I was ecstatic when a Mr. Donut came to Kyoto and it was in easy bike-riding distance to my geshuku. With all that good Japanese food and pastry, you might wonder why I’d be so ureshii. Well, (as they say in Fiddler on the Roof) let me tell you.
At a certain point in your stay in Japan, you get cravings for tabemono from home. It might be a craving for a food that you genuinely miss, but sometimes it is for something really silly or minor. Certainly there were no donuts in Kyoto back then that were American style. You could find small soy milk donuts at the Nishiki Market, but I could not relate.
It wasn’t like I had really patronized donut chains in the US, but in my last year of daigaku, I lived in a house with one of my professors, and each Sunday morning he’d go out and pick up a copy of the Sunday New York Times and a box full of donuts. So, who wouldn’t indulge given that combination?!
My children want to correct me when I say Mr. Donut. First off, they are so used to Dunkin Donuts that they doubted it existed. But I remember when I lived in the Boston area and you’d see both chains.
Back to Kyoto. One of the great miryoku of Mr. Donut on the corner of Kawaramachi and Imadegawa street (university student territory for sure) was a bottomless cup of coffee. Refills! That didn’t exist in Japan at the time, though it was normal in America. Sure, it wasn’t the best coffee, but sometimes with coffee quantity is what really matters. The donuts were fresh and oishii. My favorites then were the French cruller and the cinnamon donuts. When I have a certain repetitive dream of donuts (blush) it always involves cinnamon donuts. And finally, it was open at all hours. If I am remembering correctly, it might have been a 24 hour operation. That meant that when I had jet lag and was up at 2 AM, I could have breakfast there.
When I moved to Tokyo my donut habit continued. Sweet potato donuts! Mr. Donut was getting into the local scene and Japanese flavors began to show up. I was a fan and so were my kids. In fact we talk about the sweet potato donuts to this day. When I look at today’s choices in Japan, though, I think they are very overdone and way too sweet. But, that is just me.
If you travel to Japan, don’t be shy about trying out a chain restaurant from the States. There will be surprises for sure!
- geshuku – 下宿 lodgings
- ureshii – 嬉しい happy
- tabemono – 食べ物 food
- Nishiki Market – 錦場 Google it, if you don’t know it. It’s a famous food shopping street in downtown Kyoto. It might be more famous for being crowded than for food at this point, but admittedly, you have to visit it.
- daigaku -大学 university or college
- miryoku – 魅力 charm or fascination
- oishii – 美味しい delicious