In years past, one of the most important roads in Japan was the Old Tokaido, a 320-mile byway that linked the Imperial city of Kyoto with the shogun’s city of Edo (present-day Tokyo). While cars and rapid trains now run most of the route, you can still walk a portion of the historical highway in Ota Ward.
The Mihara Shotengai (or Mihara shopping street) still retains an atmosphere of years past, with local restaurants and small shops peddling traditional goods. Several stores sell nori and other seaweed-related products, in a nod to the area’s former role as the biggest cultivator of nori in the Tokyo region. The Kawaryo nori shop in particular can claim a long heritage, with the store’s signboard and exterior appearing in an old woodblock print by eminent ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige. You can see a large copy of the famous scene on Kawaryo’s exterior shutter, as well as other artistic prints on storefronts up and down the street. Kawaryo’s products include seaweed-based furikake, a common rice topper, and nori sheets in such unique flavors as teriyaki sauce.
For those craving more of a sweet treat, a visit to Daikokuya is a must. The shop serves traditional Japanese sweets, from monaka (wafer-like cookies filled with sweet bean paste) to wagashi, treats made of pounded rice that are often shaped into various seasonal motifs. In the summer, the shop offers the popular specialty of kakigori, shaved ice served with a flavored syrup.