Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chaho Kanekichi-en

While in the Yanesen (Yanaka, Nezu, Sendagi) area of Tokyo, I visited one of my favorite tea shops, Chaho Kanekichi-en/金吉園.

Yanaka Ginza is a shopping street located a short distance (approximately 4 minutes walk) west from the North Exit of Nippori Station.  Descend at Yuyake Dandan (Sunset Stairs) and you'll find yourself surrounded by shops reminiscent of the Edo Period.  A short walk further and you will find Chaho Kanekichi-en on the left.

Chaho Kanekichi-en has been doing business in Yanaka Ginza for over 60 years. They offer a wide selection of teas, including their own blends, and a variety of tea ware for casual use and formal occasions.   Staff here are knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive.  While not everyone speaks fluent English, there is usually someone available to answer your questions and offer recommendations.

Taking a tip from a travel guide, I purchased 100 grams of Yanaka Midori (谷中みどり), a house blend of kukicha and matcha.  The contrast between what is considered the least valuable tea (kukicha, consisting of stems) and the most valuable tea is definitely worth exploring.  Like many of their packaged teas, there were three grades available, with prices and identifying decorative stickers to match.  The lowest grade and most affordable features a stylized pine tree.  Mid-grade features an open fan.  The high-grade teas feature something along the lines of a family crest.

While making my purchase a salesperson was kind enough to open one of the gold cabinets behind the counter to show that they stored neatly packaged tea orders.  The beautifully painted crane doors at the far end of the shop conceal the tea vault where tea is evaluated and blends are prepared.  Unfortunately, though sensibly, they do not generally permit guests to enter the vaults.  I have also heard that there is a small garden, but it was far too busy at the time of my visit to ask for a viewing.

The nearby traditional sweet shop, Goto no Ame, is said to make a sweet using Chaho Kanekichi-en's tea.  While I missed out this time, I'll be sure to include it in my plans for the next visit.

A tip for travelers with a few hours layover at Narita International Airport:  Take the Keisei Skyliner direct to Nippori Station (36 minutes) and spend an hour (or more) in Yanaka Ginza.  You can have a real Tokyo experience, find great gifts for reasonable prices, and enjoy wonderful local food.

〒110-0001 東京都台東区谷中3-11-10
3-11-10 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo

10am-7:30pm (closed on Sunday)

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