Shopping & Dining Recommendations

Iwano Art (Isezaki Mall Shop)

Iwano Art (Isezaki Mall Shop)

Iwano Art (Isezaki Mall Shop)

By Brian Kowalczyk - OCT 31,2018

Iwano Art specializes in the buying and selling of antiques of all sorts. They deal mainly in Japanese items, but also carry those from abroad–pieces from China and Western countries are relatively common. The value of the antiques for sale run the gamut from inexpensive to pieces worth thousands of U.S. dollars. Visit Iwano to treasure hunt for collectables such as tableware, tea sets, ceramic sake vessels, sculptures, figurines, and much more. In addition to the antiques, the store sells a variety of new goods, as well.

Store manager Hisayoshi Yoshioka has been professionally involved with antiques for about thirty years. He says there is no school that you can attend to learn about the appraisal of antiquities. You simply have to accumulate years of hands-on experience as he has. He can give detailed explanations of anything in the store, albeit in Japanese. Yoshioka sometimes has foreign customers and relies on a translation app to communicate the important points.

The main store, which is about twenty years old, is located just south of Yokohama in the city of Yokosuka. The Isezakicho shop, conveniently situated a few minutes away on foot from Kannai Station, was opened three years ago to easily service customers in Yokohama. You can bring in antiques to be appraised and possibly sold, but should call ahead to make an appointment with Yoshioka.

Keep in mind that stock is always changing as most items are unique. Prior to visiting, it is best to check the store’s website. If you see something you like, call to let them know you are interested lest the object you desire be sold before you arrive.

Name of Shop Iwano Art (Isezaki Mall Shop)
Opening Hours 10:00-19:00
Address 2-11-4 Isezakicho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 0120-77-3260
Website https://iwano.biz/yokohama_blog/

Minoya Honten

Minoya Honten

Minoya Honten

By Matthew Hernon - OCT 31, 2017

One of a number of establishments on Isezaki Street that dates its history back to the Meiji Era (1868-1912), Minoya no Neriyōkan is a popular Japanese confectionary shop that has maintained many of its traditions and high standards of craftsmanship while also adapting its approach to attract new customers.

"It's a family business that started in Gifu, but moved to these premises in 1910 so you are looking at over 100 years of history," says Ayahisa Yoshida, whose father is the third-generation owner of Minoya. "Of course, we are proud of our past and longevity, but we can't afford to look backwards.

"Our main objective is to continue developing and improving our product. To help us do that we are constantly studying customers’ tastes and preferences. Careful consideration goes into the size, shape and sweetness of our produce, and we are always prepared to change things if necessary."

The shop is divided into two parts. The front area is a fairly bright and modern Western-style room. Then behind the counter there is a tatami room that was previously used by a tea master to teach students the "way of tea" (chado).

On the second floor is the factory where all the magic happens. There are six staff members up there constantly creating all kinds of wagashi (Japanese confectionary) that not only taste great, but also look amazing as well. Aside from a few items from Tokushima, all the goods in the store are made and designed by the skilful workers upstairs. Yet, as there is so much to choose from, we want to know what Mr. Yoshida thinks we should buy.

"That's a difficult question," he says with a smile. "We specialize in neri yōkan (a thick, jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar and sugar that is quite firm and has less water than other kinds of yōkan) so if I had to recommend one it would be that with citron and apricot. That's the shop's best-selling item and won an award at the National Yōkan Fair. It's a product that gets a lot of good feedback from customers."

At ¥1,000 a box, it is not exactly what you would call cheap, however, given the quality of what's inside it's definitely worth it. Another item that stands out is a box of colorful sweets that looks like a makunouchi bento (a popular Japanese lunchbox often sold at stations that usually consists of rice with fish, meat, pickles, eggs, vegetables and Japanese salt plums). We didn't get a chance to taste this one, but would recommend it as a souvenir just for its appearance alone, and the same could be said for the osekihan (sticky rice with adzuki beans) bento. We are told that the candy tastes like real fruit.

"There's a lot of interest in Japanese sweets, but there aren't as many stores selling them as there used to be," says Mr. Yoshida. "I would love to see people from all over the world come to Minoya so they can experience the various scents and flavors of wagashi."

Name of Shop Minoya Honten
Opening Hours 10:00am - 7:30pm
Address 1-3-2 Isezakicho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-251-6350
Website http://www.isezaki.jp/2017/02/post_52.html

Mikiya Shishimai Koubou

Mikiya Shishimai Koubou

Mikiya Shishimai Koubou

By Matthew Hernon - OCT 31, 2017

A small, homely shop selling traditional Japanese goods, including huge shishi masks, Mikiya Shishimai Koubou is a charming store with an extremely passionate and friendly owner named Mr. Minoguchi. The elderly man greets us with a huge smile as we enter the store, and though he doesn't speak English, he does hand over a piece of paper written in English that describes what a shishi is. He then starts explaining it in Japanese.

