Food Sake Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market Tour

Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest seafood market, is in the heart of Tokyo. It is a short walk from the glitzy Ginza shopping district and just minutes from the renovated Kabukiza theater. It’s one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist destinations with visitors. And, it is our most popular tour that our company, Food Sake Tokyo, offers. Shinji, a Japanese fishmonger, used to be a buyer at Tsukiji Market so he offers an insider’s perspective to the market.

Shinji at Tsukiji Dolinsky 1

Here, Shinji is being interviewed by food journalist Steve Dolinsky at Tsukiji, for Public Radio International. It’s an insight to the sights and sounds of Tsukiji:

http://www.theworld.org/2013/04/biggest-fish-market/

Shinji at Tsukiji Dolinsky 2

Tsukiji Market is scheduled to move to Toyosu, a few kilometers down along Tokyo Bay. Another reason to come and see this historic market before it moves.

Shinji at Tsukiji Dolinsky 3

Shinji is able to talk about all of the seasonal seafood, how it’s prepared, and what it the texture is like. Shinji’s tour focuses on the inner market which is the wholesale area for seafood. It is here that he worked as a buyer. It’s a crazy place to navigate and to really understand what is here and what is what, you need a guide who understands Japanese seafood.

Shinji at Tsukiji Dolinsky 4

One thing you will notice is that there is no stinky fish smell that you find at most fish markets. The fishmongers are very careful to clean and wash down each stall when they close down shop.

Shinji at Tsukiji 5

At the sushi counter Shinji is able to make recommendations on unique seafood that you most likely won’t be able to try at home. He can also help to demystify the culture of dining at a sushi-ya. This time of year we are crazy for kinmédai, alfonsino, which is a pink fleshed fish. The best kinmédai, are harvested from the shallow waters near Chōshi port in Chiba. Steve Dolinsky writes about having kinmédai and includes a photo here.

Shinji at Tsukiji 6

I have to say, most fishmongers are very friendly and have big smiles – just like this one!

Yukari at Tsukiji 1

I also offer tours of Tsukiji Market. The focus of my tour is the outer market which is open to the general public. It is filled with stalls selling produce, pickles, prepared foods, tea, knives, and much more. We are enjoying tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) on a stick. Reminds me of the Minnesota State Fair – the food on a stick part.

Yukari at Tsukiji 3

I also take clients into the inner market so that they can get a feel for the heart of the market. Here we are looking at fish killed by a special ikéjimé process.

Yukari at Tsukiji 5

The many stalls of the inner market – and the perfect spot for a photo.

Yukari at Tsukiji 7

There is lots to discover at Tsukiji, including learning about herring roe in a sac, and herring roe that has been laid on a piece of kombukomochi kombu.

Yukari Tsukiji OverviewThe view everyone loves – overlooking the inner market and Tokyo Bay.

We look forward to welcoming you to Tokyo and to Tsukiji Market. Here are more details on our tours.

* A special thanks to our clients for letting us share their photos with you.

Top Ten Depachika in Tokyo 東京のデパ地下

Working at the sake section of the depachika in  Nihonbashi Takashimaya was loads of fun. As a sommelier it was my job to sell wine but my responsibilities also included selling sake, shochu, and other spirits. Who wouldn’t love to be surrounded by amazing food all day long? My breaks were spent carefully perusing the floor for new items. I would plot all morning what to have for lunch that day. The food was constantly changing and Takashimaya often held special food events on the top floor of the department store. Here I would learn about regional food, sake and shochu, and meet the purveyors who enthusiastically shared cooking suggestions and what makes their products unique.

Here are my favorite depachika in the city. It is best to pick a location based on what is convenient for you. Most of the depachika are similar. However, if I have to pick some favorites they would be Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Isetan, Ginza Mitsukoshi, and Ikebukuro Tobu.

Inquire at the concierge if there are any special food events going on in the store as they may be held on an upper floor and not in the basement.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Shinjuku Takashimaya

1. Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

The restaurant floor here is great – several floors of tempting restaurants. I love Katsukura for tonkatsu. Better yet, pick up a bento and a beer in the depachika and head to the rooftop picnic area. Next door to Takashimaya is a huge Tokyu Hands for great shopping for kitchenware, tableware, stationary, and much, much more.

