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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bread Festival - La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 - in Tokyo


My partner and I attended the Setagaya Bread Festival (or, La Fete du Pain Setagaya) on Sunday. This two-day festival was the seventh to take place here, the first having been held in 2011.

"Buns" logo of La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017, Tokyo, Japan.
Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 "buns" logo

We first went to Shimokitazawa to try and return a faulty SD card I had bought a month ago from the branch there of the Jampara discount electronic goods chain (not recommended!). I should have been suspicious from the outset when it cost me only a third of what an identical SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB 95MB/s SD card had cost me at a more reputable store in Akihabara. Sure enough, when I presented my case to the Janpara staff they were instantly on the bald-faced offensive, saying it was probably my camera that was to blame, and pointing out that the receipt itself said, in very small print, "1-week warranty." Clearly Jampara was flogging off a faulty batch. You get what you pay for.
Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic rap at the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017, Tokyo.
Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic rap at the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017
Anyway, after my partner had vented his spleen at my unacceptably meek acceptance of my fate, we then took a leisurely walk to Setagaya Park, right on the eastern edge of Setayaga ward. The walk took us just over an hour, south of Shimokitazawa.

The Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 was a multi-locational event, taking place at five different, but very close-together, locations: the IID Setagaya Monozukuri School, Ikejiri Elementary School, The Mishuku 420 Commercial Association Building, the Setagaya Gaya-Gaya Hall, and Setagaya Park. We went to the main outdoor presence, first in the grounds of IID Setagaya Monozukuri School, and then across the road in Setagaya Park. (The other, indoor, locales were for bread-baking workshops and the like, referred to as the Bread University.)

Sign at entrance of the 2017 La Fete du Pain Setagaya, Tokyo.
Sign at entrance of La Fete du Pain Setagaya, Tokyo, 2017
The first thing we noticed was rap coming from the school grounds as we approached. A stage amidst the stalls featured a rap duo, Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic when we arrived, but they were just one of seven acts that made up the "Daytime Party," most of the others being DJs.

The school grounds had a decent line-up of stalls selling all sorts of bread, by bakeries from all over Tokyo, and stalls run by 15 different local Setagaya ward restaurants and cafes selling general food and drink. Some of the bread looked and tasted good, but there was way too much of the white bread that Japan is so enamored of. Some white bread in Japan is great, like the delicious Italian filone that is our favorite at the Peck bakery found in Takashimaya department stores. But most white bread in Japan is just that: white bread, with its well-deserved negative connotations of blandness, stodginess and lack of nutritional value.

La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at IID Setagaya Monozukuri School, Setagaya ward, Tokyo.
La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at IID Setagaya Monozukuri School
But, anyway, we did find some very good wholemeal bread - although one had a consistency so like cake we wondered if something had gone wrong or it was supposed to be like that. We then jived across the road to the sounds of the bad boys on stage to Setagaya Park where, along side the old steam engine, there was a long row of stalls, probably about the same number as in the school grounds, selling more bread of all shapes, recipes and sizes.

Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic at the Setagaya Bread Festival, Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic making their own recipes at La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017
We took our stash - consisting mainly of wholemeal breads filled with nuts and seeds and dried fruit - and sat on a parkbench on a knoll to eat it as a late lunch (it was about 3:30pm already), enjoying the sight and sounds of the ornate fountain in the plaza of Setagaya Park that sprays water in a variety of patterns every few minutes.

Fountain at Setagaya Park, venue of the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017.
Fountain at Setagaya Park, where Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 was held.
We left Setagaya Park about 4pm, tried to go through the Self Defense Forces Central Hospital, but were turned back by a uniformed soldier at the gate, so went east to Higashiyama, went south-east down to Nakameguro, then further south-east to Daikanyama.

By 4:45pm we had gotten to the Old Asakura Family House, which made for a cheap and thoroughly enjoyable half hour in an elegant old house and gardens.

Stalls of La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at Setagaya Park, Tokyo, Japan.
Stalls for the La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at Setagaya Park, Tokyo
We then moved on to Daikanyama where the most exciting thing we did was go through a Japanese-style haunted house set up for Halloween in one of the elegant shopping malls there: think white draped raggedy clothing, powdery white faces with teeth dripping blood, rushing up at you out of the dark - scarier than we'd imagined!

The walk from Daikanyama down to Ebisu Station takes you down sloping streets packed with very atmospheric restaurants and bars, nearly all of which make you want to come some day and try out. But darkness was falling, we'd only eaten an hour or so beforehand, and our bicycles were waiting for us at Ochanomizu Station.

The Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 happening at Setagaya Park, Tokyo.
Scene from La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 with Setagaya Park fountain, Tokyo.

The winner of the Taste Prize for the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 was Boulangerie Lebois of Yayoicho in Nakano ward. There were also "Best Looking Bread," and other prizes awarded to other bakeries.

Check out the La Fete du Pain Setagaya next October - recommended for its varied line-up of often great breads and food, jumping entertainment, and a friendly, happening, neighborhood buzz.

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