Experience the Culture of the Edo Period in Tokyo’s Doll Town!
Tokyo was bombed heavily during WWII so not a lot has survived the pre-war era. Fortunately we know just the places to go if you want to have an idea of what Tokyo looked like before it was bombed down during the war. This tour goes to one of the areas that,having survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake and the bombings of World War II, this area still retains a strong feeling of the Edo period.
In the Edo period, doll town was a flourishing entertainment district that hosted Kabuki theaters and puppet shows. Many puppeteers, doll makers and craftsmen based their activity in this area. After the theaters burned down in the late Edo period they were moved to Asakusa.
Dolls town might look like a regular business district at first glance, but don’t be fooled. Many original houses, long-standing restaurants, traditional craft shops and Japanese sweets shops can be found here. There are also several temples in the area at which a variety of events take place throughout the year.
On the main street, there are two clock towers. They come alive with a little puppet show for the passers-by to enjoy every hour. One tower features firefighters and the other one rakugo storytellers.
Start the day Spiritually
We will first go to a charmingly cute little temple that is hidden between the buildings. If you don’t know it’s there you will totally miss it! A staircase leads to a torii gate that welcomes you into the small grounds. The main temple is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy. There is also a shrine dedicated to Jizo, the guardians of children. Directly attached to it is a tiny Inari shrine, a shrine dedicated to the god Inari. This one is dedicated to Dakini-ten, the goddess riding a white fox.
The little temple is the third temple of the Edo 33 Kannon temples pilgrimage! So it packs a lot of punch for it’s size.
Skipping breakfast, let’s check out these cute moms and pops stores!
Next we will check out a few moms and pops stores with local delicacies. We recommend skipping breakfast so you can try all the delicious food that this area has to offer such as traditional Japanese sweets, rice crackers, tofu, sushi and tamagoyaki (rolled omelet) to name just a few. Shop around for handmade souvenirs and traditional crafts, and watch skilled craftsmen at work in their stores. We will even peek in the shamisen shop and the tsuzura (wicker boxes for kimono) workshop.
Unlike the touristy streets of Asakusa, this road has a much more authentic atmosphere and is the perfect place for those who want to experience Tokyo’s old downtown where the common people lived in the Edo period.
Let’s stop for some green tea and sweets!
The wooden interior and the soft light coming from the paper covered windows of this cozy and peaceful cafe will bring you back to the Showa era. Established in 1837, the cafe we are going to next serves a variety of traditional Japanese sweets and dishes. The shop owners pride themselves in their discriminating selection of their ingredients like azuki beans and kuromitsu sugar syrup.
Don’t worry that the menu is only in Japanese; our excellent guides all know both Japanese and English so we can explain everything that’s on the menu and help you select the best choice. If you’re not sure about what to order, go for their amazing anmitsu (700 yen). This is a dessert made of jelly cubes, mochi, fruit, sweet bean paste and topped with sugar syrup. A delicate green tea is served with it for free.
Take out is also available from the window at the front of their shop, but we recommend stopping inside and enjoying the atmosphere. You will be surprised to find the bustling city still there when you come out!
Munch on a Doll’s Head
We will show you an amazing 100 year old establishment where they make ningyo-yaki, which literally means “cooked dolls!” These small, sweet cakes are shaped like the faces of the Seven Lucky Gods. They are made using a batter of flour, eggs and sugar and filled with koshian (strained red bean paste). Eishindo’s ningyo-yaki are famous for their extra-thin skin that is puffy and moist. One piece costs 130 yen. The shop is take-out only and it’s very popular, so be prepared to receive a few elbows in your ribs by old Japanese ladies while you wait to order.
Admire the wares at this sweets shop that dates back to 1576
At this shop the dorayaki (pancakes stuffed with azuki beans) are the main attraction here. Unlike typical ones, the one’s you can get here are characterized by a tiger-patterned surface. This surface is obtained when you peel their wrapping paper off; for this reason they’re called torayaki (tora means tiger in Japanese).
They also sell a variety of other excellent sweets like gyokuman, a chestnut covered in multiple layers of sweet bean paste. There is a small display of sweets molds and tools inside the shop. This shop is also take-out only.
Savor the Sweet Taste of Edo
This Edo-era confectionery shop first opened in 1887. Their specialty is the Ningyocho pudding (550 yen), prepared using a 100 year old recipe. The pudding alone is worth a trip to doll’s town; it’s a firm, thick and smooth custard topped with bitter caramel. Try it on its own or with a bowl of anmitsu in the little cafe at the back of the shop, or bring it to your hotel and enjoy it later. This wonderful little shop also serves other traditional and seasonal dishes so it will be a treat for the eyes as well.
Browse for a Unique Handmade souvenir
You might not think much of this little souvenir shop as you walk past it, but you’re in for a surprise! The souvenir shop we’re goin has been featured in both a drama and a movie! The reason for its popularity is the handmade items that are sold here and the love with which they are crafted. The makers really put their soul into their creations, hoping to strengthen the bond that Japanese people have with their own culture and traditions.
Here you’ll find bags and purses, accessories, cute cat dolls and all kinds of objects made with brightly coloured Japanese fabrics. This shop is a great place to visit if you want to bring an authentic piece of Japan back home.
Wind Down With the Aroma of a Hundred Teas
Japan is not the only Asian country with a century-old tea tradition and you’ll find the proof at this quaint tea shop. They sell an assortment of teas and teaware not only from Japan but all over Asia. The friendly woman working here might invite you to sit down with her at a small wooden table. You can watch her while she skilfully prepares her tea choice of the day. Leave the big city behind while you enjoy the aroma and flavour, maybe with one or two locals sitting next to you, while the shop owner’s cat purrs softly in a corner. If you’re not sure about what kind of tea you should try, they sell mixed packs for 2,000 yen.
Breathe in the atmosphere and snap a selfie with a Kabuku statue
After walking around with us for a few hours you’ll probably want to rest your legs and maybe eat some of all those sweets and snacks that you just bought. We’ll stop by a little green path, where you’ll find benches to sit on (a very rare thing in Japan) and a restroom. Since we’re here you can also snap a selfie with the statue of Benkei, a character from the Kabuki Play Kanjincho.
Japan has special events throughout the year. This area is no exception here’s a list of the main festivals and events
January: you can take part in the Shichifukujin Meguri, a pilgrimage of seven temples in the area to worship the Seven Lucky Gods.
March: The Amazake Yokocho Festival
May: The Suitengu shrine Festival
August: The Chinaware Market, the Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Festival, the Oedo Matsuri Bon Odori Festival
October: The Ten-Ten Festival, the Doll Market and Radish Market
November: the Tori-no-Ichi
December: The New Year Decoration Market
If you would like us to incorporate going to any of these festivals, please let us know when you book this tour.