Does this chain of fish cake sweets have the flavor to back up its bold name?

Taiyaki, fish-shaped cakes with sweet red beans, custard cream, or other tasty fillings, are one of Japan’s favorite snacks. Because they’re so beloved, you can find taiyaki shops all over the country.

But on one of his recent journeys our intrepid reporter Mr. Sato came across a taiyaki shop that stands out from the rest. Why? Because the sign boldly declares that they serve “the best taiyaki in Japan.”

▼ The name of the shop, Nippon Ichi Taiyaki (日本一たい焼き), literally translates as “Japan’s Number-One Taiyaki.”

Nippon Ichi Taiyaki is a chain that started in Kyushu, and most of their branches can be found in southern and western Japan. Mr. Sato stumbled across the shop while he was back visiting family in his hometown of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, and decided to test the veracity of the claim that Nippon Ichi Taiyaki makes Japan’s best taiyaki.

He had three options to choose from, all priced at 220 yen (US$1.65): kuro-an (red sweet beans), shiro-an (white sweet beans), and custard. Since red sweet beans are the most traditional taiyaki filling, that’s what he settled on, since it would be the best baseline to judge Nippon Ichi Taiyaki’ taiyaki against other shops’.

Taking his taiyaki out of the bag, he couldn’t see any appearance-wise evidence of it being the best in Japan. Yeah, it looked fine, but it didn’t look particularly special either.

But the visuals got a lot more impressive when he tore the taiyaki into halves to check inside and found tons of sweet bean filling waiting for him!

But what really impressed Mr. Sato was the cake/crust. Nippon Ichi Taiyaki’s cake is very thin, giving it a stimulating crunch, but it was free of any burnt, dry, or overly crispy parts, and it turns out there’s a reason for this…well, actually three reasons.

First, Nippon Ichi Taiyaki uses a special flour blend that it prepares itself, instead of using pre-made mixes from a supplier. Second, after the batter has been prepared, it’s left to chill overnight in the refrigerator, which the chain says results in a more delicious taiyaki.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Nippon Ichi Taiyaki doesn’t let just any employee work the grill. One or two times a year, the company holds a taiyaki grilling certification test, and employees who can’t pass it are assigned work tasks other than cooking. To encourage those who do pass to continue improving their skills, there are six levels of certification, with the highest often taking five years of experience and practice to acquire.

So are Nippon Ichi Taiyaki’s taiyaki the best in Japan? That’s ultimately going to be a matter of personal preference, especially regarding whether your ideal taiyaki has a thin, crisp crust or a soft pillow pancake surrounding its filling. In Mr. Sato’s opinion, he feels Nippon Ichi Taiyaki is at least among the best in Japan. Currently the closest branch they have to Tokyo is one in Shonan, Kanagawa Prefecture, but he’s hoping the chain expands to Japan’s capital soon.

Locaiton information
Nippon Ichi Taiyaki (Izumo Enmusubi branch) / 日本一たい焼き(出雲縁結び店)
Address: Shimane-ken, Matsue-shi, Shinjicho Ijimi 51-1
Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Related: Nippon Ichi Taiyaki website
Photos ©SoraNews24

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