"A shishi is an imaginary creature that usually looks like a lion," he tells us. "It is said to have magic properties and the power to protect individuals from misfortune. These masks are most commonly used at Japanese festivals where people perform what's called a shishi-mai (lion dance). It can be handled by one or two people and if you let the lion bite your head that will dispel evil spirits and bring you good luck."

The huge masks are hand carved at a nearby factory in the Minami region of Yokohama. They are made using Paulownia wood, gold leaf and an oil-based lacquer finish. Mr. Minoguchi let us try a mask on, and up close you can really see the attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into making one. As well as being true pieces of art, they are also very heavy. Dancers, we are told, can usually only wear one for around 10 minutes before taking a break. For those feeling adventurous, there are kits in the shop for you take make one yourself.

In most cases the shishi masks are bought by festival committee members rather than individuals. They are fun to look at (and maybe good for a picture or two), but the majority of customers, particularly tourists, are unlikely to want to shell out over ¥100,000 for something so big and heavy. Fortunately, there are plenty of other items in the shop that are much smaller, cheaper and more convenient.

"We have all kinds of festival goods that can also be used in daily life," Mr. Minoguchi says. "There are pouches, hand-made charms, straps, hand fans, protective mini-statues, all kinds of things. One of the most popular items for both Japanese and foreign people are these samui (also known as samue). Made from cotton, they are clothes worn by Buddhist monks that are engaging in physical work done with mindfulness (samu). These days they are also used by the public at summer events or as a comfortable item to wear around the house."

It's great to dress like a monk, but being able to perform like one – that is even better. Located next to the samue in the shop is a selection of Shinobue. These are Japanese end-blown flutes, usually made by bamboo. They were previously used by monks of the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism in the practice of suizen (blowing meditation). As well as selling these and other instruments, Mr. Minoguchi also teaches students how to play them for a small fee (¥500 per lesson). "Of course, I want to make a profit," he says. "What's more important, however, is to spread traditional Japanese culture to as many people as possible."

Name of Shop Mikiya Shishimai Koubou
Opening Hours 11:55am - 7:05pm / Closed on Fridays
Address 5-127-5 Isezakicho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-315-2112
Website http://shishimaikoubou.com/

Janomeya

Janomeya

Janomeya

By Matthew Hernon - OCT 31, 2017

Following the Meiji Restoration in the mid-1800s when foreign culture made its way to these shores, Japanese people commonly started experimenting with beef for the first time

One of the leading dishes to emerge at that time was gyu-nabe, a traditional Japanese cuisine characterized by dipping and immersing thinly sliced beef and vegetables such as negi (Japanese leeks) and shiitake mushrooms into a boiling soup flavored with local seasoning. Towards the end of the 19th century numerous restaurants that served the popular beef hot pot dish opened in Yokohama, and some of them are still in business today. One of the most well-known, and best in terms of quality, is Janomeya.

"The restaurant was established in 1893, and of course I wasn't alive then, but I believe it quickly gained quite a reputation," says third-generation owner Mr. Yamazaki. "Today, I think that reputation remains strong. Our menu focuses mainly on beef dishes and Japanese food, and we have specialist chefs for both. The ingredients we choose are always of the highest quality."

Janomeya's buyer carefully selects stocks of A5 ranked beef (there are 15 grades in Japan based on yield percentages and meat quality, ranging from C1, the lowest, to A5, the highest). Intensely marbled, the healthy fat of the meat has a beneficial effect on juiciness and flavor, which gives the beef an extremely moist and succulent taste.

"To be able to enjoy this kind of beef in many Tokyo restaurants, I think you would be paying around double what you pay here, so many customers feel they're really getting value for money when they come to Janomeya," says Mr. Yamazaki. "Most popular is our gyu-nabe full course (¥7,600 plus tax or ¥6,800 for 100g). It starts with two seasonal appetizers and two kinds of sashimi. That is followed by a range of vegetables including scallions, crown daisies, mushrooms and white konjac. The 150g kuroge wagyu (black cattle) round beef steak (and ribs) is then served with rice and a sauce made from egg, soy sauce, sugar and Japanese sake."

A similar shabu shabu (meat and vegetables cooked in broth) style course menu with roast sirloin of beef is also available for the same price. Those willing to splash out a little more cash may be interested in one of the special selection menus, all of which include the finest marbled beef and dessert. Prices range between ¥9,000 and ¥12,500.

The restaurant has an open dining space and seven private rooms that vary in size. Lunch is available on Sundays only, between 12:00 and 14:00. Dinner is served until 21:00 on weekends and 21:15 on weekdays. A special menu, depending on budget, is available for groups (up to 50 people). These private parties can go beyond closing time, but reservations should be made at least three days in advance.

Name of Shop Janomeya
Opening Hours Tues. to Fri,: 5:00pm - 9:15pm / Sat., Sun., Holidays: 12:00pm - 9:00pm / Closed on Mondays, first Sunday
Address 5-126 Iseakicho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
TEL 045-251-0832
Website http://www.janomeya.com/shopinfo.html/