Tag Archives: japan

Last Day in Japan

We woke up to our last day in Tokyo, a little sad. In less than fifteen hours, we knew we would be on our way back to America and back to the daily grind. Since our last day fell on a Sunday, we were set on going back to Yoyogi Park, but first we needed to get some of our own picnic supplies.

Downstairs in the basement of the Shinjuku Station we had plenty of options for picnic options.

We were at the park earlier this time. People were still bringing in their picnic supplies, cases of beer and bottles of sake.

We wolfed down our food pretty quickly, but fortunately there was plenty of food being prepared by vendors in the park.

Wieners!

That’s what she said!

This time the cherry blossoms were all blooming, What a difference one week makes. There were even more people out in the park too. We were out to see what more fun and interesting people, and that’s exactly what we got.

A woman sat and painted the flowers by the lake.

We found some people that brought a bear suit to the park. How fun!

Then we saw these people having an awesome time.

We wanted to find some new friends, and we did.

This was part of the friend selection criteria. The other half was that they had to speak English and be friendly.

These girls are yelling, “Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Shot! Everybody!” Good to know the Japanese take only the best parts of American culture.

This guy had too much to drink, and he had to go into work later that same day.

There were definitely some shows going on in the park. I think this one was the ending of the first Rocky.

All the drinking in the park made me hungry. Stopped into a  Yoshinoya. It’s really not too different from America, but for some reason it doesn’t seem gross here.

Michelle wanted to pick up more snacks from one of the stores in Harajuku. Easier said than done.

After doing a little more walking around the city, we realized we were pretty tired. We knew we would miss Japan and its people, but we were ready to go home. For our last meal, we popped into Ippudo, a famous ramen shop that has made its way to NYC too.

Creamy deliciousness.

And for Michelle, spicy, creamy deliciousness.

After returning from Japan, we laid out what we bought on the kitchen table. Pretty much all snacks, many purchased in the airport because we were unable to find a money changer.

Japan is such a wonderful country, and everyone should go visit. I mean everyone. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it. Nicest people in the world. We could all learn a thing or two from the Japanese. Let’s start with vending machine food ordering and better tonkatsu. We can work on our manners later.

Curry by Train & Lost in Translation

One of the restaurants we had on our list to check out was Niagara Curry. It’s a well known curry spot, and it has a cool surprise. The restaurant is completely train themed from the seats to the decor.

Your curry is even delivered to your table by train!

It’s Thomas the Tank Engine!

Our dinner has arrived by train!

All food tastes better when it’s delivered by train.

Michelle went with the hot curry. She said this was pretty hot, definitely the spiciest thing we had in Japan.

When you get your meal the owners give you a ticket along with it.

Here is the owner. He gave us conductor’s hats to wear. We designated him our Japan Grandpa.

There’s even a guest book that all the patrons can sign.

After dinner we went to the Park Hyatt Hotel to cross of one of our to-do list items. Go to the hotel bar from Lost in Translation.

They add a pretty hefty cover charge to your bill after 8 PM, so as 7:45 rolled around we asked for our check. We were slow to leave though, slow enough to catch a little live music.

Traditional Hanami Party

Remember when I said Japanese people play hard? We met up with Akiko after dinner at about 8 PM. She said she got off work at 6. As 11 PM rolled around, we met up with Marie and headed to a new spot. Midnight came and went, and Michelle and I excused ourselves and headed back to our hotel a little after 1 AM. We said our goodbyes for the moment as we were planning to meet up the next day for a picnic.

Noon the next day we met up and were immediately handed drinks. At first I thought I could get used to this, but when we asked what time Akiko and Marie went home, they said they went home at about 6 AM. I don’t think I can keep up.

We were celebrating the cherry blossoms with shared food and drink. Everyone’s looking at the camera except for me.

Everyone likes taking photos of the cherry blossoms, even the locals.

Guess which snack we brought to the party?

Yay for new friends! They even gave me a beer to go. I love Japan!

Bird Land, Jiro, & Night Life

The most confusing thing about Japan is trying to find the places you are going. In Tokyo (maybe all of Japan), the addresses are numbered in order they were built on the street. On any given street 123 may be nowhere near 124. Stores and restaurants always list directions on their website showing how to get to their location, but unfortunately we can’t read Japanese.

What we would do is get as close as possible to the mark on the Google Map, and then circle the block half a dozen times until we found our destination. If we couldn’t find it, we just found something else to do that looked cool. We almost had to resort to finding an alternate meal when we couldn’t find Bird Land, a well known yakitori restaurant below street level in an office building basement.

