04Sushi Making Classes with Kimono Temple Walk
The Sushi making classes and kimono walk in Ikegami stations took our group to a less traveled part of Tokyo to experience two special activities. You won’t find Ikegami station on any tour itineraries or guide books, but the quaint part of Tokyo that is known by locals for its rustic Japanese style “shopping arcade” (a street lined with small Japanese mom-and-pop shops, and it is here where our group got to enjoy both sushi making and taking a tour of a temple while wearing kimonos, into one tour for an amazing experience.
Learning to Make Sushi from a Professional
After meeting at the station, the tour started out with sushi making classes at a small sushi restaurant about a 5-minute walk away called “Dosojin.” The class was taught by the owner of the restaurant, his wife, and her father who founded Dosojin. The owner’s lessons were easy to follow and he has a great sense of humor. We started out by using a by-product of rice processing called “o-kara” before using real rice. He taught us how to hold the sushi with the length of our fingers on our left hand, and shape it with our pointer/middle fingers on our right, to about a little less size of our thumbs. Mine were oddly rectangular, which he thought was really funny. The father also told me (in Japanese, which the owner translated) that sushi needs to be tightly packed enough to hold its form, but not so tight that it is too hard. He said that holding sushi in front of a light to see whether light can be seen through the rice was the best way to tell. If you can’t see the light it means the rice is too firm. It took us about 20 minutes to practice with the o-kara, then about 30 minutes to make seven different styles of sushi using real rice and fish, which we got to decorate a sushi serving platter with.
Changing into Kimonos at a Kominka Style Café
After we filled ourselves with sushi, we made our way through Ikegami to a small kominka-style (traditional Japanese wooden house) café, where four women greeted us. They were running local kimono classes that Japanese people participate in to learn about the art of wearing kimonos. Today they would be helping our group get dressed into the traditional Japanese attire. The head of the group, Ms. Kanazawa, oversaw dressing the men, who wore a man’s version of a kimono called a hakama. It was my first time wearing a hakama, which are only ever seen now-a-days during Japanese-style weddings. The three other teachers dressed the female members of our group. Mrs. Kanazawa swiftly dressed the male members of our group, which took about half as long as the women. When the girls were finished, they’d had their hair done in addition to their kimonos. After taking a few pictures in the café, we moved on to the temple.
Taking a stroll through Ikegami Honmonji Temple
After a quick ten-minute walk in our kimonos, we found ourselves on the temple grounds. The temple is called Ikegami Honmonji temple, and the tour guide explained to us not only the history of this temple, but also different traditions done at Japanese temples in general. This included a small ritual washing our hands at a dragon water fountain, praying after making a five-yen (or go-en in Japanese, which means luck) donation, and lighting “o-koh” fragrances and sticking them in a giant metal pot on the temple ground. The fragrances produce smoke which we were told to bring towards parts of our body we wanted to heal. I decided to guide my smoke brought the smoke towards my head because apparently, it will make you more smart. The temple was built in the year 1282 by a highly influential figure in Japanese Buddhism called Nichiren Shonin, and hosts the oldest five store pagoda in Tokyo. The tour ended with us returning to the kominka café to get dressed back into our original clothes. The group members and I all decided to have a cup of coffee at the café before we went our separate ways after a long day of fun activities.
This tour brought our group to a less traveled part of Tokyo to experience authentic Japanese culture. It was a lot of fun and worth the money for how much you get out of it; a full day of making sushi wearing kimonos and exploring Tokyo. Anyone who is interested in either kimonos or sushi will have a lot of fun on this tour.