Kyoto’s Best Cream Puffs

While visiting the preserved historical streets of Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka in Kyoto’s Eastern Higashiyama ward, I noticed a line of Japanese people snaking out the entrance of a tiny shop. The line extended almost 30 feet into the street, which made me curious, so I headed over for a closer look.

The sign outside the shop featured a rabbit and the words “Yatsuhashi Cream Puff” – and since I’m never one to pass up a pastry, especially when the evidence suggests it’s a good one, I joined the queue.

Like many snack shop lines in Japan, this one moved quickly. Five minutes later, I found myself at the counter. Although the shop had several offerings, I opted for the one that gave the shop its name (which, I noticed, was also what most of the people in front of me had ordered): a custard cream puff.

(Travel tip: if you notice the locals ordering a certain thing–especially if they’re willing to stand in line–it’s probably worth a try.)

I paid my 300 yen (about $3.00) and received an enormous paper sleeve bearing the logo and name of the shop and containing a giant cream puff.

Yatsuhashi Cream Puff

My photos don’t show scale well, but the cream puff was almost twice the size of my fist – about 6″ in diameter.

Custard Cream Puff, Kyoto

The pastry was light and not too sweet, and melted in my mouth–a perfect complement to the silky custard filling, which tasted at least as good as the custard creme I had in Paris. The puff had a perfect amount of filling; every bite had the right proportion of pastry and cream, and though I had to struggle to finish it (remember, this was an enormous snack) I didn’t want to waste a bite. Fortunately, I hadn’t had lunch, so I managed to eat the entire thing.

My only regret is that I live too far from Kyoto to get another one soon.