Shopping is one of the most popular activities for tourists in Tokyo. Japanese shopping can be very different than what we experience here. Tokyo has department stores; it has some of the same name brand stores that we see here or in Europe, but there are also many differences.
Tsukiji Fish Market
One of the first places we shopped in Tokyo was the Tsukiji Fish Market. (The letter “u” is often silent in Japan so the name of the market is pronounced close to skeejee). The outer market area sells produce and souvenirs with a few sushi restaurants in the mix. The inner market has fish.
The sushi restaurants are open by five or six in the morning. They serve fish that has just come in off the docks. The inner market is only open to registered buyers at that time, although if you arrive early enough, you can register to watch the tuna auction.
The outer market stalls open at eight, and the fish market opens to the public at nine. (We did not watch the tuna auction, but instead, enjoyed a sushi breakfast).
The wholesale fish market is the world’s largest and busiest – we found it was still busy at nine. There were fish and shellfish of every kind imaginable. We gathered with a small crowd to watch a seller begin to fillet a large tuna. The market is a seafood lovers dream. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist adding more pictures).
The Kappabashi-dōri area in the Asakusa neighborhood, is known for its culinary wares. Japan not only specializes in knives, bamboo steamers and chopsticks, but also in plastic food. Instead of – or in addition to – including pictures on the menu, restaurants in Japan have life-like models of their offerings created in plastic. I passed on the food samples, but purchased some lovely bamboo chopsticks.
Tokyo Food Show
For real food, we visited the Tokyo Food Show, located in the basement of the Shibuya train station. Although not a show, but an elaborate market, we had seen a similar one in the Tokyo Station. Anyone want a small melon? These are a special heritage variety – the middle pair is 21,600¥ (yen) or about $200.
We skipped the melon, but opted for a snack of “Tokyo Bananas,” a luxurious rendition of a Twinkie – if that makes any sense. Smooth, melt-in-your-mouth cake surrounding banana caramel custard cream. Although there were other flavors, we liked the “giraffe” flavor the best.
We walked through Akihabara, the “sensory-overload” electronics shopping area – colors, flashing lights, music and lots of people. If I needed something in particular, I would have no idea where to start. The area is also becoming popular for anime and J-pop. (A little young for me).
We didn’t have time (or money) to shop in the Ginza area, where stores of famous designers cluster – Gucci, Armani, Louis Vuitton, and more. Maybe next time…
We shopped in several department stores. Tokyo Hands, had almost anything you could want for your home, plus some. There was stationery and office supplies, kitchen ware, sewing supplies and lumber.
We shopped at Okadaya, a department store located in two adjacent buildings – one building for fabric, and the other, for everything else. We found the yarn on the fifth floor (see below).
On our last morning, we shopped in the Times Square Building, which housed a second Tokyo Hands; the Takashamaya department store; Yuzawaya, for hobbies and handicrafts; a bookstore and a basement food market similar to those we had seen in the train stations. We spent most of our time in Yuzawaya (also, see below).
We started out with a long list of recommended yarn stores, but having a little less than four days to explore the entire city of Tokyo, the list was quickly shortened. We will have to go back to check out the rest.
As I mentioned above, we shopped at the Okadaya department store. The yarn section was the size of a small to medium-sized yarn shop. The shop carried quite a bit of Daiso, which is a primarily cotton, Japanese yarn. They had a small amount of Noro, another Japanese yarn. In addition to some other imported yarns, Okadaya had their own line of yarn. I purchased some of the Okadaya yarn, but I’m still deciding how to use it.
We found the Tokyo location of the French yarn store, La Droguerie, in the Seibu building. It was interesting to see the contrast between this one and the one in Paris. I didn’t buy any yarn there, because I was looking for Japanese yarn on this trip.
We thought Tokyo Hands would have yarn, but it did not, so our last chance would be shopping at Yuzawaya, the morning before we left for home. We were pleased with the large yarn section in this craft store.
Originally, we thought we would pass on Noro yarn when we were in Japan, since it is easily available in the States. However, when we found the large rack of Noro in Yuzawaya, we realized that we were looking at yarn that is not found at home. Most of the yarn we found in Japan was a combination of cotton, silk and nylon – no wool. The temperature and humidity there calls for cotton instead of wool. Interesting!
We each purchased some of this different Noro – I’m eager to try it out. (We looked at the yarn on Ravelry, and nearly all the recommended patterns are in Japanese).
Tokyo was interesting, busy, delicious, beautiful and sometimes a little crazy. This quick trip was a good introduction, but we would all like to go back for a longer trip some day. We had a great time!