Here's a sweet story: Kind-hearted Yamazaki deliverymen hand out truckload of bread to snow-stranded motorists. Winter weather has hit the places I love pretty hard this year. I'm talking about my home state and my current country of residence. Tokyo certainly looked beautiful in photographs over the weekend, but if you were one of the unlucky motorists stuck in the snow, I'm sure you would have preferred sunshine and dry roads. At least these Yamazaki delivery people came through for some of the stranded.
Which makes me think about bread. For a country that prides itself on down-home rice-based eating, Japan sure has a lot of delicious bread. The most common kind is called "shoku-pan," which means "eating bread." Shoku-pan is familiar to people in the United States as white bread. Sandwich staple. Basis for various kinds of toast. You can buy white bread in every convenience store and supermarket in 5, 6 or 8 slice loaves. The 5-slice ones are thickest. They work quite well for French toast.
If you teach English here, you're bound to have a conversation about rice versus bread. "I prefer rice to bread" or some variation on that theme. But you'll also ask students what they had for breakfast and receive, "Bread" as a reply, more than likely meaning some kind of toast. But possibly also meaning cinnamon rolls or sweet rolls or practically any kind of sweet bun you can imagine. When you talk about dinner, the answer will probably involve some variation of curry and rice. Curry and rice. Curry and rice. Curry and rice. If you can't think of anything else to fix for yourself or your family, you go with curry and rice.
People here tell me Americans eat bread with dinner. I tell them my family eats rice and bread both with our dinner. A few people are mildly interested in this answer, because it violates not only a dearly held stereotype, but also what I believe is a rule about starch in your diet. That's why I usually keep it a secret we also frequently add baked potatoes to our daily fare. But most people couldn't care less. Neither could I, for that matter. It's a boring conversation to have in any language.
Still, I am crazy about bread. Our favorite shoku-pan comes in a red package. I can't tell you the name. I've never learned it. I just look for the red package and then the expiration date. Usually I buy the wrong bread. Then my wife comes home with the kind we both like and everything is put right again. Another bread we like is raisin bread. Raisin bread can be found at 7-11 convenience stores and some supermarkets but you need to get there before we do. We'll buy all of it ahead of you if you don't. I've only found raisin bread in four-slice loaves, though. Finally, I eat a lot of whole-wheat bread. The brown breads. I have an older brother who wouldn't eat whole-wheat bread unless you knocked him out and fed it into his body intravenously. I prefer it to white bread. While we can sometimes find Roman Meal bread here, it's only infrequently.
Therefore, I eat a lot of shoku-pan.