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May 28, 2008 06:34 PM

Bread quality in Tokyo

Why is bread so poor in Tokyo? Between attention to detail, the noodle making and the French connection, this is very surprising to me.
Perhaps someone could recommend the best spots to buy some.
In general, the bread was quite poor. I think it should be at least good in the upper end depachikas. It was more like tolerable.
Oh, and if recommending a specific spot, if you could say how much better it is than a good dept store basement variety.


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  1. ???? Where are you buying your bread?

    I find the average bakery shokupan is far better than bread in most supermarkets (in North America, anyway). When in Tokyo, I like to buy bread from boulangepicerie in the basement of Isetan. Since it is in a department store, I guess "how much better it is than a good dept store basement variety" isn't really relevant.

    1. So ignorance is not always bliss, If you want American style sliced whole wheat loaves in a plastic bag, forget it (believe me I would buy it if they sold it). The white shoku pan here is excellent and there are a number of French style bakeries I.e., Maison Kayser, Viron, etc., that would wow 'em in Paris. How much better than depa chika? 36.4 to 38.2 percent better.

      1. As much as I love almost everything the Tokyo food scene has to offer, be it restaurants or supermarkets, I must say that the quality of bread has been one big, huge disappointment. Now place in the world can do everything perfectly, so I have no complaints, but if you want great bread, don't look for it here. Yes, some bakeries have good bread and a decent variety. But in comparison to Germany, even those bakeries are just sub-par (usually a lot better than depachikas though). Many bakeries are French-style and do French-style bread well, but how good is French bread in comparison to German, where you can find about 150 different kinds of bread? Not great at all. I feel the same about North America, where the mainstream bread is also worthless and bland. Urgh. Of course, in the US, you will find many small bread shops with German (or other central European) breads, which is harder to do in Tokyo. If you look hard enough, you'll find some good stuff. But, of course, for something as essential as bread, you don't want to have to seek out specialty stores on the other side of town, you want to be able to get at least something semi-decent in a good supermarket. You can't. When it comes to fresh bread (as opposed to, for example, pumpernickel or five grain bread, which is available imported and tastes as it does in Germany), even Nissin, which caters for foreign tastes, has very sub-par bread (and we have pretty much tried them all).

        18 Replies
        1. re: Asomaniac

          Have you been to Kondotorei (sp?) Lindt? Quote: "but how good is French bread in comparison to German, where you can find about 150 different kinds of bread?" I wonder what a French person would say about that.

          1. re: steamer

            Quote: "I wonder what a French person would say about that."

            I am really not bothered about what a French person would say about that. On this site, people express their own opinions about food, and mine is that French bread is, in comparison to German, quite poor in terms of variety and generally good in terms of quality, but relatively uneventful. Not that I don't like it - I do, and for example Viron mentioned elsewhere on this site is very good. But I don't find it hugely impressive. Also, why would a French person's view on French bread matter more than anyone else's? Are their palates somehow superior when it comes to tasting French bread?

            1. re: Asomaniac

              Funny what you guys are quibbling about when the content of the original argument is completely being skipped over. I am from NYC.....I used to own a restaurant in the East Village. We wanted to sell Vietnamese Sandwiches at one time in our restaurant and so forth tested like over 20+ bakeried around NYC. Brooklyn has always been said to have the best bread in New York....because of the water....and now i reside here in Tokyo......Those are my credentials to post a remark here on CH. I personally like the bread here. It all depends on what you want....remember Japanese people are the best at mimicing products. We bought good italian bread from Nishi Superkmarkets...they pretty much cater to the foreigners....but i mostly loved the different sandwichs they have in the little bakeries..i think the bread is good here, ranging from the sliced thick white bread to even the Pita's were good......I did however have the worst pizza ever...(although i have never been to italy)
              I would say that Japanese pastries look a lot better than they taste.......
              Hope i contributed....

              1. re: dingaling

                I'm curious, where are these Nishi Supermarkets? In Tokyo?

                Tokyo has some of the best pizza in the world - keep looking!

                1. re: Robb S

                  there's a nissin supermarket i think in Azabujuban...and forgive me, i was wrong with the Nishi name.....its national Azabu in Hiroo...they cater to foreigners needs....
                  No wife had lived here 10 years prior to her 4 years in NYC...and her friends also who have lived here forever say the pizza sucks....Can't compare to a new york slice....or a thin crust, pie from Italy....

                2. re: dingaling

                  Hi dingaling,

                  Why do you think Japanese pastries do not taste as good as they look? Because they are not sweet enough?

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    Fine question. I am curious as to the answers, as well. Wonder if you will be lambasted for that blasphemy here.


