There is a little gem of a bakery right here in Obaku, Uji, which happens to be one of the best bakeries in the world. Its existence was conducted to us over lunch at the canteen, and knowing what kind of effect that always has on me, I make it my first stop leaving the university. 'The Blue Boy bakery,' whispers A., 'that's what I call it because it has a little boy on the sign - a blue sign'. 'It's right on the road just after where you would turn in to go to the JR station. It's good'.
'Does it have bread, baguette? European bread?' I ask because it has been so difficult to find non-sweet breakfast bread of the non-toast variety.
'It's good,' A. only repeats. Her boyfriend J. concurs with a nod. They say no more.
They needn't, because that evening, I find out where it is, and I find out via a carefully-planned stratified sampling scheme that they did good sweet as well as savoury breads, a tough balance to maintain. There is a good-looking crusty bread bowl made of potato flour filled with bacon and grilled cheese. That night, C. fights with me over the last morsel of foccacia but manages to finish the bacon bowl. Luckily, I'd already finished the sweet delicate apple crisp on the train.
Except for the apple crisp, I haven't bought anything twice because there's too much to try. And good thing I can't read Japanese, they must have out-of-this-world names. Today I am munching on a walnut-speckled plum-chestnut pastry with just a bit of adzuki-chocolate-tasting (but is it?) filling.
It is the kind of place people speak of in hushed tones. It is a two-person wide, four-person long store which just has enough room to conduct customers, holding on to trays, in conveyor-belt fashion, the only way to wiggle yourself to the line. No-one talks except for the smiley-friendly-efficient cashiers. In the back you can just glimpse white-cloaked angels zipping around baking tables, chopping stuff, the occasional slap of the oven door and the whiff of something good. The third time I let myself go in, failing to resist in my walks to campus, I meet R., whom I haven't seen in two months.
'Hey! How are you doing? What's up with everything?' then lowers his voice in reverence. 'Did I tell you about this place?'
'No it was somebody else. I've known it for a while'. I am saying as I eye a jam-and-cream confection and reach out to slip it on my tray.
'Careful with those,' R. laughs, seeing I have two sweet things on my tray, and it's only 10 in the morning.