I have written about Belle’s Bread before on my previous blog in 2017, when I was out exploring the excellent ice cream scene in and around the Columbus metro. Since then, I have learned they have much more than a mean soft-serve ice cream swirl, offering a number of cakes, breads, cookies and coffee drinks to tantalize the taste buds.
For those unfamiliar, this Japanese Bakery is but one of several culinary gems located in the Japanese Marketplace complex in the Northwest neighborhood of town. Their French-inspired baked goods have earned them praise on a national level from such media outlets like Food & Wine Magazine. Their existence isn’t exactly what the casual consumer might expect for Central Ohio, until one realizes that the American headquarters for one of the largest Japanese automakers, Honda, is just right up US Highway 33, a relative stone’s throw away in Marysville.
Up until just a few days ago, I hadn’t indulged in their picture-perfect confections behind glass windows. The weather actually justified something like their divine soft-serve ice cream, available in either vanilla, matcha, or a swirl of both, a perfect balance of slightly sweet and lightly bitter.
This time I went with the Strawberry Parfait, and this immaculate construct lived up to its pleasing exterior – light airy pillows of layered cream that floated on the tongue, and fruit flavors that glided in subtly.
As enjoyable as this first parfait experience was, I realized that the better selection for my state of mind at the time might have been better suited for my usual vanilla/matcha swirl.
In some ways, we’re all like Kohei Jinno right now.
As reported in several news outlets, Jinno has received the rather unique distinction of being booted out of his home twice due to Olympic fever. While Jinno was sad but proud to contribute to the original effort to bring the games to Tokyo in 1964, his second eviction in 2013 has proven far more difficult for the now 87-year-old.
Jinno, along with a number of his fellow residents, many of them elderly, were forced to leave their public housing complex to make room for new facilities related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Now living with his son, Jinno still wishes the Olympians well, but is clearly saddened by the loss of his former community.
As noted in this Australian Broadcasting Corporation article, Jinno opined, “When I look at the trees along the street that haven’t changed at all, I feel nostalgic but at the same time overflowing with a sad, lonely feeling.”
During my younger years, I was all about the Olympics, and loved the pride in seeing an athlete from the USA do themselves and their country proud. And I was all about the drama in the competition, no matter what country was competing.
In fact, one of my first Olympic-based memories actually originated from Japan. Predating the famed Kerri Strug’s gold-medal-clinching vault for the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team by two decades, male gymnast Shun Fujimoto managed to perform two routines (including a rings routine that required a complicated dismount from 10-feet up) that clinched the gold medal for the Japanese Men’s Gymnastics Team at the 1976 Montreal Games despite a broken knee.
As it turned out, Fujimoto’s rings apparatus dismount, while landed perfectly, ended up dislocating his kneecap and tearing several ligaments on the broken leg. One doctor remarked he couldn’t understand how Fujimoto was able to land that dismount without screaming out in utter pain. Also, Fujimoto’s heroics proved to be a temporary final hurrah for a dominant Japanese Men’s Gymnastics team, ending a five-Games-long overall gold medal streak (the Japanese men would not claim the gymnastics overall team gold again until the 2004 Athens Games.)
It is easy to feel sorry for the Tokyo Games organizers as a whole. The Olympics has traditionally been a showcase to display the best of a nation to the world. I can imagine organizers were hopeful that the Games would help out with the still ongoing recovery efforts in the country’s stricken Tōhoku region – the effects of the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami are still quite visible even today. Also, Japan, like other countries, have felt the economic downturn effects of the worldwide COVID pandemic.
However, the pandemic, which forced most sports in 2020 to either grind to a halt or severely adapt to keep running, is still an ongoing matter, and the recent COVID-related emergency declaration by the Japanese government, issued less than three weeks from the Games’ opening, casts a further pall on what should be a joyous, celebratory time.
Deeper delving reveals a sporting institution that is showing cracks in its once gold-, silver-, and bronze-cast reputation. The Games has proven to be a money-loser for host cities almost without fail (Montreal took three decades to pay off the expenses from the previously referred to Olympic Games of 1976) and often times at the expense at the most disadvantaged of residents in the host city (2016 host city Rio de Janeiro shouldered over $13 billion in costs in the end, money that many felt would’ve been far better spent on more basic needs.)
Moreover, the specters of drugs, of both the enhancing (the Russian and East German doping scandals) and non-enhancing (the controversial banning of Sha’carri Richardson for a positive marijuana test) kind, and bribery incidents involving of various International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials have made these games for many (I count myself in this boat) one of the least “must-see” Games of recent memory.
Regardless of how much of this year’s summer Olympics I do watch, I would be more than happy to buy Mr. Jinno anything he’d like at Belle’s Bread, were I given the opportunity. I’d suggest the parfait – matcha might be a touch too bitter in light of how things have gone of late for him.
BELLE’S BREAD * 1168 Kenny Centre Mall, Columbus, OH 43220 * (614) 451 -7110