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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogJapanese Crepes: Japan’s Amazing Spin On a French Classic!

Japanese Crepes: Japan’s Amazing Spin On a French Classic!

Published Time
Posted on 
May 10, 2022
Modified Time
Updated last 
March 22, 2024

The crepe is an iconic piece of French cuisine, often using the finest ingredients. But hop on over to Tokyo’s Harajuku area, and you’ll see plenty of people walking around and enjoying the Japanese spin on the dish. Today, let’s delve into Japanese street food with the world of Japanese crepes.

What’s the difference between Japanese and French crepes?

Before we go into the differences between French and Japanese crepes, there are not many. The crepe originated in Brittany, an area in western France, all the way back in the 13th century. Despite their popularity, it’s unclear how or when they even ended up on the streets of Japan. 

French crepes are often made with wheat flour, milk, and eggs. However, they can also be made with buckwheat flour, usually for more savory crepes. This French treat is usually cooked, filled with top-notch ingredients, and laid on a plate. They are often folded or wrapped in a burrito shape. 

The Santa Monica Crepes stand, a stand for Japanese crepes, at night with its sign lit up, a crepe illustration behind it, and people enjoying crepes in front of teh pink stand.
Luckily, the French crepe made its way here so that we can enjoy Japanese crepes in between stores. Image via Shutterstock

During the 1970s, crepes appeared in Harajuku as a street food. These Japanese street crepes were thinner, folded into a cone in paper wrapping, and, most importantly, full of unique ingredients. Unlike French crepes, Japanese crepes use wheat flour for sweet or savory fillings.

The outer layer of a Japanese-style crepe is made to be paper thin by using a tool to spread the crepe batter across the pan or griddle. This street food is soft, but good shops will make nice and crispy ones around the edges.

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What are some popular dessert crepe fillings?

While French crepes tend to use the finest ingredients, Japanese crepes are a delicious treat you can enjoy while shopping or on your way down Takeshita Street. That means the ingredients may not be fancy, but they are sure delicious and easy to hold.

Fresh Fruits

Fresh fruits are so common that you probably can’t find a crepe stand without a fresh fruit option. Bananas, strawberries, apples, and peaches are everyday staples, but more seasonal and regional fruits are also usually on the menu. Think fruits like kiwi fruit, mangoes, the famous Hokkaido melons, Japanese mikan (tangerines), and Amaou strawberries. For addiitonal sweetness, some crepes may feature cinnamon apples for a kind of apple pie taste.

Sweet Dairy

A plastic model of a Japanese crepe at a Japanese crepe stand sits in front of a blue background, decorated with fake bananas, strawberries, ice cream, chocolate sauce, and cheesecake.
Unfortunately, Japanese crepes can be full of dairy for many lactose-intolerant people. This one features whipped cream, ice cream, and more. Image via Shutterstock

Dairy products like fresh whipped cream, custard, and ice cream are also standard in one way or another. Japan loves fresh whipped cream (nama kurimu) because of its subtle sweetness. Meanwhile, custard has a bit more flavor and volume. Ice cream, too, is a popular option with plenty of flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, and matcha (Japanese powdered green tea) flavors. 

These toppings are so popular that many dessert crepes will have at least one, if not a combination. If dairy isn’t very kind to your stomach, you can always ask for it without using a simple “nama kurimu nashi (without)”.

Other Toppings

Some other tasty toppings include nuts and plenty of sauces. Strawberry, caramel, and chocolate sauce are popular additions to crepe’s fillings. Even Nutella is becoming more popular at crepe shops. 

If you want to add a bit of Okinawa flavor to your crepe, you can also try a crepe with kuromitsu (traditional Japanese syrup) made with kokuto (Okinawa black sugar). You can also go more traditional with an azuki red bean paste filling.

You can also find tasty treats like cheesecake, chocolate cake, brownies, mochi, Oreos, and more. Sometimes, you find them in pieces, but other places will put a whole cake slice inside your crepe.

What are some popular savory fillings?

Japanese savory or snack crepes are still made with the same golden-brown thinness and flavor as a dessert crepe. So, the filling is the only thing separating snack crepes from dessert crepes. 

This snack-on-the-go can have different proteins like tuna, ham, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, or sausage. For veggies, lettuce, spinach, and green peppers are typical toppings. The sauces are where they stand out, with sauces like Japanese mayo, pizza sauce, and salsa being just a few options.

Two women hold two Japanese crepes in their hands, one with a lot of chocolate powder and the other being a shops original creme brulee crepe.
Comcrepe in Harajuku has even made a name for themselves with their crème brulee crepe. This one usually has to be eaten with a spoon. Image via Shutterstock

Where can I get crepes in Japan?

Tokyo has plenty of places to enjoy crepes. However, if you’re looking for options, Harajuku is the best place to head. There are so many to choose from, but here are just a few.

Marion Crepes is one of the two oldest crepe shops in Harajuku. It started in the 1970s, just after the now-closed Angel Hearts. It’s not as flashy as other shops on Takeshita Street, with a blue, red, and white color scheme different from the pink of other shops.

Santa Monica Crepes fits more with the general Harajuku kawaii aesthetic with a bright white and pink storefront. It even has a sign that lights up at night and features a strawberry crepe, so you can’t miss it.

Cafe Crepe Laforet is off Takeshita Street, but it’s actually on the first level outside Laforet Harajuku. This famous shopping center has plenty of great stores. tasty restaurants, and even a Sailor Moon store. So after a day of shopping, you can head outside and buy a crepe to relax! Craving some Japanese crepes now? What are your favorite crepe fillings? Let us know in the comments!

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