Is there enough room in Japan for two personified donut chains?

When it comes to donuts in Japan, few would deny that this country by and large belongs to Mr. Donut. For decades this chain has thwarted the advances of rival donut shops from Dunkin’ Donuts to Donut Plant and even though Krispy Kreme is still alive and kicking in Japan, it’s far from putting a significant crack in the Mr. Donut stronghold.

However, a dark horse in the donut game has emerged in the form of I’m donut? which opened its first store in Nakameguro, Tokyo in March of 2022. Much like when Krispy Kreme first reached the shores of Japan, long lineups were a permanent fixture of I’m donut? but unlike Krispy Kreme, they’ve been keeping a relatively low profile rather than exploding onto the Japanese donut scene.

▼ I’m donut? in Nakameguro

Little over one year later, there are still only three locations in the whole country: Nakameguro, Shibuya (in Tokyo), and Fukuoka. This strategy seems to be working too, as the first store looks just as popular now as the day it opened. This is much to the chagrin of our reporter Mr. Sato, who’d been waiting for the lines to die down so he could finally check it out.

Resigned to the fact that it might never happen, he decided to brave the crowds and try some anyway. He went in the middle of a weekday and there were still 20 people ahead of him.

However, the line moved surprisingly fast. Although Mr. Sato was expecting to spend a solid hour waiting, he had his donuts in 20 minutes. The process was sped up by order on a slip of paper while in line. Mr. Sato wanted to get enough for everyone back at the office, so he ordered six Glazed donuts for 260 yen (US$1.94) each and six I’m donut? for 240 yen ($1.80) a piece.

The I’m donut? is a “nama donut” in Japanese, which means it’s made softer than typical donuts and, in this case, it has a bit of pumpkin mixed into the dough. The Chocolate flavor also has some of that special ingredient as well. All in all, the Nakameguro store has eight flavors.

Our reporter carried the donuts back in their stylish question mark bag which brings to mind the quizzical name of this shop.

However, when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. After all, if a donut were to gain the power of lingual communication it would still in all likelihood struggle with things like grammar and existentialism.

Besides, the boxes had little question marks on the sides that made them look like Super Mario blocks.

The first thing, Mr. Sato noticed after opening the boxes, was that both types of donuts were extremely soft.

Even the glazed, which at Mr. Donut or Krisy Kreme would have a slightly crispy texture, were downright fluffy.

They seemed so light that they might break apart in his hand.

And since the I’m donut? is a nama donut, it’s even softer! It uses a brioche style bread with a high amount of egg and butter for a puffier texture.

Combining that with the air pockets that form during frying gives I’m donut? a smoothness unlike any other donut he’s ever had.

Everyone else in the office agreed that these donuts had an unprecedented melt-in-your-mouth consistency that made them a whole new evolution in Japanese donuts.

While I’m donut? has the potential to upend the Mr. Donut empire, it appears to be playing it safe and is expanding at a cautiously optimistic rate. And so, it might take some time, but everyone in Japan should get ready for a local I’m donut? to appear eventually.

Shop information
I’m donut? (Nakameguo branch) / アイムドーナツ?(中目黒店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 1-22-10
Open 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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