Today I went to Tomioka Hachimangu shrine sale for the very first time.  Established in 1627, the shrine has burned and been rebuilt repeatedly over the centuries and is particularly famous for its connection with sumo wrestling. Held on all Sundays of the month except the 3rd Sunday, the market was outstanding today (the 4th Sunday) with well over 80 dealers. Repeat visits will confirm which days are best, as I recognized many dealers who go elsewhere on other weekends.  My guess is that the 4th Sunday may be the best one as there are few other nearby options. I did also meet a number of dealers unique to this market as well.

But today, even amidst all the wonderful Japanese antiques, what caught my eye over and over again were the vintage glass senbei (rice cracker) canisters. Occasionally you see one or two, but today they were everywhere in splendid and unusual variety. These were not the only ones I saw, but I tried to keep the photos to the best ones.

I had never seen a double stacked one before…What efficient use of counter space!

This shape was very rare, being squared off in the back to sit against the wall. The price reflected its scarcity!

Charming art deco styling on this one.

By far the best was this long narrow one. The metal cover is hinged for easy opening and it says “Cake Vessel” on the front. It would be perfect to hold spaghetti or bread sticks.

Modest upon first sight and taste, senbei are an integral part of Japanese food culture. On one hand, they are a basic snack kids love, while on the other hand, they can be sent as elegant gifts and souvenirs. They can be salty when dipped in soy sauce or speckled with nori (seaweed) or sweet when dipped in sugar or honey. There are still many traditional senbei shops scattered around in the nooks and crannies of Japan.  Some have modernized, but others, like Tamaiya in Shimokitazawa, still keep the crackers in glass canisters.

My favorite senbei is from Tanuki Senbei in Azabu Juban. A tanuki translates best as “badger” or “racoon” in English,  but is actually a mythical creature. A giant tanuki stands guard over the entranceway and their delicious crackers are baked in the shape of the animal. Supposedly, the Emperor orders his senbei from them!

Today’s market trip proves what I have been suspecting for a while. There is no doubt or surprise about it, I have country kitchens on my mind…Beadboard, weathered cabinets and butcher’s block, with rows of vintage canisters filled with staples lining the shelves.

A perfectly collated pantry…

Cuteness in a jar!

Tomioka Hachimangu is a few blocks from the Monzen Nakacho stop on the Toei Oedo line and the Tozai line. More details about the shrine sale can be found on the “Shrine Sale” tab at the top of the blog.

Image credits: 1-5. me, 6. via Tokyobling, 7. via Rekishi no Tabi, 8-10. all Country Living Magazine, 8. photo credit: Michael Luppino, 9. photo credit: Steve Gross & Sue Daley, 10. photo credit not listed.