Sorry for the long delay in posting - this is the best time of year to get out and see stuff, before the rainy season and then the oppressive heat of summer - so I've been busy looking and snapping and shopping!
I went to Kameido for the first time, just after Golden Week. There were two reasons: I hoped to see the last of the wisteria (fuji) at Kameido Tenjin Shrine, which, with its unusual drum-shaped bridge and wisteria, has been immortalised by countless Ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige, and in one of my favourite images by Toshi Yoshida in the 1940s.
|Kameido Tenjin Taiko bashi by Hiroshige|
|The wisteria as seen by Toshi Yoshida|
|Today, you can see wisteria with Skytree|
|The famous bridge, with the last of the wisteria.|
The other reason was I’d read about an amazing miso shop just near Kameido station, and I really wanted to check it out.
One of the symbols of Kameido is a unique daikon. I’ve always been a fan of daikon, that versatile Japanese radish. It’s so irrepressible: you sometimes find daikon growing through roads and pavements. Kameido’s daikon is smaller and delicately flavoured.
There’s an excellent bento shop on the way to the shrine, called Masumoto. They’ve been making lunch boxes since the 1860s so they probably know what they’re doing! Pick up a lunch box made with organic vegetables and the famous daikon to eat in the shrine grounds, or you can eat-in at the shop.
|Masumoto - just look for the daikon sign!|
|Spring lunch box|
A must-see is Funabashiya, a sweet shop which apparently invented kudzu mochi (arrowroot mochi) around 200 years ago. The store opened in 1805 to cater for visitors to the next door Kameido Tenjin shrine. They also have all the classic Japanese sweets like anmitsu and tokoroten. As they’re made without dairy products, Japanese sweets are actually fairly low in calories, though the textures (cubes of firm jelly, soft, chewy mochi, thick, cloying beanpaste) may not be to everyone’s taste.
|Kudzu mochi with kinako powder and kuromitsu|
The milky, jelly-like kudzu mochi has little taste, but it’s a good vehicle for kinako – soybean powder, and kuromitsu – brown sugar syrup. It’s one of the classic omiyage to buy in Kameido, but if you miss the store, there’s a booth selling them at the station, too.
Walking back towards the station, you’ll come across an amazing little street approaching Katori shrine, which looks straight out of the Taisho-era. Kachi-un shotengai has a charming old atmosphere, was actually re-built last year. Some of the stores have bronze cladding – a technique developed after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake to both modernize and fire-proof the old wooden buildings. There’s a miso shop, a great pickle shop, a sembei shop and lots of little eateries. The stores themselves have been around since the 1950s at least, but the retro-remodelling is an attempt to bring in more visitors who might come to the area thanks to Skytree nearby.
|The entrance of Kachi-un, leading to Katori shrine|
|Yamacho sweet shop is on the corner. It feels like a movie set.|
|The pickles and umeboshi are guarded by a very dour daruma figure.|
The other “must see” is Sano Miso on the other side of Kameido station. There are dozens of wooden tubs, filled of miso pastes from all over Japan. The rich, salty-sweet aroma is amazing. You can sniff, sample and ask questions to help you choose the best miso for your needs. They also have many kinds of dashi, pickles, dried fish and snacks. Whether you’re a novice or a professional cook, you’ll love this shop!
|Miso, miso everywhere|
|This is ochazuke mix, ready to add to rice, with freeze-dried sea bream|
|You can buy small tubs of Miso - around 200gm, starting at about 450 yen, so you can sample different kinds. Red and white mixed together make good miso soup.|