                    1. re: foodonlygood

                      >Wonder if you will be lambasted for that blasphemy here.

                      Foodonlygood, I am not sure what you meant here. I mentioned about the pastries not being sweet enough because this is the complaint that I heard the most from my American friends. I am in no intention to insult anyone's taste bud.

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        "I mentioned about the pastries not being sweet enough because this is the complaint that I heard the most from my American friends."

                        That goes to show that tastes around the world are simply different. I (and my whole family) find American pastries largely disgusting, because they are often so disgustingly sweet. They look good, but when you bite into them... urgh. We have stopped eating them whenever we are on holidays in the US.

                        Love Japanese pastries, by the way. Awesome.

                        1. re: Asomaniac

                          Actually another thing about Japanese pastries is that they are usually lighter and "fluffier" (esp. for cakes) compared to Western pastries. I think in general Japanese simply prefer the lighter and fluffier texture (say for both cakes and bread). There are a lot of authentic Western pastries nowadays in Japan, but the types of pastries that I grew up with (so rewind 20 years...) tended to be more like sponge cakes or very light cakes, nothing like cakes in the US.

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            I was not referring to you insulting anyone, kobe.
                            No worries.

                            Asomaniac, are you referring to the vast majority of sweets in the US? Yes, disgusting, agreed but so is most of the food. I was thinking more of the top end and the execution of them in both locales. I do not care for sickeningly sweet items and am not sure this is one issue with the pastries of the East. Especially, since the bread is definitely too sweet.
                            Anyway, will have to pay more attention next time and figure it out.


                            1. re: foodonlygood


                              Yes, I am, absolutely. In terms of other food (non-pastry), I must say that my experience in the US - depending on the location - has been pretty good, even at the lower end of the scale. High quality sea food at very reasonable prices in Miami for example.

                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                Hey, Asomaniac,

                                Surprised to hear you say this, I admit.
                                Honestly, I find general eating choices in the US quite poor on the whole.
                                As for Miami, where I lived for awhile, where in particular are you speaking of if I might ask?
                                While it is true that I lived on South Beach and spent most of time in this small area, my forays to restaurants there were regrettable. I can think of one good seafood spot on the Beach but I would not say it is has very reasonable prices though not terrible considering it all.
                                I have eaten quite enough to know that areas in South FL but north of MIA are just without redemption.
                                In Miami proper, did you eat at lower level fish shack type joints? A couple of OK options for that, sure.
                                For some reason, the majority of fresh, actually good seafood from this geographic region does not seem to make it out of the FL Keys or is exported elsewhere, much like all the produce.
                                Glad you had some good grub in Mia, I have not.
                                Again, any names would be appreciated.



                    2. re: kobetobiko

                      I feel that they are made to look pretty and shimmery and attractive to the eye. But they just don taste as decadent as say european or some american pastries...i think my one favorite one is the chou creams....although my wife argues that the azuki fried donut breads or other sweet breads in the bread shops count as pastries too, and i love those...esp. the little fried donuts....

              2. re: Asomaniac

                Let me get this straight, you don't care for Tokyo bread because it is not German. Doesn't this lack of Teutonic loaves pretty much apply to the entire world outside of Germany? I don't know what part of the US is full of brod, but in Los Angeles German bread is less easily obtained than in Tokyo.

                At any rate the proper name for the place in Tokyo with good German bread is Backerie Kaffe Linde. They have shops all over in depa chikas and a permanent shop in Kichijoji. Here is the website:


                1. re: steamer

                  "Let me get this straight, you don't care for Tokyo bread because it is not German."

                  Not quite - read my posts again. My beef with Tokyo bread is twofold: first, the lack of variety, and I am comparing German bread because there is so much variety and lots of the breads are very original (in comparison to France's tasty, but often bland offerings); and second, the fact that if I want really good bread I have to spend time looking for specialist stores, rather than just being able to get it in a supermarket on my way home from work with the other shopping, as in the normal supermarkets the breads are uniformly awful. As I have said before, that's absolutely fine as nowhere everything is perfect, and this is simply not a bread country. But if you are a bread lover, it is cumbersome.

                  My first point above applies to many countries, but my second (which to me is much more relevant as it involves the practical, day-to-day issues with buying bread) is something that applies to places like Japan, the US, or the UK more that elsewhere (and of those, to Japan the most).

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    Can't disagree with any of that, guess my preference runs toward the French stuff. The Japanese seem prefer their bread really soft so the easy-to-get stuff does in fact suck. Tonight I didn't have time to go to Shinagawa for bread, so rice will do, at least good rice can be bought everywhere.

