When it comes to Japanese desserts, most people know about matcha-flavored foods or wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) such as taiyaki or ichigo daifuku. Generally, people in the West usually use bread in sandwiches for lunch, rather than eating it as a dessert. But in Japan, bread is life, with bakeries housing a variety of sweet buns filled with custard, chocolate cream, and anko (sweet bean paste).
Bread is essential in Japanese food culture due to how portable and tasty it is. The melon bun (melon pan in Japanese) is an extremely popular type of bread that can be found in convenience stores, bakeries, and even in specialty melon pan shops. Among all the Japanese snacks out there, melon pan is one of the most iconic.
What is Melon Pan (Melon Bread)?
Melon pan is a sweet Japanese bread that is known for its soft and fluffy interior and cookie-like crust. Its signature look is the patterned grid on top and it comes in a huge range of flavors, from chocolate chip to matcha to strawberry. We cover more of the delicious flavors available later in this blog post.
Why is it Called Melon Pan?
Due to its name, most people assume that the bread is filled with melon-flavored cream (which is sometimes the case), but traditionally melon bread is not made with melon flavor. Instead, melon bread has just a sugar cookie crust. The name melon pan stems from its patterned cookie topping, which resembles the skin of a melon.
Why Do People Love Melon Pan?
Why is there so much hype around melon pan? Many people believe it is just like any other sweet bread, but do not be fooled. After you try this Japanese melon bread, it will leave you craving more.
Popularized in anime, you may see the protagonist being late for school and running out of the house with a piece of melon pan in their mouth. The bread guest features in many anime and manga, such as Nichijou. This Japanese melon bread is perfect for a quick bite on your way to work or school, or just as a special treat. There have been many different flavors and variations of this beloved bread, such as ice cream, custard, chocolate and more.
Its portability, cute name, variety of flavors, and pop culture associations, make melon pan beloved across Japan.
Where to Eat Melon Pan
Here are 3 must-try melon pan shops in the Tokyo area to get your fix of this cute, cookie-crusted bread.
- Melon Pan Ice
- Duca Di Camastra
1. Melon Pan Ice
You probably guessed it by the title, but this restaurant specializes in melon pan ice cream. What makes this different from other ice cream melon pan is the bread itself. It is cut into a cone shaped and covered with parchment paper. The ice cream and design is then placed in the middle. If you want the “Tokyo Kawaii” look, they even have Gudetama as an option for your ice cream. With two locations in the Tokyo metropolitan area, it is convenient for you foodies who want to try this Japanese snack. It is the perfect Instagram-worthy dessert!
Access Info: 12-minute walk from Shibuya Station
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 11AM - 10 PM
Sensoji Temple, located in Asakusa, Tokyo, is one of Tokyo’s most famous tourist hotspots. With traditional food and markets around the area, why not stop for a quick snack at Kagetsudo? With two locations in the area, it is easy to access when you are visiting. Established in 1945, Kagetsudo has a long history as an Asakusa favorite among locals and tourists. They never fail when it comes to providing customers with freshly baked bread. This bread is perfect to share with your travel buddy due to its jumbo size, or you can enjoy this sweet goodness all to yourself.
Spice up this jumbo bread with some ice cream! Depending on the time of year, they have seasonal flavors such as sakura or sweet potato. Best to get there early since the queue could last over an hour!
Access Info: 3-minute walk from Asakusa Station
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 9AM-5PM
3. Duca Di Camastra
If you are ever headed towards Yokohama to visit the famous ferris wheel or Chinatown, make a pit stop to Tammachi Station (don’t mix this up with Tamachi Station since both are in opposite directions). Right outside the station, there is a small bakery that you can smell from a mile away! The shops sell various types of bread and desserts, but my favorite by far is their melon pan. The melon pan is very simple, but this feature is actually its strong point. With an extra crunchy shell and creamy texture, it is quite different from the larger melon pan chains. This local mom and pop bakery is loved by many locals in the area.
Access Info: 1-minute walk from Tammachi Station
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 8 AM - 7:30 PM
Melon Pan Flavors to Try
Here is a list of some popular melon pan flavors to try.
2. Ice Cream
6. Milk Tea
This beloved chocolate flavored pan has a gooey, chocolatey middle, almost reminiscent of a lava cake. Surprisingly, this flavor is easy to find anywhere, even at your nearest convenience store.
2. Ice Cream
If you can’t tell already, ice cream is a very popular addition to your melon pan. The ice cream adds a great contrast to the fresh bread encasing it. You can enjoy this melon pan even in the winter by pairing it with a cup of tea on the side.
This defining fruit of the winter months in Japan is a seasonal specialty loved by all. Strawberry melon pan provides the perfect balance between sweet and tangy.
Matcha melon pan is perfect for those who love bread but aren’t too fond of sweets. If luck is on your side, you can find matcha melon pan in cute shapes, such as a turtle, due to its bright green color.
Eat this special melon pan bread without feeling guilty because it's made out of edamame! If you ever visit Sendai, home of zunda, you can easily find this melon pan at Sendai Station along with other zunda-flavored treats.
6. Milk Tea
For all you milk tea lovers out there, this bread is for you. This milk tea infused melon pan has notes of the tea while still providing that crunchy, cookie-like top. Though it is uncommon, there are speciality stores that do sell it seasonally.
Sweater weather only happens once a year, but in Japan, have it any day with pumpkin flavored melon pan. Pumpkin is used as an ingredient in many dishes in Japan so it is no surprise when it comes to melon pan.
Discover another side of Japan and step towards traditional Japanese tea with hojicha melon pan. The rich, earthy aroma of roasted green tea will be sure to capture your heart as you dig in.
You can’t finish your melon pan journey without checking out melon-flavored melon pan. This piece of bread truly lives up to its name not only in shape, but also flavor. Biting into one of these is almost like biting into a real melon!
If you are missing that original glazed donut while traveling in Japan, you can get the melon pan version! This beautiful piece of bread has a sugary glazed coating instead of your typical cookie crust. Every bite you take will still have the perfect balance of sugar and soft crumbly bread.
Now you know all about Japanese melon pan, a classic breakfast and quick snack in Japan, perfect to satisfy a sweet tooth! With a huge range of melon bread flavors to try, you'll never get bored eating this fluffy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside treat.