A 280-Year Old Dried Foods Shop in Tokyo Gets a Facelift

all photos by Kenya Chiba

In 1737 a shop opened for business in what is now Nihonbashi, a central part of Tokyo that neighbors Ginza. And for 8 generations Yagicho Honten has stayed in business by producing and selling what is the backbone of Japanese cuisine: dried foods like katsuobushi (dried bonito), konbu (kelp), and shiitake mushrooms, three basic ingredients that go into dashi soup stock. Now, on the 280th anniversary of its birth, the shop has been renovated in a deep-redish hue that pays homage to both the original color of the structure, as well as the color of the dried bonito.

“We made wood boxes for display in the main store space out of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) in the same color, and placed them in stacks to create a space like a marketplace,” explained architect Jo Nagasaka.

Centrally located and also serving as a major focal point is a large copper countertop that functions as a kitchen for demonstrations but also where customers conduct transactions. The shop periodically conducts workshops and demonstrations on how to use their dried ingredients to make ichiban-dashi.

Yagicho Honten emits a certain regal self-assurance that most certainly connects to its long tenure in the neighborhood. On sunny days, the store opens all its doors, creating a close connection to the city and its people. Even though it’s surrounded  by large buildings and modern convenience stores it remains grounded in the spot it grew up.

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