They say that back in the days of the Tokugawa shogunate, the feudal lords (or daimyo) from throughout Japan would alternate spending a year in Edo (now Tokyo) and spending a year at home.
This is the sort of fact that feels like it could be, but almost certainly isn’t, related to the “antenna shops” of Tokyo.
Word is that Tokyo’s “antenna shops,” or shops dedicated to specific prefectures, began to spring up in the early 1990s. Today, these shops can be found in clusters around Tokyo, mainly in Ginza and the adjacent Yurakucho, but they can also be found in other areas of town, too: there are a few in Nihonbashi and Aoyama, as well.
These shops generally offer a selection of foods and snacks from the prefecture in question, as well as a collection of local sake and other products: for instance, Toyama’s antenna shop features tin items from Nousaku, as well as binzasara, a type of traditional musical instrument. Nara’s offers local pickled vegetables. Fukui’s offers heshiko preserved mackerel. These stores offer quite a range of items, including, in one case, wooden dressers and chests of drawers(!).
Some of these shops can be quite sizable: the one for Ishikawa, for example, is three stories(!), continuing up to the second floor and down into the basement.
Interestingly, though these are relatively prevalent in Tokyo, they can occasionally be seen elsewhere: in Kyoto and Osaka, for example, I’ve seen stores dedicated to Shiga, Okinawa, and the prefectures on the island of Shikoku.
On the other hand, I do feel like maybe Eataly in Nihonbashi doesn’t quite count as an antenna shop, as thematically appropriate as it may be.
If you can’t make it out of Tokyo, these shops are a fun way to get at least a taste of the rest of the country — or, if you miss the unique specialties of elsewhere in Japan, a taste of home.
Hello! I’m Greg, an American who has lived in Japan since 2008. I have a tremendous fondness for both reading and writing, which helps out quite a bit in my work as a translator: after all, at its core, the job is built on writing. I’ve always been fascinated with languages, and how they can differ in how they treat even seemingly basic, fundamental things. In particular, there are many common Japanese words that have no good English equivalent, so finding a good way to translate them can be a really interesting challenge.
My other hobbies include cooking (Serious Eats is one of my favorite websites, and I cook dinner from scratch nearly every evening), playing games with friends (both tabletop and video games), calligraphy (both English and Japanese, filling an A6 page with some sort of calligraphy practice every day for the past few years), photography, and a long-held interest in computers (as a teenager, I installed operating systems recreationally).
I also drink too much oolong tea.