The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Japan!

Kashipan's picture

Hello from Japan!

Hello all!

I live in Japan, and although I loved baking bread regularly before moving here, I realize that Japan (at least Osaka, where I live) is a very different place to bake from what I am used to.  I used to live in Southern California, where I had no trouble with cinnamon rolls, buns, big fluffy challah, you name it!  Now that I live here (and I've been struggling with baking here now for 3 years and counting!), I find that recipes need to either be seriously altered for them to work, or I have to buy Japanese baking books.  I have a few baking books that are made for use with domestic ingredients, but I'm still learning Japanese, so my kanji reading skills are not yet 100%, and it becomes really tedious to make sure I understand a recipe completely - which takes all the fun out of it.

I'm looking forward to meeting all of you, and am wondering - are there any veteran bakers who live in Japan that have success with bread, and might be able to send a few tips my way when I get stuck?

P.S. I have the same trouble with cakes and cookies.  They don't rise - they tend to just sit there, goopy in the middle, and dense like a rock all around...It's incredibly discouraging, but I just found a baking supply store nearby, so I'm really excited to try again - which is why I came here!  :)

This forum looks extremely active!  I'm really ready to get in there and chit chat with you all about baking our favorite bread!

richkaimd's picture

give lots of details about what you see, ingredients, tools, everything that heppens

dcochran's picture

konnichiwa!  do you think the problem is the altitude, humidity, ingredients etc?? when i lived in salt lake city, i had a terrible time adjusting to the dry air at 5000 feet.  it is totally different (and easier) to be baking bread at sea level!!!  good luck and the people here are quite helpful.  i'm certain you will find someone assist you here.

Laurentius's picture



Ohayo gozaimasu. I live in Chiba-ken and recently built an out door wood fired oven. I bake bread once a week and have not encounter any problems. Here is a source for flour and yeast and other things you may find helpful. If you use Goggle Chrome, it provide a page translator.

Good luck, if I can be of any help, let me know.

Kashipan's picture

Oh, thank you Laurentius, and to all of you for replying!  :)

I guess if I had to pick one thing to start with, it's that I will pick a random, simple recipe from an online source or a book that is intended to work in other parts of the world well enough, and I follow all of the instructions carefully.  But....For instance, I just finally bought myself a real - I guess it would be a Pullman style loaf pan with a lid - for making simple shokupan sandwich bread.  The problem came (and the same thing always happens) when I kneaded for 10 minutes, left it to rise in a warm place for an hour, punched it down, rolled it and stuck it into the loaf pan the way I've seen it done, let it rise another 40 minutes to an hour until it appears to be exactly as it should be for baking, but then I put it in the oven for the needed time, take it out, and the top is dark brown, the sides and edges are baked, but the inside is GOOP.  I don't know when or how to tell that the inside is going to be like this, especially while it's baking in a loaf pan - how can you know these things?  And what if the top crust is almost burnt and the inside is still too mushy?? I just use Kameriya bread flour for now...Is it not good enough, do you think?

The same thing happens if I make a simple Italian roll, too.  The outside is beautiful, it rises just as it's supposed to, but the inside is dense and chunky at the very best.

I've had someone tell me here that the bread flour in Japan is of a different consistency of that in the U.S, but that doesn't seem to stop bakeries here from turning out wonderful loaves of bread every day!  How can I achieve this at home?  All I want to start with is a simple loaf of white sandwich bread for my husband.  I'm not entirely sure what is involved with making a poolish, though it sounds like it's very time consuming (like a weekend project I'd be happy to try!), and this is something I'd love to put together in the evening as soon as I get home, so I can bake it in time for my husband to get home a few hours later.  Is it vital to make a poolish for all loaves of bread?  I really know nothing about them - I've always only ever seen recipes for the usual mix, knead and let rise type, but I'd really love to know what a poolish is all about, and how it helps!

Also, is there good sourdough starter in Japan?  Now THAT I would love to get a piece of, if it's not too impossible to get going.  I only have a regular kitchen here.  Don't even have a mixer yet - I like kneading by hand, though I used to have a KitchenAid and loved it years ago.

Sorry for the rambling, it's just so great to find an active community talking about bread, and even a few folks in Japan who I can go to with troubleshooting!  I have to leave for work soon, but if any of you might be able to recommend a really basic, really tasty (hopefully that involves a little butter!) simple white sandwich loaf that will work in a 27 x 12 x 14 cm Pullman pan, it would be a wonderful thing to start with to start trying to iron out my goop in the center problem.  I would be so grateful for any and all suggestions!  Thank you so much for your replies!!!  Thanks Laurentius for the Rakuten link!  I just last weekend discovered that we had a pretty well stocked baking supply store near where I live, so I hope I can get everything I need there, but the Rakuten store will be a great back up!  :)

richkaimd's picture

First, have you checked your oven temperature and your bread's internal temperatures with a thermometer?  Your overbaking the crusts of two different types of bread suggests that your oven temperature's too hot.  Second, do you check your kneading using the gluten window?  And third, have you read about preferments and their usages in the many books available that show pictures and talk about them?  DiMuzio's text may be available to you somehow.  But there are many books you can learn about on this site.  Bread Baker's Apprentice is just another place to start

Most of all, I recommend spending lots of time watching all the technique videos on this site and on Youtube.  There seems to me to be virtually no technique you cannot learn about visually on videos.

And then go out and learn from the many opportunities presented to make mistakes.

Bake on!



Blonde Logic's picture
Blonde Logic

Hi Kash

I am origoinally from Northern California, but now live in England right on the south coast.

I have also often wondered if some of the loaves I bake that are not successful are a result of the climate and low altitude here.  Usually I chalk it up to being a novice, but other times I wonder.  Much to learn!

