Dip liquid yokan heated in a pot to melt it on bread. At Fuji Bakery in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture.
A sweet bread called “Yokanpan” is sold in and around Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Fuji Baking, which has 20 employees, makes over 3,000 pieces of famous bread a day, depending on the day.
There is a sweet bread with the same name in Hokkaido, but Yokanpan from Fuji City has three types of sweetness: the sweet bean paste wrapped in the bread dough, the strained bean paste in the “youkan” part that coats the top, and the vanilla cream in the center. It is said that several companies in the eastern part of the prefecture used to make this bread, but now only Fuji Bread has been making it since 1960.
I was shown the manufacturing process at the factory. The indentation in the center where the cream is injected is made by inserting a wooden stake into the center of the anpan dough before baking. It is no good to be too strong or too weak. Bake the bread with the stakes still attached and remove them by hand after baking. Hold the fluffy bread upside down, dip it into the liquid bean paste melted in a large pot, and squeeze the cream into the well in the center.
It requires much more labor than other breads. “About 25 years ago, there were only about 10 orders a day, and people were saying, “Let’s stop making them because it takes so much time,”” says Setsu Kato, 61, managing director.
I heard from the previous company president that “it used to sell really well,” but sales gradually declined and production was in danger of being discontinued. What deterred me was a store in a shopping district where orders were received every day for some reason. I heard that some customers buy one every day. “For the sake of our customers, who are important to us, we cannot afford to let this go away,” he said.
The turning point was 2003. I took the plunge and brought 100 of them to a local sales event and sold them, with many people saying it was nostalgic. It has regained popularity due to word of mouth, with the perfect combination of bread dough and red bean paste. It is now available at local stores of major supermarkets, and won a bronze medal in the 2010 Japan National Local Bread Festival popularity poll.
Although the situation is difficult due to the high cost of raw materials, “letters from customers all over the country are encouraging.” He says he wants to continue making Japanese sweet breads so that the Japanese sweet bread culture that makes use of the tradition of Japanese sweets will not die out.
Text and photos by Dai Sahashi
Yokanpan (photo) is sold at direct sales shops attached to factories in Fuji City, as well as kiosks at JR stations such as Fuji, Shizuoka, Numazu, and Mishima, Precious Deli Tokyo at Tokyo Station, a shop at Shin-Fuji Station, and Fuji City. It is sold at Max Valu stores in Fuji Yahatacho, Fuji Atsuhara, Fuji Eo, and the Tomei Expressway Fujikawa service area. The reference price is 302 yen per piece.
We also do mail order sales. 1,600 yen for 5 pieces, 3,100 yen for 10 pieces (cash on delivery fee and shipping fee not included). For details, see the company’s website. (Question) The company = Telephone 0545 (51) 2128