CocoShiga in Tokyo

CocoShiga in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.

Updated: Oct. 12, 2018

Shiga Prefecture finally has a true and full-fledged “antenna shop” in Tokyo named “CocoShiga” (ここ滋賀). It opened on October 29, 2017 in the Nihonbashi district. People in Tokyo can now buy food, sake, crafts, and souvenirs from Shiga more than ever before. We can also have a drink at the bar and dine at the small, upscale restaurant upstairs.

CocoShiga is right outside Nihombashi Station (Exit B8) on the Tozai, Ginza, and Toei Asakusa subway lines. It’s also a short walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu or Nihonbashi Exit, and Takashimaya Dept. Store is nearby on the same road (Chuo-dori) that goes to Nihonbashi Bridge. (Address: 東京都中央区日本橋2-7-1 or see map below.)

CocoShiga is in its own little building on a corner of the main Nihonbashi intersection (Chuo-dori and Eitai-dori roads). The first floor has a shop named “Market” (open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) selling about 1,000 different Shiga products (mostly food and sake from 33 sake breweries), a bar (strangely named “Shiga’s Bar“) where you can try Shiga sake 10 a.m.–11 p.m., and tourist pamphlets from Shiga. The floor space is not huge, but big enough.

The 1,000 Shiga products are labeled in Japanese with little pieces of cardboard, but I’m afraid that if you don’t know Shiga, it might be difficult to figure out which products are Shiga’s most popular or famous. The store does not really highlight particular products. So just to let you know, Shiga’s most famous food is funazushi fermented carp (get the female nigorobuna fish), Omi beef (wagyu), Biwa salmon, red konnyaku (devil’s tongue), Omi tea (from Tsuchiyama), and Omi rice. Note that CocoShiga does not sell all the famous food and products that Shiga has to offer. For example, the famous confections from Taneya and Club Harie are missing.

The second floor is an upscale restaurant named “Nihonbashi Jinomi” open for lunch (11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m.–11 p.m.). It serves Lake Biwa fish like funazushi (fermented Lake Biwa carp) and Biwa salmon as well as Omi beef. Dinner courses cost ¥5,000 and ¥8,500. The third floor is an open-roof Terrace with parasol tables. CocoShiga is open every day of the year except Dec. 31 to Jan. 3.

Besides the shop and restaurant, CocoShiga holds some kind of seminar, lecture, event, or hands-on lesson on its 1st floor or 2nd floor. (Check their event calendar here, but nothing in English.)

CocoShiga 1st floor shop.

CocoShiga’s 1st floor shop also converts into an event space.

Funazushi and Omi beef.

Funazushi fermented carp and shijimi clams in the refrigerator.

Shiga's Bar for sake.

Shiga’s Bar for mainly sake.

Lots of sake from Shiga.

Good variety of sake from Shiga.

Jinomi restaurant on 2nd floor.

Terrace on the 3rd floor.

Open-roof Terrace on the 3rd floor where you can consume what you purchased. It might be too cold in winter and too hot in summer though.

Nihonbashi has historically been Tokyo’s district for textile wholesalers and trading companies. Shiga has had close ties with Nihonbashi ever since Omi shonin merchants from Shiga opened shop here during the Edo Period to sell fabrics made in Shiga. The most famous Shiga clothing store in Nihonbashi was Shirokiya (白木屋) opened by Nagahama-born Omura Hikotaro I (大村 彦太郎) in 1662 on the site across the street from CocoShiga. (This was even before the Mitsui family opened the store that would become Mitsukoshi Dept. Store in Nihonbashi.) It was absorbed by Tokyu Dept. Store in 1958 which eventually closed this flagship store in 1999 where the huge COREDO Nihonbashi shopping complex took its place.

Although sadly Shirokiya no longer exists in Japan (only an offshoot store in Honolulu, Hawaii remains), Nihonbashi still has a good number of businesses (mainly fabric wholesalers) originally from Shiga. Shiga Bank’s Tokyo branch and the Tokyo Shiga Kenjinkai building are in Nihonbashi. Itochu’s Tokyo office was also in Nihonbashi for many years before it moved away. So for Shiga, I agree that Nihonbashi is the ideal Tokyo location for CocoShiga.

