Japanese bakeries can be divisive. There are times when soaking up some Showa Era (1926-89) nostalgia while tucking into a korokkē pan (fried potato croquette wedged in a hotdog roll coated in sweet-tangy sauce) or snacking on a soft-yet-seductive kurīmu pan (custard bread) fits the bill. Then there are times when you want to bite into a slice of actual bread and not a bread-shaped cake impostor.

Japanese loaves, known as shokupan (literally, “meal bread”) are slightly sweet, fluffy things that rely more on texture than taste — I learned the hard way that igirisu pan (English bread) is, in fact, not a true English loaf but merely shaped like one.

Fortunately, Japan has a wonderful ability to adapt concepts, ultimately producing something familiar yet strange, and often much better. Bakeries today don’t just copy Western-style bread, but transform it into new creations that straddle European techniques and Japanese tastes, catering to both styles while forging new ground. These top five picks do just that.