January 9, 2019

New Year's Fish Auction at the New Toyosu Market

Tokyo's new fish market kicked off with a record price for a tuna in the year's first auction by a centuries-old way of hand signals.

The auction, held at the Toyosu market in the capital's Koto City, came less than three months after the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market moved there from Tsukiji, ending its 83-year long history.

Under a computerized system, hygiene management of seafood is strictly maintained along with air and temperature conditions in the new market buildings. Authorized personnel are allowed for business only.

The auctions of tuna used to attract a great number of visitors, especially from abroad, in the former Tsukiji market as they were allowed to be near the fish wholesale area.

In Toyosu, however, visitors are off-limit there for the purpose of maintaining hygiene. Instead, they can watch them through glass windows and take pictures. Admission is free.

To choose the best fish, intermediary wholesalers were closely examining rows of tuna fish laid out on the green floor beforehand. The green floor is intended to draw a sharp contrast of colors with the fish to highlight the quality of them.

Some were seen using a flashlight and a hooked device, which is used to pick a tiny portion of tail meat from fish – a way of getting the feel by fingers.

Once the hand-bell starts ringing, the auctioneer then quickly set off bidding and buyers bid prices of tuna by hand signals. Finally, the 278-kilogram tuna fetched 333 million yen (US$3.0 million), breaking the previous record of 155 million yen (US$1.4 million) set up in the 2013 auction in Tokyo.

Historical records show that Teyari (hand signals) have been used in auctions since around 1600s when the Tokugawa shogunate allowed a group of fishermen exclusively to catch fish in the Edo Bay (present Tokyo Bay) and sell some of them downtown Nihonbashi.

The Nihonbashi Fish Market was completely destroyed by the 1923 earthquake. A few years later, the market was relocated to Tukiji to have a lot of riding on shipping and land transportation such as train.

The fish has long been the staple food with rice for the Japanese. They love to eat tuna as sashimi (raw fish) or a main ingredient in sushi that is called NETA in the jargon of the sushi world.

The winning bidder of the tuna, which was caught off Japan's northern coast a day before the auction and transported by truck, is a major sushi-restaurant operator in Tokyo.

The Toyosu market opened on Oct. 11, following a two-year respite, during which time authorities added measures to thoroughly check the underground water. The facilities stand on a former gas-producing plant site on reclaimed land.

The fruit and vegetables wholesale markets are in a separate building on the same waterfront site.

About 600 wholesalers and dealers have their respective offices in the markets, and 39 restaurants and 70 shops also operate there.

On the rooftop garden of another six-story market structure, you can view Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain. It is visible, especially in the wintertime. The turf garden also commands a fine view of Tokyo skyline. Don't miss it when making a visit.

In the years ahead, a large commercial complex, including a hotel and posh restaurants, will be built on a current vacant lot.

Starting Jan. 15, the tuna auction will be more closely observed from the observation platform adjacent to the auctionfloor.  A total of 120 people will be selected by lottery per auction day. An advanced reservation is needed in the previous month. Please check the following website:


Station: Shijoumae (Yurikagome Line). You can access each of the three buildings directly from the station.

Open: 5 a.m.-5 p.m. everyday except Sundays, public holidays and most Wednesdays and other special days when the market is closed.

By Kozo

++ KEV is now planning and preparing a new walking tour to visit this fish market. We will introduce it in the near future. Stay tuned to our website.

November 10, 2018

Western-style Cakes, Coated with Japanese Culture

Why all the Japanese people don't get fat with these beautiful cakes that taste too good?  That was a question a friend of mine from Australia asked me when she visited Japan for the first time.

Well, not only tasting good, but also there is a unique culture regarding western-style cakes in Japan that is not seen in western countries.

Here are some of the most popular cakes in Japan:

Christmas cake, or shortcake

Short cakes from Éclat des jours pâtisserie Official,
Toyo-cho, Tokyo
You might have noticed that advertisements of 'Christmas cakes' have started to appear this month. In Japan, Christmas cakes mostly refer to shortcakes, meaning sponge cakes covered with whipped cream and topped with fresh strawberries.

When I spent the holiday season in a western country for the first time, I was shocked to learn that they do not have the custom to eat Christmas cakes, namely shortcakes.

In Japan, Christmas cake is a must for celebrating Christmas. They are mostly consumed on the Christmas Eve. (By the way, young Japanese people tend to think that the Christmas Eve is a romantic day and should be spend with their boyfriend or girlfriend, not with their family)

Therefore, on the Christmas day, most stores start selling the unsold Christmas cakes with reduced price.

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc from Isozaki,
Monzen-nakacho & Hamacho,
Mont Blanc is a cake of sweetened chestnuts. In Japanese cuisines, it's important to use seasonal ingredients in various dishes. Cakes are no exception, even if it originated in France.

That's why Mont Blancs are especially popular in autumn, the season of chestnuts. During this season, pastry chefs are keen to create their original Mont Blancs using domestically produced chestnuts.

Green tea cakes

Green tea cake from SAKURA,
Toyosu, Tokyo
If you still want some Japanese touch, try green tea, or maccha cakes.

Green tea is popular ingredient of Japanese traditional and non-traditional desserts, not to mention the maccha ice cream, favorite dessert of the tennis superstar, Naomi Osaka.

Interested in Japanese daily life and daily food which is not covered in you guidebook? Join our free walking tour!

(by Seiko)

October 11, 2018

Ningyo Market at Ningyo-cho

From October fourth to sixth, there had been a Ningyo(doll) Market.
There were lots of stalls selling dolls and small items along the main street at Ningyo-cho. Doll lovers enjoyed shopping and browsing.

