Tokyo for Foodies: Depachika, Namja Land and Kappabashi Dori

November 30 2009 - 5:46 PM

Second post in a series


Depachika (Department Store Food Floors)
Picture going to Nordstrom’s to view designer clothing and jewelry behind enclosed glass cases. Then picture going downstairs to find a bustling floor of food counters, fresh produce and meats, and vendors shouting as they try to draw your attention to their toro tuna. The basement levels of Japanese department stores include depachika, or food floors, which sell all manner of vegetables and meats, prepared meals, baked goods, teas and imported cheese and hams. Sometimes you can pick up samples. All this is done in a noisy, crowded environment, far removed from the subdued refinement upstairs. I recommend checking out the big three department stores in Ginza (Matsuya, Mitsukoshi, Matsuzakaya) since they are all located together on the same street.

Namja Land: Ice Cream City, Gyoza Stadium

Namja Land is an amusement park in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City shopping complex. It is run by Namco, a video game producer, so most of the amusement park’s attractions bouncy castle for sale are of the shiny, blinking, cacophonous variety. On the other hand, Namja Land takes to heart the “food as entertainment” philosophy, with attractions based around food.


Ice Cream City vies to sell you all manner of frozen dairy products, including gelato, ice cream waffles, and Turkish ice cream served by a man in full Turk attire. However, the adventurous should move to the Cup Ice Museum. I began reading through the flavors: pumpkin, green apple, darjeeling tea, tofu, currant…yawn. Wait a minute, that one said garlic. Which was followed by beef, shark’s fin, curry and viper. That’s right, you can get snake in ice cream form here. Pictured above is the 5-carton sushi ice cream set. Mmm, octopus ice cream…


After mulling it over, I ended up buying a carton of wasabi ice cream. The wasabi was definitely present, and the sting of the cold ice cream transformed into the sting of the wasabi. It was interesting but not my favorite feeling, so I probably would opt for something else next time.


Downstairs, Gyoza Stadium features about a dozen dumpling vendors, competing to sell you everything from the classic pork and leek filled potstickers to soup dumplings to cheese-filled “dumplings.” You can try the dumplings and there is a voting system to rate which ones you like best. The gyoza were featured in posters detailing their stats: weight, length and quantity.


There is also a Miracle Fruit Cafe, if you are interested in flavor-tripping, though I recommend doing this after exploring the other parts of the amusement park first.


Kappabashi Dori

Japan’s ecosystem of neighborhoods is so diverse, there is even a street dedicated to selling restaurant equipment. Venture off to Kappabashi Dori to find every type of equipment you’d ever want to run a restaurant: uniforms, tea sets, flatware. If you’d like to buy a chopstick rest or a dumpling cooker, you can find it here. The highlight though is the sample shops, which offer (surprisingly expensive) plastic food models.