- The Japanese concept of “antenna shop” or local speciality shop
- The Ishikawa Local Speciality Shop
- The gold leaf workshop
The Japanese concept of “antenna shop” or local speciality shop
The Ishikawa local speciality shop is known as an antenna shop アンテナショップ in Japan. Shops with this name sell products from a specific prefecture of Japan. The first antenna shops were mostly aimed at people who are from these prefectures and moved to Tokyo, so that they could buy products that would remind them of home. However, over time, they also became a great tool for promotion, which was also the aim of the Ishikawa antenna shop when it was created. Many of the shops work with the prefectural bureaus and key industries, all hoping to reach a large audience and make them want to buy the local products and, eventually, travel to the prefecture itself to visit and eat all the good food it has to offer (food plays a big part in Japan’s local tourism).
Tokyo has many shops like this one, and I often hear about the Okinawa one, the Nara one, the Nagano one…
The Ishikawa Local Speciality Shop
It wasn’t the first time I had visited the shop, as I had been there last year while strolling in Ginza. I had never been to Ishikawa Prefecture at the time, and was almost totally ignorant about the area. The shop was nice and there were a couple of appealing or unique products (for example, gold-leaf based cosmetics) but overall it lacked character. It didn’t leave a strong impression on me.
When I visited again for the re-opening on March 6th, I was impressed by how much it had improved. The shop is a lot brighter and the aisles are wider, with nice wooden shelves. The products are a variety of local handicrafts (including porcelain and lacquerware), cosmetics, sweets, sake, and the famous local fermented food. The design has some nice “Ishikawa-esque” details, like the repeated use of gold-leaf patterns (even inside the washrooms!).
Another major change: great efforts have been made to introduce the prefecture to visitors. Posters are hanging from the ceiling, and digital panels outside and inside the shop introduce the area, its food and its handicrafts, both in Japanese and in English. On the second floor, there is a tourist desk where you can get information if you want to visit Ishikawa Prefecture. There is also an event space where they organize tasting and workshops, which really reminded me of my visit to Kanazawa city.
The gold leaf workshop
Chigaya and I decided to attend the gold leaf workshop because we enjoyed the one we did in Kanazawa so much. This time, the workshop was about making chopsticks and it turned out to be a completely different experience from before. The teacher was from a local Kanazawa gold leaf making company called Hakuza who first introduced us to some basic information about gold leaf making. Then, we were told the whole process we were about to follow and which I’ll sum up here through pictures.
First we were asked to put some kind of glue on the chopsticks, and apply the above golden leaves bits where we would like a pattern on our chopsticks. We were asked to put a little more than we would like to, as some parts would fall off in the last part of the process.
Once we stuck on our silver leaf flakes, we were asked to cut a gold leaf in two with a cutter.
Then we had to carefully roll our chopsticks on the gold leaf, Chigaya took a video of me doing it, but I will not show it here because I look as fast as a sloth.
Finally, we had to press the gold leaf with cotton, and gently remove the extra bits of gold and silver with a brush.
The activity took about 40mn and cost us 1500 yen, which is a very reasonable price. Other activities such as Noto wine tasting and various handicrafts workshops are being organized throughout the month.
Overall, I think the new version of the Ishikawa shop is a very nice place to check out when you’re in the Ginza area, especially if you are with friends or family visiting Japan: many items make great Japanese souvenirs, and in terms of price, the workshops are of better value than what you usually find in the Tokyo area. I’ll definitely come back the next time I’m showing people around.