The Japanese Breakfast vs. The American Breakfast

By Donnie | Articles

Please close your eyes for a second and think about your idea of the perfect, most delectable breakfast you could have. Think about every nuance. Are you eating it at a restaurant that really makes your tummy smile every time you go? Perhaps it’s at your Mom’s house or another family memeber. What breakfast foods are running through your mind? Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section.

The American Style Breakfast

When I think about the perfect breakfast, it’s gotta be one thing for me…pancakes. I think about a piping hot, short-shortstack of fluffy, buttermilk pancakes with whipped butter on top and just the perfect complement of maple syrupy goodness streamed on top. Throw in a serving of scrambled eggs and a class of chilled orange juice, and there we have it…breakfast heaven! You could just as easily replace the pancakes with a hearty plate of waffles, or french toast, and I’d still be a happy dude. There is just something about those syrup-based breakfast dishes that reminds of home. It reminds me of waking up at 6:00 am on an early fall Saturday mornings, where my brother Derrick and I would sit and watch the morning cartoon lineup together. Mom (or one my sisters) would wake up a bit later and sometimes ask the magic question. “Boys! Y’all want some pancakes?” Umm…YEAH!! They’d cook up a batch of slamming pancakes (sometimes with eggs if we were lucky) with turkey sausage. AHHHHHhhh…I think I feel a bout of homesickness coming on.

In my head, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and orange juice are the quintessential elements of a perfect, American-style breakfast. But if you ask somebody else, like maybe my Dad, you may get a different answer.
*I’m pretty sure Dad would say grits (like a cornmeal porridge) are a part of an ideal breakfast.

Now if we’re not talking ideal, but just your run of the meal weekday…it was always a heaping bowl of cereal with lowfat milk (Mom always bought 2% milk, and now I’m hooked on the stuff! Thanks Mommy!!). Cereals…I used to eat so many different kinds. As a kid I was more partial to the sugary cereals: The Original Cap’N Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, Count Chocula (General Mills), Boo Berry (General Mills), Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams…pant…pant…Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs, Crunch Berries (a type of Cap’N Crunch), Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Berry Kix, Cookie Crisp…I could keep going, but I’ll stop there. During the teenage years, I started to enjoy cereals like Clusters, Wheat Chex, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Bran Flakes, and even started to get more into oatmeal. I won’t lie to you, though, I’m still a huge fan of the kids cereals, it’s one of my unabashed pleasures.

Though I know it’s not big for everybody, in the Ash family, breakfast was always a big deal.

The Japanese-Style Breakfast?

I'm not the best cook mind you, but miso soup, yakizakana (grilled fish), rice and natto are balance part of your Japanese breakfast 🙂

Even in America breakfast can vary from place to place and region. Breakfast menus can sometimes be a product of where you come from. Nowhere have I gotten to experience this more than in Japan.

When I came to Japan, it was so cool to hear some of the other things that people had for breakfast. Everybody had such different breakfast menu ideas. I don’t remember exactly what was common in England or Australia, but it was different from the American style. The Japanese-style breakfast, though, was nothing at all like the American style I was used to.

What exactly does a Japanese breakfast consist of? Well, much like back home, it depends on who you ask, but the standard breakfast that I’ve heard Japanese friends and co-workers mention consists of the following: miso soup (味噌汁), natto(納豆), steamed rice (ご飯 or gohan), and grilled fish (焼き魚 or yakizakana). I remember, when I first got here, thinking “Huh? Fish for breakfast??” It’s quite different from my Georgia-ideal breakfast, but it has really grown on me. Once you’ve gotten used to it, this can be quite a hearty, tasty breakfast, too.

I have heard other people mention eating fruit for breakfast here in Japan and, in rare cases, even cereal or pancakes**.
** Why the freak is maple syrup so expensive in Japan…and soooo thin. I’m not saying I want my syrup to be cane syrup thick, but if it’s going to be that expensive, I want it to really get the job done

Having tried both styles, I have to say that both have their benefits. I think the Japanese style breakfast is FAR healthier and far lighter than the American-style that I like. After eating this type of meal, I feel like I had my fill, but I don’t fell heavy…if that makes sense. After my ideal American-style breakfast, I feel like unbuckling my belt and unleashing my mighty stomach. On the other hand, when you talk about straight up deliciousness, I have to say the American style all day.

Which type of breakfast do you prefer? The American-Style Breakfast? or the Japanese Style Breakfast?

