If you search the web for “Japanese Bakery,” Eater, Yelp, and your local media outlet will show up in the results labeling any bakery as Asian versus Japanese because the writer tasked with doing the article is like, “I know all about you orientals, your people are good at math.”
Ok, English writing major with a minor in finger painting, sit this one out, I got this. Although, for the record I suck at math, and writing (there is more that I suck at, but my D+ average exemplified that).
I had dated a pâtissier from Japan who had worked in Aoyama, and she had worked at some notorious Japanese pastry businesses and some that were not exclusively Japanese (Magnolia and Dandelion). She and many Japanese have a crazy work regimen, so I wanted to highlight these individuals and businesses.She was working upwards of 12-14 hour days which is ridiculous by American standards.
Having lived in Los Angeles, I enjoy experiencing the cultural differences when visiting a boulangerie (French bakery), panaderías (Mexican bakery), or seeing Porto’s massive operation, a Cuban bakery, and cafe has going on. If you are the same way, this article is for you.
Japanese Bakeries, Pastries, Desserts, and Wagashi
Like a million other things, I had to Google this to know the exact difference between bakers and pastry chefs because pastry chefs bake, but they specialize in pastries. Thank you, Escoffier (school of culinary arts), but I am sure I mangled the definitions, so visit the link for yourself.
Bakers know how to follow directions (recipes), and they throw down on baked flour goods done up in their adult version of an easy bake oven.
Pastries are baked goods by someone skilled at making pastries (pies, tarts, quiches, croissants), and desserts.
Traditional Japanese confectionary involves a lot of rice and beans (plant-based confectionary) which is ideal for vegans.
Why I Highlight Japanese and Japanese-American Bakeries
I do it to support the Japanese and Japanese-American communities because many businesses market themselves as Japanese. Dishes like shabu shabu (hot pot places), sushi (American rolls), teppanyaki (aka “hibachi”), ramen (noodle soups), and taiyaki (fish waffle cones), are often the Americanized version (not to be confused with Japanese-American). This list will help you to distinguish Japanese/Japanese American businesses from the the American style businesses.
Most media outlets do not differentiate Japanese, Taiwanese, or Korean bakeries from one another (usually lumping all of us Asians together), although that short changes the unique Ethnic roots many of these businesses contribute to our diverse American food culture.I enjoy and love a culturally diverse diet, like the Taiwanese chain 85c, or on my trips throughout South Korea. In Korea, I was always on the look out for pastry shops because they have some of the coolest interior/exterior designs.
The Cities/Regions Covered
SoCal (LA to Orange County)
NorCal (SF Bay Area)
(Sorry, no 808. If I did, this list might go on for days)
Common Japanese Bakery and Pastry Terms
Shokupan (milk bread/loaf)
Wagashi (Japanese confections)
What is in Ginza Nishikawa’s milk bread (shokupan) ingredients: alkaline ionized water, honey, cream, butter, and milled flour.Putting the wonder in bread.
Unique Japanese Bakery Items
Aside from being less sweet and less dependent upon sugar, like all Japanese food, it relies on umami or being savory.
Melonpan (not melon flavored)
Karepan (curry filled bread)
Shokupan (milk bread/loaf)
Matcha (green tea) flavored items
Yuzu citrus flavored items
Japanese Bakery and Pastry Shops in the United States
In the United States, there are Japanese from Japan, and then there are Japanese Americans like myself. Japanese Americans are also called Nikkei, and we are multi-generational Americans who are ethnically Japanese.
One famous Japanese bakery in Los Angeles is Fugetsu-do. The 100+-year-old shop is one of the most iconic Japanese American businesses in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, off East First Street. They are down the street from the most yelped ramen shop, Daikokuya and Far Bar, a bar where you might find people drunkenly spider-monkeying the wall.
There are two primary styles featured here: 1. Japanese bakeries that are French/Japanese influence. 2. Traditional Japanese confections (wagashi).In Japan, you will also find Italian/Japanese (article via SavorJapan) and Chinese/Japanese styles (article via JOC).
There is over a century of Japanese American food culture featured here.
This list covers Japanese, Japanese American, and non-Japanese owners that reflect the culture and food of Japanese and Japanese Americans.
