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Toyama native makes dough with discarded grains

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yukiko Kobayashi prepares bread dough in Uozu, Toyama Prefecture.

By Yosuke Yagi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterTOYAMA — More than 30 kinds of bread are sold at Kome Kobo Jasmine (Rice factory Jasmine) in Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, but what makes this bakery unique is that it exclusively uses rice flour.

Customers flock to Kome Kobo Jasmine with its triangular roof, as if drawn by the aroma of freshly baked bread. Owner Yukiko Kobayashi, 36, greets them cheerfully: “Hello! May I help you?”

The flour used in the bakery’s bread is made from locally produced Koshihikari rice grown by Kobayashi’s family in Uozu. The bread has a chewy texture, and grows sweeter and sweeter after each bite.

Kobayashi arrives early each morning, shapes the bread dough and bakes it in a large electric oven. After she opens the bakery at 10 a.m., she bakes more bread to be supplied to supermarkets in Toyama, a hospital and other facilities, in addition to that sold at her bakery.

She continues to bake until 5 p.m., when the bakery closes. After closing up, she thinks about new bread products and prepares for the next day, meaning she always returns home after 9 p.m.

Kobayashi was born to a rice-farming family in Uozu, but she didn’t have much enthusiasm for rice or her hometown. Her favorite thing was to occasionally go to Tokyo with her older sister, and she enjoyed looking at clothes and shoes at department stores in Shinjuku district.

When she was 20, she moved to Tokyo and got married. She gave birth to a girl in Okinawa Prefecture, her husband’s hometown, but life in Okinawa was always uncomfortable for her. She suffered so much stress it affected her health, and she eventually returned to her parents’ house.  

In autumn about 10 years ago, when Kobayashi helped her family members use a rice grader to sort their harvest, she noticed that a lot of the rice grains did not meet the standards and were discarded. Thinking this was wasteful, she made flour from the rice and a cake from the flour. However, it was impossible to eat a cake every day, so she came up with the idea of making bread from the rice flour, thinking the bread could be a daily staple in place of rice.

Over about two years, she learned the techniques of baking rice flour bread through trial and error and by attending workshops. Gradually, she came to dream of opening her own bakery to sell rice flour bread.

Kobayashi stuck to her guns and in 2009, she rented a vacant store near her home and opened a bakery.

She opened her current bakery in 2011, and in 2015, the movie “Uozu no Panya-san” (A bakery in Uozu), which was based on her experiences, was filmed. Simple bread made from homemade rice flour is popular among local residents.

“For the children who will lead our society in the future, I want to continue making bread that customers can enjoy with peace of mind,” Kobayashi said. With this philosophy in mind, Kobayashi welcomes customers to her bakery every day.

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