Anpan: Meaning of Sesame Seeds on Top of the Bun
Anpan (あんパン) is a classic Japanese round 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 may already know, the main features 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 variety for Anpan is sweetened Azuki red bean paste, but white bean paste made of kidney beans called Shiro-An (白あん) can also be the filling.
Anpan is one of Japan’s most loved sweet bread treats, found in many convenience stores around the country.
Even if you haven’t seen actual Anpan yet, it is easy to tell it apart from its counterparts because, as I mentioned above, it usually has a topping of whole sesame seeds gathered together at the center.
Meaning of the Toppings
In addition to whole sesame seeds, poppy seeds and pickled cherry blossoms called Sakura-Zuke (桜漬け) can also be the topping of the Anpan bun.
In 1875 when presenting Anpan to the Meiji emperor, Sakura-Zuke was first prepared as a decoration.
But sesame and poppy seeds were initially used for the sweet bread to distinguish fillings from the outside.
Although there used to be the rule that poppy seeds were for Anpan with Koshi-An (こし餡: smooth Anko red bean paste),
while black sesame seeds were Anpan with Tsubu-An (粒あん: chunky Anko red bean paste),
today, the topping prepared for the sweet bun varies depending on the maker, regardless of the filling.
(Reference Pages: Wikipedia あんパン, Gakusha )