Visiting Asakusa in Tokyo

Nakamisedori, Asakusa Tokyo

Guide to Asakusa

If you are one of those lucky people visiting Tokyo, chances are that you want to spend some time exploring Asakusa, “lower town” of Tokyo. Located in Tai To District along the Sumida River, Asakusa is easily accessible by taking Asakusa or Ginza Subway Line.

Asakusa is home to Sensoji, the oldest temple in Tokyo as well as crafts and shops that have an Edo era nostalgia. The area was a settled by craftsman and working class families who added charm and vitality to Asakusa with old traditions and unpretentious food.

Wearing Kimonos in Asakusa

Enjoy rickshaw ride, river cruise dinner or rent a kimono and stroll around the temple. This is also a great place to shop for gifts for friends and family before you head back home. There is an energy to Asakusa that you can not experience elsewhere in Japan.

Day visit to Asakusa is included in our Art and Culture Tour to Japan (Spring of 2019) as well as in upcoming Textile Tour (coming soon).

River Cruise Boat in Tokyo

Asakusa Highlights

Asakusa Temple (浅草寺)
It is believed to be the oldest temple in Tokyo it was built in 628 and features a Gojyuto “five- story tower”, Kaminarimon “thunder gate” and Nakamisedori, “beautiful approach to the temple”. Make sure to apply incense smoke to your body as it is said to cure illness.

Nakamisedori (仲見世通り)
Nakamisedori is a 250 meter walk from the Kaminari Gate to the temple. There are over 90 shops lines the approach selling Asakusa speciality such as Ningyo Yaki (doll-shaped pound cake stuffed with red beans, cooked in front of you) and other treats and souvenirs. Kimuraya Shop is the oldest store selling Ningyo Yaki since 1868.

Ekimise (駅店)
A department store located above the Asakusa Station. The basement is filled with shops selling regional foods. delicacies, sake and beer. They also carry electronics, clothing, stationery and books. A great place to wander around before you ending your journey to Japan.

Asakusa Cultural Tourism Center (浅草文化ツーリズムセンター)
Conveniently located across the street from Kaminari Gate. This tourism center should be able to help you with any questions you might have around Asakusa. From the viewing deck on the 8th floor, you be able to see the Tokyo Skytree as well as Namamisedori.

Taiyaki

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)
Asakusa is known for casual everyday food and Okonomiyaki is not to be missed when visiting Asakusa. At restaurants specializing in these “as you like” savory cabbage pancakes you’ll be able to make your own on a hot griddle at your table.. You can also enjoy this delicious street food at home. Here is the recipe from your food blog.

Kappabashi (かっぱ橋)
Located between Asakusa and Ueno is Kappabashi or “Kitchen Town”. This entire district features over 170 shops selling cooking supplies, knives, dishes and almost everything you need for starting and operating a food business. Kappabashi is only 10 minutes walk from Asakusa and totally worth a visit.

TanpopoStudio September Update

Happy September,

I cannot believe it is September already. The end of summer means starting of the harvest season, and I have been keeping busy at the Frogtown Farm harvesting vegetables and preparing samples for the market on Saturdays.

I’ll be booking my tickets for spring tours soon as IACE travel is having their fall Mega Sale on Saturday Sep. 29th from 9-4 pm only. Give them a call as I have purchased many affordable tickets to Japan from IACE.

Japan Art + Culture Tour, April 2019

This is a 7 day tour from Tokyo to Matsumoto with an additional extension to Kyoto. Matsumoto is a hotbed of arts, is also the birthplace of several well known Japanese artists including Yayoi Kusama. It’s also home to one of Japan’s finest feudal era castles.. Read more about Matsumoto and this tour on our blog.

Culinary Guide to Japan Tour, June 2019

I’ve been fortunate to lead several Culinary Tours this year, and have received some kind words from travelers. Thank you! We start in Ginza, Tokyo with a fish market tour and sushi class and make our way to Nagano for a temple stay and introduction to vegetarian cooking. After a morning visit to the Zensoji Temple, we tour a wasabi farm in near the Japan Alps, and stay at a traditional hot spring Ryokan for a kaiseki style dinner. The next day we learn how to make hand-made soba noodles and tour the scenic Suntory Hakushi distillery. The last night we stay at Shuji Tanka’s historic inn and community garden in the quaint mountain town of Yamanshi.

Chicken Kara-age

What’s Cooking in September

Fried chicken known as Kara-age is a popular dish in Japan. Deep fried but not greasy because the word Kara comes from a word empty, meaning there is no batter, just a simple combination of garlic, ginger, soy, sake, sesame oil and cornstarch.


Amish Buggy on Road

ニュースレター9月号

早いもので9月に入りました。皆様いかがお過ごしでしょうか。
アメリカではほとんどの学校が9月に始まります。3ヶ月の長い夏休みを終えた9月は入学、新学時期でもあるため子供から大人まで何かとそわそわ、ワクワクしてしまいます。

私はというとこの夏すっかりアーミッシュに取り憑かれてしまい、この夏2回目、アーミッシュ・カントリーを訪れて来ました。もちろん自宅でもせっせとアーミッシュのレシピを使ったパン作りも欠かしていませんよ。
今回訪ねたのはミネソタ州に隣接する酪農やチーズ作りで知られるウィスコンシン州にあるウェスビーという地域です。私の住んでいる町、セイントポールから車で約三時間、オーガニック・ファーミングで知られるこの地域に集落で暮らしているオールド・オーダー”というアーミッシュを訪ねる旅でした。”オールド・オーダー” とはアーミッシュの中でも特に昔からの規律や伝統を重んじている保守的なアーミッシュです。もちろん電気製品や電気の使用は厳しく制限されているので各家庭の敷地内には風車やバキーがあり馬が飼われています。彼らは自然の多いこの地域で昔ながらの伝統を守り、農業、クラフト、チーズやメープルシロップ作りなどで生計を立てています。もちろん彼らの作るキルトや果物のビン詰めを購入することもできますよ。朝バギーの音で目がさめる、そんな開拓時代にタイムスリップしたかのような2日間した。

私と一緒に、アーミッシュ・カントリーとミネソタの大地を旅したい方、興味のある方は是非メールでお問い合わせください。ツアーは2名様より決行いたします。少人数でミネソタの大地を思う存分満喫してはいかがでしょうか。

米村古紫季

To Tip or Not to Tip

Tipping in Japan

Tipping in Japan

Generally speaking, tipping in not an accepted custom in Japan. This might feel odd coming from United States, but workers in Japan do not rely in tip income for their salary. In fact, handing cash to someone is considered a pity and you might actually offend that person. Another reason is that Japan is a nation of hospitality and people do not put a cash value on providing hospitality to one’s guests. Instead, people will exchange gifts, show appreciation by bowing and saying thank you..

Before your trip, it’s helpful to gain an understanding the practices of tipping in Japan. Below are a few guidelines to help you know when it’s ok to leave a tip and how to show your appreciation for a job well done.

Here are places tipping is NOT accepted or in some cases consider rude:

  • Restaurants (servers, host, bussers, etc)
  • Cafes
  • Taxi drivers
  • Porters
  • Hair stylists
  • Bartenders
  • Hotels

Here are places (very few) where you might want to tip:

  • Ryokan-where you have a server (nakai) assigned to your room who goes extra miles or do personal favors to help you enjoy your stay.
  • Personal guide, interpreter and translators. Again, if he or she goes beyond his or her means to assure you a great experience, then you might consider tipping them.

How to tip:
As mentioned above, it is considered rude to hand someone cash. If you decide to tip someone, money should be placed in an envelope then hand it to them.

I really want to show my appreciation, what should I do?
Japan is a country of gift giving. It is always a good idea to bring some small souvenir from you home country. From where I live in Midwest, I always take small bottles of maple syrup, locally made crafts such as dream catchers or silver jewelry by Native Americans (keep it light!). People in Japan love to exchange gifts and your locally made or sourced gifts will be greatly appreciated.