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

2. Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1

There is a branch of Taiwan’s Din Tai Fun in the basement 2 and the sake department often does weekly tastings of small sake and shochu producers from around Japan. The rooftop garden is a great place to have a bento. Also, do not miss the white-gloved elevator girls (rarely seen now) and the historic elevators.

3. Shinjuku Isetan, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1

Aged sake (koshu) in a special cellar and a manicured rooftop garden for enjoying your bento. Pierre Herme and Jean-Paul Hevin are popular with the locals but I love the wagashi (Japanese confectionaries).

4. Ginza Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16

A recent renovation has made this a depachika you don’t want to miss. The restaurant floor includes a branch of the famous Hakone Akatsukian soba shop, formerly in Hiroo. Time it right and watch as the soba noodles are rolled out into thin sheets and cut with the large soba bocho (soba knife).

5. Ikebukuro Tobu, Toshima-ku, Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-1-25

Japan’s largest depachika. Spend hours here and still not see it all. Also, several restaurants on the restaurant floors including a branch of Chinese iron chef, Chin Kenichi.

6. Ginza Matsuya, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-8-1

The French bakery Maison Kayser is here.

7. Shibuya Tokyu Toyoko-ten, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1

Located just under the Shibuya station I love the affordable sushi at Uoriki, a sushi counter located near the fresh seafood section. The sake department here also does interesting tastings of small sake and shochu brands.

8. Shinjuku Odakyu, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-3

Divided up between two buildings it may be tricky to see all of it but worth checking out. The breads at the Trois Gros bakery are tempting. There is also a Bic Camera for electronics located above the Odakyu annex.

9. Shinjuku Keio, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku, 1-1-4

A branch of the French bakery Paul is here and the store often does interesting food shows on the upper floor with themes such as ekiben (famous bento boxes from local train stations around Japan) and regional food promotions.

10. Ikebukuro Seibu, Toshima-ku, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-1

In the Seibu department store is a branch of Loft, a shop filled with housewares.

OK, 11 best depachika in Tokyo!

11. Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-4-1

Where do Tokyoites Shop for Food?

So where do Tokyoites do their grocery shopping? There are large supermarkets, like Ito Yokado, Daiei, or Seiyu (a subsidiary of Walmart) but these require a lot of space so are usually found a bit out of the city. There is an Ito Yokado a few stops from Tokyo station on the Tozai line at Kiba, definitely worth visiting if you are curious about a large Japanese supermarket. In the city there are smaller supermarket chains like Akafudado, Inageya or Queens Isetan. As well, there are discount supermarkets, my particular favorite is called OK. It is like a regular supermarket, just cheaper. These three types of supermarkets are good for one-stop shopping. I go to these shops when I am limited on time.

I round out my shopping at 100 (or 99) yen shops like Daiso or Lawson 100. Here I pick up sundries like dried shiso (yukari) and kitchen or tableware. These shops are everywhere (we live on top of one) so I usually end up going in at least once a day for one thing or another. Something to drink, an onigiri between meals, or some chips, these shops have a wide variety of products.

If time permits, I prefer shopping at shotengai, or shopping arcades. Small specialty shops for items like tofu, rice, seafood, produce, or tea. Here you’ll find freshly made tofu or you can have the fishmonger help you select seasonal seafood and have him filet it for you. I wrote a piece on shotengai for Metropolis magazine.

When I lived in Monzennakacho, very close to the city center I did most of my shopping at Ito Yokado and Akafudado. Not only a supermarket Ito Yokado sells almost anything else you would need for your home, similar to a Super Target in the USA. Akafudado is a smaller supermarket, but the shop in Monzennakacho also sold other items for home, etc. on the upper floors.

On Saturday mornings I would take my scooter a few minutes to Tsukiji Market and shop in the outer market. Tsukiji is ideal if looking for good quality kombu, katsuobushi, pickles, tea, and much more. If I am hosting a dinner party, Yamaya is good for getting wine and Hanamasa is great for discounted meat and vegetables.