Of course, Nihonbashi is most famous for its namesake Nihonbashi Bridge which was the starting point of the old Tokaido Road and Nakasendo Road both of which go through Shiga before reaching Kyoto. Nihonbashi thus became Japan’s most famous bridge (originally a wooden bridge) and Nihonbashi was destined to become one of Japan’s most famous places. The bridge is a very short walk from CocoShiga. In the old days, the road in front of CocoShiga went directly to Shiga along the Tokaido Road.

Needless to say, Nihonbashi is a high-rent district and CocoShiga is sitting on one of Tokyo’s prime locations next to a subway station. CocoShiga’s rent has been reported to be a whopping ¥8.6 million per month. That’s about ¥286,666 per day, not including personnel costs. CocoShiga is a five-year project by Shiga Prefecture which is investing over ¥1.3 billion. In return, they are expecting ¥252 million worth of PR and inbound tourism to Shiga during the five years. Shiga is finally shooting for the big time with CocoShiga. I don’t know what’s going to happen after five years though. Whether they will renew the lease or move or shut down. For now, please help Shiga recoup its investment by buying stuff from CocoShiga whenever you’re in town.

CocoShiga is a huge leap over its previous incarnation called “Yume Plaza Shiga” (“yume” means “dream”) in Yurakucho. Yume Plaza was Shiga’s tourist information office and small gift shop in the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building next to Yurakucho Station (one stop from Tokyo Station). This large office building still has a few other antenna shops like from Hokkaido, Akita, and Nagano Prefectures. The problem was, Shiga’s Yume Plaza was on the second floor where there was little foot traffic. Meanwhile, Hokkaido’s large Dosanko store on the ground floor facing the main road and Yurakucho Station was always packed with people. The ground floor saw heavy foot traffic while few customers bothered to go upstairs.

The Yume Plaza antenna shop was just a small room where they sold a few trinkets and non-perishable food. It was more a tourist information office than a shop. I never took my friends there. It was too embarrassing.

Also, for many years, they were closed on weekends just when people in Tokyo have free time to go shopping or plan trips. It certainly didn’t make sense to be closed on weekends. But they later managed to stay open on weekends. The atmosphere was lax and the former Biwako Visitors Bureau Tokyo Office Manager (Ito Masahiro, 60, 伊藤雅博) who worked there was charged in July 2017 with falsifying & pocketing ¥1.24 million in travel expenses. Such shocking news.

Chabara in Akihabara.

Chabara in Akihabara. (The tobidashi boy has been removed in 2018.)

Shiga section in Chabara.

Shiga section that was in Chabara.

We were all well aware of Shiga’s Yume Plaza shortcomings. But we got some relief in Sept. 2015 when a small mall called “Chabara” (Nippon Hyakkaten Shokuhinkan) under the train tracks next to Akihabara Station opened. Chabara is a store with shelf space for many prefectures including Shiga. People in Tokyo could finally buy funazushi, Omi beef, sake, Omi rice, confections, and more year-round.
Update: For a time, the Shiga section in Chabara overlapped with products found in CocoShiga. By Oct. 2018, the Shiga section in Chabara has been discontinued.

Then on March 21, 2016, Nagahama boldly opened its own little museum in Ueno, Tokyo called “Biwako Nagahama Kannon House” (びわ湖長浜 KANNON HOUSE). It exhibits one precious kannon Buddha statue (Goddess of Mercy) brought over from Nagahama which has many kannon statues and temples. Small and beautiful museum to connect with Shiga culture, but they don’t sell Nagahama merchandise. One thing CocoShiga is missing is an exhibition space.

When it was announced that Shiga was planning to open a large antenna shop in Nihonbashi, it was very exciting news. It was hard to believe, after all these years of obscurity when other prefectures were already operating high-traffic antenna shops in prime locations in Tokyo. Shiga’s dinky and barren outpost in Tokyo lagged so far behind. Now it has leapfrogged to Nihonbashi.

