Neatly hidden underneath the railroad tracks right in between the Yurakucho and Shimbashi stations in Tokyo’s cental Chiyoda Ward I found a very neat hidden alley of restaurants, ramen bars and eateries. The quaint looking restaurant at the front and their spinning wheel of dried fish stopped me and that was how I noticed the tiny entrance to the alley underneath the train tracks itself. I didn’t have time to stop and eat but I will be heading back for sure on of these days! To find the alley, just head along the track either north of Shimbashi station or south of Yurakucho station and have a look around whenever there is a street crossing under the tracks. You’ll be sure to find it!
This week Tokyo is celebrating one of the main festivals of the metropolitan area, the grand Sannou Matsuri based on the Hie Shrine in the center of Tokyo. The festival is not a “people’s” festival as such, it focuses more on the ritual and religious aspects of the festivals hence tend to be cleaner, quieter and not as noisy as the more common plebeian festivals. The main event of the Sannou Maturi is a very long, very protracted procession taking place on a large area of central Tokyo, including Hibiya and Shimbashi. You can read more about this festival by clicking the tags!
One of my favorite kinds of stores in Tokyo are the prefectural satellite stores, where you can buy local specialities, unique food and beverages, souvenirs and crafts from the home prefecture of the store. They are scattered all over Tokyo, some prefectures have several big stores like Hokkaido, whereas some prefectures have only one or two very small stores almost hidden away somewhere: it doesn’t matter to me, I like to find them all! The other day I was passing through Yurakucho rather late, and feeling slightly hungry but not enough to eat a proper meal I decided to visit the Osaka prefectural store on one of the corners of the Kotsukaikan just next to JR Yurakucho station (not the side towards Marunouchi). I don’t know how many times I have promised myself to visit Osaka more, but no matter what I do I never seem to be able to get there, so instead the Osaka satellite store will have to do! I had the local speciality, a very flat okonomiyaki loaded with pickled squid and as a desert I scouted around the store for something interesting to drink – something loaded with sugar! I know I am not supposed to snap photos in the store (who am I kidding, with my huge and loud monster of a Nikon I can hardly call it snapping a photo…!) but I just had to show you these fantastic ramune (lemonade, soft soda pops) and a very stylish and retro-romantic coffee bottles! How about the Kimchi, Takoyaki, Curry, and Rayu variations of the humble ramune? I am usually all for oddly flavored ramune, which are usually quite weak, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I unsuspectingly bought a navy-curry flavored ramune a couple of weeks ago that actually really tasted quite strongly of curry, I would have tried them all! On the shelf below I found the more appetizing and more Osaka looking Billiken and Pro-Wrestling flavored ramune! I suspect them to be more conservative when it comes to flavoring. The coffee is the classical retro-brand so famous in Osaka, the Marufuku (丸福珈琲店) ice coffee brand. I don’t know what it taste like but it is so famous it is already on top of my list of places to visit when I get to Osaka next!
A few more photos from the big Sannou Matsuri in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago. Most traditional festivals in Japan are very closely related to the ancient Shinto religion, a religion that started more as a folk-lore and in which there are many kinds of spirits, human, natural, animal, even mineral! So it makes sense to acknowledge the natural spirits of even the plants and the animals of Japan in many of the shinto festivals. Here a white horse and a holy tree are used in the 9 hour plus procession around Japan. If you missed it this year, make sure to go see it next year!