For nihonshu and shochu there are several options including depachika or specialty shops like Hasegawa Saketen for nihonshu or Shochu Authority for shochu.

Our home near Kokubunji, in the Western suburbs of Tokyo, is close to a great discount supermarket called OK. Most of our shopping is done here because it is minutes from our home and the prices just can’t be beat. Shinji buys a lot of our seafood at Uoriki as he used to be a buyer for them.

I also love to shop at depachika, especially for prepared foods. I don’t like to fry at home so if I wanted to have some tempura with soba noodles I would pick up the tempura at depachika. Top quality seafood, meat, and produce are also available at depachika. While it can be expensive, some items will go on sale later in the day so if time permits, I like to poke my head into depachika before dinner. My favorite depachika are Isetan and Takashimaya.

There are many small chain supermarkets that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Names to look out for include Peacock, Tobu, or Tokyu. There are too many to list. Here is a list of supermarkets in Tokyo.

When I get a craving for Western products I usually go to Nissin (pronounced nishin) or Meidi-ya (pronounced meijiya).

If you are visiting Tokyo and would like to visit a large supermarket I suggest Ito Yokado near Kiba station on the Tozai line. Koto-ku, Kiba 1-5-30.

Here is a list of popular shotengai (shopping arcades) in Tokyo.

Here is my list of “gotta gets” at the supermarkets.

Here is Steve Trautlein’s article on International Supermarkets in Tokyo.

 

If you are living in Tokyo and would like a supermarket tour, please contact us. Supermarket tours are usually held in your local supermarket. It helps you to demystify main ingredients for cooking at home. Our contact information is here.

Indagare Interview – Culinary Tokyo: Restaurants Not To Miss

Isetan depachika (photo by Takuya Suzuki)

Isetan depachika (photo by Takuya Suzuki)

This interview appeared a while back but I wanted to share it for its information on some of my top recommendations for foodies visiting Tokyo.

Born in Japan and raised in the United States, Yukari Pratt Sakamoto, the author of the soon-to-be-released Food Sake Tokyo (Little Bookroom, $29.95), is a true Tokyo food insider. Here, she shares her favorite restaurants, bars and gourmet shops in the Japanese capital.

What are some Tokyo restaurants you would recommend for the following types of meals?

A traditional Japanese dining experience: Tofuya Ukai, one of the most unique dining experiences in the city. It specializes in tofu and soy products, but also serves seafood and meat. The menu is kaiseki style with several courses. For an authentic local experience, I would recommend Yamariki. And if you’re looking for a high-end dining experience with a big-name chef, there’s Nihonbashi Yukari with Iron Chef 2002 winner, Kimio Nonaga.

What are some restaurants you would suggest for families traveling with kids and why?

Tofuya Ukai is nice, as each group gets their own private dining room. Ivan Ramen is a child-friendly ramen shop run by a native of Long Island, Ivan Orkin. And also try going to a kaitenzushi shop, the sushi shops with a conveyor belt. These are made for families. A popular shop is Magurobito (Roppongi; 81-3-3405-5466) that does a very nice job with good seafood. Ask for any “shun” or seasonal seafood that may be off the menu. Another very good option for children are restaurant floors located in department stores. Here you will find a variety of restaurants (sushi, tempura, tonkatsu, etc.) and these shops are accustomed to families.

What are the types of food not to miss trying while in Tokyo?

Seafood-based food like sushi, tempura, and unagi (eel). Noodles like soba and ramen. And of course, kaiseki (Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorites). Also, the wagashi(traditional Japanese confectionaries) should be experienced. Good stores for wagashiinclude Toraya or Kano Shojuan. Hormone ryori (innards) are very popular at the moment. Try Saiseisakaba or Yamariki. An ideal eating trip to Tokyo would be to visit different shops that specialize in one type of food. Birdland (Ginza; 81-3-6269-9825; http://ginza-birdland.sakura.ne.jp/ for yakitori, Kondo (Ginza; 83-3-5568-0923) for tempura,Kyubey (Ginza; 81-3-3571-6523; www.kyubey.jp) for sushi, Tamai (Nihonbashi; 81-3-3272-3227) for anago (eel), sukiyaki (hot pot), soba, ramen, etc.

