About shokupan, or Japanese sliced bread

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my sudden yearning for making Japanese sliced bread. I was actually inspired to get the bread machine while writing my latest Japanese Kitchen column for the Japan Times, which is indeed about shokupan, or Japanese sliced bread.

As you can see from the article it's basically um...well, sandwich bread. It is an edible (but delish! to me anyway) edible napkin, like Wonderbread. Hence my guilt about craving it. But you know...the much lauded French baguette is really not that much better nutritionally speaking. ^_^ Like everything else, soft white bread needs to be enjoyed in moderation. (And I don't think that whole wheat bread is that much better for us anyway...if we want 'good grains' we should just eat whole cooked grains. So phooey to those wholegrain bread nutrition-snobs I say. (I do enjoy whole grain and alternative grain breads, but mainly for their taste.))

Anyway, as I noted in the article, the thicknesses at which shokupan is sold varies around the country. Since my Japan base, and where I grew up, is the Tokyo-Yokohama area, we rarely ever see big thick slices of bread. But in Kyoto for instance, this kind of thing is pretty normal.


This is cheese on toast that's about 3 cm thick. The cheese on top is very ordinary sliced processed cheese (cheese awareness in Japan is not that high yet...) and the bread is regular shokupan, but it was so delicious. It's served at a tiny cafe, which was about a 2 minute walk from the house of a family friend that I am allowed to stay at sometimes when the owner is absent. I had it with a cup of outstanding coffee almost every day for a week.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the article!

Filed under:  bread japan writing elsewhere japan times

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I was at a big Asian market last week because I was in the area for a seminar and because of your original post, I was on the lookout for shokupan. I'd never seen it at the markets closer to me. They had it! I got a loaf for my mom who loves white sandwich bread. She usually thinks I'm silly for getting things like that but she really liked it and didn't even make fun of me for spending so much on it (relatively speaking).

She liked it better than the turtle-shaped sweet bun I got her. If it wasn't for your post, I would have passed the bread up. Thanks!

Oh, I do miss the coffee shops and bakeries around Japan, it seems most places I lived they were within a 3-5 minute walk away, and a much welcomed respite in the day, and inexpensive and quick lunch when I was not "up" to cooking. The variety of breads meant we didn't have to repeat anything too often, and shokupan thickness could be ordered to preference--when I wanted sandwich bread, I could order extra thin sliced, or for a morning toast or "pizza bread" I'd order the very thick slices...but most of all I miss the neighborliness of such places, where faces became familiar and welcomed, and some of the shop keepers and shop "regulars" became dear friends...to enjoy a tasty an pan or shokupan, well, it reminds me of sitting with friends.

That sounds absolutely divine :) If you don't mind me asking, why were you in Japan? I'm also a massive food - japanese food above all - and love to hear other people talk about food and food culture like you just did. It warms my heart!

Aw... I was hoping for a recipe!

I really crave for shokupan once in a while here in the US. You just really can't find the bread you need! The closest thing you'll get is "Texas Toast" but it's only half the thickness. It's a workable alternative for me I guess, but it still is no substitute for the real thing. It's popular in other Asian countries too thanks to everyone trying to be trendy and copying what the Japanese do! :O

Omg I totally agree, Japanese shokupan is delicious as un-nutritious as it is. It's got so much of an emotional meaning to me too; remember those oven-proof dishes Yamazaki used to giveaway? My family was always a "8 mai giri" type and I used to love them with peanut cream spread. PB is good too but it just quite doesn't have the nostalgia novelty value :P

We were recently in Japan (and LOVED it!!!) but having younger children who weren't quite so happy to eat fried octopus and rice for breakfast, we bought them bread. We couldn't toast it in our hotel rooms but it really didnt need toasting, it was delicious as it was. So thick and light and fluffy and tasty! We didnt get the super thick slices, simply because they came in packs of five slices and only having two children, there would inevitably be an argument about who got the last piece! And the sandwiches with the egg salad from 7-eleven, Family Mart, Lawson etc, mmmmm!!
After reading your post about shokupan the other week, we had a go making it ourselves. The results were very tasty but just not the same. I wasn't expecting to get it perfectly right on the first go, so now I have a good reason to make it again! There are so many Japanese foods that we wish we could get here in Australia, but alas, we will just have to shop around, get creative and bide our time until we can go back...!

