Have you tried freshly made traditional Japanese sweets and snacks before? There is a spot in Tokyo where you get to actually try them fresh.
It is in Azabu Juban, a district of Minato Ward which is a lively residential area in central Tokyo with a mixture of Japanese shops, restaurants and bars. The convenience of several supermarkets, its central location and the proximity of Hiroo and Roppongi make it one of the more trendy and sought after residential areas of Tokyo.
This is 浪花家総本店(なにわやそうほんてん Naniwaya Sohonten), and it is considered one of the oldest shops that sells freshly made ‘taiyaki.’ It has been in the business since 1909. ‘Taiyaki’ is a Japanese fish-shaped cake with a filling of red bean paste made from sweetened azuki beans.
Other common fillings may be custard, chocolate or cheese. They sell these cute-looking pancakes for 150 yen both to go and eat in. They also sell other Japanese sweets such as Japanese roll cake and Japanese sticky rice mochi desserts.
Next to Naniwaya, there is a 豆源 (まめげん Mamegen) that has been selling freshly made ‘okaki’ and ‘mame’ snacks since 1865.
‘Okaki’ and ‘mame’(bean) rice crackers are two of the most popular and classic snacks in Japan. They go well with Sencha Green Tea and other Japanese teas. Some people eat it as a snack with Japanese beer. ‘Okaki’ is essentially toasted cut and dried ‘mochi’ rice cake. In Japan, ‘okaki’ and ‘mame’ rice crackers are available in a wide range: ranging from average quality found at the local grocery, to high quality from specialty shops such as the ones sold here at Mamegen. It is said that ‘okaki’ and mame rice crackers handmade by traditional methods is most tasty, though it requires much time and effort and can be quite expensive. At Mamegen, they have a wide variety of flavors; the most popular are Otoboke Mame (mixed flavors of deep fried rice crackers with an peanut inside), Ume Rakka (Japanese sour plum flavored deep fried rice crackers with a peanut inside) and Maccha (green tea flavored deep fried rice crackers with a peanut inside). Each package costs around 300 yen/135g depending on the flavors.
They also have Western-influenced flavors such as blue apple, yogurt, cheese and chili basil, which I have never tried before. Can you even imagine what they may be like? I may try these Westernized rice crackers with a glass of white wine one of these days.
Across the street from Naniwaya, there is a 月島屋(つきしまや Tsukishimaya), that sells freshly made ‘imagawa-yaki’, which is an another Japanese sweet cake with similar fillings as ‘taiyaki’, but with a thicker texture. They cost 130 yen each.
At Tsukishima-ya, they put their moon logo mark on the surface of the pancake like this. Isn’t it really cute? Oh, by the way, Tsuki means “moon” in Japanese.
I really love this old and sweet veteran master who has made these pancakes for years and serves guests on the spot. Gotta love artisans who have been doing what they believe in for years and keeping the charm serving the guests, you know!
Well, this is your chance to explore and find out more! Because All Nippon Airways (ANA) is offering 10,500 yen flight tickets to anywhere in Japan (only available to tourists). They are also running a campaign where you can win single round trip coach-class air transportation trip for two from/to any ANA gateway airport and Narita International Airport, Tokyo. Please do not forget to share feedback of your adventure later!