Also, bowing and show appreciation in kind words are great way in Japan. Learn few phrases such as “Arigato gozaimasu” or “Oishikatta desu” and this will go a long way.

Happy Travels!

A Walk Around the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Meiji Jingu

where spirits of emperor and empress sleeps

Torii at Meiji Shrine

I flew into Tokyo later than I expected and did not get to check in to my hotel until almost the next day. As with all my first day in Japan, jet lag woke me up early the next morning. So my morning started early, really early at 5. Knowing nothing else would be open, I started my path to one of the most visited Shrine in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu.

The shrine was built in 1921, after the death of Meiji Emperor followed by Empress to worship their spirits and to provide sanctuary in the community. It consists 170 acres of combination of fortress, shrines and other buildings as well as ponds and cafes and could easily take an hour to walk through.

Light at Meiji Shrine

The moment I stepped my foot in the forest surrounding the Shrine through an giant Torii gate, there was only the silence, peace and tranquility. It felt as if I “time-slipped” back into Meiji era. Aside from few morning joggers, all of the sudden I did not hear any modern “noise”. Instead of chaotic sound of modernize, all I heard was gardeners sweeping gravel path with long bamboo brooms in uniform motion and rhythm.

The visit was such a treat as I struggle with jet lag and try to adjust to the busy week ahead in Tokyo. I now go walk back to hotel to take a short nap before afternoon visits to notable arts and crafts museums.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Jingu
1-1 Yoyogikamizomecho, Shibuya, Tokyo

TanpopoStudio August Update

Happy August,

I hope this newsletter finds everyone well. TanpopoStudio slowed down a bit as we all enjoy summer activities outside. Our family had a wonderful time picking gooseberries and making jam to preserve for the winter ( personally, they are so delicious they will not last until the winter….). We have been visiting the countryside, kayaking and canoeing at more than ten thousand beautiful lakes we have here in Minnesota.

Starting next month, I’m going to be helping out at the Frogtown Farm, a certified organic city farm in St. Paul providing educational setting for kids and adults alike. I will be making samples using seasonal and local vegetables with touch of “Japan” as well as be a part of farm events. We will have more on this, so stay tuned.

Speaking of farms, we are starting a new series on introducing some small farmers and business owner’s who we meet on our tours to Japan. We asked people five questions to share their values and opinions. This month, we are featuring the owner of Izumi En, a community garden and inn in Yamanashi prefecture.

Ojonomiyaki

What’s Cooking in August

Summer is a time of abundance and we have a delicious recipe using cabbage this month. Okonomiyaki is not only yummy but healthy and easy to make.

Japan Art + Culture Tour, April 2019

We’ve just opened this for registration. This is a 7 day tour from Tokyo to Matsumoto with an additional extension to Kyoto. Matsumoto, a hotbed of arts, is also the birthplace of several well known Japanese artists including Yayoi Kusama. It’s also home to one of Japan’s finest feudal era castles.. Read more about Matsumoto and this tour on our blog.

Classes and Events

Ramen Know How
Thursday, September 20th at 6 pm at Cooks of Crocus Hill, Saint Paul. Getting ready for chilly Minnesota winter by learning how to make your own Ramen and Dumplings with us.

More classes to come at Seward Coop in September. Stay tuned!.

August Monthly Meetup

Thursday, August 23 at Quixotic Coffee Shop. Free event and everyone is welcome but seats are limited. Please R.S.V.P to koshiki@tanpopostudio.com to reserve your seats.

Happy Travels,
Koshiki and Benjamin Smith

ニュースレター8月号.

