Anpan: The Meaning of Sesame Seeds on Top of the Bun
“Anpan (あんパン)” is a classic Japanese sweet bun first made in 1874 by the founder of a bakery named Kimuraya (present-day Kimuraya Sohonten) (Google Map), “Kimura Yasubei (木村安兵衛)”.
As you might already know, the main characteristics of Anpan are sweet bean paste called “Anko (餡子)” filled in the bun and sesame seeds on top of it.
The most common Anko paste for Anpan is sweetened Azuki red bean paste, but the white bean paste made of kidney beans called “Shiro-An (白あん)” is also often used.
Anpan is one of the most beloved sweet buns in Japan and can be found in many convenience stores around the country.
Even if you haven’t seen the actual Anpan bun yet, it is easy to tell it apart from counterparts, because, as mentioned above, the Japanese sweet bun is typically topped with whole sesame seeds gathered together at the center.
Why Anpan Buns are topped with Sesame Seeds
Actually, instead of whole sesame seeds, poppy seeds or pickled cherry blossoms called “Sakura-Zuke (桜漬け)” are also often prepared as a topping for Anpan.
In order to present Anpan buns to the Meiji emperor, Sakura-Zuke was first used for the Anpan in 1875 as a decoration, but sesame seeds and poppy seeds were originally used for the sweet buns to distinguish their fillings from the outside.
Although there used to be the rule that the Anpan with smooth Azuki red bean paste (Koshi-An) used poppy seeds, while the Anpan with course, chunky Azuki red bean paste (Tsubu-An) had black sesame seeds on top, today the topping placed on the sweet bun differs depending on the producer.