"They’re so popular that some customers don't even look at other products. They just put 2 or 3 bags in their basket and head straight to the cash register…"
The person telling this funny sounding story is the general shop manager of Tottori Okayama Shimbashi-kan.
Bags of "cigar fry" are piled up in a heap at the back of the shop. Anyone coming from Okayama would feel nostalgic seeing its retro-style packaging.
As the shop name suggests, specialties from both Tottori and Okayama prefecture can be found lined up on the shelves. A lot of work has been put in to making the shop enjoyable for everyone, not just to people originally from the two prefectures.
This is the shop's large, spacious display window. Colorful decorations with seasonal themes are always chosen.
From first thing in the morning, the brightly-lit shop interior is bustling with shoppers all day long.
Delivered to the shop directly from the areas in which they are grown, vegetables and fruit from Tottori and Okayama prefecture are truly delicious.
The vegetables are also used in the restaurant on the 2nd floor.
There are always plenty of seasonal fruits lined up at the shop as well.
Notice how packed with products the Japanese sardinella corner is!
Their Japanese name "mamakari" is said to have originated from them being so delicious that people would go and borrow rice from next door, so they could eat more! ('mama' = the regional word for 'rice', 'kari' = 'borrow').
I thought that the most common version was sardinellas marinated in vinegar, but I was surprised at the number of different versions on offer; there’s fried and salted sardinellas, fried sardinellas seasoned with vinegar, Ougon (Golden) mamakari (vinegared with sweet vinegar), etc. As each household has a favorite product, the number of different versions handled by the shop keeps increasing, apparently!
On the other hand, when the general shop manager and the staff realized how hard it is to describe the charms of something people from outside the prefecture haven’t tasted, they decided that this was one aspect in which to put effort!
All members of staff encourage visitors to taste the products.
The photograph above is of rice cakes filled with whole grapes. As I’m trying one, I chat with a friendly staff member. The discussion got a bit too excited so I asked, "Is it okay to talk this much during work?" The staff member answered, "We chat a lot with customers because we want them to find out more!" As I walk around the shop, I’m offered different food samples and greeted in a friendly way. By the time I go home, I'm so full!
"Instead of having customers just buy products, we want them first to learn more about the good things Tottori and Okayama have to offer!!"
I think this is the most important concept of the shop.
When I visited another day, they were serving the famed sweet bean soup made from Ohte Manjyu."Do you melt the manju in hot water?!" I was surprised when a nearby customer told me that this was the way they are eaten in Okayama. This person was also a fan of the staff and apparently visits every week. By the way, the customer was not from Okayama!
It's a shop that is fun even for visitors who aren't from Tottori or Okayama. As the staff are keen to introduce the charms of the prefectures, before you head to Tottori or Okayama on a trip, it might be a good idea to drop by and pick up a few tips here first.
In cooperation with: Tottori Okayama Shimbashi-kan
Location: 1F/2F Shimbashi Center Place 1-11-7 Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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