Not the first post on the fantastic Kurayami festival in Tokyo’s western Fuchu City, and not the first post on the very skilled traveling candy artisans, but I couldn’t pass up on this man! He is one of the amezaiku (飴細工), or sugar craftsmen, who puts up their booths in festivals all over Japan. With a pair of scissors and some simple wooden tools they create animals and creatures out of colored soft sugar. This guy was certainly one of the better I have seen and was popular with both adults and little children. If you are in Tokyo and want to see some really good amezaiku at work there’s a shop near Sendagi station, at the Dangozaka. Their creations are too beautiful to consider eating though!
One of the best things you can do in Tokyo is to get lost. I was wandering the back streets of Tokyo’s Asakusa district, just a few streets west of the famous Sensoji temple, and briefly lost my bearings. In one of the little back streets that I walked through once I had determined the correct route back to the station I suddenly came across this store, a specialist in miso, that superbly Japanese food you’ll get served in one form or another in almost every meal or restaurant throughout the country. These days most Japanese buy their miso from the supermarket but in the good old days people used to make their own and every village had their own special taste or variety of miso paste. The Mankyu Misoten (万久味噌店) has been in business in the same spot since 1804 and the current master is the sixth generation to continue selling all kinds of things related to miso. To be honest, the store looked so much like a large whole seller that I really hesitated to enter, until I saw the small sign for ice cream! If a shop sells ice cream, it means they are really happy to have people come in and browse! The store sells miso in large vats of many different varieties. Most customers get very confused by the many choices but since all Japanese grow up with miso there is one surefire way of knowing roughly what variety will suit them best – just ask the customer where they grew up and pick something that is similar to their hometown variety! If you are a foreigner wanting to try making your own miso soup at home – or my favorite, use it as a raw dipping for raw vegetable sticks – you can always start by asking for the Edoama Miso, a light, sweet miso that is native to old Edo, present day Tokyo. After all my years in Japan I have pretty much developed my own tastes when it comes to miso: I want yuzumiso for my vegetables, red miso for my soup and “the darker the better” miso for all kinds of cooking. After half an hour in the shop I exited with a big bag of purchases so now I’m loaded up with the best miso money can buy for the foreseeable future! I also got a bottle of rice vinegar from Kyoto (for making sushi) that I really didn’t need but the wrapping was so beautiful, some miso snacks wrapped in sea weed for my tea time break and of course, ice cream! The store has two kinds of ice cream, Salty Edo and Pepper! I tried the pepper flavored one and it was pure heaven. Easily one of the best alternative ice creams I have ever tried. Even if you don’t like miso, I recommend going to this store just for the ice cream, and of course, the ambiance! I also couldn’t help but sharing these seriously kick-ass daruma dolls, look at those eyebrows!
Oh, and how about the old photo of the store in 1927? They are all so cool! If you are interested in visiting, here’s the Google maps location.
The latest shopping/restaurant/office tower commercial in Tokyo is the Kitte, in the Japan Post Tower just opposite Tokyo station in Marunouchi. The only thing that remains of the original 1933 main post office building is the facade and a few of the original rooms spared, apart from that it is all new, full of restaurants and shops. Unlike the other commercial buildings in Marunouchi, Tokyo’s financial center, this one is more focused on showcasing the some of Japan’s local foods, with restaurants themed on regional cooking. The best part however, is the roof garden, where you get a really nice view of Tokyo station from the side. I’ll post some of those pictures later! Now that most of the Marunouchi area has been revamped, I wonder which building is next in line for a facelift?
The name Kitte is of course a play on the Japanese word for stamp, as well as the imperative form of the verb “to come”, as in “come here!” You can find their English language information site here.