By Reiko Kuwabara
Japan has a seemingly endless supply of regional specialities, a great many of them edible and delicious, but most of us don't have enough time or money to zip around the country in order to sample all of these goodies at the source. That's where 'antenna shops' come in handy: practically all of the 46 prefectures, plus quite a few cities and smaller municipalities, have their own dedicated retail outlets in Tokyo. Look through our top picks below and set out on a one-day trip from Hokkaido down to Okinawa – without ever leaving the city centre.
Nine top 'antenna shop' stops
Niigata prefecture’s Uonuma is home to some of the finest rice in all of Japan, and also produces pungent but tasty fermented foodstuffs. All these local specialities are available at this dedicated shop housed in Coredo Muromachi 2.
Known as the city where you ‘eat till you drop’, Osaka and its Hyakkaten has a lot to offer in terms of local foods and cheap eats. And it’s not only about the takoyakis and okonomiyakis; this shop also offers lesser-known Japanese favourites such as pork buns, Kokyu-choco (tiramisu chocolate) and Mangetsupon rice crackers.
Sorry, no temples and shrines here, but you will find tea ceremonies, traditional crafts, pickles, fine sake and seasonal events that give you a glimpse of life in Kyoto. If you do plan to visit Kyoto, stop by the information centre inside the store as it offers everything you need to know about the ancient capital. For souvenirs, check out their silk shibori scarves and the pretty photo stand.
This four-storey building houses a grocery, sake shop, Japanese restaurant and Italian restaurant, as well as a Hiroshima okonomiyaki restaurant. Moreover, it features Kumanofude’s ‘beauty brush’ speciality shop, which carries an impressive range of over 400 types of brushes, mainly for applying make-up but also for calligraphy. Pick up a box of Andersen lemon cake as a gift or teatime treat.
A joint project between Kagawa and Ehime prefectures in the Shikoku region. The ground floor is devoted to local foods and products and offers Kagawa speciality Sanuki udon and lacquerware, as well as Ehime’s jakoten (deep-fried fish paste) and tobe-yaki (pottery). We highly recommend Shodoshima’s olives, Rakuren coffee and white miso from Nakaya Miso.
With its bright red-roofed entrance, topped with a shisa (lion-dog statue), Ginza Washita is hard to miss. Housing Okinawan music, foods and crafts, this shop is a haven for fans of the southern islands who can’t make a trip out there as often as they’d like to. The basement stocks awamori (Okinawa’s answer to shochu) and houses a little parlour area (and we do mean little) serving ice cream and particularly scrumptious Sata-andagi doughnuts.
For the souvenirs
Find traditional crafts with a modern edge, from around Japan, at online shop Rooms Jibasan. Rooms Jibasan was founded in 2012 by Rooms Trade Show (organised by H.P. France) to promote traditional crafts and handmade wares, mainly from Japan. You can purchase products online at www.hpfmall.com (search for ‘rooms department’).
From Fukushima: Shirakawa daruma
This much-loved Japanese doll is a symbol of good fortune and originates in the Edo period. It comes in various sizes and contemporary colours such as pink, blue, yellow, white and metallic gold. Paint the left eye to make a wish and then the right eye after your wish has been granted. Small ¥864, medium ¥1,620.
From Ishikawa: Wazahonpo maneki neko
You’re sure to have seen one of these ‘cat dolls’ around Tokyo. Like the daruma, maneki neko are believed to bring good luck and are often placed near the entrance of shops and restaurants. Specialising in Kutani ware (Japanese porcelain), long-established Wazahonpo has given the feline a makeover with decorative 3D surfaces, hand-finished by skilled craftsmen. ¥5,400 per set.
From Yamanashi: Kichijitsu Goshuin notebook
This notebook is for collecting goshuin, the traditional stamps given out at temples and shrines. Unlike the regular goshuin-collector’s notebook sold at temples and shrines, Kichijitsu’s ones come in bright colours with eye-catching motifs – which means you might want to buy an extra to use as an everyday notebook. ¥2,160.