Travel

Tokyo’s Japanese Sweets Secret Spot? The answer is Sugamo Area!

Miso Dog
Hey! Let’s go sightseeing in Sugamo some time!
Sugamo? I’ve heard of the area, but I don’t know much about it. What kind of area is it?
Misoko
Miso Dog
It’s Grandma’s Harajuku!!
Haha! What?! What do you mean by Grandma’s Harajuku? Harajuku is a famous place for young people in Tokyo, isn’t it?
Misoko
Miso Dog
That’s right. Sugamo is a popular area for elderly people.
Hmm. That sounds pretty interesting. I wonder what is there. Do you think we would enjoy ourselves there?
Misoko
Miso Dog
Sure! Let me tell you the interesting things about Sugamo!

Sugamo's Jizo-dori Shopping Street

In Sugamo, there is an area called Jizo-dori Shopping Street. Jizo-dori Shopping Street is the center of tourism for Sugamo. The shopping street is one of the most popular shopping streets in Tokyo, with more than 200 shops lined up over a kilometer.

The reason why the shopping street is called Jizo-dori is that there is a temple that enshrines two famous Jizo-san statues (statues of Buddha originated from traditional folk beliefs).

Edo Roku Jizo, Shinsho-ji Temple

One of the statues, "Edo Roku Jizo," is located at the Shinsho-ji Template at the entrance of Jizo-dori Shopping Street.

Edo Roku Jizo is a term for jizo. They were traditionally found on the banks of the six highways, starting from the old Edo city, Tokyo, praying for travelers' safety on their journeys. The jizo found in Sugamo was created as the fourth of the six jizo in 1714 in the Shinsho-ji Temple grounds.

This jizo marks the entrance to Jizo-dori Shopping Street and is located to the left after entering Jizo-dori Shopping Street from Sugamo Station.

 

Togenuki Jizo,  Kogan-ji Temple

The second jizo found in Sugamo is the Togenuki Jizo, found at Kogan-ji Temple. Kogan-ji Temple is located smack-dab in the center of Jizo-dori Shopping Street.

Kogan-ji Temple was founded in Kanda Yushima in 1596 and moved to the Sugamo area in 1891. The Togenuki Jizo is known for the belief that visiting the temple will help to pull out the thorns (injuries, illness, etc.) from the body. One of the main reasons why Sugamo has become a popular area for older people is possible because of the positive health benefits from the Togenuki Jizo.

However, this second jizo is a secret Buddha and is not open to the public. It is housed in a separate shrine whose doors remain closed. Buddhism in Japan has a tradition of worshipping the secret Buddha's sacredness that is not visible to people. Instead of looking directly at the actual Jizo, you can get an "omikage," which is something similar to a copy of the hidden Buddha, at the main temple. Using this method, the omikage is not meant to be taken home as a souvenir or taken home as a display but rather is rather meant to take in prayers and hopes of benefit and prosper. The origin of the word Togenuki, is said to derive from the Edo period, when a woman who accidentally swallowed a needle, managed to get rid of the needle after swallowing the piece of paper that had a picture of the Jizo. The needle pierced the Jizo on the paper that was swallowed and then spit out.

 

Also, there is a statue of Kannon in the area called "Arai Kannon." It is said that if you wash the same place you want to heal your body on the statue of Kannon, those places will be healed. It is so popular that people line up on the weekends and when there are festivals.

The current Kannon statue is actually the second Kannon statue, as the first one was heavily worn down from being washed by too many older people wishing for good health!

A typical way to enjoy Jizo-dori is to enjoy shopping and dining, while also visiting the two jizo statues in the area.

The Sacred Spot for Japanese Sweets

As many older people from Tokyo and all over Japan visit Sugamo, the shops in Jizo-dori Shopping Street are popular among older people.

Older people tend to be very fond of cheap clothes, health equipment, and healthy food, all of which you can find in Sugamo. There are even karaoke places that specialize in older songs.

Shops that many foreign tourists enjoy while visiting Sugamo are Japanese sweet shops. Older people enjoy traditional Japanese sweets. Of course, it is possible to enjoy Japanese sweets anywhere in Japan, but it is not an exaggeration to say that there are many Japanese sweet shops packed in Sugamo, making it a hotspot for Japanese sweets. Wagashi is a term used to describe various types of traditional Japanese sweets that Japanese people enjoy, young and old.

