Translated by Hilary Keyes
Ward Off Evil With Food!? 3 Souvenirs From Kawasaki Daishi Temple
Written by Mitsuhisa Kanoo
Kawasaki Daishi Temple in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, is known for its ability to ward off future misfortunes. Found in front of this well-known temple is a shopping street which sells Japanese sweets that are also said to bring good luck.
Surrounding the front of this large, well-known temple is a shopping street which sells goods related to the warding-off of evil. Among them are the candy specialty shop Matsuya Sohonten, the popular Tsudaya , which sells daruma-shaped rice crackers, and Sumiyoshi , where you can find a local favorite called kuzumochi. These famous shops are an excellent choice for souvenirs.
The area can be reached within ten minutes on foot from Kawasaki Daishi Station on the Keikyu line. Kawasaki Daishi Station is about 30 minutes from Haneda Airport. If you are coming from the direction of Tokyo Station, hop on the Keikyu line at Shinagawa Station and you will arrive in about 45 minutes.
Easy to access and full of Japanese charm, the Nakamise-dori is a must-see when visiting the popular Kawasaki Daishi Temple. Within the grounds you will find well-known souvenir shops sporting unique gifts for home that may also grant you a bit of luck.
1. "Tontoko Candy" fromMatsuya Sohonten
As soon as you set foot in Nakamise-dori you will find a shop called Matsuya So Honten. This confectionery specialist, founded in 1868, features a tempting storefront with rows of candy in all shapes and flavors.
Manufacturing is done in-store, and on holidays and weekends the staff put on live performances designed to drum-up business. After kneading swathes of white candy called sarashi ameto mix air inside, they slice the long sticks then into bite-sized pieces with a knife. The sight of the confectionery makers skillfully cutting up the candy is almost like seeing a magic act.
Their most famous product is called Tontoko Candy (300 yen). This name comes from the quick, rhythmical sound made by the knives when cutting the candy. The idea is that the sound 'cuts' misfortune or evil, thereby bringing in good luck.
Here we have a perennial item since the company's establishment, cough drops made with extracts from medicinal plants. Sekidome ame(300 yen, pictured above) is made with a blend of five herbs and, as its name implies, is used for treating coughs. It's a particularly good choice for those who feel a cold coming on.
Also popular with visiting tourists is the Ningyo ame (500 yen, pictured below), otherwise known as doll candy. A sweet little item with a variety of faces - it's an entertaining sight. Apparently some of them are even winking! Wouldn't this make a wonderful souvenir to buy?
2. "Daruma Rice Crackers" from Tsudaya
"Kashiwa Uematsu Shouten" specializes in Daruma.
Walking along the Nakamise-dori shopping street, your eyes will be drawn first and foremost to this unusual doll. Known as a Daruma(around 500 yen） in Japan, these dolls are said to fulfill wishes. Kashiwa Uematsu Shoten, Ishidayaand Kadoya Kaiundoare among the shops in Nakamise-dori specializing in these dolls.
There is a wealth of daruma to be seen in every color and size! From ones designed to ward off evil to ones that promote success in business or even exams, there is a daruma for every type of wish. As you browse these famous shops, you will undoubtedly find a daruma suited to whatever you desire.
Those looking for something a bit easier to transport will want to stop by Tsudaya, a shop with over 60 years of history. Their daruma senbei (350 yen) are well worth picking up. Senbei, or rice crackers, are a Japanese snack made from actual rice and are similar to a cookie but without the sweetness.
These snack items range from mini-sized at 2-3 cm to the jumbo 30 cm, and come in different flavors such as soy sauce, sesame and chili pepper. Cushioned packaging is available for the jumbo sized ones, so you can transport them easily without having to worry about your rice crackers breaking.
Incidentally, the absolute largest daruma rice cracker they have in-shop is a massive 60 cm in size! While this item is not for sale, the detail and craftsmanship put into the design is a definite must-see.
3. "Kuzumochi" and "Yakuyoke Manju" from Sumiyoshi
Right in the heart of Nakamise-dori, just in front of the gate (Daisanmon) to Kawasaki Daishi Temple, you will find a shop called Sumiyoshi.
Kawasaki Daishi is famous for a food called kuzumochi, made from the fermented starch of wheat flour. Boasting a 150-year history, many of the temple's visitors buy this item as a souvenir. This item doesn't keep long though, so why not give it a taste while you're in the area?
Kuzumochi (430 yen) comes covered in brown sugar syrup called kuromitsu and a yellowish powder made from soy beans called kinako. The velvety kuzumochi, combined with the subtle sweetness of the syrup and the savory kinako, produce a unique texture that will leave you craving more.
Another popular choice is the Yakuyoke Manju (290 yen.) This type of soft, steamed bun is made from a wheat flour dough filled with a sweet paste called anko, a combination of boiled red beans and sugar. The brown one is filled with 'tsubuan' (anko made from azuki red beans with the skin left on) and the white one is 'koshian' (anko paste without beans' skin). Both are very tasty.
The gentle heat of freshly-made manju, combined with their elegant sweetness, are sure to ease the aches and pains of your journey. Enjoyed with a cup of green tea, this combination is sure to give you the energy and strength you need to make the most of your trip.
Lined with old shops and always bustling with people, Nakamise-dori features a vast selection of goods to ward away misfortune. If you also stop by Kawasaki Daishi to pray, you may just find yourself blessed with even greater luck than usual.
Why not take a stroll down Nakamise-dori and sample some of their famous foods?
Kawasaki Daishi Shopping Street
Address: Kanagawa, Kawasaki, Daishimachi 4-47
Nearest Station: Kawasaki Daishi Station, Keikyu Daishi Line
Access: 10 minute walk from Kawasaki Daishi Station