What are some tips to navigate the incredible food floors in the department stores in Tokyo, and which ones would you recommend for a first-time visitor?

There is usually a concierge on the first floor by the main entrance of each department store. Inquire if there is any special food events taking place, these are often on an event floor. Often there are maps of the food floors, these are good as some are so big you can get lost. The best one to visit is Isetan (Shinjuku; 81-3-3352-0909;http://www.isetan.co.jp) in Shinjuku.

What are some of your favorite Tokyo bars (both classics and new ones)?

The hotel bars are great. Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar & Grill

What are the main culinary items visitors should buy in Tokyo?

Knives at Kiya (Chuo-Ku; 81-3-3241-0110; www.kiya-himono.co.jp) in Nihonbashi. Lacquer at Kuroeya (Chuo-Ku; 81-3-3272-0948; www.kuroeya.com) in Nihonbashi.

If a traveler only has one day and night in Tokyo, which are the places you would suggest to get a good taste of the city (lunch, dinner, drinks)?

Have lunch at Kyubey Sushi in Ginza; dinner at Nihonbashi Yukari, and finish your night with drinks at the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar & Grill in Shinjuku.

What are some of your favorite spots in the city that are not food-related?

AsakusaMeiji Jingu Shrine, Monzennakacho. A very short trip out of the city, but still a part of Tokyo is Mount Takao.

http://www.indagare.com/passions/4/departments/172/8166 (text above)

http://www.indagare.com/passions/4/departments/173/8165 (on Food Sake Tokyo)

Gotta Go Shops at Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji - photo by Yusuke Takahashi

Tsukiji - photo by Yusuke Takahashi

Some of my favorite shops at Tsukiji Market. This article first appeared in Metropolis magazine.

http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/682/localflavors.asp (text follows)

It is no surprise that the bustling, frenetic Tsukiji Market is a popular tourist destination. Nowhere else in the world will you see so many varieties of seafood under one roof. Restaurants such as Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi have lines out the door before the sun comes up with customers hungry for fish as fresh as it comes.

The Tsukiji places that I am most familiar with, however, are the many shops in the outer market. These are open to the public, and you can get your hands on the same goods that are stocked in many of the top restaurants in town. Keep in mind that shopping at Tsukiji is not as easy as at, say, depachika. Navigating the narrow aisles of Tsukiji, you must watch where you step and be mindful of the speeding stevedores. But your energies and efforts will be rewarded. Here are some of my favorite shops; I am sure you will discover your own.

If you are allergic to cooking, or are too busy to bother, you can pick up ready-to-go meals. For fans of oden, Tsukugon puts the convenience-store varieties to shame. Served up with some nihonshu, these bites of fish deep-fried and stuffed with goodies like shrimp or gobo (burdock) are irresistible. An oden feast wouldn’t be complete without some tender, slow-simmered daikon, deep-fried ganmodoki tofu, and light, airy hanpen fish cakes, which look like marshmallows.

Fans of dim sum can indulge in the homemade yummies at Yamucha Suga Shoten. The food here is much better than anything you can get at your local supermarket, and it saves you a trip to Chinatown in Yokohama. Chill some beers, pack your steamer with gyoza, shumai and nikuman, and you are ready to chow.

For home cooks, there are plenty of shops to satisfy any urge. In the mood for something hot and spicy? Check out the varieties of kimchi, including negi, sesame leaf and octopus, at Marukita. Fill up your basket with Korean seaweed, sweet miso for barbecues or marinades, and some creamy, sweet makkoli—low in alcohol and an interesting alternative to Japanese nigorizake. Incorporate the kimchi into fried rice, serve it up in a nabe with some tofu and thinly sliced pork, or simply eat it as a beer snack with some of that addictive Korean seaweed flavored with sesame oil and a generous sprinkle of salt.

