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Living Well in Togoshi Ginza

Date: 05.12.2020

Feel like a long walk down a street lined with a mix of shops old and new, excellent street food, and restaurants? Welcome to Togoshi Ginza, the longest traditional shopping street in Tokyo. After transferring at Gotanda from the JR Yamanote Line to the Tokyu Ikegami Line, you’ll arrive after a few minutes at Togoshi-ginza Station.

 

Excite Your Senses

Join us as we walk along the 1.3km stretch of 400 shops of Togoshi Ginza.

On arrival at the station, don’t be in a hurry to go shopping. Take a moment and enjoy the warm welcome of the wooden construction. The station was renovated in 2016 using local Tama timber. Compared with steel construction, local timber allowed carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced by 100t.

After exiting the gates of the little station, we walk out to the street and do a turnabout. We were sure we just walked through noren (traditional Japanese curtains). In a station?! Our senses are tickled with delight already.

Look down the long stretch of road that greets us, we decide to walk left. We enjoy looking into all the stores that line the street. Dumplings, fresh fruit and vegetables, import stores offering heavy discounts, and used clothing shops are a feast for the eyes.

Suddenly, we hear “hello” and a man welcomes us to his shop with a big, friendly smile. Originally from Osaka, Ikki Sakai moved to the area to open a branch of La Pan, which he established in his hometown a few years ago. There are more than a dozen branches of the shop in Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Tokyo.

The name La Pan is a play on French. Adding the French la to pan, the Japanese word for bread, creates a word pronounced like lapine—French for rabbit. A picture of a rabbit is burned into the corner of each loaf.

As we enter the shop, we smell the aroma of fresh bread and close our eyes as we imagine having a butter-slathered slice. There is no option to have it sliced thick or thin, just a full uncut loaf of fluffiness in small, medium, or large.

Chatting with Sakai, who speaks excellent English, is an absolute pleasure. He tells us that he lived in Australia for a year and taught himself.

If you bring your own bag, you will receive one stamp. Once you have collected 20, you’ll receive a free small loaf. It is proving to be a popular system. We welcome you to stop by to say “G’day” to Sakai.

If you do, ask him why there is a picture of a piano on the paper packaging.

LA・PAN

1-19-16 Togoshi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-0041

03-6426-1278

11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Seven days a week

 

It’s a feast for the eyes as we continue down the street. Fresh dumplings are steaming, skewers of chicken are sizzling on hot coals, fruit and vegetables going at rock-bottom prices, people are lining up for crispy croquettes, and boxes of heavily discounted imported food are spilling onto the street.

As we come to an intersection and check our map to see how far we have walked, a trendy looking signboard and sleek display grab our attention.

It looks like a butcher shop, but there is something different. We must go in.

Welcome to 355 MEAT & DERI. Not your traditional butcher by any means. Low lighting, bar stools, and retro glassware come into view while the sounds of jazz set a relaxing tone. Masaki Haruda introduces himself and the concept of his store, which has been in the family for more than 100 years. The selection of meat changes weekly, and Haruda showcases only top-quality wagyu from different parts of Japan.

Also on offer are handmade seasonal side dishes, crispy fried items, and a variety of scrumptious-looking obento.

We ask about the bar stools at the front and outside the shop. Haruda’s face lights up as he explains that his customers can order a glass of whatever tickles their fancy. If you choose a cut of meat on display, Haruda will cook it for a ¥100–200 charge. It’s the perfect companion for your drink!

You can also tell that Haruda loves music as mellow jazz gently streams out of his highly prized McIntosh sound system. He shows off his collection of glasses—all one of a kind. By now you will have forgotten you are in a butcher shop.

Oh yes! I almost forgot. There is a large aquarium filled with small, brightly colored fish. The ambience makes the shop hard to leave.

What does the name of the shop mean? Ask Haruda to find out. And don’t worry—he speaks English.

355 Meat Deli

2-6-8 Togoshi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-0041

03-6421-5229

10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m.

Holidays: Thursday and sometimes Sunday (Please check in advance)

 

Going Deeper!

Back on the street, we venture from the opposite side of the station. We notice shops we didn’t before and are excited to see boxes displaying signs that read “All you can fit in a bag for ¥500.”

A second-hand clothing store has a sale on winter items. We spot a fancy coat, beautiful wool jumper, and a stylish beret. They would easily fit in the bag. A bargain indeed! We now notice that there are other used clothing stores with deals to be had.

Our legs begin to tire, and we need a pick-me-up. We can’t go past a Showa-style shop with its name in beautiful rough gold emblazoned on the top of the front awning.

An older woman appears and, with a smile, makes us feel welcome as we look for a sugar hit. This shop sells wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets). We’ve hit the jackpot!

The woman is keen to chat and show us her best-selling delights.

The woman invites us to sit and enjoy our sweet. The subtle taste of persimmon is a pleasant surprise, the texture of the red bean perfect, and the sweetness just enough to give us a little boost of energy.

As we learn that her shop has been there since 1919, the woman spoils us with another of her favorites and invites us to return to try her sweets again. They change with the seasons.

Aoyagi Wagashi

2-15-13 Hiratsuka, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-0051

03-3781-4394

9:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

 

Alive with Activity

We are determined to walk the entire length of the street and pump out a few more steps. We pass convenience stores, chain stores, greengrocers, and fish shops. The streets are bustling, and our stomachs are rumbling. We decide to go up some stairs to Ricky’s Café for a very reasonable curry lunch. The vegetable curry set comes with naan, salad, and a yogurt lassi. A good meal! The café is a lovely little hideaway with friendly service.

Ricky’s Café

2-18-3 Hiratsuka, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-0051

03-5751-7377

11:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m. (until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesdays)

Last order: 10:00 p.m.

 

Grab a Souvenir

As we leave the restaurant, we spot a few people carrying bags with a logo that we spotted on the doors across the road. It’s a rice cracker shop! We pop in to buy a bag of their best-selling black-pepper crackers, which were advertised on the glass doors. As we leave, the shopkeeper calls out, “They go perfectly with cream cheese!”

On that note—our hearts, eyes, and stomachs, filled with the generosity of old-style hospitality, friendly characters, and good food of Togoshi Ginza—we walk to the station for our short ride back to downtown Tokyo.

This article was written by Sarah Nishina

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