Sakai bakers reinterpret the humble loaf

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The unique appearance of “Tobibakopan” bread, shaped like a vaulting box, has been creating a buzz online.

By Keisuke Uranishi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterSAKAI — Many people start their day with a simple slice of white bread. Two innovative breads made by bakeries in Sakai have overturned the image of a plain white loaf and are creating a buzz on social media — the trapezoidal “Tobibakopan” (vaulting box bread), and “Shiawase no Kiiroi Shokupan” (happy yellow loaf). The premium appeal of Shiawase no Kiiroi Shokupan, priced at ¥3,000 per loaf (plus tax), and the unique and playful shape of Tobibakopan have won a number of fans.

“[Tobibakopan] really looks like a vaulting box, which surprised me,” said a 23-year-old homemaker.

She took a photo of the bread and posted it on the photo-sharing website Instagram.

“At first, I was attracted by the unique shape of the bread, but it also tastes delicious as it is or toasted. I’m completely addicted now,” she said with a smile.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    “Shiawase no Kiiroi Shokupan” is one baker’s attempt to make the most delicious loaf of bread.

The bread was devised by Mitsuru Kadota, 41, the owner of bakery Pain de Singe. He studied architectural design at university and has previously worked at a design studio. When he opened the bakery in April 2012, he wanted to try creating bread products using his design experience.

Kadota tried to create a bread with a simple but impressive shape while retaining the familiar appearance of a simple loaf. He recalled the shape of vaulting boxes at school gymnasiums. Small numbers are branded on the trapezoid-shaped bread to make the loaves look more like stacked vaulting boxes.

“I added sugar to the dough to make the bread sweet like a dessert pastry so that people can enjoy the whole loaf, including the crust,” Kadota said.

Since the bread was launched, at ¥310 per loaf (plus tax), its reputation has spread by word of mouth. Recently, people who have bought the bread have been posting comments about it on social media and sharing photos on Instagram, which has helped spread the popularity of the peculiar-shaped loaf.

Kadota now receives orders from department stores in the cities of Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto, and the bread has been flying off the shelves, with more than 1,000 loaves sold each day.

Consumption of bread loaves in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, is among the highest in Japan. According to the Family Income and Expenditure Survey conducted by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the average annual spending per household on loaves of bread was ¥11,337 in the city from 2014 to 2016. This is the third highest among the nation’s prefectural capitals and ordinance-designated cities, after Kobe and Nara. The amount of actual consumption is also the third highest, at about 25 kilograms per household — after Nara and Kobe.

According to the All Osaka Bakers Association based in Osaka, people in the Kansai region prefer thick slices, resulting in them spending more money on and consuming more bread than in other parts of Japan.

“The region’s long trading history with foreign nations may be the reason bread is so popular,” said a spokesperson of the association.

Sakai’s Sosaku Kobo Printemps bakery makes Shiawase no Kiiroi Shokupan. Baker Taichi Yamashige, 48, thought it would be good to have a premium loaf that could be given as a gift. He made the bread using only ingredients from Japan, such as locally produced eggs.

As the recipe uses egg yolk, the baked bread has a slight yellow hue. He uses different kinds of milk containing varying amounts of milk fat. “People can enjoy a taste similar to that of castella Japanese sponge cake,” Yamashige said.

The bread is sold to order, but Yamashige does not make the bread unless he can get specific ingredients. The bread is delivered to customers in a box made from paulownia wood.

Since the bakery started selling the bread two years ago, it has become a popular option as a summer and year-end gift, as well as a souvenir item. There is at least a two-week waiting list for the bread.

Both Sosaku Kobo Printemps and Pain de Singe sell a variety of breads. But why are they so focused on the humble loaf?

“Bread loaves are a firmly established item in our daily lives and it is widely eaten. I added some creativity to make the bread something that makes people smile and provides a topic of conversation during meals,” Kadota said.

Yamashige said: “Bread loaves are familiar to us all, but I wanted to make a loaf that could become a specialty product in Sakai. Without compromising on ingredients, I tried to see how delicious [a loaf of bread] could be.”

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