When my wife and I went to Japan last year, we structured a fair amount of our daily plans—particularly what neighborhoods to visit—around information that we had gathered from a cherished Japanese television show.
Believe it or not, we took our trip ideas from episodes of Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman, which streams on Netflix.
If you’ve ever seen the show, I imagine you’re rather surprised to hear this.
Kantaro is a comedy series that centers around a new member of a book publisher’s sales team.
More specifically, it is how Mr. Kantaro Ametani navigates between two competing identities: the impressively talented and serious salesman, and the dessert fanatic who secretly plays hooky during work hours to indulge his sweet tooth.
Not only is the plot fictional and very silly, it is also fantastically weird:
Kantaro will literally embody the traits of the desserts he eats.
And when he takes his first bite, there are usually some impressionistic reaction shots that can be…quite suggestive.
The show is an uncanny mix of clever puns, surrealism, and clownish humor.
Of course, unless you know Japanese, all you get is the surrealism and the over-the-top clownishness.
But, there’s another important element to the show:
The food porn!
Each episode is centered around a specific dessert, as served in a real restaurant in Tokyo or Yokohama.
For all its surreal silliness, the heart of Kantaro is its serious foodie journalism.
What my wife and I took from the show was a list of destinations to visit for our very own Sweets Tour.
Unfortunately, we only managed to make it to two of the featured sweet shops. Our very first destination proved to be a bust.
We visited the charming, historic Kagurazaka district in search of the wa-sweets shop Kinozen.
Wa-sweets are Western desserts fused with Japanese flavors. Kantaro dedicated an episode to Kinozen’s fabled matcha bavarois.
Unfortunately, it will forever remain fabled to us, because we found that Kinozen had since closed down.
Thankfully, great food is not a rarity in Tokyo. We stumbled on a tea house that served some phenomenal sweets.
This was Saryo, and it’s become a new favorite place of ours.
My wife enjoyed a delicious chestnut cake, while I tried their take on anmitsu. It was absolutely heavenly.
Now, anmitsu is the topic of a different episode from Kantaro…
That one focuses on a shop called Kanmidokoro Hatsune. We later traveled to the Ningyocho district and found the shop, and we got some more anmitsu.
Kantaro did not lie. This place was legit.
In truth, both of the shops made some incredible anmitsu. But the adzuki beans served in Hatsune were the best I’ve ever had.
Perfectly textured, with a complex flavor profile. So if I had to pick a winner, I’d probably pick Hatsune.
The next destination in our tour was to be Tengoku Cafe, a place known for their exquisitely fluffy pancakes.
But alas, some bad information on Google Maps brought us to a place that was nowhere near Tengoku Cafe. Tired and hangry, we decided to check out some other options.
We found that we were quite close to another Kantaro location: Umemura, which was known for their mamekan.
This is a dish that’s quite close to anmitsu, but far more minimal. It’s just beans and dark molasses syrup. No distractions.
Umemura’s mamekan was indeed delicious. But I’m afraid my previous experience at Hatsune had tarnished this experience for me. No one will match the perfection of their beans!
Other planned destinations for our tour included:
…a place for artisanal kakigori, or Japanese style shaved ice…
…As well as a place known for their chestnut mont blanc cakes…
But alas, those plans didn’t work out. Still, there’s always next time.
What desserts we will try this coming April…
Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote!