Last month I spent 2 weeks in Japan. I flew from New York (JFK), transferred in Tokyo (Narita) to Osaka (Kansai Airport). It was a business trip.
Fat Witch Bakery is now international! We opened a store in Kyoto, Japan.
Kyoto is a beautiful city 35 minutes north of Osaka via train or an hour by car. Kyoto is filled with history, including the decision by US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, not to bomb it during WWII as it is symbolic of Japan. Kyoto was the capital centuries before Tokyo.
At a press conference, I was asked, “Why Kyoto, not Tokyo for your bakery?” I answered, “Because Kyoto represents Japan.”
Two days before the store opened, I met with some Kyoto business women. I gave a talk about being an entrepreneur, of course with an interpreter. I did something very American and asked each attendee to introduce herself and say something about her business. There were many beautiful moments, and I was honored to have met such remarkable women.
Kyoto is the home of many old temples, including the Buddhist temple Kiyomizu-dera which was built in the 8th century and constructed without nails. There are still a few craftsmen who can build this way and are considered “national treasures.”
The magnificent bamboo path, Arashiyama is nearby. Although it is humid during the summer months, it is not to be missed.
On June 11, 2016, Fat Witch Bakery Japan officially opened. The store reflects traditional Kyoto/Japanese décor.
If you live in Japan, you can order Witches online and have the order shipped to you. I brought home many of the Japanese specialty brownies and have enjoyed giving them to friends. You can also order New York style Witches on the Japan website. And there is merchandise you can buy in Kyoto, but not in NYC and vice versa.
We received many congratulation bouquets of orchids from all over Japan. They were beautiful.
I was nervous. Despite my fears (being polite in a Japanese way), everyone was fantastic. I signed cards printed in the USA and customers posed for photos.
The generosity of spirit was all around; the Japanese bakery across the street sent over traditional treats.
I did not spend all my time in Kyoto; I was in Osaka in the evenings.
Like the USA (East Coast and West Coast), Osaka is a little different from Tokyo. The Kansai area is known for delicious cuisine.
Okonomiyaki (pronounced o-con-o-me-ya-ki) is an Osaka specialty and one of my favorites. It is a Sunday-supper-kind-of meal. Okonomiyaki is a pancake made with freshly sliced cabbage, tossed with special flour, water, eggs, and topped with whatever is leftover in the refrigerator (often bacon, pork, shrimp or beef). There are a few Osaka restaurants that make it perfectly (just like Mom). Forget any place in NYC.
I was also taken to a restaurant that makes kushikatsu (pronounced ku-she-cat-su), another Osaka specialty. Absolutely delectable or as they say in Japan, “oishi” (pronounced o-she). Kushikatsu is similar to tempura, but deeper in flavor. The bartender knew someone from NYC was coming. LOL.
I have a friend who lives in Osaka and one night she took me to a restaurant that seats only 14. Each seat at a table has a drawer that holds chopsticks, napkins and surprises (tiny Eiffel Towers). The chef/waiter/busboy/dishwasher was ONE person! If you are in Osaka and want a delicious experience (sort of French food), find CERCLE, but you need to make reservations about one month in advance. No website, only the telephone. I don’t know the number, but probably easier if a local calls and helps find the location.
If you are visiting Osaka, not to be missed is the Osaka Castle. Think beyond Emperor and read up on Shogun(s). This 16th century palace is an authentic view into historic Japan.
The Japanese have a time-honored tradition of gift giving. It is called “omiyage” (pronounced o-me-ya-gay). It was important for me to bring omiyage for our partners. The price is not important, but thoughtfulness is. I brought Oregon hazelnuts, Vermont maple syrup and NY chocolate babka, a Jonathan Adler bowl, as well as Fat Witch NY key chains and t-shirts. In return, I was given a beautiful sake cup from a pottery in Nagasaki. I will always treasure it.
Over the past 6 months, our Japanese partners patiently listened to our baking recommendations. I thank them for always being open to American ways.
In return, we have learned much from them. With deepest respect, their packaging is beyond what we do in the USA! Although the world has already taken note of Japanese presentations, I give a tip of the Witch hat to perfection and we plan to copy many of their ideas!
My niece lives on Okinawa. She flew up to Osaka the day before the opening of the store in Kyoto. I traveled back with her the next evening to spend 2 days on the island. Okinawa is one of the USA’s biggest military bases. This is a plus and a minus for the local population. The plus is we provide jobs; the minus is we are on someone else’s land with our military presence. Acknowledged are the current protests.
The food on Okinawa is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine, so it was different from Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. We went to a traditional Okinawan restaurant for lunch – fabulous and, of course, the food was presented beautifully.
BACK IN THE USA
Flying back to the USA was a long trek. I started in Okinawa on a 7am flight to Tokyo. I spent 5 hours at Narita, but the shopping is always good at this airport!
After 25 hours in transit, it was wonderful to fly close to Manhattan and know I was HOME.
To celebrate Japan, we’ve created 4 recipes with ingredients and concepts inspired by our Japanese partners. The new Baby Witches will be available in our store on July 5 for at least the next 6 months. They are delicious!!!!
Check out what the stars will tell you about your July.
fun starts here