Nakamise shopping street is 250 meters long and has close to 100 shops and stalls in which you can find traditional as well as cheesy souvenirs and authentic Japanese snacks. The street leads to the famous Sensoji Temple. The temple is the oldest and most visited temple in Tokyo. If your visit in Tokyo is short, and you have time for only one temple, I would highly recommend visiting this one.
We arrived at Nakamise (仲見世) pretty early – at 9AM. Most neighborhoods we visited at this time were usually still waking up. Not at Nakamise, by the time we got there the place was already packed with tourists, so It’s advised to come early.
At Kiku-Ya you can find two Japanese confections: Daifuku, which consists of a small round mochi (rice cake) stuffed with sweet filling and Dango, a small ball shaped dumpling which is made from mochiko (rice flour). Usually the mochi itself doesn’t have much flavor but the toppings do. I’ve tried some in Shinjuku earlier that week so I decided to keep room in my stomach for new stuff.
At Cyouchin-Monaka you’ll find great variety of Ice Cream Monaka, which is a Japanese sweet that is traditionally made of azuki bean jam sandwich between two thin crisp wafers, made from rice cake. Cyouchin-Monaka define themselves as “Asakusa Ice Cream Burger”.
The Monaka at Cyouchin-Monaka is filled with ice cream, instead of jam, in different flavors such as: Kinako (roasted soybean flour), matcha green tea, azuki (red bean), black sesame, Beniimo (purple yam) and vanilla. They also serve seasonal flavors during select times of the year, like Marron-condensed milk red bean and cream cheese.
We chose azuki and beniimo, each at ¥280 ($2 / 8.5₪). So Good!
Another Japanese street sweet I think everyone who visit Japan must taste is Taiyaki. This is a sweet bean filled waffle\cake, which is usually fish-shaped, but not always. The name is derived from “Tai”, which is a type of fish, and “Yaki”, which means fried.
It is best when hot, so even if you decide to take some Taiyaki box\bag home, have a bite of a freshly made one. At Nakasime I had a taste of Chouchin (traditional Japanese lantern) shaped Taiyaki and another one shaped as a small bird. They were both filled with azuki bean paste.
In most stores you can see the preparation process for the various items, which is both interesting and assuring of the products freshness.
Nakamise is a great place to get souvenirs for your family and friends. From snacks to kimono, yukata and geta, as well as Maneki-neko knick knacks and all kinds of charms, you’ll have a plethora of options to choose from.
We were lucky enough to attend the Okamisan Produce Festival, which coincided with the day of our visit. The poster at the fair entrance specified:
Asakusa Proprietress Association was established in 1967.
Every September the proprietress (okamisan) associations from all over Japan gather here with their products to strength their bonds.
It was a great deal of fun strolling around all the food stands and getting a pick at all the great looking and smelling goodies. My favorite was the Okonomiyaki – a savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The literal translation is “grilled as you like it”. Mine included egg and pork. How did they know? It’s exactly how I like it!
To end this wonderful food tour I grabbed Senbei (rice cracker) from one of the stores around Asakusa specializing in these treats. The store was filled with dozens of different rice crackers. I chose the “Salted and Sweeted and Sea Weed”.
In hindsight maybe it was better if I grabbed a giant purple ice cream instead.
Early morning some of the stands are closed, but the store fronts are amazing! They think of every small detail in Tokyo.
Make sure to wander the little streets surrounding Nakamise as well – they are filled with beautiful small gardens, cute little shops, and of course more food to taste!
The temple transports you to old Japan, even though moments ago you were in super-modern Tokyo. Its sights, scents and glorious architecture create a feast for all senses.
In short, Asakusa is a destination you do not want to miss!
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