Some English-translated Manga Publishers:

These days you can walk into just about and bookstore in North America and at least find recently released volumes of Naruto and Bleach.

I would still say that's 'a few' compared to what is available in Japan....and (in some ways) it's a shame that only (mostly) certain genres of manga are being translated - in other words, I rarely find any manga that I like available in English. But it is a good thing that more and more manga are available in English. I believe even more are available in French...or at least, French people (in France anyway, don't know about Canada) are even crazier for manga than English speakers are.

Hi Maki,
I am living in Shanghai, and my favourite bakery is a Japanese bakery call Yamazaki. Worth special mention are the small mochi bun with either green tea, cheese or sesame filling. These little buns are simply superb, chewy and soft at the same time. I fiind that the bakery sliced their bread really thick though. Is it how the Japanese likes it?

Lucky for me, they are a lot of manga translated into Chinese. I have not read any Gourmet manga though, will definitely give it a try next time.

The thickness of bread slices varies - and in Japan you can buy them (or get them sliced on the spot) in different thicknesses. For toast a lot of people prefer it quite thick, while for sandwiches they like it quite thin. (Incidentally I think Yamazaki is the biggest bakery company in Japan.)

I've been reading the original Yakitate manga to practise my Japanese, and so far it's great. Shame to hear it goes downhill later.

Melonpan is still a puzzle to me. It's (slightly) green, and looks like a melon but it tastes like .... something. Not melon, not just sugar. I can't quite work it out. The maple melonpan on the other hand.. oishii!

You have gotten me HOOKED on the anime, and the puns in Japanese (Um-eeee) make me laugh quite hard. I love it. Thanks, I wouldn't have heard of it or looked it up if I hadn't come across it on your blog!

I'm usually not so into the anime stuff, being raised on Doraemon and Meitantei Conan (<3), and think its an overdone fad/boom in the states here...I don't go back to Japan often.

Anyway. Just wanted to drop a line. <33333 cooking.

Since your post, I have been watching the anime. The humor is over the top with silliness but I love it. I mean, the peacock flies out of his head.... and then later it calls him on a pay phone!! I just about died.

the recipe at the back of book 2 clearly states that: TEMPERATURE IS A HUGE FACTOR! I've gotten lucky the past few times i've made it and it's come out even more wonderful every time. It should feel like a heavier bread with a slight chewy texture [almost as if to mimick cooked rice].

It taste great served warm with butter spread. I have to admit that if cooked right it's much better than bread machine bread.

Just to let some of you know, "Melon-pan" is not a desert/candy bread with a melon flavor at all.
The reason it's called Melon-pan is because of it's SHAPE.
The actual bread is just a regular (not even sweet-role) center, with a cookie type dough coating it on the outside. The only reason many people (mostly kids) is because of the sweet sugar taste on the outside, and the soft bread on the inside. (Sort of like US children liking Twinkies, then move on as adults)
In a sense, the flavor is sort of like "underbaked" cookie and bread dough, because you cannot overbake the cookie cover, or it'll become too brown and hard, while underbaking will make the inner dough raw.
If you really want to make a good "Melon-pan", I suggest using a Sweetrole bread recipe, and add some melon juice extract, and/or cover it with the cookie dough and bake at a low temperate.

About those thick Texas slices of bread... there are various slices, but most Japanese who love to eat toast prefer the THICK slices, because when you bake them in the toaster-oven, the outside is slightly crispy, while the middle is warm and still very soft. These two textures is what people like after toasting the thick slices.
The thinner slices are for those who prefer an overall crisp toast without much softness.

Hope those help.

I actually tried Yakitate's rice-cooker bread and it was quite tasty. Reminds me of the fried bread you can get at Chinese restaurants, which makes me wonder how nice it would be when fried.

As for melon bread, I'm trying to find a nice recipe for the candy type, so...

The bread made in the rice cooker wasn't that bad actually. I tried it with the eggs and a bit more sugar and it turned out to be more like cake than anything else. I do wonder what would have happened if I tried it with some green tea though -- green tea cake-bread?