The variety of vegetables available in Japan is one of the delights of cooking at home. At Vegetable Ishibashi, you will discover produce you can’t find at your neighborhood supa. Check out the kyo-yasai—vegetables native to Kyoto, such as mizuna salad greens. Kyo-imo potatoes simmered until tender are dense and rich, and the sweet, burnt-orange kyo-ninjin carrots will add color to any dish.

If you are excited by the smell of sweet vinegar, and if pickles tickle your toes, don’t miss Juichiya. With over 400 varieties of seasonally changing pickles in their portfolio, this shop offers
a couple hundred at any time of the year—colorful vegetables pickled in salt, vinegar, miso and more. From the ubiquitous umeboshi apricots found in every bento box to the heady narazuke, which is pickled for years and is an acquired taste, you’ll find something here to make you pucker.

The venerable knife shop Aritsugu, from Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, dates back 400 years. At its sister shop in Tsukiji, you can invest in everything from knives to graters to strainers. The cutlery, if cared for properly, will last a lifetime, and would make a great gift for any cook.
Tsukiji is centrally located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from Ginza or Tsukiji stations. It’s scheduled to move to Toyosu in 2012, so come now and dive in to the market before it becomes a part of history.

These shops are open every day except Sunday, national holidays and Tsukiji market holidays (usually two Wednesdays per month).

Tsukugon 4-12-5 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3542-0181. Open 7am-2:30pm.

Yamucha Suga Shoten 4-10-2 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3541-9941. Open 6am-3pm.

Marukita 4-9-5 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3543-5643. Open 5am-1:30pm.

Vegetable Ishibashi 4-10-1 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3545-1538. Open 5am-1pm (approx).

Juichiya 5-2-1 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3541-8118. Open 5-11am.

Aritsugu 4-13-6 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3541-6890. Open 5:30am-3pm.

Foodie’s Guide to Tokyo Part 2/2

Ramen

Ramen

In this article that first appeared in Metropolis magazine I highlight some of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo.

http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/675/localflavors.asp (text follows)

Some days, I pinch myself while exploring Tokyo. Am I really spoiled with all of these places to indulge myself? And just when I think it can’t get any better, I happen upon a new area, restaurant, food or trend.

The attention to detail when it comes to food here blows me away. Wagyu cows are massaged and fed beer, resulting in marbled meat for shabu shabu. Fruits are manipulated to create perfectly blemish-free specimens. In celebration of all that Tokyo has to offer, here are some shops to get the best of the best in the city.

Try wagyu beef sliced paper thin and braised in a sweet soy sauce at Imahan in Takashimaya’s Nihonbashi branch, which has a counter in the meat department where you can have a simple sukiyaki lunch. If you prefer your meat grilled, check out Seikoen Yakiniku in Ginza. Don’t let the disco décor get you down—the shop procures great cuts of Mita wagyu for the barbecue.

“Hormones” or innards are considered a hot item at the moment. Nikomi is a dish of innards simmered until tender, and a fine version can be had at Yamariki in Morishita. This izakaya is also known for its grilled pork yakiton and its wine list. Ask for Mizukami-san, the sommelier, to help you pick from his well-thought-out list to go with your food.

While wagyu may be the best-known meat outside of Japan, pork and chicken are appreciated on the home turf. When done right, breaded and deep-fried tonkatsu is juicy on the inside and not at all greasy. Katsukura on Takashimaya Times Square’s restaurant floor lets you grind sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle before adding them to the sauce, which then gets poured over the tonkatsu.

The bird flu scare in Miyazaki has the new governor, former comedian Sonomanma Higashi, eating chicken on TV to encourage consumers not to give up the faith. If you take up the challenge and want to nibble on bits of chicken stabbed onto skewers and grilled, try yakitori under the tracks at Yurakucho or in the small area of stalls outside Shibuya station (if I told you exactly where, I’d have to kill you). The pot of yakitori sauce at Abe-chan in Azabu-Juban has been in the shop for several decades, evidenced by the thick layer that’s grown on the outside of the pot. How could this be a good thing, you are wondering? Some believe that the container gives the sauce a richness and depth that a new pot would lack.

A tour of Tokyo’s food destinations would not be complete without noodles. For ramen, my recommendation is a bowl of hiyashi chukka in a goma dare sesame broth at Sapporo-ya in Nihonbashi. The dish is topped with, among other ingredients, pork, hardboiled egg and tomato, and the savory sauce leaves you wondering if you can lick the bowl clean. For hot noodles, the Jangara chain has a hearty tonkotsu sauce that I top with the spicy mentaiko. Or, for a quick lunch, check out the Hanamaru Udon chain, where you pick your own toppings from a variety of tempura bits and pieces.

Tempura is another delight. For high-end, Kondo in Ginza lets you sit at the counter and watch the team behind the counter prep, dip and fry shrimp, fish and vegetables. For a fast-food chain, Tenya serves up a respectable bowl of tempura over rice and drizzled with sauce. This tendon is a bargain at ¥500, and rarely disappoints.

I am fascinated by fruit stands like Sembikiya or Takano. Perfect fruits are wrapped to prevent bruising, and slapped with a sticker price that reflects all of the hard work to get to that stage. To sample a wide variety, order a fruit parfait whose fillings change as the seasons do, or try a single slice of juicy melon.

The appreciation for food at its peak, or shun, is reflected everywhere in Tokyo’s markets and restaurants. It doesn’t get much better than what we have available to us, so indulge and enjoy.

Imahan. Nihonbashi Takashimaya, 2-4-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3211-4111. Open daily 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Nihonbashi.

Seikoen. 1-6-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3561-5883. Open daily 2-11pm (Sat 10pm). Nearest stn: Ginza-Itchome.

Yamariki. 2-18-8 Morishita, Koto-ku. Tel: 03-3633-1638. Open Mon-Sat 5-10pm. Nearest stn: Morishita.

Katsukura. 14F Takashimaya Times Square, 5-24-2 Sendagaya. Tel: 03-5361-1878. Open daily 11am-11pm. Nearest stn: Shinjuku.

Abe-chan. 2-1-1 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3451-5825. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-12:30pm, 3-10pm (Sat 3-10pm only). Nearest stn: Azabu-Juban.

Sapporo-ya. B1, 3-3-5 Nihonbashi. Tel: 03-3275-0024. Open Mon-Sat 11am-10pm (Sat until 4pm). Nearest stn: Nihonbashi

Jangara Ramen (Harajuku branch). 1-13-21 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3404-5572. Open Daily 10:45-2am (Fri-Sat until 3am). Nearest stn: Harajuku

Hanamaru Udon. 1-16-6 Jingumae. Tel: 03-3402-0870. Open daily 9:30am-10pm. Nearest stn: Harajuku.

Kondo. 9F, 5-5-13 Ginza. Tel: 03-5568-0923. Open Mon-Sat noon-1:30pm; 5-8:30pm. Nearest stn: Ginza.Tenya. www.tenya.com

Sembikiya (main shop). 2-1-2 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3241-1414. Open Tue-Sun 11am-9pm (Sat until 8pm). Nearest stn: Mitsukoshimae.

Takano (main shop). 3-26-11 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-5368-5147. Open daily 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Shinjuku.

Foodie’s Guide to Tokyo Part One:

http://foodsaketokyo.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/foodies-guide-to-tokyo-part-one/

Foodie’s Guide to Kappabashi 合羽橋

Sushi Refrigerator Magnets

Sushi Refrigerator Magnets

Kappabashi is a wonderland for chefs. Here you will find almost everything that one would need for cooking. While it is famous for its plastic food models, that is only a tiny part of what you will find in this area, very close to Asakusa, the popular tourist destination. It is a short walk from Asakusa so should not be missed.

This article, which first appeared in Metroplis magazine, highlights some of my favorite kitchen tools that can be found in Kappabashi.

http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/608/localflavors.asp (text follows)

The walk up Nakamise Dori towards Sensoji in Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s classic tourist destinations (and, as the cheap trinkets on all sides attest, one of its primary tourist traps). However, Asakusa has an allure for another group as well: serious cooks.

The Kappabashi area of Asakusa has everything a budding chef could possibly want. It primarily caters to restaurateurs, but nonprofessionals will have just as much fun. Most shops specialize in one particular item, from chopsticks to chinaware via coffee and bamboo. Others, like Pro-Pack, resemble little department stores, with floors of crockery and cutlery, pots and pans, containers and food.