Store sign above the front entrance (no English).

CocoShiga logo above the front entrance. On the left is the shape of Lake Biwa. English signage is hidden at the bottom. Poorly designed.

“CocoShiga” (ここ滋賀) literally means “Here’s Shiga” and has nothing to do with hot chocolate (cocoa) or coconuts. Although in Japanese it’s short and easy to remember, it’s not very original and not easily understandable by foreign tourists whom CocoShiga is also targeting (think 2020 Tokyo Olympics).

The Japanese word “Coco” (koko ここ) meaning “here” has become a popular prefix in business names. In Shiga, we already have Kokocool (online shop in Shiga) and Kocopia (roadside station in Konan). Outside Shiga, there is kokoka (Kyoto International Community House), Coco Miyagi (Miyagi Prefecture’s antenna shop in Tokyo), and Nagoya-based convenience store chain Cocostore before it was recently bought out by a rival chain. Perhaps the most famous “Coco” in Japan is the Coco Ichibanya curry restaurant chain (eight branches in Shiga). So please Shiga, let’s not have any more “Coco” names. It’s like “Yume” (dream), “Dream,” “Rainbow,” and “something-pia” (as in Utopia) which are popular and unoriginal names across Japan as well.

Other problematic English names are “Shiga’s Bar,” Shiga’s Concierge,” and “Shiga’s Guide” in CocoShiga. CocoShiga’s bar, concierge, and guide do not belong to any person named “Shiga.” They are just a mistranslation of the Japanese. In English, it came out as a possessive which does not reflect the intended meaning. Their monthly magazine “Shiga’s Guide” has columns named “Shiga’s People,” “Shiga’s Map,” “The Shiga’s Story,” and “Shiga’s Trip Guide” recommending what you can do on “Days 1” and “Days 2.” Somebody really loves the apostrophe “s”. (But why no “Shiga’s Market” and “Shiga’s Restaurant”?) Oh well, so much for correct English in Shiga. Let’s hope the English-learning kids won’t pick it up.

Preparing rice balls made of Omi rice at Shiga’s Bar.

menu

The 2nd floor Jinomi restaurant menu is in Japanese only. Hard to read the small text. Wish they had pictures of the food.

Jinomi restaurant’s vegetable salad. Most dishes are served on Shigaraki pottery.

Tourist brochures.

Shiga tourist brochures (no English) at CocoShiga.

As you may have guessed by now, antenna shops in Japan do not sell antennas. They sell food, crafts, and souvenirs from a prefecture, municipality, or company. Prefectural antenna shops also provide tourist information and may include a restaurant. Many Japanese prefectures have an antenna shop in central Tokyo to promote their products (mainly food) and inbound tourism. They supposed to be feelers (like insect antennae) or feedback shops to gauge what products are popular.

Prefectural antenna shops are an outgrowth of prefectural tourist information offices in Tokyo. Once upon a time, most of the prefectural tourist information offices were conveniently concentrated in a building right next to Tokyo Station. This made it easy to pick up tourist brochures before hopping on your train to the prefecture. Some of them, like Okinawa’s huge Washita Shop in Ginza, had enough space to sell their prefectural products.

However, the convenient building next to Tokyo Station (Yaesu side) that housed these prefectural tourist information offices was eventually torn down as part of the station’s redevelopment. Those prefectural tourist information offices moved out and scattered around in Tokyo. Many remained near Tokyo Station and Yurakucho Station (especially inside the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building which also housed the Japan National Tourist Organization). It then became quite inconvenient to pick up tourist brochures from multiple prefectures, but the Internet changed all that when much tourist information went online. So now, having a shop to sell physical goods (especially food) became more important than having a tourist information office for the public.

Reed decoration on the 1st floor ceiling.

Reed decoration on the 1st floor ceiling.

Have to look closely to see what's what.

