There is a very cute donut shop called Neyn, down the hill from where we live and as I learn more and more about the shop, the more I love it. The donuts are very unique - they are all handmade and most are baked rather than fried and more cakey in texture. Don't let that fool you - they're still quite tasty. My favorite is the fromage donut which is covered with organic powdered sugar and filled with a sweet cream cheese. They also have matcha, chocolate, cassis and orange chocolate varieties. The design of the cafe is European and authentic. The coffee is strong and tastey - kind of rare of Japan.
What makes this shop pretty bitchin' is the story behind it. The owner, Yoshihisa Yamada is a 45-year-old bad ass. I really admire people who have "made it" in the business world. I guess maybe because I used to work in that kind of environment, I understand how hard it is to be successful and not just another paper-pusher/middle-management drone (like I was...wah wah). Yamada's resume is truly impressive: he graduated from the best University in Japan (Tokyo University), got an MBA from Harvard, worked at both the Bank of Japan and Goldman Sachs, then became the man in charge of Rakuten Travel, the largest online shopping operator in Japan, kind of like the Amazon.com of Japan. Did I mention he's only 45?
Thankfully for sweets lovers, he decided to take his smarts and invest it into a donut shop. It might seem kind of random, but he has such a good business-oriented reason as to why he chose a donut shop. From a Japan Times article:
Yamada decided on doughnuts because their popularity in Japan is a constant, and because there aren't all that many competitors. He said he could have tried the fashion business or a patisserie, but Tokyo already has a ton of those and he wasn't sure if he could set his company apart...He also chose his location, Akasaka Sacas, because of the high density of Office Ladies (called OL's in Japan) in the area. Office ladies are kind of their own demographic here. In short, OL's are young women who work in big offices, taking care of the workers by fetching tea and snacks. They live at home with their parents and stop working once they get married. The whole point of being an OL is to find a husband...or at least this is what I'm told. Most cute cafes and lunch spots are catered to OLs, and Neyn is one of them.
"Creating value-added products and bringing them overseas — that's what I'm interested in doing."
Neyn seems to be doing pretty well for themselves. Aside from their main shop in Akasaka, they opened an experimental 1-year shop in the swanky Tokyo Midtown building. I hope this shop does well. Anyone who thinks that donuts are a value-added product is someone I can get behind.
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