The selection changes throughout the year, which is the reason to keep coming back. This summer I picked up bamboo trays and glass bowls for cold somen noodles. Last week, with chillier weather approaching, stores were stocked with winter essentials, and I grabbed some packs of waribashi (disposable chopsticks) for nabe parties.

You will find it hard to leave empty-handed, especially given all the tempting “must-have” kitchen gadgets on the shelves. The more you become familiar with Japanese food, the more tools you recognize, and part of the fun is learning what each is for.

My top pick is a mandolin, which will cut vegetables paper thin (and your fingers too, so slice carefully). In second place is a handcrafted oroshigane for grating ginger, garlic and daikon.
Knives are also good things to buy in Kappabashi, but if you’re going to invest in a set, be sure to shop around. Some of my cooking friends get their knives sharpened at a store called Kamata, which can re-blade an edge even after years of neglect.

Remember that Kappabashi often (although not always) deals in quantity over quality. Personally, I think the best knives in the city are found at Kiya, a shop located not in Kappabashi but Nihonbashi. Likewise, for top quality pottery I would head to a major department store. However, for simple, sturdy plates and bowls, Kappabashi has a huge variety at low prices. Some shops will deliver, which is much better than having to drag your dishes through the subway.

Before you leave, stock up on presents: plastic food magnets make fun gifts, and for close friends pick up some lacquerware—light, elegant and easy to care for. But most of all, Kappabashi is the place to treat yourself and your kitchen. We are all “Iron Chefs” deep inside—we just need the tools to get there, and Kappabashi is where we can find them.

Gotta Gets
• Mandolin for cutting veggies
• Waribashi (disposable chopsticks)
• Bamboo skewers for hors d’oeuvres
• Hashioki chopstick rests
• Lacquerware for the table
• Plastic food magnets
• Noren curtains for your home
• Wrapping paper and containers

“Kappabashi Kitchenware Town” is halfway between Asakusa and Ueno. The closest stations are Inaricho and Tawaramachi on the Ginza Line and Iriya on the Hibiya Line. Many shops are closed on Sundays.

Foodie’s Guide to Tokyo Part 1/2

photo by Tama Miyake-Lung

photo by Tama Miyake-Lung

This article which first appeared in Metropolis magazine highlights do not miss spots in Tokyo for foodies.

http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/674/localflavors.asp (text follows)

We are spoiled rotten here in Tokyo. The food-savvy consumers of Japan have raised the bar for the dining culture to a level found in only a few cities throughout the world. Here are my favorite parts of town when foraging for food in Tokyo.

To really get a feel for what the city has to offer, the best place to start is, obviously, Tsukiji Market. The inner market will be moving to Toyosu in 2012, so come and see this historical area while you can. Avoid it on Sundays, when it’s closed, and refer to the calendar for other holidays. While most people go to get their sushi at the source, I am addicted to the anago tempura at Tenfusa—tender eel in a crispy tempura batter sprinkled with a sweet soy dressing over a bowl of steaming rice.

If you are not a morning person or it’s a Sunday, head instead up to Ameyoko in Ueno. The narrow street bustles with energy, and stores are popping at the seams with goods spilling out onto the road and into neighboring stalls. Hawkers call out with their scratchy voices offering discounts to the housewives. While Ameyoko cannot be compared to Tsukiji, you will find seafood, fruit, vegetables and some imported goods. Come in the fall and see the coveted matsutake mushrooms, often from China, at discounted prices.

Getting in gear for your kitchen? Kappabashi, between Asakusa and Ueno at Tawaramachi station, is best-known as a place to pick up plastic food. Once you find that perfect sushi keychain, though, wander the streets and go where the real finds are. Kappabashi is where chefs and restaurateurs go to set up shop. If knives are what you are after, make a beeline to Kiya in Nihonbashi. The shop has a fantastic selection of cutting utensils in a range of prices, as well as other kitchen gadgets.