Yakitori time! What I noticed is disposable, wooden chopsticks in Japan don’t splinter like the ones we have in the states. Why is that?

Bird Land is well known for a reason. Their mastery of the grill is evident, but it’s not just that. They put together a great meal that was well balanced. If you look through the photos above, you’ll notice there’s a dish every so often that acts as a palette cleanser, a taste bud reset button. It allows you to power through the meal without getting overloaded with too much flavor.

Halfway through the meal we realized the restaurant across the hallway was Sukiyabashi Jiro. This is a 3-star Michelin rated sushi restaurant, which is arguably the best sushi restaurant in the world. A recent documentary has made Jiro even more famous. This is not a restaurant to consider dining at unless you’ve made reservations well in advance and also have lots of money to spend on a single meal.

Here Michelle stalks a sushi legend.

That bald head is Jiro, the Wizard of Sushi! After this picture one of the employees came out and told us we couldn’t take pictures, or maybe he was telling us to come in and have free sushi. We couldn’t tell the difference so we played it safe and left.

After eating and sushi chef stalking, we met up with one of Harrison and Annie’s friends to see what night life was like. Japanese people work hard, and they play even harder. This is one of the stops of the night, a bar that make it look like St. Patrick’s Day all the time.

 

 

Asakusa & Ueno

We were already a week into our trip, and weren’t in a rush to try and see anything in particular. Plus our feet were refusing to work. We decided to just check out a couple neighborhoods to see what was going on there, but first we had to get lunch.

Bomb dot com.

The shit dot net.

Asakusa is known for the Senso-Ji, an old Buddhist temple. What’s going on around the temple is anything but a religious experience. Vendors sell snacks and souvenirs on the blocks surrounding the temple. It’s like a flea market.

This woman was making a killing in front of the temple, grilling up meats and seafood.

We opted for the octopus.

Afterward we headed to Ueno. Next to the railway there is a maze of streets for shopping. Clothes, shoes, luggage…just about anything you could want is available for sale.

Ueno Park had its cherry blossoms coming into bloom like the rest of Tokyo.

“The cherry blossoms are but a fraction of your beauty.” BONUS POINTS!

I want to live in a golden house.

Kyoto is great for those of you that love history, but because it’s an older city with more historical landmarks, there are tourists everywhere. The worst are the Chinese tourists. Remember how I said Japanese people are the nicest, most polite people ever? Chinese people are the complete opposite, loud and pushy.

The storm that had forced us indoors the day before was gone, and we were free to explore Kyoto and get some culture. While we like to see historical culture spots, that’s not why we wanted to visit Japan. I’m going to breeze on through these without much commentary.

I want a golden house on a lake.

Kinkaku-ji.

One of the few pictures of us from the trip. Who wants to travel with us next time and take photos of us?

World’s largest rock garden. It kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? No? Me neither.

I asked her if there were cowboys and saloons in there. She stared blankly at me.

Some of the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom in Kyoto.

Hanging out river side.

While kimonos are pretty common in Kyoto, there is a section of Kyoto that is known for the geisha. It has become somewhat of a tourist spot as the geishas take on traditional service roles in restaurants, and tourists pay a lot of money for the experience. It’s been noted that tourists swamp these girls like the paparazzi. I am ashamed to say that I was not an exception. It’s no wonder why they speed walk to their work and sometimes sneak in via taxi. I bet this is what Kim Kardashian feels like. Well, you know, if she had a job.

Have I been to this restaurant before?

After finally getting back to our hotel room, we got to lie down and rest a bit. It was nice to get out of wet clothes. Soon the hunger set in and we realized food wasn’t going to bring itself to us. Fortunately it had stopped raining.

We settled on Uroco, an Izakaya restaurant two subway stops from our hotel.

The restaurant had a very Western design to it.

The menu makes me think of a joint we like to go to back home called Musha. For those of you that have been, I’m sure you agree.

No, these are not testicles. They are actually a tofu appetizer. Very light on the flavor, unlike testicles.

Pork belly over peas and baby corn.

The closeup.

This is very similar to MFC, Musha Fried Chicken. Perfectly crisp skin on the outside and the meat is so juicy.

Kim chi and cheese tempura rolls.

Ebi mayo. This was the only dish I wasn’t impressed with of the meal. The batter on the shrimp turned to a spongy texture from all the sauce on it.

Tofu donut and Houji tea cream Brule of parfait. I copied that straight from the menu. This is green tea ice cream on an egg custard with donuts,whip cream, and a few pieces of fruit topping off the whole thing.

