A long time ago, in a place quite far, far away, there was an area of Japan so remote that the indigenous people called it sir etok; literally the end of the earth. Known today as Shiretoko, the peninsula at the northeastern tip of Hokkaido remains a place of untouched beauty, traversed by a unique population of brown bears.
So what does a visitor to the end of the earth bring back to the rest of civilisation as a reminder of the beauty and the bear? Given that live bears don’t act kindly to being captured, a cute alternative has popped up in miniature, edible form. Wrapped in a cosy doughnut ball, these little cubs are flying off the shelves like hotcakes. We bought a variety pack to take a closer look at what makes these adorable souvenirs so popular.
Produced by Shiretoko Factory, the variety pack retails online for 1,580 yen (US$16.20) through popular Japanese shopping site Rakuten.
The box contains five flavours: Hokkaido Milk, Hokkaido Pumpkin, Cocoa Chip, Choc Chip, and Salty Fresh Caramel.
In a nod to the local kuma (lit. bear), this particular brand of Shiretoko doughnut is called Kumagoron.
Each one is handmade using Hokkaido’s renowned high-quality milk and fresh cream. The company even uses honey fresh from the hive.
At last, free from its plastic packaging! In case you need some prodding to eat something this cute, keep in mind that these are not fried in oil but baked to fluffy perfection. Cute and healthy!
Delivered cold in a refrigerated truck, we let this baby thaw before eating. Cool to the touch, our little cub looked more like a sweet polar bear poking its head out from a snowy den!
Continuing with their attention to detail, each face is created by hand, giving every bear a unique character.
The company churns out 4,000 of these every day. That’s a lot of handiwork!
Moist and tasting surprisingly like delicious hotcakes, the doughnuts were sweet and satisfyingly dense. Just one was more than enough to fill us up!
If you’re ever in Tokyo, be sure to stop by the Shiretoko Factory store at Ueno station. You won’t be able to take home the famous pandas from Ueno Zoo but you’ll be able to take home the adorable pandas in doughnut form!