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Opens at 7:30 in the Morning! Imai Pain in Naha City is Bustling with Regulars Until Closing Time
post : 2019.02.28 15:00
Near the Shikinaen royal garden, one of Okinawa’s popular sightseeing spots, is Imai Pain. The bakery isn’t exactly easily accessible, but is hugely popular with about 140 customers on an average weekday, and over 200 customers on the weekends.
Every morning when they open the shop at 7:30 and all the way through to their closing time at 19:30, the flow of customers is non-stop. As soon as the doors open, the regular customers from the neighborhood come by, then the office workers on their way to work, men in their 40s make a stop before returning home from their run, businessmen who stop by to pick up lunch, then the flow of local students…the shop is constantly busy with customers.
One of the secrets to their popularity is the wide selection of breads with about 85 kinds of bread and 25 varieties of pastries (cakes and tarts) at all time. It’s pretty rare for a bakery to have such a great variety whenever you go, wouldn’t you agree?
The owners, Yosuke Imai and his wife Aiko said, “We wanted all our customers find their favorite one, and we wanted to make sure that their favorite will always be available whenever they come.”
A regular customer (a businessman in his 30s) says, “I come here three times a week.” When I asked him what it is about Imai Pain that he likes, he responded, “You know how there are more and more classy kind of bakeries? I think that it’s great and everything, but personally, I hesitate going in. At Imai Pain, I can drop by casually. The staff are friendly and the bread is like comfort food for me…”
Perhaps he’s right. The bread that we want to eat every day isn’t necessarily classy, pricey kinds of bread, but a more relaxed bread that we can eat like a regular meal.
The businessman’s favorite was the Shio (salt) Pan, the most popular type at Imai Pain. It’s a kind of bread that you can enjoy both the juiciness of a croissant and the fluffiness of a butter roll.
Imai Pain is made with carefully selected ingredients from within Okinawa. Their Medama-no Oyaji features local eggs, another is made with black rice flour from Iriomote Island, and the Hantagawa Tonyu Pan is made with soy milk mixed in the dough (the soy milk is from Nagado Tofu Shop, a long-time tofu maker located in Hantagawa, Naha City, which continues to make Okinawan Shima Tofu loved by the locals since long ago). They also have breads made with Okinawan whole wheat flour and many other breads made with local ingredients.
My recommendation is the Shurijo Kari-Pei, which received the award of excellence from the mayor of Naha City in 2017. This bread was created in collaboration with Maruyoshi Shio Senbei-ya (rice cracker maker) that produces the local favorite salted Senbei rice crackers. The name of the bread also mixes the Okinawan word, Kari, which means “cheers” and curry.
Each one of the curry flavored Senbei are made by hand, and is topped with Jimami (peanut) caramelize then baked in the oven to create the Shurijo Kari-Pei.
With one bite of it, you’ll enjoy sweetness, saltiness, and the gentle aroma of spices. The texture is crispy and crunchy, so it’s fun to eat for a daily snack or as finger food to go with beer and highballs.
Shurijo Kari-Pei is loved by customers of all ages, from young children to the older customers. They say that most of the customers who try it once become repeat customers.
The Shurijo Kari-Pei is sure to join the best-selling souvenirs of Okinawa, like the Chinsuko cookies and Beni-imo purple potato Tarts. Why don’t you give this great, new Okinawan treat a try?
Imai Pain is located about five minutes on foot from the Shikinaen Gardens. Stop by when you’re sightseeing in the area♪
Address: 12-4 Maaji, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 7:30 to 19:30
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Sachiko Tachi