The Japanese boutique donut

The Japanese boutique donut

A new generation of small handmade doughnut stores offer a very Japanese set of flavors and textures
Japanese donuts
These soy-based organic sweets from Hara Donuts are relatively healthy, and thus, not so much fun as a donut (photo by the author).

Recent imports Krispy Kreme and Doughnut Plant are still attracting long lines in Tokyo, but hardcore sweets connoisseurs have embraced a new genre of Japanese donuts from makers in Western Tokyo’s bohemian-chic neighborhoods.

Shimokitazawa’s Hara Donuts and Yoyogi-uehara’s Harrits are blazing a new path towards the Japanese boutique donut, using unique Japanese flavors and soy-based ingredients. These new-genre donuts are as fluffy, doughy and chewy as the chain fare, but better reflect the traditional Japanese preference for more subtle and less-saccharine flavors.

And thanks to pleasant store interiors, Hara and Harrits are not only making donuts a popular treat of choice, but a full-out stylish experience.

Hara Donuts

Hara Donuts in Shimokitazawa serves healthy and simple donuts made exclusively from soy-based ingredients. Originally from Kobe, Japan, Hara Donuts spun off from Hara Tofu, which provides the key ingredients for the donuts -- soy milk and okara (tofu pulp). With 12 stores now open in Tokyo, each branch uses the same ingredients, still direct from Hara Tofu in Kobe.

The Shimokitazawa Hara Donuts store serves the brand’s one-of-a-kind donuts over a clean white counter-top on a silver tray. The use of soy products makes for a delicacy that is not too sweet and combines well with subtle Japanese flavors such as black sesame and green tea.

Since its doors opened in December 2008, Shimokitazawa Hara Donuts has seen its healthy flow of customers, with the occasional long line during weekends. But no need to fret: the line moves fast.

Hara Donuts: 3-27-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, tel. 03 6416 8280, 10am-7pm, cash only

Harrits

Harrits in Yoyogi-Uehara pumps out amazing fumes of baked sweetness into the neighborhood every morning. The bakery, however, is not so easy to find. The storefront looks no different than the other houses on the block, with only a small glass sign stating "Harrits" to mark it off from its residential neighbors.

Harrits serves about 15 types of donuts every day, including its popular cream cheese donut (¥210). Made with fresh eggs and milk, their donuts are fluffy, doughy yet manage to avoid being toothache-inducing sweet.

Harrits enforces a strict three donut-per-customer rule on the weekends or during the week if the shop gets crowded. They also serve a full menu of coffee drinks, including a reasonably-priced espresso at ¥280.

Harrits: 1-34-2 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, tel. 03 3466 0600, 8am-7pm Tues-Fri, 11am-6pm Sat-Sun, closed Mon, and the first, third, and fifth Sundays of the month, cash only