Kikumi has been making rice crackers for 133 years. Over the years here in Tokyo, I’ve sampled sembei from all over the city, but these are my favorites. The big square crackers pack a hearty crunch with a full “ricey” savor balanced with a delicate shoyu glaze. The togarashi, red pepper-flavored crackers will start a slow satisfying burn in your mouth that begs for a cool beer extinguisher.
For the sweet tooth, Kikumi makes a green matcha-glazed cracker and another enameled with white sugar. The large glass globes contain an array of nibble-sized crackers in various sizes, shapes and degrees of crunch.
Kikumi is at the bottom of a long lazy slope leading up to the Yanaka neighborhood. Yanaka survived the destruction of the Great Kanto Earthquake and the fire-bombings of the Second World War and is rich with temples, shrines, and shops.
The neighborhood is perfect for an afternoon walk. Seek out Tennoji Shrine, Yanaka Cemetery and the Asakura Choso Museum. Asakura Fumio is considered Japan’s Rodin and is rightly famous for his bronze statues. He was especially fond of cats and the museum’s feline bronzes are particularly lovely. The museum comprises his Japanese-style home, atelier, and enclosed water garden. His roof garden is wonderful.
Kikumi Sembei Sohonten, 3-37-16 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku. 03-3821-1215. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays.