Taiyaki - Japanese Sweets in Asakusa
Sweet Fish Baking
Taiyaki たい焼き are small Japanese cakes that you can watch being baked. The cakes are shaped like a fish and have a sweet filling. The most common taiyaki have sweet bean paste or cream inside. Try them fresh and still warm. They are very tasty and a simple pleasure like having fresh pancakes or waffles.
Shops baking taiyaki range from small windows where a single person sells the sweet fish to stores with a whole team of bakers. Look for them near train stations or inside the food section of department stores. At festivals you might also find yatai - food stalls - offering taiyaki.
The name of this sweet is a little misleading, as taiyaki means sea bream - tai - grilled or baked. The similar sounding takoyaki is not a sweet but a savoury snack. Tako is octopus.
Asakusa Special: Thunder Chocolate & Panda Cars
These are some of the taiyaki I have seen in Asakusa. There are several shops selling the sweet cakes in the area. They are all good, but there are small differences: smaller, bigger, more filling, thicker or thinner dough.
The kaminari chocolate taiyaki takes its name from Senso-ji temple's Kaminarimon, the thunder gate with the massive red lantern. It is sold at the Kurikoan Asakusa store located near the crossing of the Nakamise and Shin-Nakamise shopping streets.
The taiyaki in the shape of panda cars are from the shop Vake Pallette near Asakusa's old and very small amusement park Hanayashiki. The slow panda car is a popular attraction there. See a picture here.