Shopping & Dining Recommendations

Yasudaya Gofukuten

Yasudaya Gofukuten

Yasudaya Gofukuten

By Paul Mcinnes - OCT 31, 2017

Honmoku isn’t your typical Japanese shōtengai. It’s not covered with a roof and there is a road running through it so it’s not entirely pedestrian friendly. However, on both sides of the road there are nearly 40 stores of all shapes, sizes and themes. Much like Gumyoji, Honmoku is a local street catering to locals but also very accepting of foreign tourists and visitors too.

So it’s of no surprise, then, that Yasudaya Gofukuten takes pride of place on the shopping street. Gofuku means kimono (and kimono fabric/textiles) in Japanese and has been around (in various forms) for about 100 years. (It used be located in the Motomachi area of Yokohama but that store was destroyed in the earthquake of 1923.) It’s a colorful store and as you enter you are hit with a riot of hues, textures and items including hanten (traditional short jacket), sculptures, toys, dolls, arts and crafts, knick-knacks and general artisanal goods.

It’s a traditional kind of place that will appeal to those who like a more conservative style of clothing. One of the most impressive items is the hanten, which comes in an array of colors, materials and sizes. Even the more rotund gent can pull off a hanten, and this store stocks them in appropriate sizes. Yasudaya Gofukuten offers several hanten in vintage-style blue cotton, which also passes for something akin to selvedge denim. It can be paired with anything from summer shorts to jeans or trousers. Sure, other stores may sell hanten in silk fabric with quirky anime designs, but Yasudaya Gofukuten keeps it more traditional with kanji characters decorating the collar area of the jacket.

Mr. Hanyuda, who owns the store, says, “We pride ourselves on making things,” he says. “It’s all about craftsmanship. It’s not about timing and being quick. It’s about taking your time and creating the right item be it hanten, haori [long jacket] or sculpture. This store and history is making ceremonial clothes which won’t fade with time.”

When asked if it is culturally inappropriate for non-Japanese to wear Japanese traditional clothing Mr. Hanyuda explains, “Foreigners who are interested in Japan can learn a lot through tradition and textiles. So for me, anyone can wear these kinds of clothes. It doesn’t matter what race or nationality.”

It’s a quirky kind of store with so much to find and rake through at your own leisure. It may sound a little odd to find Barbie dolls alongside kimono textiles and wooden sculptures but in Japan it makes sense. Great for souvenirs and bits and pieces of Japanese history with lots of quirky items that will keep you occupied for hours, Yasudaya Gofukuten should definitely be one of your first stops on a tour of Honmoku. It’s a treasure chest of goodies that many tourists will genuinely love.

Monozukuri (artisanship) is a big deal in Japan and people place a lot of importance on handcrafted design. Yasudaya Gofukuten, along with various other stores in the area, takes a lot of pride in displaying a very much hands-on approach to design and textiles. It’s a refreshing perspective in a soulless age of chain stores and cheap manufacturing.

Name of Shop Yasudaya Gofukuten
Opening Hours 10:00am - 6:00pm / Closed on Sundays (open if Holiday)
Address 1-9 Honmokucho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-623-5781
Website http://gofuku.yasudaya.info/

Iwataya Liquor Store

Iwataya Liquor Store

Iwataya Liquor Store

By Paul Mcinnes - OCT 31, 2017

The Japanese have an image of being very reserved and quiet individuals. However anyone who has spent any time here will know that this description is fairly generalized, especially when it comes to nightlife. Head to Tokyo’s Shinjuku or Shimbashi on a Friday night and witness the revelry.

To tell the truth, the Japanese love their sake, especially local tipples such as nihonshu (rice wine), shochu (distilled liquor made from sweet potatoes, barley and even rice), and umeshu (plum wine). Weekends, national holidays and New Year’s celebrations are all excuses for the good people of Japan to fill their collective boots.

Yoshidamachi and various spots around Yokohama station and beyond are known as great drinking spots for locals and guests alike. A visit to one of the izakayas (Japanese bar) around here can see you make friends for life with some of the locals – and quickly dissipate the stereotype of Japanese as introverted as copious amounts of beer and spirits are consumed.

Along the main Honmoku shōtengai is the legendary Iwataya liquor store. It’s been in the same spot since 1923 serving the locals a huge variety of booze and accompanying snacks. Run by the Iwata family since the beginning, it’s a venerable institution in these parts. In addition to a large amount of beer and liquor, the store sells its very own original-label nihonshu made at a brewery in Niigata. You know you’re on to a good thing when the locals can’t get enough of it.