                2. re: Asomaniac

                  Back to German-style breads, Donq has recently started making more and more dense German-style breads. I don't know if they make them at all the Donq's (I go to the Okamonto Donq in Kobe, which is supposedly the original and best), but they're quite good (never been to Germany, though, so I don't know how they'd compare). They're also quite expensive--a few very thin slices was Y300-Y400. There are Donq's in Tokyo if you wanted to check them out (who knows, you might like them).

                3. You really haven't found the right place to buy breads,I think the bread and cakes in Japan are fantastic!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fruitlover


                    Cakes, I totally agree with. Breads, it depends on what you like. As I said, the French breads are very good, but I really love bread and the French / Italian choices are not enough. If you have lived in Germany for a few years as I have done, bread will be one thing you will miss wherever you go to live afterwards (and I am not German and certainly don't feel any patriotic love for German bread).

                  2. Depachika are known for quality prepared food item counters, not typical household shopping for bread, fruits, vegetables, and grocery items. If you're using depachika as a benchmark for prices and quality of foodstuffs in Tokyo, you're not going to get an accurate picture of typical shopping.

                    Anyway, I always loved Maison Kayser. Used to live near a branch and would stop there regularly. Besides more conventional breads, they used to have this great olive bread "pretzel" type thing. Perhaps there is a French name for it. Anyway, I never saw it after a while. But I look for it all the time in French bakeries.

                    I'm also a big fan of Angelica in Shimokitazawa (, which puts some interesting Japanese touches into their creations. I would love to get a hold of their hot miso pan or curry pan on a cold New York morning. And speaking of hot, I always appreciated the sort of "yaki tate" (fresh baked) system that shops in Japan practice. That is, having a set time of day and a sign marking items as "yaki tate". Even at the Kobe Kitchens, Anderson's, and Little Mermaids of the world, as well as better places, it is always possible to get fresh baked goods. Many places time batches for breakfast, lunch, and evening rush times.

                    Shoku pan should have it's own branch in the bread Hall of Fame. I think it makes for great sandwiches and even just plain toast. The way it can crisp up on the outside and remain a bit chewy on the inside. Love that.

                    The variety of breads available is certainly less than the West. And Japanese style breads tend to be a bit sweeter. And I've had some crappy bread or bread products before. But there's plenty of good stuff and certainly a fair share of artisinal bakeries around. Both Tabelog and ASKU allow users to sort for the best rated bakeries in Tokyo. There seems to be many places worth checking out. As usual when asking for recommendations in Tokyo, it helps to specify location.

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Nice post, Silverjay. I think one big issue I have is the overall sweetness of the bread. It is quite apparent and if there are indigenous types that are made like that fine but I find it overall, even in breads whose origins were not made with a sweet lean.


                      1. re: foodonlygood

                        For everyday bread, I like the Pan aux Cereal at Paul. There is one in the Keio depachika in Shinjuku and my local shop in Atre at Yotsuya station.

                        It makes for good sandwiches.

                        I don't think I'll ever develop a taste for the thick white bread though, it's just not to my liking.

                        1. re: lost squirrel

                          >I don't think I'll ever develop a taste for the thick white bread though, it's just not to my liking.

                          Actually the thick white bread is my favorite kind of bread, especially the ultra soft ones. I grew up eating this type of bread. When I first had baguettes, I took off all the crust because they were so hard! Now I have learnt to love it.

                      2. re: Silverjay

                        In the past, most people in Japan (or I will say, in East Asia), tend to like really soft bread as compared to the crusty bread that American like. That's why you see so many "super soft" style bread in the market. Now there are more authentic artisan bakeries the quality of Europeon bread is much nicer than before, but the variety is still lacking. And Silverjay is right, we like our bread a tad sweeter. I had to learn to like sourdough when I came the the states.

                        Don't get me started on the bagels in Japan....Ugh...

                        1. re: kobetobiko

                          Well the bagels i feel are not as fluffy on the inside here...but we get ours from Costco and they are fine......The everything bagel here in japan is quite peculiar....its got all these nuts and seeds in it as well....

                          1. re: dingaling

                            Bagels in Japan suck. There used to be a guy, from Brooklyn, who had a "NY style" deli with "homemade" bagels years ago in Kannai, Yokohama... Regarding pizza, I agree with Robb. There's a lot of good little pizzas around. Not NYC slice style, but nice thin crusted margherita or mushroom oven fired versions that harken more to its' Italian origins. Aside from the Dominos and Pizza-La delivery places, most pizza is served as a menu item Italian restaurants rather than at dedicated pizza parlors. I'm sure Robb knows much more on this......Dingaling, as you're fresh from the EV in NYC, it would be interesting if you posted a "first impressions" of Japan (from a chow perspective) so far- assuming you are new to the place.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              well i am freshly here in tokyo...but i have visited with my wife on two other occasions when I was just a tourist wanting to eat everything in site....but no i haven't posted my first impressions yet....
                              but i would have to say that the food is one comfort so far in this new place for me.....if it wasn't for the food, i'd definitely want to go home....
                              we had our first anniversary dinner on sunday at La Table joel robuchon...
                              couldn't get the 2nd floor, although, i am glad cuz it definitely breaks the bank....
                              Not memorable at was ok, they charged gratuity and tax and the service wasn't even better than a ramen place.....very dissatisfying but hey, it was our anniversary...

