August 5, 2018

Canals in Koto City

There' re a lot of waterways in Koto City. One of these is of course the Sumida-gawa River. It' s a famous wide, tidal river with grand views and historical large bridges. While canals are narrow and quiet with comparatively little scenery. Canals date back to early seventeenth century, it was built to facilitate the transportation of goods across Edo (old name of Tokyo) City. By 1960' s the transport industry shifted towards roads, canals fell into relative uselessness. Some of them have been reclaimed and replaced by houses and roads.

I like to walk along now remaining canals. In the morning, I bring the map of Koyo City and begin to walk to one of those including the Shiohama Canal and the Oyoko-gawa River. After thirty minutes of walk I get there. There' s few large buildings visible and little noise from traffic. People who are jogging or walking a dog come along the bund. Other people are sitting on the bench seeing the surface. Sometimes they and I say “Good morning” each other.

 In early spring magnolia blossom buds unfold, then cherry blossom come to bloom. A wild ducks' family swim on the surface (see pictures). In summer a wasen boat (Japanese style of small fishing and transporting boat) passes by smoothly. In autumn a black musing great cormorant stands on the top of a mooring stake. In winter several yakata-bune boats (a roofed pleasure boat) stay still on the cold water. 

When a blow of gentle wind pass over, canals are restful places in the large city of Tokyo.

By Shoichiro

How do you like walking along canals in Koto city? In our Course B, you can enjoy walking along Sendaibori canal after visiting Kiyosumi-Teien park. Please contact us from here and join our free walking tours! 

July 3, 2018

Monuments of Four God Beasts in Koto City

Have you ever heard the word "Feng Shui Four Gods Beast"? Feng Shui 風水 is ancient Chinese astronomical thought.
The four gods, Shi-jin 四神, appeared in Chinese mythology, these four gods’ appearances are like beasts. It said that the four beasts guard all sides of the sky. The names of god beast are Genbu (玄武, god of water), Suzaku (朱雀, red Chinese phoenix), Seiryu (青龍, blue dragon), and Byakko (白虎, white tiger). They guard north, south, east, and west sky in order.
Koto city has these four god beasts’ monuments.

1. Genbu (玄武, god of water)

Genbu guards north. The appearance of water god in Koto city is turtles with wings.
In 1992, a turtle monument was set up when the park in the Kameido station renovated.
The "Splash Turtle with Wings" called Hane-Kame 羽亀 selected as a northern god. This monument has three tiers of turtles. The lower is the grandfather, the middle is the father, and the top is the child. This has the function of a fountain, and water pops out from the back of the child turtle at a fixed time. The pond and the pedestal designed in a hexagonal shape that images turtle’s shell pattern, kora 甲羅.

2. Suzaku (朱雀, red Chinese phoenix)

Suzaku guards south. It located in the Wakasu-Koen park in the southern part of Koto city. This area is the reclaimed land, and the park opened in April 2006 as a municipal park. In commemoration of the open of the park, a monument of Suzaku was set up. Suzaku became a new symbol of the Wakasu-Koen park with a wind power generator.

3. Seiryu (青龍, blue dragon)

Seiryu guards east. The monument of Seiryu was set up in the square of Higashi-Ojima station (Toei Shinjuku line) when the rotary square repaired.
Seiryu placed on a semi-circle pedestal in the lawn. The Dragon Ball in the right hand is shining.

4. Byakko (白虎, white tiger)

Byakko guards west. The monument of Byakko was set up in front of the entrance of the Toyosu Civic Center in 2015 as the commemoration of the opening.
The color of Byakko is not white but golden.

Let’s go to the god beasts and get their power!

