When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya twenty-some years ago I loved exploring the neighborhood. Lunch breaks. After work. Nihonbashi in the 17th Century was the merchants district of Tokyo, called Edo in those days. The first seafood market was here, before it moved to Tsukiji. Shops were concentrated here near the fish market. To this day some of these shops are in business.
I sometimes stopped by Yamamotoyama 山本山 for a cup of tea and a small sweet. I think the price back then was about 200 yen. I could sit on a wooden bench under a paper umbrella inside the shop. Well, that’s how I remember it. 🙂 The building that Yamamotoyama was in has been redeveloped, but the historic tea shop is still here. It is located next to Nihonbashi Takashimaya and is a short walk from Tokyo Station.
Yamamotoyama was established in 1690 as a sencha green tea trader. Japan’s first trader of sencha. Gyokuro, the savory green tea that is steeped at 40 degrees C (about 100 degrees F) was innovated here by the 6th-generation. It started exporting tea with the 9th-generation. Many tea shops in Japan also specialize in nori laver. The season for tea and nori are at different times of year so these businesses can stay busy all-year long.
The modern Yamamotoyama is a big contrast to the one I knew in the early 2000s. Guests can enjoy tea and sweets or have a nori-centric meal. This nori bento includes four different types of nori. Fascinating to try the different flavors.
I finished the meal with gyokuro tea. It is steeped three times and at the end ponzu is poured over the steeped leaves. It’s delicious and nutritious. A selection of wagashi from neighboring historic shops, Nagato and Eitaro, are presented. I write about all three of these shops in my book, Food Sake Tokyo.
Highly recommend a visit for tea and nori lovers. Seating is limited and it’s often busy. Tea and nori is also sold here.
Chūō-ku, Nihonbashi 2-10-2
I offer tours to Nihonbashi. The tour introduces many of the basics of Japanese cuisine. I also love Nihonbashi as it is not overrun with tourists. It still feels like it did back when I worked in the area.
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