Japan’s Most Delicious Bread Is Melon Pan

Japan’s Most Delicious Bread Is Melon Pan

Japan has brought the world some truly delicious treats, but one of the best of all has to be meron pan (melon bread). We know it tastes good, but how was it invented? And why is it called that?

Typically, melon bread is fluffy bread with a sugar-covered cookie-type top crust. The exact origins of melon pan are unclear, and the meaning of its name isn’t certain, either.

One story says that melon pan was first invented in 1910 after Japanese businessman Okura Kihachiro brought an Armenian baker named Sagoyan to Japan, where he apparently made the bread, originally basing it on a French galette. Sagoyan had previously worked for the Romanovs and at the Imperial Hotel in Manchuria. This origin tale is not confirmed, however.

Melon pan certainly has its roots in what’s called kashi pan in Japanese, meaning “sweets bread.” As Nipponia points out, kashi pan really started in 1874 when a Tokyo baker named Kimura Yasube came up with anpan, a bread stuffed with sweet adzuki bean paste (an).

By 1900, Yasube’s bakery was making jamu pan or “jam bread.” Four years later, kurimu pan (bread stuffed with custard cream) was developed at another Tokyo bakery. Japan’s kashi pan revolution was in full effect, and the birth of melon pan eventually followed suit.

Melon pan can come in different shapes. In Hiroshima and Kobe, there is melon pan that looks like a rugby ball”or what’s known as an oriental melon (or Korean melon).

ImageCreative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0″ loading=”lazy” > Photo: Sanjo, Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

For some people in Japan, this is what proper melon pan looks like. (More on that later.)

But first, where did the name “melon pan” come from? The most common explanation is that the bread’s shape and the grooved crust looks like a musk melon’s skin, hence melon pan. The bread typically does not taste like melon, but rather sweet cookies and buttery bread. However, there are melon-flavoured versions.

However, as website Moonmuffin points out, kashi pan is typically named after what’s inside of it. So, anpan is called that because it’s filled with an (sweet adzuki bean paste) and kurimu pan is filled with kurimu (cream). But melon pan is not filled with melon!

In fact, in Kobe and Hiroshima, there is melon pan that is filled with shiro an (sweet white bean paste). There is another theory that melon pan is actually named after meringue and the Japanese for meringue (メレンゲ or merenge) became “meron” or “melon.”

The most plausible theory could be that melon bread was created to look like musk melons, which became luxury fruits in the first part of the 20th century in Japan. By making bread that looked like these expensive fruits, bakers could make bread with a ritzy image as a sales tactic.

But in some parts of Western Japan, the round bread everyone knows as melon pan isn’t even called that. Instead, it’s known as sanraizu (サンライズ) or “sunrise.” Apparently, the reason is that during the 1930s, a Kobe bakery made a round bread with a cookie top designed look like the rising sun. In Kobe and Hiroshima, sunrise bread is still sold, but even though the name isn’t the same, make no mistake, it’s melon pan. In neighbouring Osaka, however, it is known as “melon pan.”

This Kobe bakery sells the round melon pan as “sunrise” and the rugby ball looking one as “melon pan.”

They sure look different.

And in Hiroshima.

Here is a “Sunrise Melon Pan” with Hokkaido melon cream, covering both bases for less confusion!

Even 7-Elevens in Kobe call it “sunrise.”

I call it “delicious.”

This article was originally published on March 22, 2018.


  • huh I lived in Tokyo for 2 years and always knew them as melon pan

    interesting article and now i’m hungry lol

  • Japanese bread in general I found was to sugary/processed. Still pretty OK though

    • The secret is finding ‘French style’ bakeries. That’s code for bakeries that make actual bread instead of bread shaped cake.

      • A lesson learned all too late… and new solutions breed new problems. In my travels, those French style cafes skimped on the coffee. I’m talking a cappuccino with 60/40 froth to coffee ratio 🙁

        • Cafes in Japan as a rule are terrible. Honestly, Starbucks is the place to go. Which hurts me on a very deep emotional level.

          I went from being a big coffee drinker to just going cold turkey. I started getting headaches from caffeine withdrawal. eventually i learned to like a starbucks latte. Well… not like. Be ok with.

  • There is a similar product in chinese bread. I think it that sort of cookie crust, but no filling. It’s randomly called “Pineapple Bun”? It’s usually with the criss-cross pattern only though…

    • Tried the Breadtop coconut bread? Delicious, but I wish they’d do a brioche version, as the current version doesn’t taste as good when toasted.

  • The green one with the yellow filling you get from Family Mart is my favorite. I find the standard mellon bread abit too dry

    • You need to buy them fresh from a proper Bakery! It’s nice and crispy on top but wonderfully fluffy and soft in the inside! The one’s sitting on the usual fast bread shops have a tendency to dry out or get soggy.

  • The problem is that they’re so airy. You have to eat about seven to fill you up. But still delicious enough when you find a flavour you like.

  • Melon pan is so disgustingly sweet though.

    Now curry pan. That’s a bread I can put into my face.

  • If anybody is in Japan and is around Soga station.. there is a damned awesome Melon Pan bakery just next to it… I always grab a few whenever I’m on vacation over there! 😀

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