It's very easy to walk past a good shop in Japan, and that's sadly what I did when I first saw Birthday. Confused by the name, and unsure if it was open, I left, unaware that so much delicious food lay inside. The origin of the name is slightly poetic: like people, each batch of baking is unique, and every day it is born anew, so every day is a birth day.
Birthday isn't very easy to get to without a car, but it's a very rewarding trip. It's 30 minutes' walk from Rikuzen-Ochiai Station, but you could explore some of the local restaurants while you're in the area – the ramen restaurants are quite famous. There are also stores in Rifu and Nattori, but the Kuryu-Ayashi shop is the oldest, having opened 8 years ago.
The first thing that struck me about Birthday was the size. Most bakeries that I've been to are quite small, but Birthday isn't in the city center, so they can use more space for the same price. The building looks like a log cabin, and there's a lovely little room with seats and tables textured and colored to resemble logs. There's another table outside which seats 6 people.
Inside, most of the space is dedicated to their many different types of baked goods. There are plain breads and sandwiches but also more interesting fare. Both sweet and savory, you can find fried manju, Sendai miso bread, curry bread, melon pan and pork buns, to name a few. The bakers are clearly experts – the combination of flavors in each items have been carefully thought out and deliciously executed. Crunchy, chewy or soft, no texture is left out of the display. One of their signature items is a cookie which is like shortbread. There's a plain, butter one or a chocolate one with sliced almonds. These also come in souvenir packs.
Considering the quality of everything, you would expect it to be expensive, but the price is very similar to most other bakeries. I took four items, roughly guessing that I would need ¥1000, but came out with ¥250 in change. Every purchase comes with free coffee, or cold barley tea in the summer. You are given a cup after paying, and you can serve yourself in the room with the seats.
The only drawback about Birthday is that it's very popular. At certain times the shop can be very busy, and if you go around late afternoon or early evening, there aren't so many items to choose from.
Birthday is a wonderful bakery that offers great quality for a reasonable price. Its wide range of delicious goods has made it very popular – don't miss out!