Friday, March 4, 2011

Sugamo: Harajuku for grannies

We had a guest speaker in marketing class that gave a lecture about Sugamo Bank. To make the long story short, we learned that Sugamo is a section of Tokyo nicknamed "Harajuku for Grannies" because the elderly come to visit this area.

Grannies and gandpas walk around a street called Jizo-Dori, named after the nearby temple that has a famous Jizo (a statue of a bodhisattva). Jizo-dori caters to these older Japanese folks and it gets particularly busy on the 4th, 14th and 24th of every month (auspicious days for older people).

Jizo-Dori, Sugamo

So why would I want to go hang out among the geriatric? Very simple, the professor told us that on these 3 dates of the month a lot of traditional food stalls open up to cater to the traditional tastes of the older Japanese. That means that I could find TASTY SENMBEI (rice crackers) and other traditional Japanese food. So today I hopped on the JR line and headed to Sugamo.

As soon as I got there I saw tons of elderly people. If I could do a bell distribution of the age of people walking Jizo-Dori today I would be on the end of the left tail (yeah, I am a stats dork).

Grams and Gramps!

And another thing I saw right away was the amount of shops selling senbei. My food tour started with a piece of freshly grilled senbei. It was crunchy, sweet and salty.

Senbei Heaven


Most shops in Jizo-Dori carry inexpensive clothes for older people. The most interesting of these stores is Maruji. Maruji sells red underwear that elderly Japanese believe to be lucky and keep them warmer than other underwear. I saw three Maruji stores in Jizo-dori, so clearly they are very popular!

Busy busy Maruji

After scouting food for a while, I saw various stalls selling some kind of very flat Okonimiyake (if you know the name of this food please let me know). One particular stall had a long line, which in Japan is indicative of a good stall. So I queued up and got a ginger okonomiyake.

This one was mine. Can you see the steam coming for it?

It was delicious! The flat dough was soft and the sweet sauce went really well with the bite from the pickled ginger. An awesome find for 150 yen.

My next snack were some fried sweet potatoes. They were pretty good but the best part was the sweet couple selling them. Not only were they so sweet to me and put up with my horrible attempts at speaking in Japanese, but they also were happy to let me take pictures.

In fact, they insisted I take a picture of the sweet potatoes they were using. So here it is.

The next item was amazake (sweet, hot sake with very little alchoholic content). I am in love with amazake and start looking for it in any commercial street like Jizo-Dori. Sorry, no pictures of that, my hands were full!

So what other things do old folk want to shop for? Pickles! This was such a cute daikon radish stand it made me smile.

A cute Jizo

Lastly, I got this pastry. Not sure of its name, but I got "castella" flavor.  It was freshly made and warm, with a nice creamy center. Once I finished it I was completely full. I walked around for a while longer and bought some more senbei for the road.

No comments:

Post a Comment