Shitamachi Yoitoko is a school with a difference. Tucked away in the cozy backstreets of Shitamachi, sitting in the shadow of the Tokyo Skytree and within close proximity to the historic Asakusa area, Shitamachi Yoitoko’s classes take place in a homey second-floor studio, where students can choose from the school’s many options, including their mainstay Japanese home-cooking classes.
According to Masako Uchiyama, founder of Shitamachi Yoitoko, any true Japanese experience starts and ends with food. A veteran noodle cook, Uchiyama imparts her years of culinary wisdom as she guides classes ranging from one to four people (¥4,500 plus tax), to create Japanese classics, such as handmade udon noodles.
Here, the process begins by kneading dough, first with your hand, of course, and then with a traditional Japanese feet-stomping technique, and eventually serving the noodles inside a steaming bowl of dashi (Japanese broth). The price also includes some take-home goodies, such as Udon dough and soup, and your very own pair of chopsticks.
And the flavorsome experience doesn’t stop there. Before sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your labor, Uchiyama invites students of the udon class to prepare a Japanese dessert, where they can select from either matcha jelly or shiratama dango (white rice flour dumplings).
Other cooking classes include okonomiyaki, the eclectic Japanese savory pancake, served with kara-age (fried chicken); a tantalizing tempura selection, served with soba noodle; or a sweets-only option, where students learn to make traditional Japanese desserts.
Shitamachi Yoitoko also provides classes outside the kitchen. Students are invited to take a tour of a nearby supermarket, where Uchiyama picks out and explains some of the ingredients that are vital to Japanese cooking.
Students can also participate in a variety of cultural experience courses (¥4,000 plus tax, including a special present). These make for great post-lunch activities, with classes in origami, ikebana (flower arrangement), gamaguchi (coin purse making), and Japanese dance. Uchiyama is also proficient at calligraphy, the traditional Japanese art of ink painting, and she will even help you produce your your name in the elegant kanji alphabet.
Uchiyama had the vision of providing her students with simple and essential Japanese techniques, which she hopes they can take home to their native countries. She also has the idea of placing the school in the culturally rich yet somewhat underexplored area of Shitamachi, which provides the perfect starting point for exploring nearby attraction, including Skytree and Asakusa. The area is also home to some of Tokyo’s most important shrines, including Senso-ji, Ushijima, and Mimeguri. Options abound with Shitamachi Yoitoko, both inside and outside the classroom, and make for a perfect day out in Tokyo.
Shitamachi Yoitoko. #7, 2F Suzuki-So, 5-50-3 Mukojima, Sumida-ku. Nearest station: Hikifune (pickup from station can be arranged). www.yoitoko.org. Booking must be made one day in advance, minimum.