And now, for the fourth segment of things that make you stop, stare, and get the creativity waterwheel churning.
I didn’t discover this bakery until my second year here in Japan; I can’t believe I wasted so much of the first not dropping in there late on Saturday and Sunday mornings after doing a bit of brisk tidying about the apartment. It’s called Tamaki (I think it comes under a larger company, but not positive what it’s called – pretty sure it starts with an “M”) and it had been shut for a bit over a week for refurbishing. I was petrified (should probably get petrified over more important things … ) that I’d be unable to purchase top-quality carbohydrates there again before I left the country for good. But Tamaki is open again. Thank God. My favourite long, skinny cheese loaves and the tasty pepper bacon ones weren’t there, though admittedly I biked down late, around five thirty pm – all the best stuff was probably sold much earlier in the day. But what I wound up with was still what has always been purchased from that epic bakery … really good bread.
Bread is good. Bread is simple. Bread is warm and filling. And when you’re hungry, such solid basics are, I believe, craved far more ardently than such fare as lobster mornay or a medium rare Wagu beef (steak) with truffled potato mash bathed in liberal amounts of red wine jus. Through this simple yet uber bread, numerous hungry character scenarios have been imagined, role-played, and fleshed out. Though I’m very lucky in that I’ve never been chronically hungry, being bereft of such awful experiences can make writing convincingly and honestly much more challenging. But I have a fair imagination to work with, and use it extensively to build on my own small, didn’t-eat-enough-breakfast-it’s-only-ten-thirty-can’t-stop-work-until-quarter-to-one-but-I’m-extremely-feckin-peckish-right-now-esque experiences of hunger.
I imagine – I’ve just about felt myself thinking through the minds of others – that the crinkle of paper packaging as a small loaf of bread, crust crunchy and innards soft and white and light as summer cloud, is unwrapped is a jubilant herald. The warm weight of the loaf taken in hand spreads throughout the body until eyes and lips smile blissfully at their wearer’s sudden good fortune, or in satisfaction, at last receiving a hard-earned meal. The anticipation and simple happiness as the best of bread is raised to lips, eyes half-closed, could make even the hungriest feel – even just for a moment – all light and free within. Lucky. Favoured. Then, the friction of crust against teeth sinking through it is a thrilling release of tension.
It’s your bread. It’s fresh, it’s delicious, and it’s yours. And now you won’t feel hungry any more. Maybe you’ll even be free of the hollow pangs for the rest of the day.
I can think of several characters and scenes for which this bread has been used as inspiration, the most notable probably a young man called Eliyan, a young man not from any of the stories I’ve yet mention. He has no luck at all (and that’s quite disgraceful in a society that almost runs on luck) and though he makes enough money to feed himself, most of the food he buys and prepares winds up offered at a stone grave marker in the cemetery next door. Later it’s generally pinched by hungrier neighbourhood children. So when he manages to get a loaf of bread to himself and is able to keep it away from the graveyard, Eliyan enjoys it immensely.
I enjoy it too, though due to being so well-fed probably not quite as immensely. But enough. I do like bread. Shall definitely have to visit Tamaki as frequently as possible before the thirtieth.