If you happen to be in the Edagawa 1-chome area and are looking for somewhere to pick up a “bento” (lunch box) why not drop into Ichimura Seinikuten (Ichimura Butcher)? Less than a ten minute walk from Toyosu Station, this family-run butcher’s shop sits on the ground floor of a small modern apartment block.
To people who live in the Toyosu area or check out the Kotomise website, the name Ichimura may sound familiar, and so it should; the owners of Ichimura Seinikuten are related to the owners of Niku no Ichimura, where Mr. Kenju Suzuki learnt his trade. When he opened the shop in 1965, they lent him their established name to help his business get started. Now, over 50 years later, the Edagawa shop is totally independent from the Toyosu shop, and is principally run by Mr. Suzuki’s son, Toshikazu. However, the original connection is preserved in a beautifully carved sign which hangs on a wall of the shop.
The family divides its time between two lines of business: fried food for lunch boxes and takeaway meals, and cuts of meat for home cooking. The younger Mr. Suzuki explained to me that the family’s work routine is determined by the shop’s customer flow.
In the morning they mainly prepare food for the lunchtime customers. These are the workers from nearby offices and factories which dot the Edagawa area, along with taxi drivers and delivery men taking a break from work. In the afternoon the family prepares meat cuts and a second round of fried food for housewives shopping for their family’s evening meal.
The Suzukis work busily behind the counter preparing for the lunchtime and evening queues. When I called in, Mrs. Eiko Suzuki, the founder’s wife, was busy frying a batch of “kara-age” (deep fried chicken).
These boned pieces of chicken are dipped in a sauce made to a “secret recipe”, which includes soy sauce and ginger, and then deep fried. I was given a couple of pieces to taste. I stood in the centre of the shop trying to cool the piping hot kara-age by rolling it around the inside of my mouth. The outer coating of batter was light and crispy whilst the inside was tender and juicy. Mmm, delicious…
At the same time, a “seiro” (bamboo steamer) full of “shumai” (Chinese-style steamed meat dumpling) was steaming away on a cooker. The younger Mr. Suzuki passed me one to try. Biting into the firm pork filling, I could taste the flavour of the combined ingredients of sugar, soy sauce and onions. And Mr. Suzuki was right when he said that shumai taste nice served with or without a dash of soy sauce.
Turning my attention to the display cabinet, I could see a variety of fried foods on offer at very reasonable prices: “jumbo aji-fry” (the size of this fried horse mackerel was decidedly “jumbo”), “ebi-fry” (fried shrimp), the delightfully-named “cheese ham sando fry” (fried cheese and ham sandwich – check it out), “menchi katsu” (deep fried minced meat cutlet) …,
“potato korokke” (potato croquette), and more….
Besides the fried food, the Suzukis offer everything you need to go with it: cooked rice, a selection of small side dishes, some of which are prepared in the shop, and soft drinks.
Whilst I was enjoying my food-tasting, Mr. Suzuki was busy slicing fresh meat for the late afternoon/early evening rush. Ichimura Seinikuten offers a selection of beef, pork and chicken cuts, such as shoulder of beef, beef for sautéing, rib roast, beef for sukiyaki, pork ginger and chopped pork. Apparently, the most popular item these days is pork “bara niku” (pork belly) with the fat left on, giving the meat more taste.
And the Suzuki’s recommendations? The chicken kara-age and the “kiri otoshi” (thinly-sliced shoulder of beef).
For me, what epitomises the charm and nature of this type of local shop is the settee which the Suzukis have placed beside the counter, so that elderly or pregnant customers can drop in for a chat or sit and wait whilst a fresh batch of fried food is being prepared. Now, that is what I call “omotenashi” (Japanese hospitality)!
Story and Photos by Jeremy Hutchinson