Passing through Shinjuku station the other day I saw this cake shop, Maplies Cake, where they had some interesting cakes on sale, made up to look almost exactly like bowls of ramen, plates of gyoza and even some tenshinhan. I am lucky to even have noticed the sign!「実はこれ、ケーキです。」I did not get any close ups of the real things as I felt it would have been a little bit rude to shoot and run! Still if you are interested, go check them out for yourself. You can just go to the little underground square between Marunouchi line, Toei Oedo line and the JR lines. Let us know how they taste!
Saturday night in Tokyo’s Shimokitazwa district and I take a turn down a street I haven’t been down before and come across this amazingly rag tag deadstock toy store! The cheaper stuff was in boxes and boxes outside but the best toys and collectibles were inside the store, so crowded it was barely possible to move around inside. Shimokitazawa is famous for its many curiosity shops but serious toy collectors should also visit Nakano’s Broadway or Akihabara for vintage goodies or Kuramae for the shops full of vintage stock!
The name of this store, Nichome Sanbanchi (２丁目３番地), is taken from an a classic TV drama that ran in 1971.
I am always happy to see that arts and crafts are being promoted more and more here in Japan. A few weeks ago I visited the Hand Made In Japan Fes 2013, a fair and exhibitors event centered around creativity and crafts in Tokyo’s Odaiba district. It is somewhat similar to Design Festa, possibly with a bigger focus on crafts and stuff than Design Festa which is a little bit more focused on Arts. HMJ2013 also had a nice outdoors area with music, food, DJs and other performances. I didn’t take many photos inside, as I didn’t want to bother the exhibitors too much. The photos I did take is from the main entrance areas of the halls so it looks strangely deserted. Once you got into the booths properly it was quite crowded and full of great stuff, as usual!
As usual when I visit this place, I can’t resist taking some photos of the massive building. As many times as I have been here (dozens) I have never been up in the building itself, only down in the event areas. Strange.
HMJ is run by Creema, which is a creator’s market, an online arts and crafts store, curated to some extent by users. Maybe not that different from Etsy, but more focused on crats and less on ready mades. Maybe. I am not an expert! It’s well wort a look!
A few months ago I visited the town of Suwa, in Nagano prefecture north of Tokyo. Suwa is not only famous for its lakeside castle (blogged about here) but also interestingly enough the setting of the book “Autobiography of a Geisha“, the first wildly published modern publication of a geisha’s tale. Another famous native of Suwa is the Marutaka Miso store (丸高蔵), one of Japan’s premier producers of the Japanese speciality. If you haven’t tried miso, the taste can be a little bit difficult to explain. It is fermented bean paste, but the fermented part is not really noticeable in the flavor. Most people would say that it has a rich and very salty taste and is used most often in the famous miso soup that is often served in sushi restaurants around the world.
Marutaka Miso store is located half way between the castle and the station and the owners happily allowed me to take photos inside the store, even before I went on a shopping spree ending up with several kilos of miso (including their pitch black prized top variety) and several liters of soy sauce. Miso is not very expensive and it is great fun to sample different variants. The store often produces gold medal winners in national competitions and my personal favorite was a green pepper miso, very spicy and absolutely fantastic.
The building itself is only part of a larger complex in Suwa that includes a sake factory, a sake store and some other places scattered around town. Just outside the building there is a natural hot spring foot bath were customers and passers by are encouraged to dip their feet and get a little rest. There is also a rest area inside the store, where the kind staff is happy to let you rest. Winters in Suwa get quite cold so the store is a perfect stop for tourists on their way to the castle. The seats next to the cast iron stove is always popular!