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                My First impressions of Tokyo Chow....

                                In general i love the food here in japan...I like some of the restaurants outside of tokyo that i have been to a little bit more. I keep getting asked "isn't the food great in tokyo?" Well Yes and No...It all depends on what you are having. NYC is a melting pot of cultures. I grew up eating food of all nationalities and usually ethnic food is cheaper. I am chinese and have not really had a good chinese and cheap chinese meal here yet. (well i recently went to cafe 8 in roppongi hills and was pleasantly surprised...very authentic chinese, including the service. and went to a small shanghainese joint outside of shinjuku that was tasty and relatively cheap.) You can not beat the japanese food here...I personally will probably never have japanese again if i go back and visit NYC for a short period of time...definitely would never have sushi there....But I crave good pizza, good indian, good thai, good vietnamese, good chinese, good middle eastern, a good burger....I went to BK recently because i missed a regular burger....Burger joints here dress up their burgers too shi shi fou fou. There are a lot of french and Italian restaurants here but i just don't feel like its to my tastes......but these are just simply my opinions, and that of an American taste bud...

                                1. re: dingaling

                                  > including the service. and went to a small shanghainese
                                  > joint outside of shinjuku that was tasty and relatively cheap.

                                  Interested to know where this place is, the name, etc.


                                  1. re: kamiosaki

                                    I just know that the outside signage had Syanhai written on it....I will have to ask my wife..I think its on Sennen dori.because i drive and pass it all the time when i make a right on kannana dori to take my wife to work at the Park Hyatt in shinjuku. What is the street right outside the hotel? you take that straight west and the restaurant is along the way...

                              2. re: dingaling

                                I think the bagels from Costco are horrible. They may be bread with holes, but they sure as heck ain't bagels. Many bagels at chains in the US and Canada aren't bagels, either, but bread with holes.

                                  1. re: dingaling

                                    Healthy and Happy?

                                    Hot and Hawaiian?

                                    My point which I forgot to make was that bagels aren't supposed to be fluffy on the inside, so that you can't find bagels with fluffy insides in Japan is not necessarily a bad thing.

                                    I've found that the bagels from Donq are actually pretty good examples of bagels, if you're looking for something a little more like a bagel than a piece of bread with a hole in the middle.

                                    1. re: prasantrin

                                      H&H is a famous bagel shop located on Broadway at W80th St. in Manhattan.

                                      You can get their bagels, frozen, at National Azabu in Hiroo.

                                      1. re: prasantrin

                                        nah, H&H is like the best bagels in NYC......
                                        i beg to differ. a good bagel has different consistencies....a nice crust but still fluffy on the probably always have yours toasted.....i mean, my friends back in the city are they tell me....

                                        1. re: dingaling

                                          Second all the comments about disastrous Tokyo bagels above. We'll get a bag or two of H&H at Azabu or Nissin when we go there and they are definitely good. But one place that is worth a special trip IMO is Maruichi Bagel in Yoyogi Uehara - they are sold straight from the oven and come pretty d*mn close to H&H and Ess-a-Bagel. I've been there a few times, mostly when I get a craving on a Sunday morning. I always eat one on the walk back to the station. The proprietor worked at Ess-a-Bagel, I think there was a write up about her in the NYT a while ago - the line is always 10+ deep when she opens...


                                          1. re: kamiosaki

                                            Maruichi Bagel reopening today in Shirokane after a 2+ month hiatus. Think happy thoughts...


                                            1. re: kamiosaki

                                              Went there on Sat, line was 50 people long at opening time.

                                              Went there today, line was 15 people long at 1:30 in the PM. Took 30 mins to get to the counter, staff is still going through on-the-job training, as it were. Bought 10 bagels. Breathed sigh of relief after taking first bite. Perhaps a touch lighter than before, but same taste.

                                              1. re: kamiosaki

                                                Do you know if they'll be open during Golden Week? I checked out their website, but didn't see any info that they'd be closed. I also e-mailed them, but I didn't receive a reply. I'll only be in Tokyo for a couple of days, and I want to try their bagels!