In Edo era, there were two kabuki theaters 'Nakamuraza' and 'Ichimuraza' in the area. In addition to them, some puppet plays were staged. So, there lived a lot of puppeteers and toy manufacturers there. Souvenir shops selling dolls were also thriving. Ningyo-cho was a lively place in Edo era.

There are two automaton clock towers on the main street. One tower features lakugo, a traditional Japanese comic storytelling. The other tower shows the Hikeshi, or the firefighters, in Edo era. On the hour from 11 am to 7 pm, small firefighter dolls show their performances for two minutes in the windows of the tower. A doll performs up on the ladder, the other doll brandishes a matoi, or fireman's standard. Those dolls tell us that the firefighters climbed up on the roof and swung around a matoi at the scene of the fire in Edo era.

A stall selling small handmade things made of silk crape.

Next year will be 'the year of the Boar' in the Chinese zodiac.

Shopping the dolls and thinking about Ningyo-cho in Edo era, Ningyo Market led you to an interesting history of the town.

By Jacky.

September 30, 2018

Feeling the autumn breeze at Kiyosumi Gardens

A cool autumn has now arrived at the Kiyosumi Gardens in Tokyo with its pomegranate trees swaying their fruits in the gentle breeze.

Most of the leaves, however, remain as green as ever here in the gardens in Tokyo's Koto City. Some maple leaves have already begun showing a little change in their colors.

In the late 19th century, Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of the Mitsubishi Group, obtained a wide swathe of land, in order to make recreation facilities for his company employees and build a Japanese-style guest house to welcome dignitaries. Nice stones were collected from around the country and brought by ship. It took three generations of the Iwasaki family to lay the foundation of the present gardens.

The Iwasaki family later donated the gardens to the City of Tokyo. The Gardens were opened to the public in 1932.

The Kiyosumi Gardens were once used as a place for evacuees after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Tokyo air raid by the U.S. forces in March 1945.

Kiyosumi Gardens:Kiyosumi 3-3-9, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0024

Access: 3 minutes walk from the Kiyosumi-shirakawa subway station

Admission: 150 yen for adults, 70 yen for those aged 65 or over

Hours: 9 am to 5 pm (closed Dec. 29 through Jan. 1)

By Kozo

Why don't you visit this beautiful Japanese garden with our English speaking guides? If you are interested in this garden, please contact us from our web site.

September 24, 2018

Relaxing day at Yumenoshima

Yumenoshima, literally "land of dreams" is reclaimed landfill at south east part of Koto-city.
It was a final landfill site for 10 years from 1957, but thereafter was developed into beautiful "Yumenoshima Park" in 1978.
This park is currently known as one of the largest green space area in Tokyo. We can observe various wildflowers blooming season to season.

Yumenoshima Park in Koto City

In BBQ area, facilities and pits are free of charge if it they are reserved. The area is capable for eating and drinking together with pets. During holidays and weekends, here is full of families and students.

On a rainy day? No problem.
At "Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome" located at east of park, we can enjoy walking through rare tropical plants and even falls in three big atriums. Taking a breather at cozy café in it is also nice.

Tropical Greenhouse Dome

The inside of the Tropical Greenhouse Dome

In west side of park, many grounds and fields are open to general public in addition to students. The new ground for archery event in Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic game is now under construction.

How about going for a walk at Yumenoshima and have a relaxing day there?

access: 7 minutes walk from Shinkiba station

By Kaoru K

September 20, 2018

Moon-Viewing in Fukagawa Edo Museum

Seasonal Festivals among Commoners in Edo

During the Edo period (1603-1867), several seasonal festivals are said to have observed as the holidays for the people. With the adoption of the new calendar in 1873, the holidays were abolished, however, the annual festivals are still celebrated by Japanese people.
You can enjoy the decorations of six annual events (New Year, Inari Shrine Festival, Doll Festival, Boy’s Festival, Star Festival and Moon-Viewing Festival) displayed in Fukagawa Edo Museum.

Moon-Viewing Festival

Moon-Viewing Festival is one of the seasonal festivals. For this year, the full moon on the fifteenth night falls on September 24, and the moon on the thirteenth night on October 21.
For both days, the seasonal offerings are set on a stand in the moonlight, and people celebrate a huge harvest of five main cereals as "a harvest festival" and enjoy the beauty as "a moon-viewing party."

"Furyu Genji Tukuda"
UTGAWA Hiroshige and SANDAI Toyokuni
* A beautiful woman is enjoying  full  moon on the terrace alongside Sumida River close to Fukagawa Edo Museum.

Offerings for moon-viewing 

For both nights, seasonal harvests, rice dumplings and sake are offered. Seasonal plants such as Japanese silver grass and ominaeshi (yellow patrinia) are offered along with crops including taros, Japanese chestnuts and green soybeans.
Two different size of dumplings were made. Large one made for an offering to the moon was 10.5 cm in diameter and small one was 6 cm in diameter for a family to eat.
The taro was once considered as the staple food along with rice cakes.

Modern Dumplings

You can also enjoy modern dumplings such as Dango and Daifuku nearby Japanese-style confectionery store.
It implies various beliefs of people in the moon, and has long been hands down to the present.

だんご "Dango" (Baked Dumplings) 
大福 "Daihuku"

By Mieko

How about visiting Fukagawa Edo museum and enjoying the Moon-Viewing Festival? Please look at our website and book the Course B.

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!