Shopping & Dining Recommendations

Oyasumi-dokoro Hara

Oyasumi-dokoro Hara

Oyasumi-dokoro Hara

By Brian Kowalczyk - OCT 31,2018

Shoichi Hara has spent most of his life running his eponymous shop in Rokkakubashi. His parents started a shop inside the covered shopping street when the it was first built in 1946. In those days, they sold various dried foods like seaweed, beans and fish. But as supermarkets began to appear and become more commonplace, the need for small, specialty food shops waned. When Hara took over from his parents around 1980, he recognized the need to change with the times.

He started an amami kissa (traditional cafe with sweets) and added yakisoba (stir-fried buckwheat noodles) to the menu for patrons looking for more of a meal. The deserts (desserts?) sold mainly revolve around sweet red bean, like anmitsu (jellies with sweet azuki bean paste), and types of mochi (glutinous rice cakes). All are in the ¥430~¥500 price range. Pair your sweets with coffee, cocoa, cream soda and more for an additional ¥350~¥400. Basic yakisoba is an affordable ¥450, but there are other options with beef, shrimp and egg that are slightly more expensive. If you are hungry, choose the all-in-one moriawase yakisoba (¥680), which includes hamburger, wiener sausage, and egg.

Many years ago, Hara had a foreign customer that visited his shop with her own set of chopsticks because she was concerned about waste. He read up on the matter and was shocked by how many disposable chopsticks were thrown out in a year. He decided to purchase reusable sets to be more environmentally conscious and his wife makes an assortment of her own hashioki (chopsticks rest) out of thick colorful fabric. He says he sometimes gives them to foreign visitors as gifts.
Hara had been running his establishment with his wife, but she has since taken up the hobby of teaching the koto and shamisen (traditional stringed instruments). When asked if he has trouble keeping up on his own, he laughs and says, “I’ve been doing this for so long, everything is second nature. It’s no problem!”

Name of Shop Oyasumi-dokoro Hara
Opening Hours 11:30-19:00 / Closed irregularly
Address 1-10-11 Rokkakubashi, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-432-1374
Website http://www.rokkakubashi.jp/shop-data/oyasumidokoro_hara.html

Coffee Bunmei

Coffee Bunmei

Coffee Bunmei

By Matthew Hernon - OCT 31, 2017

As we enter Coffee Bunmei in the center of Rokkakubashi the mood seems very chilled. A fashionable two-floored café with oak furniture and a retro streetlight in the corner, it has only just opened for the day and is a little dark. After a few minutes spent talking to owner Mr. Akazawa, however, the place begins to brighten up.

The reason for this tonal shift is not down to extra lights being turned on or blinds being opened. It's because of the ceiling, which is designed to reflect the sky and subsequently changes shade and color throughout the day.

"The concept is an outdoor feeling while relaxing with a nice drink inside," says Mr. Akazawa. "Many coffee shops tend to get crowded and customers can feel a little rushed. Here I want them to take their time to enjoy the sky scenes. I would recommend staying for at least 26 minutes. During that time you can see a full day cycle.

"On the first floor, you have some light from outside so the impact isn't as great," he continues. "I think it's better to sit up in the loft so you can properly experience the contrast between night and day. For a short time, it does get pretty dark to the point where it can be difficult to read letters or numbers. Aside from that, Bunmei is a great place to sit down with a novel and forget about everything else going on in the world."

What can help to make that book seem even better is a delicious coffee to accompany it. Trendy interior is all well and good, but Mr. Akazawa, who runs the shop by himself, knows that he is ultimately going to be judged on the standard of his beverages and fortunately he doesn't disappoint.

Using top quality beans, he makes us a Bunmei blend coffee using the siphon (vacuum pot) method. Invented in the 1840s, the siphon coffee maker has two chambers. The bottom one (the bulb) is filled with water which rises to the upper compartment (the hopper) due to vapor pressure. Here it is mixed with the coffee beans and brewed for a few minutes before dropping back into the lower chamber. The whole process requires a great deal of attention to detail and does take a while to make, but is well worth it. A clean, delicate brew with a strong aroma, it tastes fantastic.

There are four types of blend coffee to choose from: Bunmei (shop original), Hakuraku, Royal and Queen. All cost ¥620. There are also coffees from Kenya, Ethiopia and Sumatra in Indonesia. For those feeling a bit hungry there are some cakes on the menu as well as curry bread.

Now in its 10th year Coffee Bunmei continues to go from strength to strength. It's one of the most famous stores in Rokkakubashi after it appeared on the popular show Kodoku no Gourmet. A picture of lead actor Yutaka Matsushige can be seen inside the shop alongside many other celebrities who have frequented the place, including footballer Masashi "Gon" Nakayama and comedian “Sama-zu”. On the fourth Friday of every month Mr. Akazawa plays an acoustic set in the store.

Name of Shop Coffee Bunmei
Opening Hours 12:00pm - 8:00pm / Closed on Wednesdays and third Tuesdays
Address 1-9-2 Rokkakubashi, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-432-4185
Website http://www.coffeebunmei.com/

Raijindo (Rokkakubashi Store)

Raijindo (Rokkakubashi Store)

Raijindo (Rokkakubashi Store)

By Matthew Hernon - OCT 31, 2017

When it comes to souvenirs in this country, one of the best and cheapest options you'll find are the Japanese rice crackers known as senbei. Eaten as a casual snack, often with green tea, they come in all shapes and sizes and many kinds of flavors. The taste can be sweet, but is more often than not savory.