My favorite part of the food culture in Japan is depachika, the grand food floors in the basement of department stores. The newly revamped Isetan in Shinjuku sparkles and shines. Don’t miss the sandwiches at Alain Ducasse’s premiere boulangerie, Be, or the sweets at Pierre Herme, considered by many to be the top French patisserie. In the wine shop there is a sleek bar where you can select from a long list of toasty, smokey whiskeys. Or pick up a bento and a beer and take the elevators to the roof-top garden for an impromptu picnic away from the crowds of Shinjuku.

While Osaka may be famous for okonomiyaki, Tokyo has its own, much messier version, monjayaki. After getting out of the station at Tsukishima, follow your nose to “Monja Dori,” where it looks like time stopped about 25 years ago (left). The secret to enjoying monjayaki is to have your server help you make the first one or two until you get the hang of it. If you can manage to make it thin enough, you’ll find that the pari pari crispy bits put okonomiyaki to shame. Suggested toppings include cheese, mentaiko and mochi.

Another area that smells so good it’ll have you jumping off of the train is Koreatown in Shin-Okubo. Come here for yakiniku, but if you like to cook at home, then make time to check out the local supermarkets, where you can find kimchi, pajong mix, and the finger-licking-good Korean nori.

If you have time for a day trip, head south to Yokohama’s Chinatown for some great street food like steamed buns stuffed with chopped barbecue pork, sticky rice with chicken steamed in a bamboo leaf, and tapioca in coconut milk. While it lacks the energy you find in, say, New York’s Chinatown, and although there seems to be a curious lack of actual Chinese people, the area does not lack in restaurant options, and there are plenty of markets to pick up salt-laden stocks and dried scallops for soups.

Another day trip that does not disappoint is to Utsunomiya. Actually, the city itself is a bit depressing, but the number of gyoza restaurants is tremendous. Go with a couple of friends and hit as many places as you can for pork-filled dumplings, fried or boiled.

The urban adventure does not end here. Check out next week’s issue for Part Two of our Foodie’s Guide to Tokyo—with a look into various cuisine and specific shops to indulge in here in the metropolis.

Check out next week’s Metropolis for the second and final installment of our Foodie’s Guide to Tokyo.

For more information about Tsukiji market, see www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm.

Tenfusa. 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3547-6766. Open Mon-Sat 6:30am-2pm, closed Sun and hols. Nearest stn: Tsukiji

Kappabashi: http://www.kappabashi.or.jp

Ameyoko:www.ameyoko.net

Kiya. 1-5-6 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11:15am-5:45pm. Tel: 03-3241-1141. Nearest stn: Mitsukoshimae. www.kiya-hamono.co.jp

Isetan. 3-14-1 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-3352-1111. Open daily 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Shinjuku-Sanchome. www.isetan.co.jp

Tsukishima: www.gurume-tsukishima.com

Korea Town: http://korea-zanmai.com/tansaku.html

Chinatown:www.chinatown.or.jp

Utsunomiya Gyoza: www.gyozakai.com

Foodie’s Guide to Tokyo Part Two:

http://foodsaketokyo.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/foodies-guide-to-tokyo-part-two/

Gotta Go – Nihonbashi Yukari

I am often asked for restaurant suggestions in Tokyo. There is one restaurant that I recommend time and time again. Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari was the 2002 Iron Chef winner, and the trophy is displayed when you first walk in. I love this restaurant for lunch or dinner. For a multi-course kaiseki dinner incorporating seasonal ingredients, you get a meal for a good value. Lunch is also reasonable. If you want to splurge, call ahead and order the Yukari bento box, pictured here. The last time I went this was 3,675 JPY.

The food here is prepared using classic Japanese techniques. Chef Nonaga trained in Kyoto at Kikunoi with Chef Murata, author of the gorgeous Kaiseki book published by Kodansha International.

If possible, sit at the counter so that you can watch Chef Nonaga perform his magic. And, tell him Yukari sent you. If you go with a Japanese speaker you can talk to him about the seasonal ingredients, how the food is prepared, and observe his passion for traditional Japanese cuisine.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

tel. 03-3271-3436

http://www.nihonbashi-yukari.com/