Among the t-shirts and hug pillows being offered at an upcoming event for Xbox 360 game Dream Club, there are cans of bread. The cans feature characters from the virtual hostess game.
If you’ve never had Japanese canned bread, there is a novelty factor. Hey, bread in a can! But with so many delicious bakeries in the country, there’s the simple question of why anyone would want it.
Which brings us back to the the novelty factor. Sure, you can carry it around, chuck it in your backpack. What canned bread does allow is the commodification of popular games or anime in way that bread wrapped in plastic bags does not. Slap an illustrated label on a can of bread, and bam, you’ve got Dream Club canned bread. Magic! It’s much more striking than, say, Pokémon bread.
Called “pan” in Japanese, bread has a long history in the country, dating back to when
Bread in a can became popular among otaku around 2006 or 2007. Pan Akimoto began selling Clannad canned bread; bread plays a role in the popular visual novel as the main heroine’s parents operate a bakery.
Around that same time, canned udon and canned oden were popular in Akihabara, because both were easy meals. Also, there was once again the novelty factor of being able to buy noodles in a can.
Clannad canned bread, which was available in Akihabara retailers and vending machines, came in several flavors: chocolate, green tea, strawberry, butter, raisin, blueberry, and milk. It set off a slew of canned bread clones.
Pan Akimoto started selling canned bread after the Kobe Earthquake in 1995.
Canned bread is not a Japanese innovation. It’s been available in New England for decades—B&M Brown Bread is a camping and emergency food stash stable. As Flak Magazine points out, canned bread is “a throwback to an era in American history when they canned whole chickens”.
Boston brown bread was born out of necessity. Colonists baked bread from the resources they had, and since not all settlers had ovens, they cooked the bread in cans. (Here is a recipe for Boston brown bread.)
But this time around, Dream Club, never one to shy away from innuendo, has a bread, or “pan”, joke—a pun on underpants.