Now, I would like to introduce a Japanese confectionary shop famous in Sugamo, that many people, including foreign tourists, enjoy! From traditionally styled shops to more modern shops, there are shops for men and women of all ages.

Why not stop on by and try some Japanese sweets?

Anko boul  Ise-ya

Iseya is a Japanese confectionary shop that is visited by locals located near the entrance of Jizo-dori Shopping Street. This shop sells a wide variety of Japanese sweets and side dishes. Daifuku and dumplings are of course popular, but this time we will introduce a variety of Japanese sweets that look amazing and are tasty!

The sweets pictured above are anko balls and yuzu manju. The anko balls at this shop are sweet anko (red beans) wrapped in a glistening jelly, while the yuzu manju is a white bean paste wrapped in a delicate yuzu flavored jelly. Traditionally, anko is wrapped in mochi or wheat, but the store used a unique idea and wrapped the two sweets in jelly. These Japanese sweets have evolved and changed to the times not only in appearance but also in taste while maintaining their traditional classic essence.

Ganso Shio-daifuki Mizuno

Mizuno created their unique shio(salt)-daifuku, a famous Sugamo specialty! The store is located right in the middle from the entrance of the Jizo-dori Shopping Street on the Sugamo Station side to Togenuki Jizo Koganji Temple.

This shop's famous shio(salt)-daifuku is a unique style of daifuku or Japanese sweet. Daifuku is a Japanese sweet that consists of red bean paste wrapped in mochi. You may think that the sweet would be salty since it is a salt-daifuku, but the slight saltiness brings out the sweetness of the daifuku!

Although the look of the daifuku may not differ much from the normal sweets, the salt makes the daifuku more delicious, while providing a refreshing and elegant flavor.

Mizuno offers many other Japanese sweets besides its special shio-daifuku. By evening, several of the sweets are sold out as shown in the picture above. It is better to go early to make sure you get a taste or two before they sell out!

Prices for the sweets start from 130 JPY for 1 piece and go up from there. The various sweets' wrapping papers are also very stylish and cool, giving a more traditional feel.

Japanese Style Shaved Ice Sekka

Located just behind Kogan-ji Temple, Atelier Sekka, a shaved ice specialty store. This store is very popular with the younger crowd, with customers traveling from all over to Sugamo to visit the shop and eat its specialty shaved ice!

During its peak in summer, the wait times can go up to 2 hours. The shaved ice that is served is not the traditional shaved ice, but rather a modern take on the shaved ice, geared towards the younger generation with not only being delicious but photogenic as well!

From their homepage

While classic flavors such as strawberry milk and matcha are available, more unique options such as natto kinako and cinnamon kinako are offered. How about giving these exciting flavors a try?

Warabimochi and Warabimochi Drink Motoko

From their homepage

Warabi Mochi Motoko is Sugamo’s No. 1 specialty store for warabi mochi and is located just a bit further in the alley of Shinsho-ji Temple at the entrance of Jizo-dori Shopping Street.

Warabi mochi is called mochi, but unlike rice cakes, the ingredient used is from powdered warabi root which is made by mixing water with heat and sugar.

The rice cakes have a sticky texture due to the starch contained in the warabi root. Try this unique warabi mochi at this specialty shop and see if you can tell the difference!

From their homepage

Originally considered rare and expensive, this warabi mochi was made for normal individuals at a price where everyone can enjoy the sweet.

There are several flavors such as plain, brown sugar, matcha, purple sweet potatoes, etc. The looks and colors of these treats are sure to be SNS post-worthy!

The most popular item offered is the warabi mochi! Which is cut into small pieces and added into matcha milk tea and hojicha milk tea!

Long queues form in the summer for these delicious warabi mochi milk tea.

As a drink originating from Japan competing with tapioca milk tea originating from Taiwan, let's try this original delicious milk tea version in Sugamo!

What do you think?

In the past, there were many shopping streets with small shops like Sugamo all over Tokyo. However, due to the increase in supermarkets, the number of shops gradually decreased. Older people may be attracted to Sugamo because of its old Japan nostalgic atmosphere, a town with a pre-modern nostalgic Showa era flavor.

Sugamo station is just 15 minutes from Shinjuku and 5 minutes from Ikebukuro using the Yamanote line.

As it is not a major tourist spot for foreign visitors, few foreign visitors are crowding the shopping area.

Why not experience Tokyo’s good old days, rather than visiting common tourist destinations overflowing with other tourists and travelers?

-Travel

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