One of the interesting perks you get when you watch a foreign movie or series is the chance to experience and learn about new types of food. Food that you heard about but is not common in your country, food that you have never seen before and food that you didn't believe can exist. Anime is a Japanese entertainment medium and as such contains many references to snacks and food products that are unique to the Japanese culture. Here we take a closer look at 6 Japanese snacks and dishes that are prominently shown in anime.
1. Melon Pan
Melon Pan (or "melon bread" in Japanese) is a sweet bun with melon-like shape and taste. It is eaten as a snack, but can be used as a substitute for a meal if needed. The traditional Melon Pan is melon flavored, has a crisp exterior and a soft mushy interior (as seen in the picture above). There are many variations to Melon Pan: it can have chocolate chips or maple in it, and in some cases might not even taste like Melon. However, there exists a special type of Melon Pan which is created out of two separate layers of dough with gooey green paste made of real meshed melons between them. Melon Pan has appeared in many anime series, the most famous of which is Shakugan no Shana, in which the main character Shana eats it every day for breakfast.
Great Japanese Cook Books
Ramen is a traditionally Japanese soup. Although there are as many variations to Ramen as there are stars in the midnight sky the word Ramen actually refers to the special wheat noodles that are always present in the soup. Other common and popular ingredients include a boiled egg, onion, kamaboko (solidified ground fish), seaweed, mushrooms, meat (usually pork), and lard. Ramen soup is said to have originated in China and adopted by the Japanese in ancient times. However, the Japanese preserved the Ramen soup until today while it disappeared from the Chinese cousins many centuries ago. The Japanese love their Ramen and there are many Ramen cook books, famous Ramen restaurants and even TV shows about the qualities of this tasty soup. Ramen is very popular in anime. The most prominent display of Ramen is perhaps in the anime Naruto, where the main character - Naruto - eats Ramen whenever he comes back from a mission. He even decided to base his family name – Uzumaki – on the shape of the kamaboko inside the Ramen soup he loves so much. Another, less known, series that portray Ramen is Ramen Fighter Miki.
Taiyaki is a fish-shaped cake traditionally filled with Azuki (sweet red bean paste). There are other popular fillings aside from Azuki, such as chocolate, dark chocolate, cream and banana. The word Taiyaki is comprised of the word Tai (the name of the fish Taiyaki looks like) and yaki (the Japanese verb "to bake"). Taiyaki is in fact made using pancake dough, which is cooked inside a special metal template with the shape of a fish. Some stores and stands use different colors of dough to help easily differentiate between the Taiyaki fillings (such as using darker brown dough for Taiyaki filled with dark chocolate). Taiyaki doesn't show very often in anime series, but when it does it usually appear many times during the course of a show. Series where people can be seen eating Taiyaki include Kannon and Clannad.
Curry is a spice commonly found all around the world. However, Japanese curry has a very spicy and sweet taste and a deep and rich texture that separates it from curry used in other countries. Curry in Japan is usually made using curry roux and is considered a home-made food. As it contains natural preservents some make it in large quantities and eat it during the course of several days. There are many Japanese dishes that use curry, such as Curry Rice and Curry Soba. A lot of restaurants serve curry as it is a simple, yet comforting food. The Japanese love their curry extra spicy and finding a roll of toilet paper (used to wipe your noise) on the counters of restaurants that serve curry is quite common. Curry is so common it can be seen in almost any anime series. The series Lucky Star dedicated a few minutes to discuss the proper way to eat Curry Rice. In the OVA anime FLCL the main characters are seen eating a Curry Rice so spicy some of them lose their conscious after eating it.
Dango Are little balls made of Mochi (sticky rice) that started being sold as candy during 1848. They are always small and usually arrive skewered on a stick. They can be found in department stores, festival stands, street stands and even temples. Some of the stands and temples heat the Dango on a flame and marinade them in sugar water or maple before selling them for extra flavor. The Japanese loved their Dango so much they created an proverb for them: "hana yori dango" (literally "Dango are better than flowers". In essence it means that practical things are better than pure aesthetic things). Dango are not very healthy, as food additives are usually added to the white mochi to procure other colors, such as pink and green Dango. The mochi itself is also very condensed and hard to swallow, making it hazardous to small children and the elderly. Because of that Japanese eat less Dango these days than they used to. Dango can be found in the anime Clannad, where the entire ending theme revolves around a family of Dango with different colors and different attributes. The series Hana Yori Dango takes its name from the proverb I mentioned above, but the word Dango in it is written with a different kanji that means "man" (hence the title of the series is "men over flowers" and not "dango over flowers").
In 1875 a samurai called Yasubei Kimura was demoted from being a samurai and became a baker. He wanted to present the Japanese with bread but knew that the Japanese don't like the hard and salty Western bread. And so he created a very soft, round sweet bun filled with Azuki (sweet red bean paste) and named it Anpan. The emperor liked Yasubei's Anpan so much he ordered Yasubei to present it to him every day. Other Japanese soon fell in love with the sweet bun.
Today Anpan is considered a snack, but just like Melon Pan some might eat it as a replacement for a proper meal. The word Anpan is made out of the words an (another name for the sweet red bean paste) and pan ("bread"). Anpan can be filled with beans other than azuki, such as Shiro (white beans) and Uguisu (green beans). Sesame seeds or a pickled Sakura leaf are usually used to decorate the top of the Anpan. Anpan is popular in manga but rarely mentioned in name. The series Anpanman shows a man who's head is a giant Anpan. During the series he often loses his head in battle, after which his creator bakes a new Anpan head for him. Anpan is also mentioned and shown in the series Clannad, where the main character Nagisa draws mental strength from mentioning this sweet round bun.
These were 6 Japanese snacks and dishes prominently shown in anime. Do you have your own favorite Japanese snack or dish you would like to add to the list?
Michaela from USA on October 02, 2015:
I would add takoyaki to this list too.
Anime Reviews (author) on February 27, 2015:
@Null_Shock : While Naruto got his first name from Jiraiya, he never knew his parents and I clearly remember that in one of the episodes in the first or second season he explains how he chose his family name by himself. I don't think they ever referred to his mother as Uzumaki Kushina. It was always just Kushina. Other ninja always refer this his parents by their first names (at least in the anime). I could be wrong here, but as far as my memory serves me this seems to be the case.
And about Narutomaki, you are correct, but I was also correct. It is referred to as both Naruto and Narutomaki (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narutomaki)
Null_Shock on February 25, 2015:
That bit about Naruto, his family name comes from his Mother Uzumaki Kushina, he didn't chose it because of the Ramen. Also that little bit with the pink swirl is called Narutomaki, which gets it's name from the whirpools that occur in the Naruto strait which is between Naruto, Japan (A city in the Tokushima prefecture.) and Awaji Island. Sorry if I come off as being rude, I just thought I would point that out.
Anime Reviews (author) on October 18, 2014:
Yes, I remember the "jam donuts" :)
And I had the very same experience when I went to Japan and ate Melon Pan and Ramen for the first time. It's this weird feeling. Even though you know the anime version of this food is based on the food you are eating (and not the other way around) you still feel like you are taking part in something that belong to the anime world. haha.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on August 03, 2014:
Great hub! It's true we often see these foods in anime. It's wild to see them in real life after seeing the cartoon versions for so long. I was blown away when I first ate Onigiri after seeing them on "Pokémon" since childhood - especially as they refer to them as jam donuts in the American version...
Anime Reviews (author) on July 01, 2012:
Thank you. I'm glad to know my pictures turned out good.
Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on June 30, 2012:
Wow great! Look so delicious.