One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is hunt down a good bakery, thanks to my incredible weakness for pastries and cake. I read that Japan has a knack for expertly replicating French pastries so initially I planned to find the same macaron shop that I visited in New York City in April, until I walked right into a heavenly holy land of bakeries in Ginza, Tokyo.
We were in need of some sweet treats in Tokyo, and suddenly I stumbled upon a mecca of bakeries all nestled into one shop, called 45* Cent Quatre Vingts. The counters sold everything from familiar goodies like macarons and tiramisu to brightly-covered concoctions I couldn’t even dream of what sugary wonderfulness they were made with. The girls behind each counter wore different costumes, some wearing chef hats and others replicating Strawberry Shortcake outfits, and they all called out to customers in a sing-songy voice as we walked by. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: in a land of bright colors, surrounded by costume-clad workers singing in a language I didn’t understand, and unidentifiable treats everywhere I turned.
As if a shop full of every kind of pastry imaginable and unimaginable couldn’t make me any happier, one of the shops sold wine in all shapes and sizes. Most notably, wine in packets and wine prepackaged in plastic glasses. I can’t dream this stuff up fast enough! I loved the idea of wine literally sold by the glass, so I had to get it. The Chardonnay was less than fantastic, but the novelty made it worth it.
After spending longer than I’d like to admit wandering around the store in a complete state of bliss, I finally settled on something familiar. Boring, maybe, but I was simply overwhelmed. I picked a tiramisu-like cake and a macaron from Boul’ Mich. Both were delicious.
My dad also chose a familiar treat by opting for a piece of cheesecake (pictured at top), but my mom picked a chocolate cake/tart with a masterpiece of fruit and whipped cream on top, both from La Maison Ensoleille Table. (Check out the website’s porn-worthy pictures of their tarts here.) We enjoyed them on a nearby table outside while we reminisced over our first few days in Japan.
As we spent more time in Tokyo, and later in Kyoto, we realized that bakeries were everywhere we looked. At first glance they seemed identical to those I’ve been to in other cities, but upon closer inspection I realized that most of the treats weren’t the sugary sweet ones I knew.
Instead they were bread-like, subtly sweet (if sweet at all), and many filled with fruits or other unidentifiable foods. Trying them was always a gamble because we couldn’t read the Japanese writing explaining what was inside of them. While I enjoyed the delicate sweetness of Japanese pastries, I’m much more of a fan of sweeter treats, like this amazing lemon tart.
Needless to say, my bakery hunt in Japan was satisfied by 45* Cent Quatre Vingts. I don’t know how many times that day I whispered to myself, Japan is the greatest place in the whole world. And it was only my third day there; I still had so much more to experience, including Tokyo’s oldest temple, the bullet train, and the entire city of Kyoto.