K-Pop, Kimchi and Cosmetics in Tokyo’s Korean Town
Venture one stop north of Shinjuku on the Yamanote line to Shin Okubo and you will find yourself in Korea town. In recent years, South Korea has become one of the most fashionable places in Asia. Hugely popular soap operas and a plethora of dreamy pop stars have put South Korea firmly in the limelight. However, you don’t need to step on a plane to get your fix of K-pop, ginseng tea and delicious Korean food. Shin Okubo is a fun and easy place to sample modern Korean culture right here in Tokyo.
The main attraction of Shin Okubo is the numerous street-side food stalls where you can try different kinds of Korean cuisine. Take your pick from hot savory onion fritters called chijimi, Korean style fried chicken or a popular snack food made from rice cake and sweet red chili sauce called tteokbokki. You can slowly work your way along the street grazing on whatever takes your fancy!
On any given day in Shin Okubo you are likely to encounter giggly schoolgirls shopping for K-pop merchandise showcasing their favorite pop stars. You can find mugs, postcards, magnets and all manner of products emblazoned with the handsome faces of K-pop boy band stars. In between shopping, you will see young people lining up for fresh hottoku. These pancakes are made with a variety of fillings, both sweet and savoury. You can choose from honey, cheese, fruit, kimchi or chocolate.
Inside the Seoul Ichi-Ba store you can sample a wide range of kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables) from the tasting counter and purchase a tub of your favorite to take home. The store also sells gimbap, Korean style seaweed rice rolls. Very similar to the maki sushi found in Japanese cuisine, this is a popular snack amongst Koreans and it is well worth buying a pack to take home with you. This store is also the place to pick up other Korean groceries and cooking ingredients. You can even buy your own clay pot to prepare your favorite Korean dishes at home.
South Korea is famous for cosmetics, and Shin Okubo is a great place to pick up some products that you may not have tried before. Check out Skin Garden in the K-Plaza 2 and Petite Price Skin Cosmetics store for a full array of face packs ranging from the weird to the wonderful. Will you opt for collagen, snail or red ginseng? Not for the faint-hearted, they make fun gifts for friends back home!
If you haven’t over-indulged on the street snacks, you will find yourself spoilt for choice for restaurants serving Korean style BBQ food and the famous clay pot rice dish known as bibimbap. Served in a sizzling hot clay dish, bibimbap is a signature Korean meal meaning “mixed rice,” and it is the epitome of comfort food.
A word of advice when visiting Shin Okubo: go hungry!