On Saturday February 1st, Japan Wonder Travel organised a trial tour for tourists. The tour started with an introduction of the Japanese cuisine and products at Tsukiji Fish market, followed by a visit to the special knife craft store Ubukeya うぶけや. At the store that has been in the family for 8 generations, the current showed his great handcrafted products and explained more about the knifes. The last part of the tour involved a short tour to Nihonbashi, where also some traditional shops were visited.
Some of the participants wrote about their experiences of the tour. This blog post is written by Cynthia, an American living and working in Japan for 30 years.
Special knife craft store & Tsukiji Market
This Saturday I went on a Japan Wonder Travel tour of my favorite part of Tokyo. After living in Japan for 30 years, could a tour really show me something I still haven’t seen after all these years? The answer was a surprising…yes. This area is not new to me and I’m there often for work, shopping or eating out. Well, after all these years I was missing some really great places and the history behind them.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Our 1st stop was Tsukiji. For years it was the heart of the fish industry in Tokyo with chefs coming to buy the freshest catch for their restaurants. Tourists and locals filling up the small streets from early morning looking for the best catch of the day. After the fish market moved to Toyosu had it really changed that much? The answer is yes and no. Although the actual buyers market, the sounds, the smells and the masses of people are gone it still is a very interesting place to visit.
Tsukiji is and always has been about the people. Family run shops that have been there for decades still line the streets selling their goods and carrying on the family tradition.
One of these shops was Daisado selling tamagoyaki for 90 years. Using fresh eggs from Chiba everyday, they supply the local restaurants. People stand in line to have a bite of this sweet and savory treat. For 120 yen it was the perfect way to start the morning tour. Japan Wonder Travel tour made it possible to go back in to the kitchen to see up close how the chefs make them, giving you a chance to go back to your home country to try a tamagoyaki challenge.
The fish mongers are fun and interesting and the fish so amazingly fresh. Stop for a bite here and there and soon you will have had a meal or stop into the famous sushi shop in Tsukiji, Sushizanmai for an inexpensive meal. This area sells not only fish but so many other Japanese foods. From seaweed to sweets there is always something to eat. The shop that sold Japanese dried snacks was great. The two shop owners were well over 70 and 80 and were a highlight of this area. Their dried wasabi, nori soramame was so good.
Moving on, we were off to Ningyocho for the part of the tour I was really looking forward to. Ubukeya is a shop that sits among high-rises of the modern world yet maintains old world charm. The shop sells various edged tools and of course knives. Yutaka Yazaki is the 8th generation master with his son Daiki working by his side to learn the art. They are an artisan merchant that continues the history of craftsmanship. They buy unfinished items and handcraft the knives themselves to suit the needs of the customer. The shop is traditional and the owners are very refined and kind.
We were lucky to be able to go in the back to have the opportunity to watch them work. He explained to us the history of the shop and showed us beautiful knives and scissors among other things. They had incredible pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. I had a chance to use a knife and a pair of scissors and I was amazed at the high quality. It was more than just buying a knife, it was an experience. Come in, sit down, drink a cup of green tea, find what you’re looking for and leave knowing you made the right choice.
The last stop was Nihonbashi my favorite place where East meets West. The area is so well preserved with Japanese buildings and Western buildings dating back before WW2. The bridge at Nihonbashi is the centre of Japan with all roads being measured from there. Before the war it was the fish market, which was then moved to Tsukiji. So many beautiful things to see. Our first stop was at Yagicho, from seaweed to fish stock, you will find everything you need for Japanese cooking. You can taste test all of the soup stocks to decide which one is to your liking. They even have cooking classes here, which I’m going back for. Founded more than 270 years ago, they are known around the world for the quality of their products.
The last shop was Yamamoto Nori Ten famous for their nori and their commercials using the most popular actress of the time. Founded in 1849, the newer building’s ceiling is shaped like boat showing the origins of seaweed harvesting. They are famous for their Ajitsuke nori made with soy sauce, mirin and seasonings.
The tour ends here and I find myself very surprised at how much I have overlooked living here. Our tour guide Mamiko was great and was able to tell us so much about what we were seeing. The tour was up close and personal and we were able to choose our own personal pace for the tour. Instead of an agenda, we could take more time here or there, depending on what we found interesting. My favorite part of the tour was how Mamiko used the traditional Japanese woodblock prints to show us what these places looked like years ago.
The Japan Wonder Travel tour was a great experience. I’m looking forward to doing one again.