Japan is renowned for its innovative rice cooker technology, but did you know the country also pioneered the electric bread maker (hōmu bēkarī, or panyakiki)? A team at Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., now Panasonic, spent over a year on research and development (one software developer even apprenticed with an Osakan baker) and launched the first electric bread maker in 1986.

In 1987, Funai Electric Co. introduced the fully automatic Raku Raku Pan Da. Only a year later, Funai’s bread maker debuted overseas as the DAK Auto Bakery, and the market continued to expand as overseas companies began to design and produce their own models — by 1999 one in five Americans owned a bread maker.

In addition to standard bread and dough settings, contemporary Japanese models have several unique features, extending convenient cooking with the push of a button far beyond bread. I use a mid-range bread maker from Panasonic with 35 presets, but even some entry-level models under ¥10,000 feature mochi, udon/pasta and jam settings; MK’s home bakery even features a yaki-imo (baked sweet potato) and yogurt mode.