One of the new (to me) discoveries I made on this trip was the discovery of the Omotesandō (表参道) area. I never expected to love it so much, but I really do. The streets are dotted with lots of fun, quirky little shops, and it’s also an interesting place to people-watch. In addition to visiting the Nezu Museum during this trip, I also discovered two other gems that I would make repeat visits to next year: Number Sugar and the Spiral Market.
Number Sugar is a confectionery store that specializes in handmade caramels. They have 10 flavors that are made fresh, on site, daily. However, after exiting the Omotesando subway station, it was a bit of a wild goose chase. On paper (or on Google Maps) the streets of Tokyo are labeled by district (chōme), block (ban) and house numbers (gō). Theoretically, this seems clear enough, until you realize that there are hardly any visible street signs!
After I found Number Sugar (with the help of a lovely barista from Starbucks) I went back and retraced my steps and took some photos to help make it easier for you to find. First, come out of Exit A1 of Omotesando subway station, and keep walking forward until you see Dior on your left, and Chanel ahead of you.
Turn left into the alley, and walk down until you see Adidas, and turn right here. You should see Number Sugar on your right hand side, soon after.
I arrived here in the late afternoon, and the store was absolutely packed. I even waited an extra few minutes outside, so I could get an unobstructed photo of the storefront, but no such luck. This man was sitting here when I went in, and was still there when I left.
Unfortunately, I arrived too late in the day (at around 3:30 in the afternoon) and all the individual flavors were sold out. So if you really have your heart set on multiple quantities of a particular flavor, get there early, right when the store opens at 11.
Each individual caramel costs 100 Japanese yen (108 including tax) and (usually) there are 10 flavors to choose from, and the flavors are: No.1 vanilla, No.2 salt, No.3 cinnamon and tea, No.4 chocolate, No.5 raspberry, No.6 orange peel, No.7 almond, No.8 ginger, No. 9 rum raisin and No. 10 Coffee.
All hope was not lost, as there were gift boxes available for purchase. A box of 12 caramels includes one of each flavor, and then two “mystery” (or random) flavors.
I always love a cute handmade sign, so I couldn’t resist a photo of this one for their caramel sauces. There were four flavors available that day: milk, bitter, raspberry and chocolate.
I chose the box with the navy blue ribbon. I absolutely adore the simple, yet elegant packaging.
Once you open the box, there is a square piece of vellum, a business card (with a helpful map printed one side).
Each caramel is wrapped in white waxed paper, and clearly labeled with a number. There is also a little sheet of paper that reminds you of all the different flavors. My two mystery flavors were coffee.
I’m happy to share that the caramels are delicious. Buttery soft, and each of the different flavors really shone though. The No. 9 (ginger) actually had infinitesimal shreds of candied ginger mixed in with the caramel. The other flavors also had tiny pops of flavor, such as sea salt flakes No. 2 (salt) and almonds for No. 7 (almonds). My favorites were No. 1 (vanilla) No. 2 (salt) and No. 4 (chocolate). The most interesting flavor was ginger, but I’m not sure I like it enough to re-purchase it on its own. A box of these would be perfect gift for someone who appreciates handmade candy (believe me, making caramels is a hot, tedious and slightly nerve-wracking process… I’ve only tried it once for my homemade salted caramel ice cream, and I haven’t been brave enough to attempt it again).
If you have some more time to spend in the area, I also recommend a trip to Spiral Market, (Exit of of Omotesando subway station) Note: you have to come up a looooong staircase, but the building that houses Spiral Market is literally a stone’s throw away.
Spiral Market is a graciously decorated store, that sells a variety of home, kitchenwares, stationery, accessories and paper goods. If you only have time to make one stop for gifts, I would highly recommend that you shop here.
It’s a little hard to tell from the photos, but ceilings are decorated with strings of vintage electric lights, dark brown velvet ribbons and little balls made of wool. Such a creative combination! The shop designs and in-store displays in Tokyo are to die for, I felt like it was worth the trip just to see some of them in person.
I was in a bit of a rush by the time I got to Sprial Market, so I just quickly bought a few small household goods and some stationery items. By far, my favorite purchase was this mini, self-inking date stamp. You can certainly use it in your TN (Traveler’s Notebook) like I did during the trip, but I also find myself reaching for it to date papers, to label food items with either their date of purchase, or expiration dates.
Information: Number Sugar| Address: 5-11-11 Jingumae 1F, Shibuya 150-0001|Phone: 03-6427-3334 |Hours: 11am to 8pm (Closed Tuesdays) Spiral Market |Address: 2F, 5-6-23 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku | Phone: +81 (0) 3 3498 5792| Website: http://www.spiral.co.jp/en/shop_restaurant/spiral_market/