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Children's book about challenges of creating canned bread gains popularity

The children's book "Sekai o Sukuu Pan no Kanzume" (Canned bread that saves the world) (Mainichi)

A children's book which features the story of soft, long-lasting canned bread created by a Japanese bakery is quickly becoming a popular topic of conversation.

    Known as "PANCAN," the innovative bread product was developed by a bakery in Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, called "Pan Akimoto." The challenges that the bakery faced in perfecting its product have been captured in the book "Sekai o Sukuu Pan no Kanzume" (Canned bread that saves the world) published by Holp Shuppan Publications, Ltd. in autumn 2017.

    "I wanted to make canned bread that is soft, tasty, additive-free and which can be stored for a long time," said Pan Akimoto Co. President Yoshihiko Akimoto, 65 -- at a talk in Tokyo on Jan. 12 about his difficult, but successful, mission to create bread in a can.

    The initial trigger behind the idea was the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck on Jan. 17, 1995. In the wake of the disaster, Akimoto wanted to do something to help those affected, and decided to send freshly baked bread from Tochigi to Kobe. However, it took longer than usual for the bread to arrive, and by the time it reached the earthquake victims in Kobe, apparently most of it had gone stale.

    Akimoto felt somewhat defeated upon hearing that the bread which he had baked for the disaster victims was not eaten and was thrown away. However, after hearing from those affected that they wanted to eat the same kind of soft bread sent by Akimoto, but with a long shelf life such as that of ship biscuits, he set about making it his bakery's mission to make canned bread.

    Yoshihiko Akimoto talks about his canned bread product in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on Jan. 12, 2018. (Mainichi)

    Reflecting on the various challenges involved in perfecting the product, Akimoto reveals with a bitter smile that it was "wall after wall after wall." In the early stages, he found that when he opened cans of sealed fresh bread after a week, the bread would be moldy. Starting completely from scratch, the project stumbled many times, but Akimoto did not give up. After continuous trial and error, he finally succeeded after about a year in making canned bread that did not go off.

    The product, which contains no preservatives, lasts for up to three years, with the bread maintaining its fluffy texture throughout. As a result, the canned bread quickly became showered with media attention. "The canned bread is my fifth child," Akimoto says with a smile, as the father of four children.

    Once the product was perfected, cans were sent to areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Kumamoto Earthquake disaster. Akimoto's product was highly appreciated among disaster victims as elderly people and babies were able to eat the canned bread.

    In addition, the baking expert has also started a project, which involves the delivery of cans to regions overseas that lack food. So far 220,000 cans have been sent to various parts of the globe. Under this project, the cans are collected one year before the best-before-date and then sent to children overseas who are not getting enough food.

    The children's book is 155 pages long and is aimed toward senior elementary school children. "I want to tell children that it is important not to give up. I want them to appreciate the value of going forward even if it's just one small step," Akimoto says.

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