All About Japan

The Melon Pan of Asakusa

| Bread , Asakusa

Only in Japan heads out to Tokyo's Asakusa area to investigate Asakusa Kagetsudo, a restaurant and shop just around the corner from Senso-ji Temple.

The shop's signature offering is melon pan, a kind of sweet Japanese bread that has a hard, sweet, butter cookie top with a soft interior. It's called melon pan (melon bread) not due to the flavor—which is just sweet and sugary—but because the crisscross pattern on top looks similar to the skin of a cantaloupe (though there's another theory that the name devolved from merege pan, or meringue bread). Pan, on the other hand, derives from the Portuguese pão, a relic of the first time bread arrived in Japan in the hands of 16th century missionaries and traders.

Melon pan dates back to just after bread's Japanese revival in the late 19th century, and is estimated to have been invented around 1910, though nobody knows for sure. The proprietor of Asakusa Kagetsudo hopes to introduce this classic snack to the many overseas visitors who throng Senso-ji Temple every day.