Name of god Guard direction Set up place Address Set up year
Genbu (Turtle) North JR Kameido station 2-21-9 Kameido 1992
Suzaku (Phoenix) South Wakasu-Koen park 3-2-1 Wakasu 2006
Seiryu (Dragon) East Higasi-Ojima station 9-3-14 Ojima 1997
Byakko (Tiger) West Toyosu Civic Center 2-2-18 Toyosu 2015

(By TO)

The four gods have penetrated deeper into Japanese culture since ancient times. You can see them in our Koto city. Looking around them while walking would be fun. If you're interested in Japanese culture and history, please look at our website!

June 25, 2018

New Tokyo Fish Market in Toyosu

A new tourist attraction in Tokyo coming into existence this fall will be a boon for visitors from abroad to both enjoy sushi and see Mt. Fuji.The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market in Toyosu will have its grand opening on Oct. 11 in Koto City of Tokyo, moving from its 83-year-old current market in Tsukiji.

With an area of land about 1.7 times as large as that of the Tsujiki, the new Toyosu market facilities are being built with the state-of-the-art technology.

The auctions of tuna that were tremendously popular, especially among visitors from abroad by being allowed to enter the fish wholesaling area in the former market will also be held at the new market, but the visitors will be off limit to maintain its hygienic conditions. Instead, the visitors can watch them behind glass windows and take pictures. Admission is free.

The Japanese have been eating tuna for centuries and the fish is a staple food. The popular NIGIRIZUSHI was first offered during the early Edo period (1603-1867) as fast food for workers, who had come up from local areas, to engage in the construction of the new capital under the Tokugawa shogunate.

On top of the 600 wholesalers and dealers 39 restaurants and 70 shops will be housed in the new market facilities, almost all of them moving from Tsukiji.

You can not only get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji on the green rooftop of the six-story structure, but also enjoy sushi and other Japanese food there. The ideal season for viewing Mt. Fuji is in winter. It used to be quite common to see Japan's most revered mountain from almost anywhere in central Tokyo, but no longer possible because of many high-rise buildings.

The Toyosu market was originally to open in November 2016, but the then newly elected Tokyo governor put off the opening, citing "safety" of facilities and the soil there.

 To date, the Metropolitan government has taken measures to check underground water meticulously, using a computerized system. A group of experts has already declared that the ground and facilities are all safe.

The fruit and vegetable wholesale market is in a separate building on the same waterfront site.

In the years ahead, a large-scale commercial facility that includes a hotel and a restaurant mall will be built on an empty lot nearby.

Station: Shijoumae (Yurikagome Line), a few minutes' walk..

(By Kozo)

KEV's members attended the backstage tour of this Toyosu market this month. After its official opening in autumn, we will provide a new tour to visit and enjoy this market. Please wait for a while!

June 11, 2018

What’s Special in the Rainy Season?

The rainy season has come. This is the beginning of a hot and humid summer - a Japanese summer! Have you experienced it before? According to the weather forecast, it will be a hotter summer this year than last.

Anyway, I feel like eating something sour in this hot and humid season. After I talk about this topic to friends from a variety of places, I realise that more sour taste lovers exist in this country than in many other places. At least that is my point of view.

I think that to eat sour and vinegary food is not only good for a change but also may help keep us very healthy.

At this time of year, in the vegetable corner of supermarkets or vegetable stores, we can see Ume-plum, Rakkyo, Shiso and Shin Shoga (young ginger). Whenever I find these vegetables, I realize the rainy season has been coming and it’s time to prepare for a humid summer. I make time and buy a large bottle of vinegar to make pickles and juice. I pickle Rakkyo and Shin Shoga in sweetened vinegar and wait three to seven days. Pickled Rakkyo and Shin Shoga can be kept for a year, if you fasten the cap on the jar tightly.  In the early years, these foods were always preserved. You could see pickled Rakkyo beside the curry rice dish, and Sliced Shin Shoga that is called ‘Gari’ in Japanese and offered with Sushi. These things will make your mouth and body feel refreshed. These foods also go well with beer or sake.