About the Author

  • Nanami says:

    Donald ; ; your grilled fish looks really good. Can I come over? -tummy rumblers-

  • Diann Phillips Ash says:

    Hi Donald,
    Thank you for the great article on American vs. Japanese breakfast. I have four alltime favorites:
    1. Occassionally–Scrambled Eggs, Creamy Grits, Oven-toasted Wheat Bread with Grape or Apple Jelly, Baccon/Sausage(Papa)and Hot Tea
    2. Occassionally—Homemade Buiscuits, Country Syrup, side of Grits, Scrambled Eggs and and Hot Tea
    3. Occassionally — Pancakes/Waffles, Ms. Butterworth Syrup, Bacon/Sausage 2% Milk
    4. Often—Steelcut Oatmeal/Old-fashion Oatmeal with raisins, walnuts, milk, and butter, Wheat Toast and Tea

    Love and prayers,

    • Donald Ash says:

      How could I forget your biscuits, Mom! That’s another breakfast that I truly love! Not to mention your choices are making me SEVERELY hungry. I wish cooking was genetic, then I could cook food that doesn’t make me gag…ha ha ha
      Love You, Mommy! 😀

  • Sean Patton says:

    I don’t have the best breakfast traditions, unfortunately. I skip it more often than I should, but when I do eat breakfast it’s usually a bowl of mini-wheats or a bagel, with some yogurt and a coffee.

    I would say my ideal breakfast is French toast dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with real Canadian maple syrup (not that mysterious “Pancake Syrup” so popular at Denny’s or IHOP), scrambled eggs a bit on the dry side, extra-lean bacon and a slice of watermelon or honeydew.

    I once had a traditional British breakfast consisting of 3 eggs, bacon, sausages, fried tomatoes, fried bread, baked beans and fried potatoes. When I finished, I was disappointed the meal didn’t also come with an ambulance, because I definitely felt like I needed one!

    Looking forward to a Japanese-style breakfast. I need to drop some pounds, and that’s going to be a big part of it.

    • Donald Ash says:

      LOL! Nice, Sean. I’m excited that you’re coming. The food here is pretty good, and pretty healthy. The vast majority of teachers I know lost weight in their first year here. You can do it 🙂

      • Sean Patton says:

        My problem right now is that I work in an office and spend all day seated, and then when I get home from my soul-crushing job I’m too grumpy to do anything constructive with my time. There’s also the home cooking I’ve been enjoying since I moved back here from Vancouver a year ago.

        When I first moved to Vancouver I lost 20lbs in two weeks just from walking hours every day and eating reduced portions. I can’t see how that won’t also happen in Tokyo, so I’m looking forward to getting back to a reasonable size. My goal is to lose 100lbs (fairly big guy right now), and I think I can do that in a year or two with a healthy lifestyle change.

        At some point when you’re in Tokyo and have a few free hours, I believe I owe you lunch in thanks for all the helpful articles you’ve written. I’d also enjoy hearing some of your stories of adjusting to life in Japan!

        – Sean

  • Roger Starkey says:

    Why is my breakfast almost always All Bran, drip coffee, and yogurt? Sometimes a spoon of peanut butter.

    I want to eat European breakfasts…get up around 10:00, double espresso, some bread…

    I got spoiled during the post-earthquake-period when I was up in Tohoku living out of a hotel. Too many real vegetables..

  • Rida INTISAAR says:

    omg! I took a holiday to Japan before, and I’d have to admit, Japanese is SO much better!

  • Wendy K says:

    I’ve just stumbled across your article by googling “Japanese breakfasts” as I love Japanese food and am fascinated by who eats what around the world! 🙂 When I pictured my ultimate breakfast, being from the UK, it would have to be a classic cooked one. Bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, baked beans, mushrooms and toast. (No egg for me but this is usually with it too.) Only an occasional treat though as I usually have ‘boring’ toast or cereal!

  • Nikolai says:

    For me, I imagined a big bowl of vegetable noodle soup and an egg (Noodles are better for me than rice since they have a lower glycemic-index. Not that I’m complaining)

  • montec zuma says:

    I’m from Los Angeles and I’ve been living in Japan for 13 years now. I totally dig the breakfast in Japan. I was never really a cereal guy. That being said, I do miss ”going out for breakfast” which is unpopular here. About the thinner syrup. The syrup we’re used to back in The States is made with about 3% maple syrup with the rest being corn syrup. The syrup in Japan is expensive and thinner because it’s 100% real maple syrup, which is a lot better for you. I dip my butter toast in it with sunny side up and coffee on the side and it really does the trick when you occasionally want that Western brekkie.

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