So, I've already told you all about the fabulous, leopard print "Tokyo Banana Tree" omiyage, and there's little chance to go up to the top of Skytree for a while - it's booked out until at least July - but there's a lot more to see than just the tower. And to my friend Kathryn, I'm sorry I didn't wait to go there with you, but you went gallivanting all over Kochi and Korea! But I'll happily go back, any time!
The area around Skytree has been designed to attract tourists of course, but it's also in the middle of the old part of Tokyo, which hasn't changed much since the war, so there's a strong local flavour. A lot of local restaurants are now offering "Skytree" themed dishes - think towers of fried shrimp, towers of ice cream... towers of anything, really. There are some great guidebooks in Japanese designed to encourage people to explore the local area, and there are high hopes that people won't just go to the new shopping centre, but patronise the traditional shops as well. You can hire a bike at Solamachi or just walk around.
These shots are from a charming book called "Tokyo Skytree Sanpo Book" - sanpo meaning stroll.
|One of the nice things about many Skytree souvenirs is the blend of traditional design with the new Skytree image.|
|Towering shrimp at Kamimura soba|
|A Tower Danish - or should that be "Denish" from Narihira Kimuraya bakery|
|One of the locals.|
Getting to the Skytree area is easy - take a train to Oshiage or "Skytree Station"and there are buses from Ueno station, but I really recommend walking from Asakusa and strolling through the back streets.
The shopping centre below the Skytree is called "Solamachi" or sky town. It has the usual stores like Zara, Diesel, Hello Kitty, Loft and a Disney Store, but the designers have also attempted to capture the local flavour. So you'll find specialties from around Japan, locally grown organic vegetables, local sake and many of the specialised crafts. In fact many of the stores have beautiful light fittings using "Edo Kiriko", the traditional cut glass of the area. I think they've attempted to go a bit deeper into the local history and culture than a lot of tourist traps, so hopefully the centre will have a positive impact on the area. It also means, if you're pressed for time, you can stock up on all the omiyage you need in one shopping trip!
I leave you with some photos of Solamachi...
|The standard toys and boxed omiyage|
|Solamachi is also a shopping destination for locals to pick up select fresh foods.|
|Skytree looks best at night.|
|You can get unique "Edo" Be@rbricks and other toys at Medicom Toys|
|This store has famous packaged foods from around Japan|
|Kabuki themed cookies|
|A history of your favourite brands|
|The Tobu store has some nice smaller gifts and a Shiseido "Skytree" perfume. Apparently, Skytree smells like white flowers.|
|I was quite taken with this scarf / large handkerchief, with it's retro design and colours, showing the area and local festivals.|
|This is a specialty from Kanazawa on the other side of Japan, but the hand painted "bean" paper boxes have special scenes of Skytree and other local attractions.|
|Inside, you'll find delicious, crunchy soybeans coated in a salty or sugary crust.|
|The H.P. France store Tokyo October has a great selection of surreal items|
|Fashion brand Beams has a special self-serve yoghurt bar called Lemsons, with a bunch of vending machines so you can buy branded souvenirs without conversing with staff.|
|Beware the self-serve ice cream bar! They charge around 300 yen for 100gms and it's so easy to pile up that cup with different flavours and goodies! This was almost 900 yen. Not a budget choice if you have kids!|
|Not such exciting product - a mix of local jams and cheese cakes with some Italian oils etc, but "Cheese Garden" is really popular and has a nice layout. Good looking cafe, too.|
|These cat shaped treats are from nearby Yanaka, which has become famous for its local cats.|
|Cube shapes profiteroles and towering cones.|
|Croquettes from Kobe - hopefully containing Kobe beef.|