Have to look closely to see what’s what.

Even with Chabara and CocoShiga or any store selling Shiga merchandise, they can never stock everything that Shiga has to offer. Even though CocoShiga’s 1,000 different products sounds impressive, they still don’t have things that I want to buy (mainly as gifts for friends). Like the hilarious “Koka Cola” from Koka (I hope it’s not a trademark infringement), Funazushi Pie cookies from Moriyama, more Adoberry confections from Takashima, Omi-jofu fabrics, more Shigaraki ware, and Lake Biwa pearls. The shop is not big enough to have everything.

As of this writing, it’s too bad nothing is in English. You would think that with an investment of over 1,300,000,000 yen on the rent alone, they would have some money for foreign language translations in Japan’s most international city. But apparently not.

Shiga businesses who want to sell their products at CocoShiga have to undergo a product screening. Not all businesses applied to sell at CocoShiga and not all products passed the screening. So we only see a small sample of Shiga products. But CocoShiga plans to change or rotate the product lineup every season so we may see more different products later.

CocoShiga is being managed by Tokyo-based company UDS Ltd. They have a branch office in Omi-Hachiman and have experience in the hospitality industry, managing a few hotels and restaurants. They seem to be well-qualified to run CocoShiga, but the staff are not from Shiga. The General Manager is from Okinawa. Being newbies to Shiga, the staff visited Shiga multiple times over a year to learn about the products CocoShiga would be selling. There are positive things about hiring outsiders since they can perceive things Shiga people might not be able to. But you can’t talk to them about home in Shiga, like at the bar while drinking or in the restaurant. For Shiga travel inquiries (“Concierge”), I believe they have staff from Shiga in the back office.

CocoShiga had a grand opening on Oct. 29, 2017 just when a typhoon hit Tokyo. The tape-cutting was done by Shiga Governor Mikazuki, noted journalist Tahara Soichiro from Hikone, and pop singer Nishikawa Takanori (T.M.Revolution) who is from Yasu and a Shiga tourism ambassador. Hiko-nyan was there too. About 2,300 customers came on the opening day, lining up in the rain. Many had to wait two hours to get in.

In mid-Dec. 2017, CocoShiga announced that they saw 100,000 customers after a little over a month in business. That’s about 2,300 customers a day. So far, so good (except for the English).

Update: CocoShiga announced that they saw 530,000 customers by Oct. 10, 2018. This was ahead of their projection that expected this number by the end of Dec. 2018.

CocoShiga website

Shiga Prefecture postage stamps

I’m not really a stamp collector, but the Japan Post Office issues so many commemorative stamps and it’s such a major hobby that it’s hard to ignore. Of course, stamps are a great way to promote whatever it promotes. Assuming that you still send paper letters or postcards in this electronic age of email and messaging. They are also great as souvenirs or gifts (very lightweight).

If you go to your local post office in Shiga, you will likely see Shiga-related stamps and postcards on sale (available only in Shiga). They are sold for a limited time, but most of them become available later by private stamp dealers online (auctions, etc.). New editions are also issued every year or season.

Here are a few of the Shiga-related stamps that were issued in the past.

Sights in Shiga

Stamp sheet of Shiga sights issued in 2009.

Hiko-nyan stamp sheet issued in 2013. Came with a hand towel.

Shigaraki tanuki stamp sheet issued in 2008.

Mt. Ibuki summer flowers issued in 2012. Similar sheet is issued annually.

Otsu Matsuri stamp sheet issued in 2008.

Takashima sights issued in 2009.

Colors of Kusatsu” stamp sheet issued in 2009.

Commemorating the 9th World Lake Conference in 2001 in Otsu, Biwa masu salmon endemic to Lake Biwa.

Enryakuji temple stamp issued in 1996 (Konpon Chudo main hall).

Hikone Byobu folding screen (National Treasure) stamps issued in 1976.

Stamp sheet commemorating the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) in June 2017.

Also read about Shiga’s die-cut postcards here.

