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Sembikiya Brothers serve the Finest Fruit : Ginza, Nihonbashi and Kyobashi Sembikiya

Why is fruit in Japan expensive? Fruit is so delicate and perishable that it was nearly impossible decades ago to transport long distance. It was very rare at the time and highly regarded as precious get-well presents or thank you gifts for close friends. Years later, farmers have developed the skills to make them softer and sweeter, making them much shorter-lived and more valuable.

Those expensive fruits were specially sold to posh fruit shops, of which the most traditional one is SEMBIKIYA.

GINZA SEMBIKIYA has been serving the finest fruit for 120 years in the middle of Ginza High Street. Stepping up the narrow stairs at the side of the fruit shop, guests in fashionable outfits are savoring parfaits or cakes at the first ever fruit 'parlor' on the second floor.

Its signature Ginza parfait has a plentiful amount of ripened fruit. When I visited in the orange season, thick wedges of orange along with melon and apple encircled the rim of the glass. On the bottom was layered with whipped cream and orange sorbet. Every element was sweet but not overly so. The sweetness and acidity were fully brought out from the fresh fruit.

Sembikiya has three establishments. Two of which, including Ginza Sembikiya, were given a share over 100 years ago by the original SEMBIKIYA SO-HONTEN (Main shop). Sembikiya So-honten opened in 1834 in Nihonbashi, the oldest trading base in Tokyo, and has long been supported by wealthy customers. After a recent redevelopment of the street, it is now located in a very modern building.

Decoration on the second floor is highly sophisticated, tableware is elegant and staff are assiduously polite, which all remind us of its 190 years of tradition.

Along with a variety of fruit desserts, meal dishes such as curry rice or rice gratin are on the menu. Mango curry is a perfect dish for those who want to taste the fruit and sate their appetite at the same time. Cuts of mango fruit half-melted in spicy curry sauce are pleasant in texture and gentle in taste.

The third Sembikiya is KYOBASHI SEMBIKIYA. Although they have a wide network of twenty plus branches in and around Tokyo, the main store, just a ten-minute walk from Tokyo station, remains low-key with a fruit shop and cafe sharing a small hall.

The fruit sandwich at Kyobashi Sembikiya is a voluminous dish. Strawberry, kiwi, papaya, banana and apple are sliced and arranged on soft bread. Sour cream is poured on the fruit, not whipped cream, which makes the dish not too sweet and good for your lunch time.

Three Sembikiya are individually managed, yet collaborating with each other. Occasionally they hold seasonal events with the same theme. Each shop creates an original dessert using the same fruit, which is a good opportunity for you to visit all three to taste the difference and choose your favourite.


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