I just came back from a casual (ha!) 2-week jaunt across Japan and Singapore, and don’t know where to start. It’s impossible to capture the culture and complexity of these countries with just a few blog posts, so instead I am going to focus on the highlights of my trip. First up: a neighborhood in east Tokyo called Fukagawa, where I spent a very frigid, rainy afternoon exploring.
Located on a river, Fukagawa was a merchant city and today is still home to many local businesses. My husband and I toured the neighborhood with TreckTreck via AirBnB experiences, and had the best time. Everyone we met seemed genuinely excited to show a small piece of their world to us foreigners and it was a highlight — if not the best part — of our time in Tokyo. Bonus: it’s far less crowded than the heart of Tokyo.
Japanese bookmaking factory
This small, family-run shop creates traditional Japanese journals with accordion-style pages. The son took time to chat with us and answer questions while his family worked in the back. His shop is different than others in that they do everything by hand, even pressing the covers on each journal. He was delightful to speak with and despite the language barrier, he and my husband bonded over their affinity for sake!
Hungry for a snack, we walked up to this tofu shop and asked the woman to choose her favorite tofu for us. I was a little nervous when she chose a more gelatinous-looking tofu, as I tend to go for extra firm-styles. All I can say is to trust the experts! It was the best tofu I’ve ever had. She was very gracious and brought us other tofu samples. Despite the freezing weather, her kindness was warming.
Goma fire ritual at Fukagawa Fudoudou Buddhist temple
As we walked up to the temple, we smelled strong incense and heard intense chanting and drumming — we arrived just in time for a goma fire ritual. During the ritual, people hand the monks items they want to be blessed or purified, which is done by the monk holding the item over a fire. It was powerful to feel the energy in the room. Anyone can participate, so come prepared with something you’d like blessed.
Origami is the art of paper making, and we were lucky to meet an origami master! This man has run this particular craft shop for decades and showed us how to make our own origami. He even brought out his sweet dog for a photo.
After the tour, we were ready for a warm meal. Fukagawa is famous for a clam dish called Fukagawa-meshi, but that’s a little outside of my comfort zone, so we opted for ramen instead. We walked into Yuji Ramen, which is known for its fish-based broth. It was phenomenal and exactly what I needed on that cold day!
There are a lot of bakeries, coffee shops, shrines and more in Fukagawa. You could easily spend a day or two exploring — I highly recommend it next time you’re in Tokyo.
As a writer, I’ll close with this: Fukagawa was home to the famous Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, who is known as the master of haiku poems. How cool is that?!
Have you been to Fukagawa or Tokyo? Let me know about your experience in the comments!