Back to Childhood at Shirohige 'Totoro' Cream Puff Factory
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 the 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.
The bakery itself is located on the first floor, while a narrow staircase takes you to an Italian café on the second floor. It is known to have a very good pasta dishes, so it could be a great place for a quiet lunch with an added bonus of having the cutest cream puffs for a dessert! You can also buy freshly baked bread, bagels and buns there in the morning. If you arrive early enough you might have a chance to get their curry buns which will certainly impress you with their flavorful and a tad spicy curry filling.
As soon as you step inside the house a whiff of freshly baked shell of choux pastry captivates your nostrils. Don’t expect anything luxurious. Instead a tiny quaint room set up in the most homey way with cute wooden cupboards, white vintage kitchen curtains and a lot of Ghibli artifacts. The atmosphere is so comforting you will have a feeling you are visiting your 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. 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.
Even though the idea of eating these adorable puffs was a bit daunting, their aroma is too enticing not to. The taste matches the presentation in every bit. Light, creamy and absolutely delicious. The strawberry cream is so refreshing, rich in flavor and it actually has strawberry puree rippled through the cream. Vanilla flavor does not disappoint either. 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.
Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory might not exude the luxury of Pierre Herme or sophistication of Hidemi Sugino, however its cream puffs provide one crucial experience that other luxurious pastry shops fail to – it evoked a sense of comfort associated with childhood.
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