Cheesecake of a Strawberry plentifully. Again, straight from the menu. I’m not a dessert person. I turn down birthday cake, even if it’s my own birthday, but I loved this. Maybe it was the going such a long time without having any sweetness that resembled American flavors that made me enjoy it so much.

I probably would have also enjoyed A lot of fruit is crepe ice.

Kyoto has the same letters as Tokyo!

When we originally planned our trip to Japan, we really only were excited about Tokyo, but we figured since we flew all the way across the world, we should at least something else. In an attempt to get a little history we stopped into Kyoto. The bullet train only takes about two hours to get to Kyoto from Tokyo, so we arrived in the morning to a wet mess.

Kyoto is an older city, and some of the people there stick to older traditions in clothing. Women in kimonos walked the streets in the rain.

A temple. I honestly don’t know what this was, but we were just trying to get out of the rain.

Nijo Castle. They make you take your shoes off. There is bare wood floor with no insulation underneath it, just air. I thought my feet where going to freeze and snap off.

The rain stopped just long enough for us to get some views of the castle grounds.

Cherry blossoms were just starting here too. Nothing was in full bloom.

Then it started hailing and raining sideways, so we took cover in some restaurant.

It’s pretty much like Yoshinoya, but the meat isn’t complete fat.

After the meal we were soaking wet and knew we weren’t going to want to do any more sight seeing. We went to a bath house, where we separated ourselves to our respective gender baths and got naked in front of strangers. Sorry, there are no pictures except this one. I found a beer vending machine!

Our room for our stay in Kyoto. I could totally live like this.

Nikuzushi: Can’t Eat This in America

Michelle and I went wandering Ebisu, looking for a restaurant we had on our intinerary. We walked back and forth along the block, where the restaurant was supposed to be located, but it looked like there was only one restaurant on the block. Looking through the window we could see it was serving noodles , not what we were looking for after two noodle museums. We decided to poke our heads in and ask where our restaurant was located.

We found this. It was a narrow corridor of restaurants, an indoor alley of street vendors. The air smelled of so many flavors, grilled meats and seafood, potent broths, and even some cigarette smoke. We charged forward finally finding our restaurant, Nikuzushi.

This place specializes in meat sushi. While their raising and handling of the animals used is much cleaner than America’s animal factories, there are still inherent risks. A year ago some children died after eating raw meat, so pork and beef are no longer allowed completely raw.

This is pork. It’s not raw, but this amount of pink in the meat would probably scare a lot of people back home. Very tender. I’d like some of this meat in a sandwich back home. Come on, Subway!

The meat on the right is beef, which looks more like roast beef. What’s on the left, however, is something you probably won’t find on a menu in the states. That is horse. A bit chewy, like any raw piece of meat. It’s lighter than beef, but beef is probably what I’d compare it most closely with, although some people say it’s also a bit like venison.

Ground horse, topped with a raw egg.

I liked the horse as a thin slice of meat. Tenderize it by grinding it up and stir in a raw egg, and you have a creamy, delicious dish. The texture on this is out of this world too. It’s soft and delicate, almost melting in your mouth.

The owner is super cool, and although his English is very limited, he helped us out and treated us like any of his other customers. If you get to Tokyo, please check this place out. Expand your mind and try not to think of food as normal or weird. It’s just different.

PS. It helps not to think of Sea Biscuit or Mr. Ed while you’re here.

 

Raumen Museum

If you haven’t figured it out by the last post, Japan has museums for everything, but they’re not quite like museums in America. They tend to be more like mini amusement parks than museums. The Raumen  Museum is even called a food amusement park on the Wikipedia page.

Here we are at the entrance to the Raumen Museum in Shin-Yokohama. The doorway is a noodle bowl! This is going to be awesome.

What we walked into was mostly a gift shop that also housed this remote control car racetrack. We proceeded to head downstairs to find out what else was going on in this “museum.”

One flight of stairs here was like a time warp, dropping you into a 1950’s Tokyo neighborhood.

Inside ramen shops representing different regions of Japan surround a plaza, where performers entertain guests.

I was baffled at this place. Although it did not cost very much to enter, it was obviously very gimmicky. I wondered why they would even bother offering a yearly membership to this place. Then I realized that it was really buying a pass to a food court that serves up some pretty delicious ramen.

This is probably the first amusement park I’ve been to where the food was good but not sugary or fried. If I lived or worked near the Raumen Museum, I think I might get an annual pass. It’s be great to have so many good options for ramen in one spot all the time.