 Ume-boshi is also made in this season. Ume-boshi is pickled with salt and tastes very sour. In addition, we make plum wine, plum juice and Shiso juice. Every day I check the color and smell. Sometimes I shake the jars containing the plum and shiso. This daily care may be meaningful . I believe that greeting my jars gives it a good flavor. This is my secret pleasure in this season.

How do you spend this season?

(by Naoko)

How do you like the healthful summer eating habit of Japan? If you like it, you can experience them in our Course C. Please contact us from here and join our free walking tours!   

May 29, 2018

Something cold for tonight? How about some ’tataki'?

Hot and humid season is just around the corner in Japan, and don't you feel like having some cold dishes for tonight? How about a brief trip to your neighborhood izakaya, for some sashimi and cold sake? Mmm, sounds great! ... [At the counter seat at an izakaya.] Okay, let's check out what they have in their menu .... Sashimi moriawase, that means assorted sashimi, ... maguro, my favorite, and what's this one, 'aji-no-tataki'? ...

There are, actually, two types of 'tataki.' Before getting into the meat of the topic, let me explain some etymology of the term. 'tataki 叩き' is the noun form of the verb 'tataku 叩く,' which means 'to beat' or 'to hit.' And 'tataki' here means a cooking method to prepare fish, beef, or chicken, or food prepared in this way. So why the name 'tataki,' and why two types of them exist?

Aji no tataki (Horse Mackerel)
First 'tataki' is minced fish meat, and the most popular example is 'aji no tataki,' chopped raw horse mackerel. Raw fish, mostly blueback fishes like horse mackerel or flying fish, is chopped with seasonings such as ginger and green onion. They are chopped together to make the seasoning spread into every part of the flesh. Here, the meat is 'beaten' with the cutting edge of the cooking knife.

A dish called 'namerou' is a variation of this type of 'tataki.' It's a fishermen's delight in the Chiba Prefecture, a 'tataki' chopped well with miso and sake. If you find it in the menu, you should give it a try.

Katsuo no tataki (Bonito)

Gyu or Gyuniku no tataki (Beef)
Second 'tataki' looks somewhat similar to the roast beef in the western cuisine. Its most popular example is 'katsuo no tataki,' lightly roasted bonito. Fish, beef, or chicken is slightly roasted, with its inside still raw. In its preparation, the meat is 'beaten' with hands or knife, to blend condiments well into its meat.

Bonito 'tataki' is a specialty of the Kouchi Prefecture, but now can be found in restaurants nationwide. It is served with soy-sauce and citrus flavored sauce, and condiments such as green onions, ginger, and sometimes sliced fresh garlic. Beef and chicken 'tataki' is also popular.

So, now, let's just enjoy some tataki! It goes so well with cold sake!

(by Ko)

Reference: 森口稔 編著『英語で案内する 日本の伝統・大衆文化辞典』(三省堂, 2018)
MORIGUCHI, Minoru, ed., A Dictionary of Japan in English (Sanseido, 2018)

May 20, 2018

Visit Kiyosumi Garden and Enjoy the Beauty of Ryo-Tei, Tea House

Let me introduce my favorite place in Koto Ward, it is Kiyosumi Garden, where is in 3 minutes walking distance from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station.  A very popular traditional Japanese stroll garden,  covers about 81,000 square meters.

According to the history, this garden was a residence of the famous marchant, Kinokuniya Bunzaemon in the Early 17th century.  In the late 18th century, Mr. Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi Group, obtained the land and rebuilt to use it for the enjoyment of his employees and entertainment of important guests. The hills and waterless waterfalls were constructed and the 52 huge beautiful rocks from all over Japan were brought in by their steamship.  In later years, the waters of the Sumida-River were brought into the grounds to enlarge the pond. The garden provided refuge from the fires of the Great Kanto earthquake of the early 19th century. After that, Mitsubishi group contributed this garden to Tokyo City and after some repair works it was opened to the public.  In 1979, this garden was designated as Tokyo Metropolitan "Place of Scenic Beauty."

