On a chilly November day, I ventured to the other side of Nippori station. So far I had been exploring the South exit side of Nippori station where the Yanaka Ginza and Yanaka Reien are located. However, I learned about this old dango shop that was worth checking out on the other side.
This shop, called Habutae Dango, is nearly 200 years old (founded in 1819) and serves dango, a Japanese dumpling and sweet made from mochiko (rice flour). At the East exit there are actually two shops of Habutae Dango, one is very close to the station exit and is very new (called Habutae Dango 1819), and the other one is the main (old) store five minutes walk away from the station. I would recommend to go to the old one, as they have more seats, a small exhibition on the history of the store and a beautiful small garden (with koi fish), where you can enjoy your dango outside if the weather is fine.
The inner garden
The street on which this shop is located is a bit far away from the action on the other side of the station, and as a result there seem to be few visitors at this place. When I visited on a Sunday afternoon, I was there alone for quite some time. Maybe this will all change when the new APA hotel (opening December 2016) gets up and running.
Inside of the shop
What makes this shop special is that was a popular spot to hang out for literary talents late 19th century and early 20th century. You can even order the set that one of the writers always used to get (although I wouldn’t recommend that, I can only expect he had a big appetite for dango). The most famous authors who came here are Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) and the poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). But many other came as well, such as Izumi Kyouka (1873-1939) and Tayama Katai (1872-1930). More recent authors were Kubota Mantarou (1889-1963) and Shiba Ryoutarou (1923-1996). On the shop’s website, you can read all about how Habutae Dango was mentioned during certain passages in their books. On the tables in the shop there is also more information available (in Japanese only). For example, in Natsume Soseki’s book “I am a cat” (1905) he refers to Habutae Dango as the dango shop at Imozaka near Ueno, were the dango are soft and cheap.
Photos of the shop through the ages can be viewed at the shop
The dango that are served here have a flattened shape, at other stores they are usually more round. Apparently this is so that the heat can reach the dango better when they are baked. Only 2 types of dango are served with the tea-sets:
- yakidango (with shoyu flavour): baked over charcoal fire
- an-dango: dango mixed with azuki beans
As beverages, you can choose between green tea or matcha. The regular green tea can get you a free refill and is the most economical option (more dango, more tea!).
Old shop (I recommend to go here): 5-54-3 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo
New shop: 6-60-6 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo
Nippori Station – 5 minutes walk from East exit (Yamanote line, Jōban Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Keisei main line and Nippori-Toneri Liner)
Old shop: 9:00-17:00
New shop: 11:00-18:00
Budget: JPY 540 for green tea and dango, JPY 702 for matcha set with dango
Web: https://www.habutae.jp/ (in Japanese)
When to best visit? All year round
Why visit? a shop with a long history (many Japanese authors frequented this store), beautiful inner garden, and just very tasty dango