SoCal (LA to Orange County)
“The best coast, the West Coast,” and where you will find Fugetsu-do on East First, on the same block/street as the Japanese-American National Museum.
|An international chain of cream puff stores started in Japan.||Multiple locations |
(in 16 US states)
|James Choi||“A whole lotta goodness made fresh daily.”||134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012|
|“Simple Japanese-French bakery known for exquisite pastries, sandwiches & housemade breads.”||602 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780|
|Croissants Du Tokyo|
(Google places listing)
|N/A||TOKYO Quality Croissants baked using a hybrid of traditional French and Japanese techniques. Located in Tokyo Central.||1740 Artesia Blvd, Gardena, CA 90248|
|The Donut |
The donut shop opened in May of 1972 seeking to achieve their dreams through entrepreneurship. Originally the donut shop was part of a franchise and named Foster’s Donuts. It wasn’t until the mid 80’s when Jim became independent and The Donut Man was born.
|915 E Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91741|
|Currently operated by Brian Kito||Fugetsu-Do is a family-owned mochi and manju sweet shop in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles, California since 1903.||315 East First Street,|
Los Angeles, CA 90012
|N/A||Japanese shokupan (milk loaf/bread).||11419 Santa Monica Boulevard,|
Los Angeles, CA 90025
|Located in the Japanese Village Plaza Mall.||117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012|
|Nagomi Cake House|
|N/A||Japanese style cake shop.||15915 S Western Ave #D,Gardena, CA 90247|
|Okayama Kobo Bakery & Cafe DTLA|
|Freshly made quality bread in an environment you love to be in. Our products are handmade using 100% Hokkaido flour, additive/preservative free dough, and baked fresh daily with you in mind.||328 E 1st St Los Angeles|
(Inside Miyako Hotel)
|Japanese style bakery. |
Read the KCET write-up, it’s good.
|807 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036|
|“Artisanal hand-made Japanese pastries and traditional confectionaries made fresh daily, the traditional way since 1960. We specialize in mochi, manju and ohagi – in traditional and modern flavors!” |
Read about them via Rafu.com
|16134 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90247|
|Food and beverage manufacturing founded in 1948 and now one of the biggest baking companies in the world.|
Located in the Japanese Village Plaza Mall.
|123 #3908, Los Angeles, CA |
135 San Pedro St,
Japanese and Japanese Americans are not the same group, and Japanese Americans reflect our experiences growing up in the US. We may have had parents interned during the war or grew up watching the Karate Kid, Macross/Robotech, or listened to Too $hort while rolling through Alberto’s drive-thru in an AP1.The interment of Japanese Americans during the war is probably a contributor to the amount of Japanese-Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement from Yuri Kochiyama to Steven Kuromiya.
My uncle, Leo Uchiyama, is a very cool dude and a trucker in the Bay Area, and strawberries were one of his hauls. Strawberry-based pastries are the go-to items at the Donut Man (Glendora and Grand Central Market) and Cream Pan (Tustin), two massively popular Japanese-American and Japanese businesses in the Los Angeles metro area.
I prefer Asian desserts because they are not nearly as sweet as American pastry shops. Along with having unique flavors like taro, white grape oolong, yuzu, curry pan, or regional specialities (Hokkaido milk buns and melon pan), to plant-based ingredients, matcha, rice flour, and red bean (azuki).American cupcake to cake shops taste like diabetes in each and every bite.
The San Diego Tribune has a good article on Japanese-Americans in San Diego, a history I am oblivious to.
|Masa Takeda||Masa Takeda has been making traditional mochi for fifty years, and if you want to know more, there’s a good article via the San Diego Reader, real journalist.||1210 3rd Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91911|
|Sage French Cake & Coffee|
|Seiji||Google places has some insightful reviews “San Diego’s finest Aoyama-style cafe and patisserie, along the French model so popular in Tokyo’s upscale neighborhoods.” by Joseph Hlebica||3860 Convoy St #112, San Diego, CA 92111|
|Salt & Butter Japanese Bakery by Okayama Kobo|
|Okayama Kobo was founded by Tsunetaka Kawakami.||Japanese Bakery.||7313 Carroll Road, Suite L|
San Diego, CA 92121
Are mochi donuts Japanese? Yes and no, and the majority of mochi donut businesses are not Japanese. They may be inspired by the Japanese chain Mister Donuts Pon de Ring, but unlike the American version, it’s a tapioca flour, not mochiko (glutinous rice flour).In the US, many non-Japanese owned businesses are marketed as Japanese, but most are inspired by versus being Japanese.