Ryo-Tei  涼亭, Tea House (Cool House)

My most favorite place in this garden is Ryo-Tei, it means Cool House in English, a Sukiya-designed Tea House building, designed by Mr. Katsuya Yasuoka, an architecture for Mitsubishi Group in the early 19th century.
Sukiya-designed is a one type of Japanese residential architectural style. Suki means refined, well cultivated taste and elegant pursuits and characterized by a use of natural materials.  It is an authentic Japanese Tea House facing the pond, has a beautiful view from it and it is like a symbol of this garden. Main room is a 27-tatami room with a toilet. It is designated Tokyo Metropolitan Selected History Building.

Now, Ryo-Tei is opened for everyone as an assembling facility, it is used to various kinds of occasions, such as tea ceremony, flower arrangements, Yoga class and many other traditional events as well as  party occasions.  You can bring your own foods and drinks, catering services are also available. 

For your reference, the rental fee is 5,500 yen for 3.5 hours, you can use it at the three-time slots in a day as morning (10:00-13:30), afternoon (14:00-17:30) and evening (18:00-21:30).  It must be booked six months previously. 

I like to visit Ryo-Tei at day time in a sunny day to see the various kinds of waterfront creatures, such as wild birds and turtles, squirrels, carps and many others, moving around in the ponds. I always enjoy to see them, it makes me feel so comfortable and relaxing.

Let' s enjoy the Scenic Beauty of Kiyosumi Garden!!

(by Yukie)

How do you like the walking in Kiyosumi Teien garden? If you like it, please contact us from here and join our free walking tours!   

May 11, 2018

Walking in Kameido

Last month, we planed a special tour to walk around Kameido area, visit two big shrines, and watch beautiful wisteria blossom, but unfortunately we didn’t get any guests on that day. It was quite sorry, but we didn’t give up easily. Our two guides walked along the course on that day and found some interesting points for a next opportunity. In this blog article, we would like to introduce the tour course.

(1)  Kameido Gyoza

Do you know “gyoza” dumpling? This is a unique restaurant which serve only gyoza dumpling. When you visit the restaurant and sit at a table, immediately two dishes of gyoza dumpling are served without (and before placing) an order. This is the unique rule of this restaurant. We don’t need to place an order, because gyoza is the only food menu they serve. Of course they provide some beverages, such as beer, sake, or some soft drinks. After finishing the first gyoza, you can order another dish of gyoza. The price of gyoza is quite reasonable, just 250 yen per dish.

(2)  Katori Shrine

One of the two big shrines in Kameido area. Originally it is a shrine which enshrines a deity of martial arts, but recently it is famous as a shrine for all sports. Famous sport athletes visit this shrine before their games. This time we found an interesting statue there. The statue of “daikon,” a white big radish. There are many kinds of white radishes in Japan. “Kameido daikon” is one of them. Now Kameido is a bustling town and dense populated area, but once it was a quiet suburban area and there were many vegetable fields and was famous for producing delicious Kameido daikon. This statue was built as a memorial to the daikon radish. There are many statues all over Japan, but a statue for a vegetable is quite rare and interesting.

(3)  Kameido Tenjin Shrine

Another and the biggest shrine in this area. This shrine was built to enshrine a famous historical bureaucrat, Michizane Sugawara (845-903). He was quite smart and competent, so he posthumously became a deity of scholarship. This shrine is also famous for beautiful wisteria flowers. We could enjoy the lovely light purple flowers. In February, we enjoy another blossom, plums.

(4)  Rice cracker “senbei” toasting

After visiting the shrines, we dropped by a rice cracker shop. This is an interesting shop. You can have a unique experience here, “rice cracker toasting! Usually, we buy made-up rice crackers at these kind of shops, but here we can try to toast rice crackers by ourselves and eat just after toasting. The shopkeeper told us that this is the only shop where we can try to toast rice crackers!

(by Chinami)

How do you like the walking in Kameido? If you like it, please contact us from here and join our free walking tours!