Japan is full of cities, towns and villages and they all have one thing in common – the ever present shoutengai. A shougtengai can be translated as a shopping street, a place where many little shops and stores crowd together to attract customers from all over the neighborhood. They all have their own ruling committees, quirks and specialities and one of the quirkiest must be the shoutengai in Daishimachi, the are right in front of the huge Kawasaki Daishi near the border to Tokyo. This is the place to stock up on traditional sweets, good luck charms, daruma dolls and all manner of semi-religious trinkets and cookies! If you’re in the area to visit the big temple, make sure to take the little detour and approach it from the shoutengai.
The speciality here to look out for is hard to miss, it is the traditional sweet and very sticky tontoko-ame, a nougat-like white paste that takes its name from the unmistakable tontoko-tontoko sounding hacking boards of the men who cut them up from long strings on big wooden slabs. The rival stores up and down the street will engage in a rhythmic cutting match, trying to overdo each other and attract customers at the same time. Actually, when they are waiting for the next batch of tontoko-paste they just hammer the cutting boards with the handles of their knives, making even more noise. Some of the rhythms are very catchy! The tontoko-ame is easily one of the best souvenirs you can get in the whole of Kanagawa prefecture!
While having an hour to spare in Shizuoka prefecture’s Hamamatsu City yesterday I found this little bag of cotton candy in a great little wagashiya (Japanese old fashioned candy shop) in one of the few remaining central city shopping areas. I just had to buy it! I dare anyone to find cuter candy packaging! Although new to me, it has been around for a few years and it seems this little rabbit called “Dafune” (I think they meant to say the classic greek name Daphne, but that’s just my hunch) is modeled after the creator’s real life pet. There’s a whole range of animations, candy, cookies and books with this character out but this was the only one I could find. How did it taste? Well, like typical store bought cotton cady, with a slight hint of strawberry – delicious! Dafune the rabbit has a sort of home page here. There’s also a very peculiar video featuring Dafune’s parents, birth, shipment to Japan and… well, it ends there and I have no idea what it is supposed to say. Still, this is easily the cutest thing I have seen in a long time!
If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months, you’ll probably know of the Tokyobling Manifesto. In particular, the thing that I only blog about things I like. Today is no different! I do love the way Pepsi releases a few novelty drinks every few months. I’ve posted before about the Shiso Pepsi and the Azuki Pepsi, and I still remember fondly, the Cucumber Pepsi. All great drinks, fun and good tasting. Today however, as much as I applaud Pepsi, their latest drink might not be quite as great as the earlier ones in the series. Pepsi Mont Blanc. Tasting and smelling like, a Mont Blanc cake. I’m not a big fan of Mont Blanc cakes so I wouldn’t know how well they pulled it off, but the drink itself was, well, let’s just say it wasn’t as good as the other ones. Still, my hat is off to Pepsi for yet another crazy off the wall one time drink!
In Shimokitzawa I found this beautiful little senbei shop, Tamaiya (玉井屋) just at the start of the North Exit shopping street, Ichibangai. There are quite a few of these old rice-cracker shops left here and there in Tokyo but I wonder for how much longer. Usually they are in prime real estate location and the next time I pass here I hope it’ll still be around. Every jar contains a different cookie and I think it might be difficult for the average tourist to shop here since all the prices are in kanji (Chinese characters) but generally you can get a small bag of something for no more than 500 yen. If you like hard (sometimes teeth-shatteringly hard) crackers with salt, soy or sea-weed flavor, these kinds of stores are definitely for you! You can buy cheaper but factory made crackers in all convenience stores and super markets as well, but these little shops are far more worthy of our cracker money!