I started watching the anime recently (and I fell in love with Kazuma..! wah) (with subtitles.. cough) and I got all excited to try out the rice cooker bread when it finally showed up, but.. I don't have a "modern" rice cooker! Anyway, I was wondering if you've personally made the rice cooker bread yourself and that is why you say it is blah, or if that is the general consensus of people who have tried making the bread. I looked up a few reviews of people who've tried it and they all seemed to love it, but maybe they just decided that it had to taste good because it took so long, haha.

off-topic I was also wondering if reading manga/watching anime is looked down upon after a certain age? (Not that I'm calling you old or anything!) I was just wondering because when we had some Japanese exchange students in high school, one of them said that they were too cool to watch anime and another one said that it was only for kids, and I thought that you might be able to enlighten me. Thanks!!

Eve, I did try the rice cooker bread...and it was, for the effort involved, pretty 'meh' to me. But other people have liked it so I guess it's a matter of personal preference.

Regarding manga and anime...it's sort of like TV. Some TV is great, some is bad, and parents always have a struggle as to how much they allow their kids to consume. At some point some people 'outgrow' manga and anime, and others never do - or go back to it later in life. So it all depends! There is also a generation gap - I think people who grew up in the 1950s to '60s or so and earlier hold manga in a lower regard than people who grew up after that. There was a big renaissance in manga in the '70s to '80s in terms of quality of stories and so on, and that was a sort of watershed in terms of acceptability. (There are people who argue that manga in the '90s and early '00s deteriorated a lot too.)

Hi. I've tried baking the meron pan. I use rock melon meat and blend it to puree and then i boil it and add it to my dough instead of usin water and a add a teaspoon of honeydew essence and it turn out great. However, I'll use muskmelon for a change the next time I bake it to have a greater fragrance and sweetness. The tips they give in the anime is reali good and I've been followin and the bread turns out great! Nice anime! Azuma banzai!!

Does anyone know what episode they first show kid as kuroyanagi's high school classmate? i laughed so hard i wanna see it again but i cant find it

either episode 25 or 26. i think that it might be 26 but check both to be safe. http://www.anivide.com have all the yakitate. i would recommend starting there

I read pan was most likely imported from portugal... I have always thought it was derived from the french word 'pain'. I want to know more about it XD is it possible to find the recipes for all those breads? xD I have never made bread before though :P

This is the only Japanese bread I regularly crave. It's light and fluffy, milky, and slightly chewy. I wasn't drawn to it initially as it just looked like a pale, anaemic block (a bread without a trace of tan to its crust just wasn't appealing) but my husband tore off a piece and, his own mouth still full, urged me to try. It was love at first bite.
Best when still warm from Mont Thabor, 2-3-3 Azabu Juban (モンタボー, 麻布十番2-3-3) http://www.azabujuban.or.jp/shop/food/2603.html

The new bakery section at London's Japan Centre has shifted over to the front of the store for now - melon pan and yakisoba bread is currently available.

I love reading your blog - so full of information. I had a laugh about the "we have ham sand" thing. The first time I saw a non-dairy creamer called "Creap" I could not stop laughing.

Maki, this entry has been haunting for ages, and I'm finally breaking down to actually come out of my creepy food obsessed lurking shadows to beg for help. I'd really love to make shokupan at home. My favorite sliced bread is at an asian supermarket 1.5 hours away from where I live. Im assuming it's shokupan, or something close to it.

Driving that far is very expensive and god forbid they stop selling it! I tried multiple recipes, but they never came out like the ones in the market. I know its a simple sliced bread.. but its so different from store bought american bread. Its more uniform and dense/tight but oh so fluffy in texture; milky in smell and taste; and a brilliant white center. Please if you have anyway to help me, I'd really appreciate it! Thank you again for this blog and I hope you're doing well/feeling better these days.

Also Yakitate Japan! is one of my all time favorite anime/manga since i have a weird obsession with bread lol xD