Monday, June 4, 2012

Okashi (Sweets) Land, Character Street and Ramen Street at First Avenue, Tokyo Station

First Avenue Tokyo Station is connected directly to the Yaesu exits of Tokyo Station in the basement, first and second floor.   It is a specialized three story mall with 100 shops. There is Okashi Land (sweets shops) as a section of Kitchen Land, Character Street (for anime character shops) and Ramen Street (ramen shops/restaurants) all attached to Tokyo Station! There are also Gift Plazas and Gourmet Plazas (for traditional food).  I wish all train stations were like this.  This place could be a nice place to hit if you have no time to get to Akihabara, or if you just want to visit it like me as it sounds pretty interesting.  Hmmm.  If you are heading out to the airport or transferring this would be a nice easy stop with access to the train if you made sure you had enough time - don't cut it too close!
Hello Kitty Store  Flickr / jpellgen
I first found out about this a little over a year ago, but couldn't figure out how to find it, but I've placed it on the map below.  Here is the official website.  In Japanese with more options and the official map is here.

View Marunouchi, Tokyo Station in a larger map

While you are in the area, don't forget to visit the Daimaru Department Store which is close by as it is just outside / connected to the train station via the Yaesu North Exit.  The 13 story dept. store has an extensive selection of cosmetics, fashions and some big food floors! Daimaru Dept. Store link.
Time Magazine Travel Link of 10 Things To Do with Daimaru Dept Listed for Kimonos on 10th Floor.

The train companies over in Japan have realized that to increase revenue they need to capitalize on the fact they are also real estate developers, as the population of Japan isn't rising so they won't be making more revenue off of passengers.  The train companies own the rail lines, the stations and often the real estate around it.  The train stations are marvels of integrated transportation, shopping, entertainment and dining.  Japanese people are spending more time in these train station malls that are not just transfer points now, but entertainment destinations too.  Tons of tourist traffic also passes through here and it is an easy stopover.  They have even coined a phrase "ekitame” which is a comination of eki (station) and entame (entertainment) to refer to this phenomenon.  First Street Tokyo Station was the majorly successful forerunner of this phenomenon which is bound to spread to other rail stations.  See my post about the Tokyo Skytree and rail hub shopping for more on this subject.

Tokyo Character Street
It was Character Street that first grabbed my attention as an Ultraman store was located here.  Tokyo Character Street has had millions of visitors since it opened in 2008.  People are coming to check out over 20 big-name character goods stores from well known anime and other media. It is pretty nice to have a concentration of shops like this!
A listing of some of the stores follows below.
  • SHOP JUMP -  Goods from manga comics serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump such as One Piece and Naruto!
  • TOMICA SHOP - Toy cars and much more.
  • SHOP PLARAIL - Toy trains.
  • NHK Character Shop - with Domo! More Domo merchandise than you can shake a stick at.          
  • Snoopy Town Mini  - "Peanuts" goods with Snoopy and colleagues.
  • Donguri Garden (Garden acorn) - Has "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" and "My Neighbor Totoro" with many other Studio Ghibli character goods.
  • Fuji TV Shop - With the Blue doggy mascot of Fuji TV and more.
  • Asahi shop - TV Ashahi characters such as Doraemon and Sweet Pretty and Crayon Shin-chan.
  • NTV shop - Array of popular shows and characters from NTV!
  • Ultraman World M78 - The only official shop in Tokyo for Ultra Man goods.
  • Lego brick click - Welcome to the world of LEGO!
  • Rilakkuma Store - The shop of the cute cuddly bear - a Sanrio character.
  • Pretty Cure Store - Full of the popular Pretty Cure goods! First official shop.
  • Hello Kitty shop - Large selection of official Sanrio Hello Kitty goods and more.        
  • Miffy Style - Miffy the bunny.
Here's an interesting article: hello-kitty-miffy-stores-open-in-first-avenue-tokyo-station
Video walkthrough of Character Street found on Youtube.
Another video walkthrough of Character Street found on Youtube.

Tokyo Ramen Street
This area opened in April 2011 and features ramen shops operated by eight famous Tokyo ramen outfits. You must find this tasty street of noodles in the massive Tokyo Station, but you might just follow the crowd around lunch time or end up on a bullet train out of town.  Look for the signs and it is accessed directly via Yaesu Underground Exit of Tokyo Station.  The restaurants are open 11 am to 10:30 pm usually.

Signage to Ramen Street via Creative Commons License from Norisa
Tasty Ramen via Creative Commons License from rhosoi
More Tasty Ramen from Honda via Creative Commons License from ka2hik0
  1. Kani-senmon Keisuke Kita no Sho featuring creations by a ramen innovator;
  2. Menya Shichisai with its famous soy sauce ramen.
  3. Rokurinsha Tokyo with a permanent lineup for its tsukemen.  People wait an hour here!
  4. Ramen Mutsumiya, renowned for its popular miso ramen.
  5. Tokyo Station Ikaruga, the second restaurant of one of Tokyo's most famous ramen restaurants.
  6. Hirugao, a branch of the very popular Setagaya chain, specializing in shio ramen.
  7. Ramen Honda, a new and popular restaurant with consistent lineups.
  8. Junk-Garage, which started maze soba, where the noodles are topped with a thick sauce.

Tokyo Okashi Land

This just launch in April of 2012.  You can enjoy the treats from the big three Japanese snack makers and more at Tokyo Okashi Land. Calbee (chips), Morinaga (chocolate), Glico (Pocky) are some of the snack food manufacturers here with freshly made and limited edition treats.  Glico has freshly made chocolate almonds and more.  You can also get fresh fried potato chips from Calbee with chocolate or cheese sauce.  These shops are called “antenna shops” and are used by the companies to measure public reaction to new products).  Access via the Yaesu Central exit of Tokyo Station.

Apparently Fujiya is selling Peko-chan’s Hat (Milky Cream), a hat-shaped cream puff with a very sweet smooth cream inside.  For all cream puff lovers this is probably pretty tasty.  Peko-chan is Fujiya's mascot, a cute little cartoon girl.

Other Tokyo Anime / Otaku Highlights Worth Visiting

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