LAND OF THE RISING BUN
Ah, the noble samurai of feudal Japan. What image immediately springs to mind? Honour? Sacrifice? Master bakers of Italian breads?
Yep, when they weren’t knocking seven shades of shiitake out of each other, the samurai were making delicious buns and breads—in particular, for the former warlord of the city of Sendai and noted bread connoisseur Date Masamune, known as the “One-Eyed Dragon”.
Keen to open relations with the west, in 1613 Masamune sent his most loyal samurai retainer Hasekura Tsunenaga to Rome as an ambassador, with the express aim of opening trade and cementing himself on the world stage. (In fact, he sent Hasekura via Central America, but that’s an exciting tale for another day…)
Hasekura: Clearly thrilled to have converted to Christianity (Public domain/Wikipedia)
It was while in Italy and surrounded by those oh-so-delicious garlic ciabattas that Hasekura mastered the bakers’ craft, and once business was concluded in Rome he sought to bring this most European of staple foods back with him to Japan.
On his return to Sendai, Hasekura’s master, Masamune, was so enamoured with his ambassador’s newfound bread-making skills that he ordered all the samurai in his court to likewise learn how to bake. Anyone who refused to adopt these barbarous western ways was, of course, promptly executed. What a lovely chap.