NorCal (SF Bay Area)
San Francisco, San Jose to the East Bay, Japanese Americans have been present throughout the Bay Area, especially in farming (or as a carpenter, like my now retired cousin in Japantown who produced shoji screens). Nowadays, all the tech bros populating the area might overshadow the history, but luckily that history is partially digitally archived on FoundSF.org.
|Owner Hisae Liang||Japanese bakery specializing in cakes, Japanese style breads, Rice Balls and Musubi’s since 2000. |
This place has been here foreveeeeeeer (I had a business next door to them a long time ago). If you want to read more about the history, FoodGal.com has a great article, yes great.
|4342 Moorpark Avenue Suite A San Jose, CA 95129|
|Minamoto Kitchoan||“Modern sweet shop selling artisanal Japanese desserts & wagashi made from rice, beans, sugar & more.”|
All products are manufactured in their own factories in Japan and then shipped to their stores throughout the world.
|648 Market St, San Francisco|
|Shuei-Do Manju Shop|
|Tom and Judy Kumamaru||Manju Shop Since 1953.||217 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112|
|Panda Restaurant Group||“Tetsushi Mizokami founded the original Uncle Tetsu in Hakata, Japan. Since its debut in 1985, Uncle Tetsu’s signature Japanese Cheesecakes have become an international phenomenon which has garnered fans around the globe.”|
The PRG (yes, the people behind Panda Express) also manages Ippudo Ramen, and Pieology.
|Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop|
|Hatsuye “Hatsy” and Hisao “Moses” Yasukochi||Family owned since 1974|
home of the coffee crunch cake.
|1790 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115|
Traditional wagashi (Japanese desserts) are devoid of dairy products or animal-derived gelatin and are plant-based because Japan was a vegan country for upwards of 1,200 years.Versus the US for about 80? years. We Americans are noobs when it comes to plant-based diets vs. Japan and India.
There is one spot in Vegas that is synonymous with Japanese-Americans and that is “the Cal” (California Hotel) which caters to Hawaiian and Japanese American guests. Yea, that is all I got, and UNLV knows a whole lot more of the history of Japanese-Americans during the war beyond a popular hotel.
|Chef Misuzu and Chef Mike||“We are a small, family-owned, Japanese-style, pastry shop. We specialize in Japanese inspired pastries, made fresh daily.”||7365 South Buffalo Drive, Suite 115, SUITE 115, Las Vegas, Nevada, 8911|
|Sweet Garden |
|N/A||Japanese cheesecake and more.||9730 W. Tropicana Ave # 130 Las Vegas, NV 89147|
|Chef Mitsuo Endo||“Japanese French Style Dessert with a modern twist”||5040 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89146|
Taiyaki shops are popping up throughout the US, but they are American concepts because taiyaki is not a fish waffle cone meant for ice cream.Many of these taiyaki businesses are as Japanese as Taco Bell is Mexican. Like the founder of Taco Bell, Glen Bell, all these chains are not Japanese-owned or operated.
Here is how Japanese Americans have contributed to Portlands past and present history (via TravelPortland), and it is also where my cousin Lance and my late cousin, Russel O. (RIP dude) are from.
|Hiro Horie, the Owner and Executive Baker||Traditional Japanese baking||16025 SW Regatta Ln, Beaverton, OR 97006|
|Tanaka Japan||“Our sauce is the foundation of TANAKA’s origin story. Since 2008, our sister restaurant in Tokyo, Kushikatsu Tanaka, has served a popular Osaka dish called “kushikatsu” — deep fried skewered meats and vegetables — with their famous katsu sauce on the side. There’s no doubt that this 70 year-old Tanaka family katsu sauce recipe has helped Kushikatsu Tanaka become one of the top 5 restaurants in all of Japan.”|
The specialize in Katsu Sando (cutlet sandwiches). Along with:
“Our pastries are infused with flavors commonly found in Japanese cuisine. Everything is baked on-site daily and made with locally sourced ingredients.”
|678 SW 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97205|
By French standards, baked goods need to be made in-house/on the premises to be considered a boulangerie.Via Quora, Jaanis Kruumins, said the cultural differences in his opinion and having lived in Japan is that Europeans see bread as a food or a staple, whereas the Japanese consider it more of a “treat and snack.”
