For many decades, foreigners have been living in Azabu-juban where a large number of embassies are located. The international atmosphere there is something special – something you won’t find anywhere else in Japan. In the center of Azabu-juban, you’ll find a huge shopping street area with a lot of cute shops. Boutiques with international couture and fancy cafes are located next to cheap (and useful) 100 Yen shops. In the middle of everything, you’ll still find some Japanese shops with a long history – the “shinise”.
I participated in a free, English guided tour through Azabu-juban to explore the area.
Our group met outside one of the exits of “Azabu-juban station” of the Oedo line. The participants came from a variety of countries, like the Netherlands, Spain, France and the USA. The atmosphere was good and everybody was excited to explore the shopping street. Let’s go!
But before entering the shopping jungle, we first made a short visit to the Azabu Hikawa Shrine, which is located right next to the station entrance. I’ve already visited this shrine before at the summer festival with my friends, but for most of the tour participants, it was the first time to visit a Japanese shrine. Our tour guide explained how to make a wish at a shrine.
After this short culture class, we finally entered the shopping street area. Our first shop to visit was an old rice cracker “shinise”.
Rice crackers are called “senbei” in Japanese. You might know these rice crackers from your home country, but believe me when I say: in Japan, there are flavors you wouldn’t expect. Rice crackers are a great gift and the good thing about Japanese shops is that – in most cases – you can try the different flavors before buying.
My favorite flavor is sesame, ”goma”.
The next shop was a “shinise” selling “taiyaki” which they were preparing right in front of your eyes. Have you ever heard of “taiyaki”? Some of you might have seen them in Japanese anime, although you could get confused by their appearance. They look like fish, but they’re not. “Taiyaki” are made out of waffle dough that is filled in fish-shaped forms and baked over an open fire. The “taiyaki” are filled with azuki (sweetened red beans) paste. Azuki is great because it’s a completely different type of sweetness. Nothing close to chocolate, but soooo good!
After a short walk, we passed a bean sweets shop and a “karinto” (deep-fried snack) shop. If you are looking for traditional Japanese sweets as a gift, Azabu-juban is the place to go!
Also, there is a cute “tenugui”-cloth shop close by. What else could you ask for?
The Azabu-juban shopping street is a labyrinth. The further you go, the deeper you’ll get. And when you get to the deepest area, you’ll find one of my top 3 coffee beans shops. On the left of the shop is a kaleidoscope store. They have quite expensive and exotic looking kaleidoscopes, as well as portable ones for a reasonable price.
They have quite expensive and exotic looking kaleidoscopes, as well as portable ones for a reasonable price.
Another shop in this area sells incense. Incense is mainly used for Buddhist offerings, but there’re many sorts of different scents, which you can also use in your home. Also, there is a traditional Japanese game (“kodo”) where you have to guess the type of the fragrance. If you want to try, you can buy a game kit here.
Time flew by while we were listening to our volunteer guide and we soon arrived at our goal: the Zenfukuji temple. It was a very nice and informative tour, but I wished I had more time to look at the shops…so after we separated, I returned into the shopping jungle^^
“Tanuki Senbei” (たぬき煎餅)
1-9-13 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
“Naniwaya Sohonten” (浪花家総本店)
1−8−14 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
1-8-12 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
“Azabu Karinto” (麻布かりんと)
1−7−9 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
“Asa no ha” (麻の葉)
1-5-24-1F Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
“Kaleidoscope Mukashi-kan” (カレイドスコープ昔館)
2-13-8 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
“Azabu Kobo” (麻布珈房)
2-13-7 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
3-3-5 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo