Siberia is a sweet bun, also known as kashi-pan, that has been made since the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) in Japan. The once popular dessert had fallen out of style, as hundred-year-old dishes generally tend to do, but thanks to its inclusion in Hayao Miyazaki’s final animated feature, The Wind Rises, Siberia has seen a rapid rise in popularity. Let’s take a closer look at this once-forgotten old-fashioned bread.
Siberia is basically a sweet bean jelly sandwich. It consists of two pieces of sponge cake, kasutera in Japanese, with a layer of youkan, sweet bean jelly, in the middle. Upon witnessing the little-known treat in The Wind Rises, Miyazaki fans across Japan took to the internet to find out more, giving one bread shop in the Naka Ward of Yokohama a sudden boost in sales.
Coty Bakery has been serving up Siberia since its establishment in 1916. At that time, many other bakeries offered the sweet treat, but due to its labor intensive nature, few stores continue producing it to this day. Much to the delight of this family-owned bakery, requests for Siberia have increased five fold since the opening of The Wind Rises. However, the shop is so small it can only fit three customers at one time, so the bakery has taken to accepting orders online.
Many people were confused as to why this Japanese/Western bread hybrid was named after the predominantly Russian territory. The true origin of the name “Siberia” is not known for sure, but one theory is that the sweet bean jelly sandwiched between the two pieces of sponge cake is meant to resemble a train on the snow-filled Siberian Railway. It is also possible that the bread was named by a confectioner supporting the war effort during the Russo-Japanese War.
No matter where the name came from, the effect Hayao Miyazaki has had on this bread is undeniable. There are even entire sites dedicated to finding a bakery that sells Siberia. Prices for a piece range from store to store, but a slice sells for 330 yen (US$3.30) at Coty Bakery.
If you’d like to visit Coty Bakery yourself, you can find it at this address: 2 Chome-６３ Hanasakicho, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 231-0063, Japan. You can also check out their official website (Japanese only). We aren’t sure if bakeries abroad sell Siberia, but if you aren’t able to make it to Japan to give it a taste, you can enjoy this cute little video, put together by Coty Bakery, that explains how they make Siberia.
Hayao Miyazaki, who just recently announced his retirement, is a living legend and has influenced aspiring animators all over the world. Who knew he would also influence the people of Japan to rediscover a forgotten treat from the Meiji era.