“By 1900 Japanese were the largest minority group in the Seattle area.” via the University of Washington.
|Chef Masako||A Japanese sweets bakery specializing in Fruit Sandwiches, Japanese soft serve, sundaes, Japanese ice cream cookies and much much more.||500 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122|
|Fuji Bakery Cafe|
|Sold to Susien Lee in 2017||A Japanese artisan bakery dedicated to providing its customers with the highest quality in ingredients, taste and presentation. From additive-free yeast cultivated in-house to Bourbon vanilla beans and Griottines imported from France, we pay attention to every detail of the baking process.||Two locations|
|Tiramisu, cake, and cheesecake.|
Read Nicole Tsong’s “Hiroki’s cake case makes you want to have it all and eat it, too” via the Seattle Times.
|2224 N 56th St, Seattle, WA 98103|
|Modern Japanese Cuisine & Setsuko Pastry|
|Setsuko Agata||“Welcome to Modern, a Japanese cafe specializing in handcrafted pastries and sushi. Come in and sample our selection of Japanese cuisine, both traditional and new. Try our specialty rolls, or take home a few sweet treats like our green tea roll cake.”||6108 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103|
|Nana’s Green Tea|
|I WANT TO GO HERE ever since I saw the Hawaii location (I love matcha)!|
Nana’s Green Tea is a modern Japanese cafe specializing in green teas and Japanese foods and desserts delivered in a modern fashion. We are a global matcha brand originating from Tokyo, Japan.
|1007 Stewart St., Ste 103,|
Seattle, WA 98101
|Japanese confectionary (Wagashi) with a really cool location (kind of like the movie Up, but Japanese).|
Write-up in Saveur and Travel mag “Seattle’s Secret Mochi Movement”
|6208 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103|
Is mochi ice cream Japanese? No, it is not, but it is Japanese-American. The inventor was the late Frances Hashimoto and her husband, Joel Friedman, who joined Frances’s family business, Mikawaya, in 1972.The current Venture Capitalist that currently owns the company, closed the 100+ year old Mikawaya in Little Tokyo. This is sad because Frances was a massive supporter of the community and an activist, so I think she would be disappointed.
Toyota’s headquarters in Torrance contributed to the largest population of Japanese and Japanese Americans in the US. In 2014, they announced their move to Plano, Texas, so I expect Texas soon to have more Japanese restaurants/bakeries open in the near future.
|Chez Kobayashi Pastries|
|N/A||Pastries,quiche & sweet/savory crêpes, plus coffee & tea||14522 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079|
I initially only bought one of these curry donuts in Onomichi, Japan but it was so good, I went back and bought two more cuz gluttony.
Japan’s food culture has many influences, like the United States, by many other countries. The major contributor is China, although the Portuguese gave Japan tempura, and the British Royal Navy and their introduction of curry to the Japanese are a few examples of direct/indirect influences.Tempura is seen as iconically Japanese and Japanese curry is so popular that there is an emoji 🍛 for it and is considered a national dish.
I have no clue about the East Coast, and I had to sort through the Google results to know anything about the Japanese American experience in Jay-Z land. If you want to know which summary gives you a brief intro into that history, head over to the Consulate General of Japan in New York.
|N/A||“Since 1990, we have been bringing to customers what we still cherish. Fresh hand made products.”||1073 6th Ave, New York, NY 10018|
|Coffee and Cakes.|
“HARBS is a café born in Japan, pursuing freshness and hand-made quality above all else.”
|Moul Kim and Lawrence Wai||“Home of USA’s first bouncy cheesecake, jiggly castellan, fancy cheesecake”|
Each cake and dessert in our midtown and downtown locations are from scratch in house.
|Midtown and Downtown|
|Minamoto Kitchoan||“Authentic Japanese sweets “Wagsahi”. Mochi, Dorayaki, Matcha green tea sweets all made in Japan. Online order available.”||509 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022|
|Tomoko Kato’s||A creative pastry shop serving Japanese-influenced French treats, plus wine & coffee.||568 Union Ave Brooklyn NY 11211|
|Ayaka Ando||While sharing joy and fun with our customers, Tadaima would like to create a place of “home” through desserts.||51 35th St Building 5, 2nd floor, Brooklyn, NY 11232|
|“Born in Tokyo, Japan, she came to the United States to further her studies. After graduating form the French Culinary Institure she worked at Buley Restaurant in New York City for more than 8 years. She traveled to Austria a few times to excel her skills. In June 2010 she was appointed as Takahachi Bakery’s Executive Patisserie.”||25 Murray Street, New York, NY 10007|
85 Avenue A
145 Duane Street
Lastly, Japanese cheesecake aka soufflé cheesecake, which goes by many names, is a good follow to New York bakeries. Like all things Japanese, it is less rich, lighter in texture, and less sweet. It is also the style adopted and loved by many Americans, aside from the much loved New York style cheesecake.If you care to produce this Japanese cheesecake yourself, I highly recommend the Just One Cookbook recipe.
I hope you support these businesses that sometimes go under the radar because many do not focus on marketing themselves because they are busy doing their thang, or they are just old AF, so not big into social media.