Olympic athletes from Shiga Prefecture in Rio de Janeiro

がんばれ!ニッポン!

Updated: Aug. 20, 2016

The Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in Brazil will be held on August 5–21, 2016 (Paralympics on Sept. 7–18). Out of 300+ Olympic athletes from Japan, the following Olympians are from Shiga Prefecture. To see when they will appear, click on “Olympic schedule” (NBC website). This link will also give the athlete’s results as they come in.
滋賀出身・滋賀ゆかりのリオデジャネイロのオリンピック選手を応援しよう!

KIRYU Yoshihide (桐生祥秀), Track (Men’s 100 meters)

Kiryu (b. 1995) is one of Japan’s major track stars and native of Hikone, Shiga Prefecture. A top-notch sprinter since 2013. He’s often in the news. Started running from when he attended Minami Junior High School in Hikone. His record time in the 100 m is 10.01 sec. and 9.87 sec. His track mates like Aska CAMBRIDGE are also awesome runners and it’s impossible to say who will prevail in Rio.

English bio | Japanese bio | Twitter | Olympic schedule & result

OTA Yuki (太田 雄貴), Fencing

Hailing from Otsu, Ota (b. 1985) won the national fencing championship while in elementary school and junior high. He went on to win the national high school championships (Inter-High School Championship) three years in a row. Graduated from Doshisha University. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he became the first Japanese to make it to the finals in fencing and brought home a silver medal. He gained national attention for winning the team silver medal at London. Then in Sept. 2013, he was in the spotlight again as a member of the JOC trying to get the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo. When “Tokyo 2020” was announced, his joyful face made national headlines. At the 2015 World Fencing Championships, he won the gold medal in the Men’s foil event. Ota is ranked No. 1 in the world as of the 2015-16 season.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

Kimura Saori at London 2012. (By Gary Howden from Brighton, United Kingdom)

Toray Arrows: KIMURA Saori, SAKODA Saori, TASHIRO Kanami (木村沙織、迫田さおり、田代 佳奈美), Women’s volleyball

Three members of the Otsu-based Toray Arrows women’s volleyball team will be in Rio. Both Kimura (b. 1986) and Sakoda (b. 1987) played in the London Olympics where they won the bronze medal. Tashiro (b. 1991) is from Ritto, Shiga. Influenced by her mom who played, she started playing volleyball from 1st grade and joined Toray Arrows in 2009. Meanwhile, the 185 cm-tall Kimura will be the national team’s captain in Rio. She will be the first Japanese volleyball player to play in four consecutive Olympic games. A real veteran and major volleyball star. The Japan women’s national volleyball team (Hinotori Nippon, 火の鳥NIPPON) is currently ranked 5th in the world. The Toray Arrows belong to the V.Premier League, Japan’s top volleyball league. The team is owned by Toray Industries, a major textile maker with factories in Shiga. Their home court is Toray Arena in Otsu.

English bio (Wikipedia): Kimura | Sakoda | Tashiro
Japanese bio (Wikipedia): Kimura | Sakoda | Tashiro
Japanese bio (Arrows): Kimura | SakodaTashiro
Facebook | Website (English) | Olympic schedule & result

INUI Yukiko (乾 友紀子), Duet synchronized swimming

Inui Yukiko (b. 1990) is an Omi-Hachiman native who started synchronized swimming from the 1st grade. At age 16, she placed 3rd in the solo competition at the Junior World Championships. Graduated from Omi Kyodaisha High School in Omi-Hachiman and Ritsumeikan University. Together with her duet partner KOBAYASHI Chisa (小林千紗), she won the national championship for duet synchronized swimming in 2009 and placed 3rd in the World Cup in 2010. The pair competed together in the 2012 London Olympics and placed 5th. Wish her luck in Rio for a medal.

English bio Japanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

NISHIMURA Ayaka (西村 綾加), Women’s Hockey

Ayaka and Minami (from Maibara's website).

Ayaka and Minami (Photo: Maibara website).

