One of the amazing things about Japan is its ability to incorporate foreign culture, and foreign foods, into its own. Ramen (from China), curry (from India via the UK), Korean barbecue and Italian pasta dishes are a few examples. One thing that is everywhere, and so obvious you might not think twice about it, is sweet food. Cakes, biscuits, sweet pastries and patisserie of all kinds can be found in every supermarket and department store food floor. Unfortunately, the quality of supermarket cake isn't always great, and in other places the prices only seem okay until you see the size of your tiny muffin (even if it is tasty).
In my search for the perfect balance of cost versus quality, I found 82_no_28 Bakery. The name is a play on words, based around a palindrome. 82 (read 'wani'), is also a crocodile or alligator, and you can certainly pick up on the theme. The shop isn't much bigger than a large van, but you can spot reptilian toys and decorations all over. To get there involves a 20-minute walk (or a short bus ride on the S840) from Rikuzen-Ochiai station, but it's completely worth it. It's easy to find – it's the little blue hut opposite Daiso, next to the Tsuruha Drugstore parking lot.
82_no_28 sells four types of baked goods: muffins, scones, waffles and donuts, as well as organic coffee. The owner bakes constantly throughout the day, so you are guaranteed the freshest produce. He even takes orders, including special requests like gluten-free muffins. Only the best ingredients are used, like butter instead of margarine, European chocolate and fresh fruit (which is organic when possible). This leads to seasonal variation, with flavors like chestnut, sweet potato and pumpkin in autumn, and strawberries in winter. Around Christmas, if you can get there early in the day you might be able to get your hands on a brownie.
The muffins are my favorite at 82_no_28 - the combinations of flavors are always inventive and tasty. The traditional double chocolate is one of the best, although the white chocolate and raspberry has a special place in my heart. I've also eaten zunda (sweet soy bean paste, a specialty of Sendai), fig and chocolate, green tea and apple custard, oreo and many, many more! I'm personally not keen on savory muffins, but the bacon and cream cheese one I tried was rather nice. The scones can be a bit dry but they are wonderful after heating in a toaster oven. The waffles (called waniffles, from wani plus waffles) are also wonderful, but they sell out quite quickly. Fillings vary every time, but have included plain (cream), peach compote, zunda and sweet potato. If you're lucky, you can get waniffles made from flavored batter like sweet potato. Finally, the donuts aren't the best I've had in Japan, but they're not bad, and they're also available in a rainbow of flavors.
It's quite an achievement to run such an amazing bakery from such a small, temporary-looking building. In fact, the owner had plans for something bigger, but before he had chance to move from his original business near the coast, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami happened. There are many stories like it in the area, and it's truly a shame that this happened to so many wonderful people.
For now, the owner is working hard to restore his original store, which means fewer hours of business. In the future, the owner dreams of taking his baking abroad. There's no definite date yet, although he's already looking into learning English, so who knows how long you have left to taste what 82_no_28 has to offer? Come while you can, and support local business and some truly delicious baking!