May 15, 2017
In Japan, there are little French style bakeries in most stations and shopping areas. For a country that doesn't eat very much bread or sweet foods, they keep a lot of these bakeries in business. It isn't limited to Japan. I know Paris Baguette is on every corner in Seoul and in several locations in the US.
Most likely it's because of the culture to be rushing off somewhere and need something inexpensive to go, or to meet with friends for a light meal. Bakeries are a nice option if you aren't in the mood for a fast food burger, or for a bigger meal, but they serve the same function as a fast food restaurant. It's tasty and relaxing to enjoy some bread with a coffee, maybe a sandwich or slice of pizza. The uniquely Japanese breads like 'melon pan' and 'anpan' are also excellent choices.
So just how do we do this?
It's not difficult at all. First get yourself a tray and your very own tongs near the entrance.
Next, take a look around, maybe even try a free sample, and decide what you want. Items should all be labeled with prices, in Japanese, sometimes also in English or French. Use your magical tongs to pick up anything you want and put it onto the tray. Leave your tongs on your tray.
At a more high end bakery, there may be a case with cakes and items to be kept cool. You'll have to ask staff for those, and they'll be put onto plates or into to-go bags for you. (The same goes for the omiyage shops like Ishimura that sell cakes in addition to local sweets for your gift needs. These sometimes have small seating areas with complimentary tea and coffee as well.)
Finally, go to the register and pay. You'll have an option to eat in most stores, or get your baked goods to go. If you opt for to go, the pastries will be individually placed into small bags, then into a bigger bag. If you eat in the shop, your items will be put onto plates and some cutlery might be added along with napkins.
Some bakeries have a refrigerated section of drinks you can pick up (usually milk, coffee, juice, etc.) and some have a coffee machine, usually 100 yen or less for simple coffee drinks. Others will have more of a coffee shop availability for coffee and tea, so if you want a drink, you'll order it while paying for your bread at the counter.
The only thing left to do is enjoy your selections and then find the area to return your tray when you're done.
One thing to note is that unless it seems very busy or you go at a crowded time, you'll notice no one minds if you take your time and sit a while. This is a great way to refresh yourself when you've overdone it while shopping and need a place to sit for a while. You might notice that bakeries are often full of women, enjoying a chat with friends, or taking a break from a shopping day.