Ayaka (b. 1989) is from Maibara (Ibuki). Yay! She started playing hockey after seeing her older brother and sister play. (Maibara is a hockey hotbed.) She has been playing for the Hiroshima-based Coca-Cola West Red Sparks hockey team since 2012. She appeared in the 2015 World League semi-finals.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

SHIMIZU Minami (清水 美並), Women’s Hockey

There’s not one, but two Olympian women hockey players from Maibara. And both are from Ibuki. How about that. I’ve heard that the folks in Ibuki are making a big deal out of this. Minami (b. 1993) graduated from Ibuki High School and plays for the Sony HC BRAVIA Ladies hockey team based in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture. She’s actually one of nine players from Sony HC BRAVIA going to Rio to play on Japan’s women’s hockey team (dubbed “Sakura Japan”). Her position is FW. What a thrill it must be for both of them to be in Rio. Something that will bond them for the rest of their lives.

English bioJapanese bioFacebook | Olympic schedule & result

ISEDA Megumi (伊勢田 愛), Women’s Windsurfing

Charming girl (b. 1987) from Takashima, Shiga Prefecture. The kanji character for her first name is pronounced “Megumi” instead of “Ai.” Interesting that her father ran a windsurfing shop in Takashima so she was exposed to the sport since childhood. But ironically, she didn’t care for it until she went to college. While at Doshisha University, she won the All Japan collegiate championship. She qualified for the Rio Olympics by placing 21st at the 2015 RS:X World Windsurfing Championships held in Oman. She always practiced windsurfing on Lake Biwa and wants to promote windsurfing at Biwako. While practicing in Rio in July, a school of dolphins surprised (welcomed?) her.

English bioJapanese bioBlog | Olympic schedule & result

KAZUNO Kenta (数野 健太), Badminton

Native of Otsu, Kazuno (b. 1985) attended Hie-zan High School and Nihon Univ. He specializes in badminton doubles. Joined UNYSIS in 2008. He won the mixed doubles at the 2015 All Japan Championships. He also won the Osaka International Challenge doubles three times in a row, won the Polish Open Men’s Doubles in 2015 (with Yamada Kazushi), and won the Malaysia Masters Men’s Doubles (with Yamada Kazushi). He is the captain of Japan’s badminton team in Rio. Let’s see if he can continue his winning streak in Rio.

English bioJapanese bioFacebook | Olympic schedule & result

HAYAKAWA Kenichi (早川 賢一), Badminton

Another badminton Olympian from Otsu. Hayakawa (b. 1986) has been playing badminton since elementary school. Attended Hie-zan High School and Nihon Univ. Like Kazuno Kenta, he belongs to UNYSIS and specializes in badminton doubles. Men’s doubles runner-up (with Endo Hiroyuki) at the 2016 All England Super Series Premier.

English bioJapanese bioOlympic schedule & result

*Marathon runner KITAJIMA Hisanori (北島寿典) was born in Koka, Shiga, but moved to Maebashi, Gunma as an infant.

KIMURA Keiichi (木村 敬一), Paralympics Swimming

Born in Ritto in 1990, Keiichi has been totally blind since age 2. From 4th grade, he took up swimming. He made the Japanese Olympic team in Beijing in 2008 and in London 2012. In London, he won the silver medal for the 100 m breaststroke and bronze for the 100 m butterfly. Rio will be his third consecutive Paralympics.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule

MIYAJI Mitsuhide (宮路 満英), Paralympics Equestrian

Last but not least is an amazing story and struggle behind 58-year-old Miyaji Mitsuhide joining the Paralympics for the first time. Originally from Kagoshima, Miyaji is a former race horse trainer at the Ritto Training Center and lives in Konan. In 2005, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and affected his speech. As part of his rehabilitation, he took up equestrian activities. With much struggle and support from his wife, he got good enough to enter the Rio Paralympics.

English bio | Japanese bio | Twitter | Facebook | Video | Olympic schedule

GOOD LUCK to all the athletes in Rio!!

Japan Olympic Team Facebook | JOC (English)

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