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Food & Drink

The Japanese Danish Pastry that came home

Japanese baker Shunsuke Takaki first tasted a Danish pastry 60 years ago. He was so smitten, he took the Danish concept to Japan where he founded a Danish inspired baking empire. Now, his Japanese Danish pastries have returned home again, namely to the Andersen Bakery in Copenhagen.

Organic, slow fermentation process sourdough bread, croissants and pastries that are totally authentic. Andersen Bakery offers everything you can expect from an upmarket Copenhagen bread and pastry store, but has its roots in the far side of the world. 

The story of the Japanese-Danish bakery began when Shunsuke Takaki tasted a Danish pastry for the first time in Copenhagen in 1959. He was sold on the sweet confection and sensed he would not be the only person to feel that way. 

In 1962, Japanese customers were able to say konnichiwa to Danish pastry from Takaki Bakery, and in 1967, Shunsuke Takaki opened the Danish themed Andersen Bakery and restaurant in Hiroshima. In 1982, Andersen became part of Takaki Bakery, which expanded with bread factories, baking franchises and stone oven bakeries in Japan, US and Hong Kong. 

Photo: Andersen Bakery.

Andersen introduced the Japanese to Danish hygge and stone oven baked bread in 2002 and eventually opened its own farm, Andersen Farm, in 2005.

Today, Andersen sells bakery products from over 100 stores in the USA and Japan, and in 2008, their Danish pastries faced the ultimate challenge of appealing to Danes, when the first Andersen Bakery opened in Østerbro, Copenhagen. 

The Takaki Family's efforts to bring Danish food culture to Japan has not gone unnoticed in the home of Danish pastry. Takaki was awarded the Order of the Dannebrog Knight 1st Class in 1984 and appointed an honorary consul of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1986. Seiichi Takaki, who inherited the business, was Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador for the bicentenary celebration of Hans Christian Andersen's birth in 2005, and his wife, Akiko Takaki, became honorary consul in Hiroshima in 2019. The Danes were thrilled that the Japanese were crazy about Danish bread and pastries.

Shunsuke Takaki. Photo: Andersen Bakery.

Especially as Japanese people are not big bread eaters. Quite the reverse, they are renowned for having perhaps the world's most healthy diet with plenty of fish, vegetables, seaweed and green tea. What then, is it that attracts the Japanese to Danish bread and pastries? Takanori Teshima, Head of International Business for Andersen Bakery, gave the following explanation to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affair Trade Council:

“We mostly try to explain the concept of hygge to the Japanese. We Japanese don’t have that many reasons to invite friends and family to our homes to enjoy hygge together, so this is something new and interesting for people. And telling the story of the product is very important.” 

 “We urge our Japanese customers to buy Danish pastries to take to their colleagues every Friday, for example, to create a hygge time together. We have also introduced kagemand, a Danish pastry shaped like a person. It may just look like a cake made of Danish pastry, but we explain that they are eaten on birthdays and festive occasions with friends and family,” Teshima says. 

The staff at Andersen Bakery. Photo: Andersen Bakery.

Since Andersen came to Denmark, the bakery has opened in several prominent locations in Copenhagen. However in 2017, Andersen decided to bring everything together in a large branch on Islands Brygge. 

“We decided to open the bakery on Islands Brygge in 2017, because we wanted to test a new concept at Andersen with sustainable, organic bread and pastries,” Johannes Hessellund of Andersen Bakery says to Scandinavian Traveler.

“We wanted to be closer to the people living in the area around the bakery, and offer products baked from scratch for them. The new concept has exceeded all expectations and we have become incredibly popular amongst local residents,” says Hessellund. 

That the Japanese bakery chain knows how to make proper Danish bread and pastries is crystal clear, as Mette Sophie Olsen of Andersen Bakery proved by winning the Danish Pastry Guild Confection of the Year competition in 2019. 

The winner of the Danish Pastry Guild Confection of the Year 2019: The pastry Purple from Andersen Bakery. Photo: Andersen Bakery.

She won first prize for her confection Purple, made of mascarpone mousse and blackcurrant & verbena gelé on a pecan base, sprayed with purple chocolate and decorated with red wood-sorrel.

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