For Lee Utsumi, the scariest thing she has ever done is open her own bakery. "It's like jumping out of a plane," she says. "I've done that, and it's the same. You never know what's going to happen."
Lee's Bread, set in a cluster of old wooden buildings down a little path off a side street near Oiso Station in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture, might be easy to miss. But the path is well-worn and the rippled glass in the wooden sliding door rattles regularly as patrons come and go. Utsumi greets many by name, tells them when their favorite bread will be ready, asks after friends and family and often hands over a sample or two.
Utsumi's personality is not the only draw: so is her bread. On any given day, she offers around 20 different varieties, most baked with organic Japanese flours and ancient grains, like kamut and spelt, sourced from farmers in Iwate and Hokkaido prefectures. Her display cases include pain de mie (soft, sliced bread), potato bread, bagels, baguettes, sourdough, babka and more.