50 SHADES OF TOKYO DESSERTS | SHADE 2
Out of all the desserts in the world I have a very soft spot for cream puffs and éclairs as they always remind me of the times when my mother used to bake them for me. So for my second sweet adventure I headed out to a very special, almost surreal and magical place that is very dear to many Japanese. As one of the most important and acclaimed animation studios in not only Japan but the world, it’s unsurprising that Studio Ghibli has also inspired a pastry chef to open a bakery dedicated to the character of a 1988 animated fantasy film My Neighbor Totoro. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, tiny Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory transports you into Studio Ghibli’s one of the sweetest imaginary worlds. Nestled in a two storied brick building in a narrow alley of a quiet residential area, this small bakery was first opened in 2008 by a baker who was often called Shiro Hige (i.e. white beard). Hayao Miyazaki, the founder of Studio Ghibli and the director of My Neighbor Totoro, even created a pig-nosed baker who acts as the store’s mascot.
Even though finding the place can be a bit tricky (thank you google maps!), you will know you are at the right place the moment you see the house. Totoro-themed rustic decorations embellish the front yard. A tiny hall is further decorated with adorable characters from Studio Ghibli’s cartoon. The bakery itself is located on the first floor, while a narrow staircase takes you upstairs to an Italian café located on the second floor. I haven’t sampled their food myself, but from what I have heard their pasta is pretty good, so it could be a great place for a quiet lunch with an added bonus of having the cutest cream puffs as a dessert! As soon as you step inside the house a whiff of freshly baked shell of choux pastry captivates your nostrils. The ambiance is nothing but cozy, with a tiny quaint room set up in the most homely manner with cute wooden cupboards, white vintage kitchen curtains and a lot of Ghibli artifacts. The atmosphere is so comforting I had a feeling I was visiting my grandma. On the left the cutest cream puffs shaped in the form of Chibi Totoro (the diminutive white member of the Totoro family) are lined up in a neat row inside a glassed counter. Since I arrived later in the afternoon, most of it was already gone. 😦 And yes, they are that popular!
The bakery offers different seasonal flavors: classic vanilla, strawberry, peach chocolate cream, caramel banana, chestnut. Typically, they would all wear different headpieces to mark their flavor. However, I visited right around Christmas so everyone wore a festive headpiece! Update: I visited the bakery again just around Valentine’s Day and snapped some more photos of these cuties. I decided to sample two flavors: vanilla and strawberry. A very sweet lady at the counter, who is a cousin of Hayao Miyazaki, neatly placed my cream puffs in an iced cardboard box, sealed with a Totoro sticker. Even though the idea of eating these adorable puffs was a bit daunting, their aroma was too enticing not to. I am happy to report that the taste matches the presentation in every bit. Light, creamy and absolutely delicious.
The strawberry cream was so refreshing, rich in flavor and it actually had strawberry puree rippled through the cream. Mr.B was delighted and it was his favorite pick. I, on the other hand, am more biased towards vanilla flavor. There is something ethereal about this classic combination of the super charged layers of luscious homemade vanilla cream filling and a delectable choux pastry with a perfect golden crust. The bakery started off just making the Totoro cream puffs, but they soon branched out into making biscuits shaped like acorns, mushrooms, leaves and of course Totoro. An ideal little omiyage, an edible souvenir, to take back home. Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory might not exude the luxury of Pierre Herme or sophistication of Hidemi Sugino, however its cream puffs provided one crucial experience that other luxurious pastry shops failed to – it evoked a sense of comfort associated with childhood. And I cannot wait to go back to savor some other flavors! Update: On my last visit I discovered that the cafe upstairs sells absolutely delicious freshly baked bread, bagels and other enticing goodies. If you visit in the morning you might be lucky to get their curry buns. I have never ever tried a bun this flavorful and tasty. Definitely recommended! Details: It is quite a detour from main touristy Tokyo area, but if you think you can spare some time during your visit to Japan I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The cream puffs are made fresh every day and quantities are limited. During summertime there is a little patio with seating area in front for you to linger and enjoy your fresh cream puffs. You can also order cream puffs in the café upstairs with a cup of coffee or tea, with an added service charge, as I’d imagine.
- Setagaya-ku 5-3-1 (東京都世田谷区代田 5-3-1), Tokyo Prefecture, Telephone: 03-5787-6221
- 3 minute walk from Setagayadaita Station (Odakyu Odawara line)
7 minute walk from Shimokitazawa Station (Keio Inokashira line)
7 minute walk from Shindaita Station (Keio Inokashira line)
Opening Hours 10:30 to 19:00. Open every day except Tuesdays, unless Tuesday is a holiday, when it will open, but will close Wednesday instead.