hibino pan

Edit6As I write this hibino will be celebrating its first anniversary in exactly a week. For a tiny shop with such a big reputation in Beppu-Oita, this is quite impressive.

Edit4

It gets even more impressive when you learn that the owner learned the trade all by herself. “I just really liked bread, and started to make them by myself as a hobby”, she told me. About 3 years ago she began working on order, supplying bread for various local restaurants and culinary events. By the time the shop was opened, she had already earned herself a name good enough to keep customers waiting in line before 11am every Mon – Tue – Fri – Sat. Working entirely on her own, she churns out about 100-200 pieces per day, which often go off the shelves long before the clock strikes 2. Her mantra is simple: “When I make bread, I think about the kind of delish bread I would want to eat myself, and somehow they just naturally come into shape”.

Hibino02

What’s so special about her bread, you ask? If the most important ingredients to bread are wheat and yeast, then she’s been quite selective. Her wheat is kokunai – made-in-Japan (need I remind you of the importance of domestic products in the Japanese mentality?), her yeast is homemade. She told me that while using ready-made could result in delicious bread, she liked to have her own as it could add a distinctive note. The result? You get bread that aren’t too soft or too hard, but a chewy consistency which still allows your teeth some fun. And by the way, it’s organic.

Hibino06

Hibinoパン produces a wide variety of bread: rustic loafs of all sizes and shapes, focaccia, bagels (blueberry, fig, whole wheat, sesame, etc.) and cinnamon rolls sit alongside the totally-Japanese anpan (sweet buns filled with red bean paste) and soy-milk bread.

Edit9

The owner’s strongest forte lays in her creative inventions. Depending on what’s available she’ll use a diverse range of produce coming from nearby sources, from sweet potato and broccoli in winter to the okra and the sweetest summer tomatoes. I can’t forget that time when I bought an okra-tomato focaccia just out of curiosity last summer, and at the first bite my taste buds went wild. That was the moment I knew I was hooked, and I kept coming back just to marvel at the next unpredictable combinations of the season’s best. After all it’s Japan, one of the few places where the passing of nature dances on your tongue – a shiver-worthy taste.

Red bean & cream cheese come together in a stick.
Red bean & cream cheese come together in a stick.
... where the anpan were supposed to be. Taken today at 12:36pm, one hour and a half after the shop opened.
… where the anpan were supposed to be. Taken today at 12:36pm, one hour and a half after the shop opened.

I initially embarked on my journey to look for bread that leaned more on the Western’s dark and hard side, sick of the mushy supermarket buns as I was. What I came upon in hibino may not be as hard or as dark as I had hoped for, but I find here a beautiful blend between the Western bread culture and the elements, brought together by a person’s hard work and passion.

Hibino opens 4 times a week: Mon – Tue – Fri- Sat, from 11pm to 2am.

Location: see map.

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