I can't help but comment, and say I hope that you, and any friends and famiy you have in Japan are all safe after the horrific events the past month.  And you too Laurentius.  It was heartbreaking to see the footage on TV. 

Anyway, I too am new on this forum and look forward to hearing others advice and experiences to help me improve on my new found obsession.

Take care.  :)


Kashipan's picture

Hi Blonde Logic,

Thank you so much for your kind message.  I live in Osaka, so we weren't terribly affected by what happened up north, but it sure doesn't mean that someday soon we might not have our own big quake again.  Everyone has had it in the back of their minds that something like the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe will happen again soon as a result of what happened in Tohoku, but we're really hoping it won't.  Best to be prepared for the worst, and we're trying our best!  :)

As for your bread baking - I bet all it'll take is some working out of the bugs!  I know we can all do it if we just tweak here and there.  I'm thinking about buying a barometer since the moody weather really seems to affect baking for me here.  Does it do the same where you live?  Even if it's sweets, a change in air pressure will make the difference between a cookie that melts and flattens all over the baking tray and one that bakes up hard as a rock - using the same recipe!  Really frustrating, but  I love the learning process of making bread, and I think we'll always be experiencing new things every time we create a new loaf.  Definitely keep on trying.  I'll be here to cheer you on, too!  :)

Laurentius's picture

Hi Kashipan-san,

If you would use the message feature and send me a mailing address, I will Takubin you some of my Italian Camaldoli Ischia sour dough starter, when I do my next feeding. I've been using it for the last 9 month and have gotten great results with it. This morning I baked 2 loaves of Cinnamon Raisin sour dough, my daughter favorite is Mango, Cherry and Pecan sour dough. When I bake indoor I perfer using a cast iron Dutch Oven. You can get one from Joyful Honda, I think the have one in Osaka.

Kashipan's picture

Laurentius, thank you!!!  Wow, I'd love that, but I really need to do some reading up on what I would do with starter once I got it!  I really know nothing about how to take care of it and keep it alive and fresh.  I would love it, and I would be happy to messsage you my address - thank you so much for offering, that's incredibly kind of you!  Whenever you're ready to send it, please let me know if there are any particularly special instructions for taking care of it, so I don't destroy it!  I've never made sourdough before, so this would be my first time ever working with starter.

I did look up Joyful Honda, but I don't see one anywhere in Osaka.  Would a Le Creuset type of round dutch oven be suitable?  Problem is, my little electric oven is pretty small...I can fit my Pullman loaf pan in it, but haven't tried the Le Creuset yet.  Please, if there is a link to your technique anywhere, would you point me to it?

Thanks so much again for your kind offer, you've gotten me very motivated to start right up again!  :)

richkaimd's picture

There are lots of different Le Creuset-type dutch ovens.  Le Creuset's not the only maker.  The others are just as good and MUCH cheaper, even when the Le Creusets are on sale.  You needn't spend an arm and a leg.  Or maybe you have a rich uncle?

Dragonbones's picture

I doubt that Japanese ingredients are the problem. You are baking with a different oven than you used to have. I suspect oven temperature, first off. As richkaimd noted, check your oven temperature with an oven-proof thermometer (all metal type) and also check your bread's internal temperatures with an instant-read cooking thermometer (it has a metal shaft you insert to the center of the loaf, then you wait a minute or so to read it).

Looks like your oven is just too hot. Note also that in smaller, Asian households (like here in Taiwan), ovens are sometimes smaller than Western equivalents. This puts the loaf's top nearer to the hot elements, which can result in scorching, so temperature control is key, as is shielding as necessary with aluminum foil. Better yet, invest in a bigger oven; they should be available, although perhaps pricier or harder to find.

Kashipan's picture

Hi Dragonbones, and thanks for your reply!

I think you're absolutely right about the surface of the dough getting too close to the top of the oven.  I have a little Hitachi electric oven, and my Pullman loaf pan fits inside it, but there are only about 3 inches to spare from the top edge of it to the top of the inside of the oven.  The good news is that I did listen to all of the advice I've been getting here from you and others, and managed to bake a loaf of regular white bread that turned out fantastic on Friday night!  It's a good start, and I was really pleased ot see that there was no ball of goop in the center, and no burning.  :)

As for testing the temperature of the bread, is it ok to poke it any time during baking with the thermometer?  When would you recommend doing that test?  I have the same question about testing the temperature of the dough while it's rising.  I have a cookbook in Japanese that is asking  me to make sure the temperature of the dough is at 35C, but I'm not sure when it would be wise to disturb a ball of rising dough...Right now I have a ball of whole wheat dough rising, and would love to know when would be the best time to test the dough temperature.  It was about 30C when I first stuck it in the bowl, and I've turned on head source nearby since, but only very lightly to try to bump up the temp, especially since the sun is setting and it should cool off quickly in this room within the next hour or so.

Any further advice from you would be wonderful, and thank you!

wizarddrummer's picture

I used to live in Japan. I never baked anything there, but I seem to remember that the stores had supplies there for baking and I tasted some wonderful bread there.

Japanese people are very nice people.

My friend used an expression that I thought was very nice when he was describing a friend and co-worker.

"She has a very clear heart."

Kashipan's picture

Oh you're right!  I love their bread here!  Especially chewy rolls.  :)

I did just manage to stumble across the motherlode of baking supply stores in the city and have been stocking up on my supplies from there during the last week.

Very excited to try a lot of recipes from a book I've had for ages (but couldn't translate very quickly - though I did translate one recipe for a whole wheat loaf I'm letting rise even as I type).  I sure hope they work!