A Historical Fruit Shop
In 1834 toward the end of the Edo Period, the founder of Sembikiya, Benzo Ohshima, who was then a samurai in Senbikinogo, Saitama-gun, Musashinokuni, set up a store, putting up a sign which read Mizugashi Yasuuri Dokoro, which literally means “fruits discount store,” in Fukiya cho (today’s Ningyo-cho 3-chome in Nihonbashi) and began selling fruits and vegetables. This was the origin of Sembikiya.
At that time, being located at the origin of Gokaido, the five main travel roads, Nihonbashi was a vibrant city and was the center of trade and finance. A number of other well-known venerable stores, such as Mitsukoshi and Yamamoto-Noriten, still have stores in this area to this day.
In 1867 the store was relocated to today’s Nihonbashi-Honcho. There, the third generation of the founding family, Daijiro Ohshima, began importing fruits from overseas and focused his efforts on improving the quality of domestic fruits. As a result of his hard work, Mizugashi Yasuuri Dokorobecame Japan’s first fruit shop and formed the foundation of Sembikiya. In 1887 Sembikiya opened a fruit restaurant that became the forerunner of Japan’s first Fruit Parlor, which is a Fruit Café. Following the first restaurant, many new shops were opened in department stores and shopping buildings housing train stations, where many people gathered.
In 1960, Daijiro Ohshima, the fifth president put his focus on expanding the store network. Around this time, Sembikiya began operating restaurants and sweet factories in addition to their Fruit Parlors and truly became the largest general fruit shop in Japan.
A Jewellery Shop Like Fruit-gift Shop
Surrounded by the sea, Japan has a lot of rain, good quality water, and the availability of an abundance of vegetables and edible wild plants year round, from which water content and vitamins can easily be obtained. For this reason fruits were always considered luxury items and gift items.Fruits are bought as it’s customary in Japan to give high-end fruits as presents for formal occasions like weddings, business transactions, and hospital visits.
The Sembikiya family claims responsibility for helping start the tradition of fruit gift giving decades ago. Farmers go to extreme measures to rich the fruits flavour and to ensure a blemish less presentation: Orchards are hand-pollinated with tiny wands, fruits are given individual protective boxes to grow in, and apples are branded by stencil.
One famous offering of Sembikiya is muskmelon, which is said to be the king of fruits and to have a rich musk-like scent. Sembikiya stores only offer muskmelons farmed in Shizuoka, which generally gets more sun than other areas in Japan and where the weather is warm. In order to thoroughly manage the water in the fruit, each melon is suspended away from the ground and the air temperature is controlled year-round by heaters during winter and by air conditioners during summer. And that is why one melon can sell as $260 and labelled as “Sekai-ichi”, means “world’s best.” They were not watered with honey but their melting sweetness and rich taste are beyond your expectation.
The Dreaming Fruit Parlor
Waiting in line for a seat at the Sembikiya fruit parlor in Ginza, I am browsing the appetizing fruits dessert menu, trying to make up my mind and thinking how to pick only a few but to taste most kinds of fruits here. When I’m finally shown to a table, I order Sembikiya’s signature fruit plate for 1512 yen (one person), the fruit sandwich and a melon drink. I started with the honey-dew-green melon drink. It has a rich and fragrant flavour with the most concentrated melon essence I’ve ever tasted. No wonder people are willingly to pay over 200 US dollars for such a world top graded muskmelon.
The fruit plate comes with three slices of apples from different areas; two rinds of house-honour muskmelon; one piece each of persimmon, orange, white peach; one huge half peeled lychee; several pieces of grapes, raspberry and cherry. All fruits are served properly chilled and are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The sandwiches are not to disappointing you too. In between the cut-off-rind white bread are the properly sweet light cream and full of fragrant strawberry and mango slices. It is perfectly matches the nutty black coffee I ordered by side. Indulging in the lazy afternoon and being spoiled by such great fruits, I prefer to forget about the bill I am going to pay later for this luxurious fruity hightea.
TEL: +81-3-3241-0877 (Sales Department)
TEL: +81-3-3241-1630 (Fruit Parlor/Restaurant Direct)
Directly connected through an underground passage with Mitsukoshimae Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line & Hanzomon Line Directly connected through an underground passage with Shin-Nihonbashi Station on the JR Sobu Line
10 minute-walk from JR Tokyo Station
6 minute-walk from JR Kanda Station