Hey, sorry to be annoying as I know whole-grains are not your main point of discussion...but how do you mean "cooked whole grains"? I was always under the impression that whole-wheat bread is good for you, the same with pasta... But I'm interested to hear reasons for why it might not be so good for you?
Anyway, as for Shokupan... I've been in Japan for a month and still haven't eaten any bread! Mostly because I know it will taste different to english bread, and I'm scared of disappointment haha! But your posts are encouraging me to try it. :D

I ate this every day with a slice of American cheese, cucumbers sliced the long way, and soy sauce when I lived in Tokyo. I LOVED it. Comfort food all the way. It's hard to find the same fresh, pillowy, thickly-cut version here in the US, but I pick it up whenever I'm at the huge Japanese market in Englewood, NJ. It's very hard for me to stop eating once it's in my home.

outstanding coffee - that's what everyone needs in the morning. May I ask which brand of bread maker did you use to bake this less nutritious dense loaf?

We are so lucky here in Southern California--I can buy this type of bread at many Japanese stores. I agree that it's an indulgence, but oh-so-yummy. I think it's the wonderful chewy texture. I have bought bread that *looks* just like it at Korean and Chinese markets, but it is not the same! The only ones that have the right texture and flavor are at the Japanese markets. Delicious!

Wow…this looks so…yummy. I really love something like this. I always have toast bread for breakfast and supper. Spread the bread with a lot of peanut butter and cheese, it is something like Hong Kong style, really good. And another way of enjoying the toast bread which is one of my favorite is with a lot of butter and “Kaya”, totally Malaysia or Singapore style, so nice. :)

I'm not a big fan of white bread as a whole. I don't know why - maybe it was because I rarely had it growing up - but it tastes too bland and spongy to me. The texture is off. I can't imagine this would be vastly different.

But I do admit it's the only thing for a cream cheese and jelly sandwich.

Some of your reader's comments on your article made me angry. I love good wholegrain bread too. But if you grew up with thick Shokupan toast w/butter in morning, you never forget the taste - crunch in outside and soft inside. I know the wholegrain breads are better for you, but you can't live for just "good for you food". I love to treat myself with taste good food too...
I miss very much "Yamazaki" breads.

The comments here?

...oh, on the article. ^_^;

Your cheese on toast looks delightful. It must be 30 years since I made cheese on toast using processed cheese slices. Thank you for the memory, I shall buy some slices on Monday and relive my childhood.

I love your love for shokupan....why IS something so simple so delicious? At the japanese markets here in so cal they sell the loaves uncut so I can cut them as thick as I please....and thankfully they sell half-sized loaves too so I can't overindulge.

So glad you are feeling better! I constantly check my just hungry bookmark to see if you've updated, so I'm happy to get home to my computer and see your post :]

I was looking through your article for a recipe for shokupan. Do you plan to provide one?

I'm working on a formula that should work for most people... ^_^ (I've had some health problems recently which prevented me from being able to seriously deal with food, but I'm a lot better now so should resume the experimentation again.)

This post has just made my tummy rumble. When I first moved to Japan I thought Japanese bread was too sweet and a wee bit strange - sold in miniature packs with extra thick slices. Funny how you can get accustomed so fast! My favourite bakery treat was the mini hot dog bun!

claire xx

I found the thick bread pretty amusing at first.. but that sensation when the bread is a bit crispy on the outside and so soft inside is something I love now! :)

I have never tried shokupan before. It looks good.

The photo reminds me of my one stay in Japan, when I spent a week in a university apartment in Kyoto. I had scrambled eggs on toast every morning but I couldn't believe the size of the bread and would cut one slice in half flatwise to make two :) Thanks for a good memory!

Wondering if shokupan is considered as yōshoku 洋食?

I'm lucky I live in Hawaii! So many japanese type foods. Bread too! However, some the food is still not the same as in Japan. I could eat a really good unagi.

Whenever I make cheese-toast at home, I always add a few squirts of Kewpie Mayonnaise...MMMMMmm!

It's been months since I came back from my first trip to Japan and the memory of one of those giant slices with ogura on top for breakfast at a nice cafe in Kyoto still haunts me. So good.