If we’re speaking honestly, we don’t really need much of an added incentive to eat a donut. Really, a sweet, inexpensive indulgence that we can eat with our hands is pretty much a laser-guided strike on our willpower.
Still, we can usually muster enough self-control that we don’t plow through a half-dozen in one sitting. But when you take donuts’ numerous preexisting merits and add the visual appeal of shaping them like cats, penguins, alpacas, and even killer whales, that’s when we stop even trying to resist them.
It’s easy to overlook Kawasaki, since it’s a thin strip of land wedged between Japan’s two largest cities. Riding the train from Tokyo to Yokohama, you’ll pass entirely through Kawasaki in a matter of minutes, and, unless they’re residents, most people aren’t compelled to get off and explore.
In doing so, they’re shooting right past one of Japan’s cutest and most creative bakeries, Ikumi Mama Animal Donuts.
The shop is just a five-minute walk from Motosumiyoshi Station on the Tokyu Toyoko Line that connects Shibuya and Yokohama. We stopped by on Mother’s Day, where there was a line of customers waiting to pick up a pack of treats to celebrate the special day with.
Ikumi Mama’s biggest seller is Mike (pronounced “Mee-kay”) the cat, a donut shaped like a cute kitty.
Mike isn’t the only critter in Ikumi Mama’s edible menagerie, though, not by a long shot.
Aside from house cats, Ikumi Mama also whips up pastries shaped like dogs, tigers, walruses, and frogs, not to mention a handful of other members of the animal kingdom. Even for the same type of donut, each face is drawn differently, and the friendly staff will let you pick out which one you want from the display case.
Being animal lovers/gluttons, we decided the only thing to do was to take as many varieties back home with us as we could fit in our apartment/stomachs.
We started off with Mike, in order to get a baseline idea of Ikumi Mama’s take on donuts in general.
Mike’s glaze is a mix of white and coffee-infused chocolate, two flavors that show up in a lot of Ikumi Mama’s offerings. There’s also a small patch of dark chocolate where the kitty’s tail would be.
While the glazes differ from one animal to the next, the donuts themselves are all made from the same mild-flavored cake. Ikumi Mama goes easy on the butter, and the dough is firm but not at all greasy. At first, we thought the ears were extra dollops of dough, but they’re actually each made from an almond embedded in the cake.
If the mention of coffee chocolate piqued your interest, you might prefer a Donyatsu, which shares its name with the anime character it’s modeled after.
▼ Donyatsu: just your everyday, post-apocalyptic world donut cat…
Aside from the extra coffee chocolate glaze, Donyatsu comes with a face plate made of chocolate, with a pair of almonds doing duty as the legs this time.
If you’re more of a dog person, Ikumi Mama also has a variety of Shiba Inu donuts in various flavors, including this coffee variant.
▼ Almond ears
Moving onto aquatic life, Pen-chan the penguin featured the most glaze of any of our donuts.
It also had the most unique ingredient, sesame chocolate, which provides a quick sensation of smoky nuttiness before the white chocolate takes over the palette.
▼ The flippers are made, once again, from almonds.
We didn’t want Pen-chan to feel self-conscious as the only marine mammal, though, so we also picked up a killer whale donut.
With no coffee flavors here, some might be tempted to dock the killer whale points for a lack of sophistication, although it still has those almond fins. The mix of dark and white chocolate made it the sweetest of our bunch, though, so if that’s what you’re after, this is the Ikumi Mama donut for you.
The killer whale is also a good call if you’re feeling especially hungry, since its nose is made from a separate piece of extra-thick donut cake.
Although the alpaca is more of a bit player in Western pantheons of cute animals, it’s a favorite of Japanese animal lovers, so naturally Ikumi Mama uses the fuzzy camelid as one of its muses.
Like Mike and the Shiba Inu donuts, the alpaca comes in a variety of colors and flavors. For our money, the snowy white chocolate version is the cutest of the species.
▼ The nose is made of an extra piece of donut, just like with the killer whale.
Finally, the last member of our adorable taste test was Usa-chan the rabbit. The bunny’s design wasn’t quite as intricately thought-out as the rest of the bunch, but still, how could we say no to that white-chocolate-covered face?
Prices vary depending on the type of donut, but all of the varieties we sampled were between 200 and 310 yen (US$2.00-$3.05), so you can add “reasonably-priced” to “cute” and “they’re donuts” to the reasons we were satisfied with Ikumi Mama’s baked goods. As a matter of fact, there’s only one small complaint we came away with.
Ikumi Mama makes all of its donuts by hand, to ensure they’re fresh and tasty. However, this means they can’t offer each type every day. While Mike is available seven days a week, the rest of the line is offered on a revolving schedule, which can be seen on the bakery’s website here.
Thankfully, though, Ikumi Mama will also let you specially order whatever type of donuts you want as long as you make a reservation in advance, and once they’re ready you can either pick them up in person or have them shipped to you. This is the route we took to assemble our collection, and while it may seem a little strange reserving a batch of donuts, we can say from experience that eating your way through it is a whole lot of fun.
Ikumi Mama no Doubutsu Donuts / イクミママのどうぶつドーナツ
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Nakahara-ku, Kitzuki 3-6-18 Motosomi Core Building 1st Floor
Open Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.