The store has a healthy amount of jorensan (regulars) who come through the doors from morning till night. There are a few foreigners who frequent Iwataya too but the present owner explains that “in the old days there used to be a fence that separated the American base from the street, which was primarily for local Japanese folk. However, about 30 years ago the Americans left, so we don’t see so many foreigners here as we did in the past.”

Iwataya, however, isn’t just your run-of-the-mill liquor store. If you peek through the curtain behind the cashier area you will see a cozy bar area. And it’s a beautiful thing that Iwataya allows customer to purchase their drinks in the main store and then proceed through the curtain to enjoy those very drinks with the locals and the staff.

The bar is open from 9am to 8pm so if you’re looking for a truly original hair of the dog or fancy a cheeky afternoon pint then this place is your very own paradise. Chat with the owners, buy some of their very own nihonshu, add a few beer chasers, and settle yourself behind the bar where you can make yourself at home. It’s a local establishment for people who love a drink at any time of the day.

It could be New York, Glasgow, London or Berlin, but it’s not. It’s Honmoku, and Iwataya is very much part of the local fabric with staff who have made an amazing career and life from having good times with their customers. It’s a true one of a kind.

Name of Shop Iwataya Liquor Store
Opening Hours 8:00am - 8:00pm / Closed irregularly
Address 1-36 Honmokucho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-622-8566
Website http://www.e-iwataya.jp/

Okonomiyaki Honmoku Kim-Chan

Okonomiyaki Honmoku Kim-Chan

Okonomiyaki Honmoku Kim-Chan

By Paul Mcinnes - OCT 31, 2017

Okonomiyaki is a bit of an unusual dish. Although it’s adored by Japanese people from all different parts of the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, there are only two distinct styles: Osaka-style okonomiyaki with vegetables, meat, fish and egg; and Hiroshima-style which is much the same but with added yakisoba noodles.

The English translation of okonomiyaki is usually “savory pancake” but this doesn’t do it justice. One should really just call it “grilled stuff that you like.” Visually, it doesn’t come across half as delicious as it is – picture huge chunks of batter containing yam, dashi (stock), eggs, cabbage, leeks, octopus and squid as well as a variety of other ingredients all poured onto a hotplate in one go. It’s prepared on the hotplate in front of the customer and cooked into a circular shape much like a pizza (or pancake, if we’re going with the conventional translation). Customers are then encouraged to add toppings such as scallions, a sweet brown okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes, ginger and the ubiquitous mayonnaise. (The Japanese are crazy about mayonnaise and add it to everything from pizza to noodles.) They’re also encouraged to mold the pancakes over the hotplate by themselves.

So where can you try this unique cuisine? Off the main drag of Honmoku shōtengai is Okonomiyaki Kim Chan. Although the restaurant is on a side street, it feels very much part of the shōtengai, and the staff proudly consider themselves a part of the community. Okonomiyaki isn’t local to the denizens of Yokohama but it’s adored here as much as it is in Osaka or Hiroshima. This particular store serves up Osaka-style pancakes, takoyaki (octopus balls), monjayaki (a Tokyo variation on okonomiyaki) and teppanyaki (iron-griddled food). The restaurant’s floor manager Mr. Ozeki explains, “This kind of food is considered Japanese soul food. This area has been influenced by America since the war, and although we don’t do traditional American soul food, we do cook the Japanese equivalent.” According to Ozeki, the locals love the DIY element to this kind of Japanese cuisine.

Okonomiyaki Kim Cham prides itself on serving huge portions for reasonable prices – a combination you don’t often find in Japanese restaurants. The most popular item on the menu is the Mix Okonomiyaki, and the restaurant can also cater for vegetarians if you inform the staff beforehand. Indeed, this kind of food is perfect for visitors who don’t eat meat or fish as you can easily opt for a purely vegetable-based pancake and batter. Ozeki admits that there aren’t a lot of vegetarians in the area but he’s proud of the fact that his eatery can cater to a spectrum of tastes.

Okonomiyaki Kim Chan is a diamond in the rough. One minute from the main Honmoku stretch, it would be easy to pass by. However, the gorgeous aroma emanating from the restaurant has locals and visitors alike coming from far and wide to sample its fine dishes.

Okonomiyaki is a great bonding food. Gather a few friends or family members, crowd around the hotplate and get creative. Add to the table a healthy collection of beverages and you have the makings of a pretty great night out.

Name of Shop Okonomiyaki Honmoku Kim-Chan
Opening Hours Mon. - Thu.:5:00pm - 11:30pm / Sun. Holidays: 4:00pm - 11:30pm / Fri., Sat., 4:00pm - 12:00am / Closed on Wednesdays
Address 1F Daito Heights, 1-156 Honmokucho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-623-8187
Website http://honmokukimchan.wixsite.com/honmokukimchan