American Pie

ミネソタ州でも日本の暑さが話題になるほどですが皆様いかがお過ごしでしょうか。

ミネソタでは夏休みが真っ盛り。家族でグースベリージャムを作り、ルバーブパイを焼き、湖でカヌーに乗り、ロードトリップを楽しんだりと夏を満喫しています。

先日ミネソタ州の南に位置するハーモニー市のアーミッシュ村を訪ねてきました。
皆さんはアーミッシュをご存知ですか?アーミッシュとはドイツ系移民の宗教団体で、アメリカやカナダの大草原広がる自然豊かな大地で昔ながらの生活を大切に暮らしている人たちです。現在では20万人以上のアーミッシュが電気を使用しない移民当時の生活様式を維持し、自給自足の生活を送っていると言われています。

男性は空と大地の色を表す青と緑のシャツを羽織りバギーで仕事に向かい、女性はボンネットを齧りロングスカートに身を包み、畑を耕し、キルトを作り生活しています。

ここはミネソタ州で一番アーミッシュの人口が多いことで知られる町。正確なアーミッシュの数は分かっていませんが、およそ100家族が今も昔の伝統を守りながら生活をしています。

そして、来年の夏は何と言っても”アーミッシュツアー”。
ツアーでは古き良きアーミッシュコミュニティーを訪れ大自然を満喫します。物が溢れ、人とのつながりが薄れつつある今、コミュニティーを大切にし、自然の恵みのありがたさを基盤に生きている、そういうアーミッシュの人々から私たちも学ぶものはたくさんあるのではないでしょうか。
詳細は9月のニュースレターに記載されますよ。お楽しみに!

今回のニュースレターには山梨にある泉園のオーナーへのインタビューが記載させています。英語ではありますがもしよろしければお読みください。
泉園さん、ご協力ありがとうございました。

たんぽぽスタジオではツアーを通して出会ったビジネスオーナー、レストランのオーナーシェフ、農家の人々をアメリカで紹介しています。
また皆様にお会いできるのを楽しみにしています。

米村古紫季

Five Questions: Shuji Tanaka of Izumi En

Japanese Chef and Inn Owner

Shuji Tanaka of Izumi En

Mr. Tanaka (he likes to be called Shu chan), is the sixth generation farmer/community gardener/inn owner/chef at Izumi En.

His house and the inn sits on top of the hills in beautiful mountainous town of Kobuchizawa in Yamanashi prefecture. One can walk through a picturesque Japanese garden in the back of one hundred year old house and find a community garden. Busy professionals from Tokyo rent plots of land in the garden as way to get out into nature and relax. His farm-to-table breakfast is to die for!

Pouring local white wine from the Shikishima Winery. Shikishima Winery is known for making wine with tartaric acid-free filtration.

What inspired you to start a business?

When I was younger, I wanted to work in finance, especially trading stock. However, my family was scammed (financially but he did not explain further), I agreed to help them maintain the family business. About 18 years ago, my parents sold their business and invested in this house (owned by my uncle who died suddenly), we made many upgrades so it could operate as inn and serve customers.
Typically, the house and the farm is run by the eldest male member of the family. In my case, my uncle who was the oldest, but he died suddenly. My mother inherited the family business and I decided to help out. My sister, parents and myself operate the business together.

What is important to you when running your own business?

To enjoy work and life.

Japanese Breakfast at Inn

What is the hardest thing doing what you do. Happiest moment?

My philosophy is that if one thinks something is hard, then it becomes hard and difficult. Therefore I keep positive attitude towards work. I consider my work “stress-free”.

What part of Japan or Japanese culture would you most like to share with a travelers or guests from another country.
I want people from the other country to understand that Japanese way of thinking is based on the old culture of “hyori ittai or ura omote” in another words two-faced. Many of our culture and values are build on our history and the way we think. Things in Japan are often not able to explain in terms of “black or white”. Some cultural norm here has deep roots and history and might not be accepted by foreigners, but I want people to understand this is who we are.

Japanese White Wine From Yamanashi

What is your favorite food?
I lover raw liver, especially beef liver. It is ashamed that the government/health department banned raw consumption of liver after recent e-coli outbreak.

This interviewed took place after me, fellow travelers and Mr. Tanaka over some wine from Yamanashi (did you know Japan has great wine!). Mr. Tanaka has a great sense of humor is also extremely knowledgeable about history, politics and pretty much everything else he cares about. He loves to ski, go on horse back riding and speaks some English. Thank you Mr. Tanaka for opening up to us and sharing a good time with us.