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Eating out / Ginza smoothie stand takes cues from customers

The Japan News

From left, banana juice for ¥230 and komatsuna banana juice for ¥260

By Fumiko Endo/Japan News Staff WriterPeople might think that anyone can make a banana smoothie at home, but I believe they will change their minds after trying one from a tiny smoothie stand called Banana Juice, located near the Kabukiza theater in the Higashi-Ginza district of Tokyo.

The shop’s manager Rie Owada, 53, carefully checks how ripe the bananas are each day, and if none of them meet her standards, she does not open the shop.

To make her smoothies, Owada mixes freshly frozen banana with milk or soy milk in a blender. To fill one plastic cup, she uses between 1½ and two bananas, saying: “I add enough banana so that you can hardly taste the milk.”

My first taste of the plain banana smoothie surprised me, first with its sweetness then with its rich and creamy flavor. “It’s more delicious when freshly made than after some time has passed,” Owada said. Crushed frozen banana gives it thickness.

Customers have supported the shop by contributing lots of ideas. On its opening day three years ago, Owada thought about adding curry to the menu, as it had been popular in a cafe she used to manage. However, a customer told her, “It’s better to focus only on banana smoothies,” and she decided to do just that. Since then, requests from customers have been behind the growing number of items on the menu.

Smoothies made with chocolate or yogurt have been created based on customers’ ideas, while a French chef, a friend of Owada’s younger brother, suggested adding green shiso leaves. You can also add toppings to your smoothie, including kinako soybean flour for ¥10 and chia seeds for ¥30.

Last year, Kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo, who is also a popular blogger, uploaded a photo of the shop to his blog after he had seen it while out jogging. Since then, the number of customers has greatly increased. From May this year Owada’s sister, Yukako Ishizaki, 50, has been helping with the business. After I had interviewed them, I found several people were already waiting in line outside the shop in the summer heat, even before opening time.

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  • The Japan News

    Rie Owada, left, manages the shop with her sister Yukako Ishizaki.

Banana Juice

Open: Noon to around 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. (Closes when sold out)

Closed: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The shop gives notice in advance of when it will be closed at @banana5144 on Twitter (Japanese only).

Address: 3-14-19, Ginza, Chuo Ward, Tokyo

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