The Juchheim Story

The origins of Juchheim date back to the year 1909.

In 1909, confectioner Karl Juchheim, who had been born and raised in Kaub am Rhein on the River Rhine in Germany, took over a pastry shop belonging to Sietas, Plambeck & Co., in Tsingtao of China, which was a territory leased by Germany at that time. Karl thus started his own business at the tender age of 23.

Although Karl and his wife faced all kinds of difficulties and hardships, they worked hard to overcome them and succeeded in laying the foundation of Juchheim.

The first Baumkuchen in Japan.

Karl was born in Kaub am Rhein in Southern Germany in 1886. In 1908, when he became a full-fledged confectioner after working hard for several years as an apprentice, he was employed at a pastry and coffee shop operated by Sietas, Plambeck & Co. in Tsingtao of China, which was then a territory leased by Germany. In 1909, while he was still a young man aged just 23, he took over the pastry store and set up his own business. The baumkuchen which Karl baked became popular for its authentic German flavor. After working hard for five years in his new business, Karl returned to his homeland Germany where he was introduced to a young woman named Elise. Born in 1892 in Sankt Andreasberg, Harz, Elise was an intelligent young woman who had mastered bookkeeping and other skills required for managing a pastry shop.

Their wedding was held in Tsingtao in July 1914. Unfortunately, the First World War broke out, Tsingtao became occupied by the Japanese Army, and Karl was taken by force to Japan, where he was imprisoned at an internment camp in Hiroshima. In 1919, he had the opportunity to bake and sell his specialty baumkuchen at an exhibition featuring goods manufactured by the war prisoners of the Ninoshima Island internment camp, which was held at the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition (present-day Hiroshima Peace Memorial, commonly known as the Atomic Bomb Dome). This was the very first time that baumkuchen was baked in Japan. Released from the internment camp in 1920, Karl called his family over from Tsingtao, and opened a pastry store in Yokohama. Later on, he established Juchheim’s main store in Kobe, approximately 90 years ago.

It was not only baumkuchen; sand cakes or sandkuchen, plum cakes and apple pies sold very well, getting their store which was named “E. Juchheim” off to a good start. Karl called the Japanese apprentices working under him by the nickname “beka-san” (from the German word “backer”, meaning baker), and taught them a more scientific method of measuring the ingredients with typical German accuracy. However, Karl never entrusted his apprentices with the production of baumkuchen, which only a meister was privileged to bake. Karl and Elise were blessed with the birth of a daughter, and everything seemed to be going well. In 1923, however, when the Great Kanto Earthquake struck, their pastry store was reduced to rubble. Karl and his family only just escaped alive by boat. A single 5-yen bill in Karl’s pocket was the only money they had when they landed in Kobe.

Pure, genuine ingredients are the key to good taste.

But the couple did not give up. They borrowed a large amount of money and opened a new store called “Juchheim’s” in Sannomiya, Kobe. Designed by Mitchell from Britain, this was the first European-style building constructed in Kobe.

Quite a number of foreigners were already living in the port town of Kobe. Juchheim’s attracted attention as a pastry shop selling authentic German cakes and sweets, and sold an impressive 135 yen 40 sen on the very first day of business. On the second day, their products sold so well that they even ran out of ingredients. Once again, from the depth of despair, Karl and his wife were on the road toward realizing their new dream.

Their business grew steadily, and soon they could afford to build a modern, hygienic factory. Soon after the completion of this factory in October 1930, Juchheim’s baumkuchen was selected as a cake to be offered at the Great Naval Review held to celebrate the ascension of the new Emperor (Showa Emperor Hirohito); everything was going exceptionally well. Later on, sales would sometimes decrease due to the opening of new pastry stores, but Elise would always repeat the same words to Karl and the other confectioners in a strong, confident tone: “We are baking cakes with the best ingredients and the best skills, so there is nothing to worry about.”

The 100th anniversary in “The faithful pursuit of authentic, delicious flavors”

When the Second World War broke out, the confectioners employed at Juchheim’s were summoned to the battlefield in succession. Kobe became a target of air raids, and the Juchheims took shelter in Rokko, where Karl fell ill and became weaker by the day. In the summer of 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the night before the war ended, Karl passed away. Elise was deported to Germany once the war was over.

Yet, the lights at Juchheim’s did not go out. Returning from the war, Juchheim’s former employees opened a store near Ikuta Shrine, Kobe, in 1950, and resumed the Juchheim business. In 1953, they were able to invite Elise back to Kobe after six years. Once again, Juchheim turned a new page in its history, producing “delicious cakes and sweets” based on the beliefs and concepts of Karl and Elise.

As the Japanese economy grew, Juchheim was able to supply cakes to a greater number of customers. Elise held firm to her beliefs, always reminding the staff that honesty and sincerity were the keys to success, and remained faithful to the fundamental policy of using only pure, genuine ingredients and never using unnecessary additives. Eventually, in 1971, Elise Juchheim died at the age of eighty. In 1976, Juchheim succeeded in opening a store in Germany, finally realizing Elise’s long-cherished dream. In 2009, Juchheim celebrated the 100th anniversary since its foundation. The business set up by Karl and Elise Juchheim continues to thrive today and is a precious heritage.