I distinctly remember saying last year that I wished that Mister Donut would get a pumpkin-flavored doughnut, and this year, my wish came true!
Mister Donut really went all out with the theme, too, offering six different varieties: three pumpkin-flavored versions of their old-fashioned (cake) doughnuts (ôrudo fasshon, オールドファッション) (plain, chocolate-dipped, and honey-dipped); a pumpkin custard-filled variety (panpukin kurîmu, パンプキンクリーマ); and two called “jack-o-lanterns” (jakku rantan, ジャックランタン) that appear to be puff pastry cut into jack-o-lantern shapes with pumpkin or strawberry glaze. I liked the pumpkin old-fashioned and the custard one best. The pumpkin flavor really comes through, and the alteration to the recipe made the often dry old-fashioned much moister.
The jack-o-lantern cookies seem to be in the family of Japanese “pie”: basically a pie crust or flat puff-pastry like Genji Pie, not an American-style apple pie. They’re okay but not great. The caloric information is about the same as their regular doughnuts.*
The tie-in with Universal Studios and Snoopy are of note. I haven’t been able to confirm how long this has been happening, but USJ and Tokyo Disney have both hosted Halloween events in the past. Also, Snoopy Halloween goods were offered as a point-card reward in 2005 at Baskin Robbins. I suspect that the US-based theme parks and character goods may have started Halloween goods in Japan on the marketing/consumer level, which dovetails nicely with the government’s emphasis on ESL, which includes Halloween lessons, and internationalization outreach from the JET Program participants (including the CIRs, of course).
Returning to the topic of doughnuts, Doughnut Plant** also has Halloween seasonal doughnuts this year. September/October’s seasonal doughnuts include pumpkin cake doughnut and pumpkin bun (a cinnamon-bun-style pastry), the latter of which I haven’t tried yet.
Doughnut Plant’s doughnuts are white cake with a flavored glaze on the outside, which means that they can easily experiment with new flavors without redoing the batter recipe. While the milk-tea varieties are for fall, the pumpkin ones specifically say that they are Halloween themed (ハロウィンをイメージした） as well as fall-themed.
As I noted last year, much of the Halloween buzz in Japan is food-related and is generally reserved for sweets, which makes sense, given the holiday’s emphasis on candy and sweets. Kabocha, of course, is a large part of Japan’s late summer and fall cuisine, and is available on the market much longer than orange pumpkins are in the US and Canada; in addition to being used in Japanese food, kabocha bread and other Western-style dishes are quite popular on Cookpad and in cookbooks. The appropriation of the jack-o-lantern for Halloween-themed sweets begs the questions of whether Japan will continue to associate “pumpkin”-flavored sweets with Halloween and if people know that pumpkins and kabocha aren’t the same thing. To add a note of linguistic interest, I’ve actually heard Japanese people at events and in stores refer to jack-o-lanterns as halloween before, too, further begging the question of what Halloween (the holiday and the word) means in Japan.
I’m rounding up Halloween display photos (food and otherwise) for a post on The Lobster Dance, so if you have any good ones, leave me a comment here or contact me via social media!
*Pumpkin old-fashioned: 257; pumpkin chocolate old-fashioned: 290; pumpkin honey old-fashioned: 311; pumpkin creme: 253; jack-o-lantern pumpkin: 250; strawberry jack-o-lantern: 249.
**Doughnut Plant’s Kanazawa location is on the second floor of Kanazawa Station. The company also has locations in Tokyo and Kanagawa and is based in New York City.