Date of Issue: November 2020 Issue  Category: Knowledge

My Point of View on how the Japanese baking skills have been and will be passed on to the future generations

Hi, there everybody, I am James Odaira, president of Boulansserie Journal, talking to you from Tokyo, Japan. My Point of View this month is about how the Japanese baking skills have been and will be passed on to the future generations and how we can keep our retail bakery industry thriving.

There are many young bakers who work hard every day with the dream of having their own shops in the future. They are employed as bakers in a bakery that practices the bread making method that they want to learn. Their boss is often the owner chef, who is focusing on training the would-be owner chefs who will utilize the bread making skills that they learned from him in their future bakery shops.

In most cases, it is agreed that this is a kind of vocational training, and that after working for a certain period of time and learning all the skills, they will leave the bakery to have their own shops independently.

This caused the negligence of the duty to realize the working environments stipulated by law, but for the purpose of passing the Japanese baking technology rooted in Japan in various ways on to the next generation, it can be said that this working style in retail bakeries has been functioning very well.

Moreover, owner chefs who has excellent bread making skills gather more bakers as their employees, being free from labor shortages, and achieves more and more thriving business. And this makes not so good bakeries disappear through the process of natural selection. This has been making tremendous contributions to achieving the stronger retail bakery industry as a whole, and passing better bread making skills on to the future generations

However, for the bakers who have trained in this system, there are various hurdles blocking the way to opening their new independent bakery shops. The biggest issue is funding. In the case of retail bakeries, the initial investment amount is quite high, costing 20 to 30 million yen or more. The skills they have acquired would be a useless treasure if they do not have their own shops where they can practice them. It is not preferable from the viewpoint of passing on the bread making technology rooted in Japan to the next generation.

On the other hand, it is said that about 200 retail bakeries are closed annually in Japan. In many cases, the owner has to go out of business because he is old and has no successor, even though he maintains a certain level of sales.

The successor issue is one of the major issues that must be resolved in order for the retail bakery industry to continue to thrive. Most retail bakeries are operating on a small scale, and are often run as a sole proprietorship without having legal personality.

In this case, it may be ideal that the owner chef's son or daughter take over the shop, but if that is not possible, the owner chef has 2 choices left. One is closing the shop and the other is having someone other than the owner chef's son or daughter take over the shop. But in both cases, it takes a lot of efforts to accomplish business succession. The more prosperous the shop is, the more issues are involved.

The fact that the number of shops that are going out of business due to all these hurdles is increasing is unfavorable in terms of handing down the Japanese bread making technology to the next generation.

In order to keep the Japanese retail bakery industry vibrant, we must increase the number of bakers and the number of bakeries where they can fully demonstrate their skills. Or at least we have to maintain the current numbers.

Recently, many companies and organizations are providing services to solve these issues of retail bakeries.

The representative of an organization that provides matching service to couple young bread bakers who want to become independent and the owner chef who is looking for his successor, said, "There are now 9000 retail bakeries in Japan, and 9000 of those owner chefs are all excellent product development staff who have been coming up with so many hit bread items, and if they decrease in number, the product development ability of the Japanese bakery industry as a whole would be weekend to a great extent."