We learn the origin of this unique pastry sold in one of Tokyo’s bustling commercial districts. 

It’s been a while since our zany Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato has visited the Yurakucho area just south of Tokyo Station on the Yamanote Line. He used to go there at least once per year, decked out in all manner of craziness to celebrate the release of each new iPhone model. However, due to covid restrictions, the release of new iPhones are no longer accompanied by big ceremonies featuring famous celebrities.


Just outside of JR Yurakucho Station’s entrance he spotted a cute brick building called Kougnané that opened in late 2021. He didn’t have any idea what it was–that’s how out of the loop he was.

This discovery piqued his interest. First and foremost he wanted to know: What in the heck is a kougnané? Is it related to the Italian maritozzo that was all the rage not so long ago? It definitely appeared to be some kind of pastry with a filling. He gleaned from a sign that it also came in two different versions–a regular one for 320 yen (US$2.50) and a chocolate one for 400 yen.

In true investigative journalist fashion, Mr. Sato purchased two of each kind and took them home for closer inspection (he hopes you appreciate his ongoing efforts in the area of gastronomic journalism in particular).

▼ These photos don’t really do justice to their size. They were maybe about the size of a cylindrical external battery.

A little explanatory note on the box informed him that the kougnané (which is pronounced “kunyane”) actually has its humble origins at a bakery called Tamakitei in Kyoto Prefecture’s Uji City, a place usually famous for green tea. In the center is custard mixed with fresh cream.

As Mr. Sato set about trying the regular version first, he noticed how the dough was expertly shaped into a kind of woven pattern. It was also pleasantly hard. When he took a bite, it was almost as if the crust had burst open and broke into many little pieces. The plentiful cream combined with a butter flavor resulted in a sweet aftertaste.

The chocolate version was similar but with the addition of a chocolate coating and sliced almonds scattered on top.

While Mr. Sato usually enjoys chocolate versions of these kinds of pastries, he was surprised to realize that he actually liked the regular kougnané better. Perhaps it was because he could better enjoy the interesting texture of the dough as he bit into it. It wasn’t exactly crispy or crunchy but was its own unique texture that you would only know if you tried it for yourself.

While the kougnané turned out to be a Japanese invention, Mr. Sato couldn’t help but wonder if it would sell well overseas. Maybe he should try bringing some maritozzi, bomboloni, and kougnané on his next travels abroad and see which one the locals respond to the most.

Store information
Kougnané / クニャーネの店
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-8-5
東京都千代田区有楽町 2-8-5
Open: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (or until sold out)

Reference: Kougnané
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