Visit any shōtengai in Yokohama and you are likely to find a number of establishments, both big and small, selling senbei. One of our favorites in the city is Raijindo (Hall of the Thunder God). The main shop is located in Sugamo, but we paid a visit to its sister store in the heart of Rokkakubashi which is run by Mr. Kato.

The space is overflowing with goods. Mr. Kato informs us that there are more than 60 kinds of senbei in the store. He then points out his tiny, furnace-like room in the corner. When he's not serving customers, this is where he spends much of his day grilling and baking various kinds of rice crackers. It's an open window so you can watch him as he works.

“Some of the products are imported, but the majority of our senbei are either hand-grilled or hand-baked one by one and then brushed with a flavoring sauce," he says. "I use a bincho charcoal (high grade charcoal produced from ubame oak) so in terms of quality and freshness I would say our reputation is pretty good. I think if you buy packaged rice crackers from a supermarket you'll notice a big difference between that and what is being made here."

Senbei has long been a popular snack in Japan and is often offered to guests at family homes. According to legend the name originated during the Edo Period when a samurai visited the well-known cafe Sōkajuku in Saitama Prefecture and suggested to owner Ms. Osen that she mash down her dango (rice dumplings) and bake them. She did and this new kind of snack was then referred to as senbei, taking "sen" from her name and using "bei" to mean rice.

It proved an immediate hit and salty soy sauce flavored senbei went on to become one of the country's favorite snacks. These days there are all kinds of rice crackers with varying tastes. So, how important is it for a shop like Raijindo to keep up with modern trends?

"It's good to have a balance," says Mr. Kato. "A number of what you might call 'newer style products' such as curry or plum flavored senbei do very well, but at the same time people still love the more orthodox tastes like soy sauce, sesame and seaweed. I don't see that changing. Here we have a limited amount of space so we can't afford to keep products that don't immediately sell well. The shop in Sugamo is around three times the size so they have more flexibility in that sense."

At both shops, you can order what is known as dekosen (decorated senbei). Request a message to be written in colorful icing on the rice cracker and it will be ready to pick up in 2 to 7 days.

Name of Shop Raijindo (Rokkakubashi Store)
Opening Hours 10:00am - 7:00pm / Closed irregulary
Address 1-9-22 Rokkakubashi, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-402-2538
Website http://raijindo.com/

Café Amendoro

Café Amendoro

Café Amendoro

By Matthew Hernon - OCT 31, 2017

Opened in May 2017, Amendoro is a charming little café specializing in satsumaimo (sweet potatoes), the starchy root Japanese vegetables that stimulate the body's natural production of hyaluronic acid and are therefore said to be good for one’s skin. X-Men actress Olivia Munn swears by them, claiming that her youthful look is because of all the sweet potatoes she eats.

Well, if the Hollywood star has any plans to visit Japan in the near future then Amendoro should be high on her list of places to visit. There are numerous cafés in Tokyo and Yokohama that will serve a satsumaimo-related dish or two, but to find one with so many is rare. The ingredients come from the famous sweet potato-making district in the west of Kagoshima that was previously known as Satsuma Province.

At Amendoro you can order all kinds of desserts featuring sweet potato including roll cake, pie, tart and ice wafers. There is also baked and candied satsumaimo as well as a gelato. It all sounded very tempting, so we asked Ms. Ishikawa, one of the ladies running the café, for her recommendation.

"I would go for the sweet potato pie," she says. "You get three mini pies which all have a different kind of sweet potato syrup. As well as the standard satsumaimo syrup, that is known to be good for people's immune systems and bowel movements, you've also got anno-imo syrup which is the sweetest of the three. It is rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C. Finally, you have murasaki-imo which is full of anthocyanins and polyphenols, both of which have antioxidant properties."

Healthy sweet dishes that look and, according to reputation, taste amazing; it almost sounded too good to be true. So, did they live up to expectation? Absolutely. Ms. Ishikawa brought out the pies for us to try and all three had a sumptuous, melt-in-the-mouth quality to them. Served with Ishigaki Island coffee from Okinawa, it was a combination that worked very well.

For non-coffee drinkers, there are plenty of other options including various teas and juices. A ¥100 discount is given if you opt for a sweet and drink set or you can get a gelato, roll cake and a drink for just ¥930. If dessert isn't filling enough then you might want to start with something less sweet. The lunch menu only came out in July and mainly consists of light dishes. According to Ms. Ishikawa the most popular choice is a soup containing five types of cereal and rice. The curry, which also has five kinds of cereal, is another meal that has done well.

We sampled both and thoroughly enjoyed them. Also on the menu is a panzerotti (you can order either tomato or sweet potato), a minced beef cutlet sandwich and Amendoro toast, all of which come with soup and salad at prices ranging between ¥500 and ¥650.
"I'm not sure if or when we'll expand the menu," says Ms. Ishikawa. "For now, our focus is on establishing ourselves in the area. I think this shop is quite unique so hopefully that will encourage many people to come."

Name of Shop Café Amendoro
Opening Hours 11:00am to 7:00pm / Closed on Mondays
Address 1-9-2 Rokkakubashi, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-432-4188