Taiyaki Trip: A Tribute to Sweet Breams

Sad but tasty taiyaki.

A lot of people have been joking about the end of the world Mayan calendar over the past week. It might not be the end of the world (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post), but it is the end of an era back home in the Bay: taiyaki (a Japanese fish-shaped pancake pastry, traditionally filled with red bean paste) outfit Sweet Breams, some thirty minutes by car from where I lived, decided to close up shop for good after four and something years serving up sweet chibi-taiyaki, soft serve ice cream, and wonderful kitsch and art aside. This happened just this Sunday, and, having not had taiyaki yet here, I decided I’d grab some in tribute.

Sadly, the taiyaki place that used to be here in Gumyoji back in 2008 has likewise closed up shop, so instead I opted for the next best thing: Yokohama Kuriko-an, which, despite being a store specializing in their namesake kuriko-an (chestnut/red bean paste) taiyaki, sells the pastries in a variety of different flavors. I’d hoped to get their “apple cheese cream” taiyaki (having assumed they really meant cream cheese), but apparently that was an autumn thing; apple-filling taiyaki was nowhere to be found. Instead, I went for two of this winter’s strawberry cheese cream taiyaki (¥180), alongside a normal custard cream one (¥140). I savored every last bit of all three of them, their just-sweet-enough fillings having been laid on super-super-thickly.

Swimming in the bag.

Granted, this isn’t the death of taiyaki in the Bay Area. I could go to May’s Coffee Shop in San Francisco’s Japantown if I really had a craving, but I won’t lie: I’ll miss Sweet Breams. Starting about a year before I started this program, I used to go from time to time with friends and we’d hit up what we called the Trifecta: Sweet Breams, Tpumps (a milk/bubble tea place that’s really good, really cheap, and therefore really popular), and Game Center (an independently owned arcade that’s been making a couple of waves in the fighting game community, but has some awesome setups otherwise). I’ve got handful of fond memories from before that, too; the most poignant being that on my way back from taking the JLPT 3-kyu (now N4) one year I’d rushed in and placed an order for three boxes of eggnog chibi-taiyaki right as they were closing…they were fine with me coming in late, amidst my apologies. (The eggnog taiyaki was delicious.)

So when they’d announced their last weekly flavor would be eggnog, I admittedly sort of teared up a bit. I’d told myself I would go and have myself a taiyaki on the day of their closing, but it wasn’t until tonight that I was actually able to get a trip to Kuriko-an in.

In any case, to Tara and the rest of the Sweet Breams crew: thanks a lot, and good luck in your future endeavors!

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