[Comparison of 3 Major Tohoku Antenna Shops] Let’s get local specialties in Tokyo! Popular antenna shop tour Vol.2
“The months and days are travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers”. As you know, this is a preface of “Oku no Hosomichi (the Narrow Road to the Deep North)” a travel writing by Basho Matsuo, a haiku poet. Tohoku region, called “Michinoku” since ancient times, has been quoted in a lot of haiku as a place longed for by nobility in the beginning of Heian Era. However, Basho not only longed for it, but also desired to travel there actually. Finally, he vacated his house, and left for Michinoku.
Fortunately, we don’t need to go to such lengths in order to travel Michinoku. Moreover, in Tokyo, we can enjoy the feeling of traveling. This time, from among antenna shops of six prefectures in Tohoku region, we are featuring “Iwate Ginga Plaza”, “Miyagi Furusato Plaza”, and “Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE”. Comparing these three shops, let’s go deeper in Michinoku.
Comparison (1) Different points from other antenna shops
Among many antenna shops, how do respective shops of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima differentiate themselves? Now, we are looking at their characteristic points.
[Iwate Ginga Plaza]
At the event space at the entrance of this shop, handmade packed lunches using foodstuffs from Iwate are sold. Kabukiza, a popular spot for foreign tourists, is diagonally across Harumi Street, and Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre is also about 5 minutes on foot. Therefore, visitors to them often buy the packed lunches. Also inside the shop, there is a local packed lunch corner, where Tohoku Fukko Bento (1,200 yen) is popular.
[Miyagi Furusato Plaza]
One of features of this shop is being able to eat grilled ox tongue (gyutan), an origin of which said to be Sendai. At “Date no Gyutan Honpo” on the 2nd floor of Plaza, you can enjoy real taste of gyutan. A set menu of gyutan is as reasonable as 1,780 yen, including rice cooked with barley and oxtail soup.
【Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE】
Fukushima is one of Japan’s most famous place for Japanese sake. In the Annual Japan Sake Awards 2018, the number of gold prize winners was largest in Japan for consecutive six years (the eight title of the winningest prefecture in Japan). Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE offers a sake set to compare three brands for 500 yen at the sake counter at the back of the shop (brands change on a weekly basis). It is irresistible for those who love sake.
Comparison (2) The three most popular products for foreigners at each antenna shop
Next, we will tell you what kinds of souvenirs are popular for foreign tourists.
[Iwate Ginga Plaza] The most popular product is “Nambu ironware.”
The most popular product is Nambu ironware. For Chinese people who have a custom to drink tea, Nambu iron kettles and teapots (teapot type 5 Arare 7,020 yen, etc.) are popular. For European and American people, wind bells are well received (flower 1,188 yen, etc.) Incidentally, when there was a boom in shopping spree, a certain person allegedly purchased all iron kettles displayed on a shelf.
The second best selling product is Japanese sake (Daiginjo Tezukuri Shichifukujin 1,998 yen, etc.). In Iwate Ginga Plaza, staff will carefully tell you brands fit for your taste from among an array of sake. The third most popular product is confectionery which people can readily eat between acts and while going out for a holiday (cookie set 300 yen, etc.).
[Miyagi Furusato Plaza] The most popular product is “Japanese sake”.
The most popular product is “Japanese sake”. Especially, “Ichinokura Special pure rice sake Yamatoden” (1,543 yen) that is distributed only in Miyagi is popular. Yamatoden is one of casting methods for Japanese swords which have been handed down from ancient times. This sake named after it tastes light and dry, which is reminiscent of a sharp Japanese sword.
The second is artifact including traditional Kokeshi in the Tohoku region (Naruko Kokeshi 8 sun Mizuki 2,800 yen, etc.). Once it was very popular and booming among young women tourists from Europe and U.S. Although the fad has passed, Kokeshi is still popular for those who seek Japanese traditional souvenirs.
The third is marine processed goods typified by laver seaweed. It has been evaluated as the first class in terms of color, taste, and scent (Yakinori (toasted laver seaweed) produced in Miyagi 432 yen, Tororo Kombu 463 yen, etc.).
[Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE] The most popular product is “Japanese sake”.
As with Miyagi Furusato Plaza, the most popular product is “Japanese Sake”. Especially, luxury “Suehiro Daiginjo Gensai” placed in a paulownia box (5,400 yen) is very popular as a souvenir. “Yamazakura Whiskey in carton” (2,268 yen) is also popular for people from Europe and U.S.
The second most popular items are gorgeous lacquerware such as “gold small sake cup finished with wash vermillion 1.8 Tsuru/Kame (6,696 yen)” and artifacts such as “fairy feather stretching organdie stole (36,288 yen)” that caused a buzz as the world’s thinnest silk fabric. These are so excellent that a lot of people came to the shop aiming at them.
The third is confectionery including “Usukawa Manju (648 yen)” and “Mini Akabe Sable (432 yen).”
Incidentally, while the number of foreign visitors to Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE is relatively small, a lot of Japanese customers living abroad come there.
Comparison (3) Next, let’s look at rare goods.
Are there any premium goods which you can get only at a specific antenna shop?
[Iwate Ginga Plaza] “Zamae Dango”
“Zamae Dango (200 yen)” is that one. As suggested by its package, this is a product inspired by Kabukiza. Three colors of Takesumi with sesame paste, Benikoji with yuzu citrus paste, and Yomogi with bean paste make you feel Japanese traditional culture.
[Miyagi Furusato Plaza] “Sankaku Jogi Aburaage (deep-fried tofu)”
Palm-size Sankaku Jogi Aburaage (600 yen) is rare. This is a local comfort food. People eat the freshly fried Aburaage only with soy source and red peppers. It is sold by the tofu store along the mountain road to Jogi Nyorai Saihoji Temple located in the mountains in Sendai, and available at Miyagi Furusato Plaza only three days a week, Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
[Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE] “Sauce and Dressing produced by Chef Yoshiteru Nishi”
Sauce and dressing produced by Mr. Yoshiteru Nishi, a chef exclusively for Japan’s national soccer team and a former executive chef of Village (a sports facility in Fukushima), are rare. There are four kinds, tomato pasta sauce, stake sauce, carrot dressing, and ginger dressing, respectively for 540 yen.
Comparison (4) Staff advertises each shop and gives us advice on shopping.
Finally, shop managers of respective antenna shops gave foreign tourists advice.
[Iwate Ginga Plaza]
“Foreign people often drop in our shop located between Tsukiji and Ginza on the way. The shop seems to impress them as a jack-of-all-trade rather than an antenna shop. So, ready-to-serve foods sell well. Some staff can speak easy English. A tablet with interpretation app is always available at the register counter. When it is necessary to minutely explain about, for example, features of sake, we use it. If you come to know foods and culture of Iwate here, and someday travel to Iwate, you may be able to fully enjoy images of Japanese hometown.”
Ms. Yumiko Nagasawa (shop manager of Iwate Ginga Plaza)
[Miyagi Furusato Plaza]
“Our lineup is composed mainly of special foodstuffs from Miyagi.” Unlike other antenna shops around Ginza, our shop is located in Ikebukuro where there are a lot of residential houses nearby. Therefore, we characteristically carry a lot of goods for customer’s own consumption, which can be useful for today’s dinner. Foreign customers often come to our restaurant, consulting a local guidebook. As a multi-lingual menu is available, please feel free to come to our shop.
Mr. Kunitaka Okura (Shop Manager of Miyagi Furusato Plaza)
[Shop Manager of Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE]
In resent years, sake produced in Fukushima has been highly appreciated fortunately. We believe our selection of sake is the best in Tokyo. If you cannot decide which sake to buy, it is the best way to actually drink and compare. Please feel free to taste at Sake counter. I believe you can find your favorite sake. Although our language proficiency may not be necessarily sufficient for foreign customers, our staff will do their best to respond to the customers. Please feel free to come to our shop.
Mr. Takuya Nemoto (Shop manager of Nihonbashi Fukushima-kan MIDETTE)