Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima Resort Hotel

Get yourself pampered with some of the best hot springs, food and sights that Nagasaki has to offer

Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima Resort Hotel is located on an island facing the sea of Nagasaki and is surrounded by picturesque ocean views. Only a 30-50 minute drive away from Nagasaki Station, it is also accessible from various tourist spots in Nagasaki.

Sunset view
Sunset view
This sprawling resort complex is facilitated with four different kinds of hotels, two natural hot springs, and a plethora of different dining options.

dept_img_yuyu_slide01_R

Enjoy the superb panoramic views from open-air baths.
Enjoy superb panoramic views from the open-air baths.
Cuisine is also a big draw here since Nagasaki specialty seafood and meats are available at the Japanese and buffet restaurants. The summer barbecue and other dining options ensure that everybody’s tastes are met.

dept_img_amimoto_R

dept_img_seaside_R

You will never run out of things to do either. Getting tired of their extensive hot spring and sports facilities? Swim at the beach during summer or rent a bicycle to go around. Get a guided tour of iconic Gunkanjima, or take a taxi tour to see the night view of Nagasaki, one of the best night views in the world.

Gunkanjima
Gunkanjima
Accessible, comfortable and downright beautiful, all in all this resort offers the best package to give you a relaxing and healing vacation.

Information

Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima
Location: 1-3277-7 Ioujima-machi Nagasaki City, Nagasaki, Japan 851-1201
Access: About 40 min. by free shuttle bus from Nagasaki Station (reservations required)
URL: http://www.ioujima.jp/en/

Un repas, c’est tout un voyage !

Dans le splendide Fukuoka, terroir des vrais ramen à la palette !

L’un des mets les plus célèbres du Japon sont les ramen, mais saviez-vous qu’il en existe différentes sortes ? Par exemple, les ramen au soja ou au miso, et pour les habitants vivant dans l’ouest du Japon, dans la préfecture du Kyushu appelée Fukuoka, les ramen à la palette de porc.Vous y découvrirez le charme authentique et l’attraction qu’exerce le Fukuoka à travers ces plats délicieux, et avec un peu de chance, vous gagnerez un voyage en individuel pour les tester par vous-même !

ramen-points

Qu’est-ce que le Tonkotsu ramen ?
Les Ramen sont très populaires dans tout le Japon mais c’est le Fukuoka qui est à juste titre célèbre pour ses très savoureuses, délicieuses versions de tonkotsu, ou ramen à la palette de porc, créé à l’origine dans la ville de Kurume au Fukuoka, en 1937. (Différentes versions de cette origine existent) Et les ramen d’Ippudo sont si incomparables qu’ils sont même décrits dans le guide Lonely Planet comme « le plus fameux magasin de tonkotsu du pays». La première boutique a été construite en 1985 par Shigemi Kawahara et s’est depuis étendue non seulement à travers tout le Japon mais également à l’étranger, avec des succursales ouvertes dans les autres pays d’Asie, en Australie, en Angleterre, en France et aux USA.

point-1Le Porc
Comme on le suppose, l’indispensable ingrédient dans les ramen à la palette est le porc lui-même. Il est mijoté longtemps dans une sauce spéciale, le rendant si tendre et succulent, qu’il fond en bouche.

point-2Noodles
Les nouilles dans la préparation des ramen au porc, sont souvent plus minces que celles que vous trouverez dans les autres types de préparation. Ippudo utilise des nouilles faitesmaison et les deux boutiques en France utilisent aussi du blé produit localement pour faire ses pâtes. L’un des grands avantages est que lorsque vous commandez les nouilles,vous pouvez préciser la cuisson, et ainsi les déguster fermes, normales ou très cuites !

point-3Soup
Le bouillon spécialement réussi, est fait à partir de palette, qui a non seulement été cuite pendant dix-huit heures, mais également été amenée à maturation à feu très doux un jour de plus, avant de pouvoir être servie aux clients, le tout donnant une saveur et une texture unique aux spécialités de ce restaurant.

point-5Les champignons Kikurage
Souvent utilisé en cuisine Asiatique, les délicats champignons kikurage se mêlent magnifiquement avec le riche bouillon, donnant encore plus de goût aux nouilles et aux oignons, tout particulièrement lorsque vous les mangez tous les trois ensemble.

point-4Les oignons de printemps
Les oignons de printemps sont produits
dans la préfecture de Fukuoka. La texture craquante des oignons frais complète parfaitement la viande si tendre et les nouilles, tout en ajoutant leur saveur à la soupe et la rendant encore meilleure !

Le secret du goût parfait

seasoning-ramen
adding-sesame-seeds-to-ramen

Selon les gens du Fukuoka, si vous voulez que vos nouilles soient plus goûteuses et sentent encore meilleur, il faut parsemer un peu de sésame moulu dessus. On essaie ?

Une autre recommandation : Akamaru

akamaru-ramen

Depuis que Ippudo sert de nombreuses et différentes variétés, les trois spécialités au porc sont Shiromaru, Akamaru, et l’épicé Karaka. Akamaru offre une entrée en bouche idéale, entre le doux Shiromaru et le très pimenté Karaka ramen. Exclusivement vendues chez Ippudo, ce sont des versions réimaginées des classiques ramen au porc dont le goût est agrémenté par une pâte de miso riche et relevée d’un trait d’huile à l’ail.
eating-ramen-in-fukuoka

Les hôtes étrangers vivant au Japon apprécient les goûts du Shiromaru et de l’Akamaru, et se laissent souvent charmer par les ramen à la palette de porc eux-même !

Mangez des ramen et gagnez un voyage au Fukuoka !

fukuoka-ramen-character
Si vous cherchez le goût authentique des Tonkotsu ramen en allant au Fukuoka, nous avons une bonne nouvelle ! Le Cross Road Fukuoka a lancé une campagne du 1er septembre au 30 novembre, offrant une chance de gagner un voyage gratuit au Fukuoka ! Pour tenter votre chance, suivez ces trois étapes simples !

etape-1Prenez des photos ou des vidéos en relation avec les ramen dans les restaurants ci-dessous.

etape-2Ajoutez le hashtag#fukuoka_tonkotsu avec la position du restaurant et postez-le sur votre compte Instagram.

etape-3Attendez les résultats ! Les gagnants seront directement contactés via Instagram après le 25 décembre 2017.

Et souvenez-vous que plus vous mangerez de ramen, plus vous aurez d’occasions de prendre des photos ou des vidéos et de les envoyer, plus vous aurez de chances de gagner. Les deux restaurants qui participent à Paris, sont Ippudo Saint-Germain et Ippudo Louvre. Bien qu’il soit impossible de réserver, les deux échoppes sont ouvertes 7/7 de 12:00 à 0:00, du lundi au jeudi. Elles ferment à 0:30 le vendredi et le samedi et à 23:30 le dimanche. (A noter aussi pour les clients qu’il existe une fermeture de deux heures de 16:00 à 18:00 pendant les jours de la semaine.)

Shop information:

Ippudo-Saint-Germain
Ippudo Saint-Germain
Adresse: 14 rue Grégoire de Tours 75006 Paris
Accès: Métro ligne 4- Odéon, Saint-Germaindes- Prés Métro ligne 10- Odéon, Mabillon
Site web: http://www.ippudo.fr/
Ippudo-Louvre
Ippudo Louvre
Adresse:74-76 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau 75001 Paris
Accès: Métro ligne 4- Odéon, Saint-Germaindes- Prés Métro ligne 10- Odéon, Mabillon
Site web: http://www.ippudo.fr/

Pour plus d’informations, merci de cliquer sur le site web officiel :
http://crossroadfukuoka.jp/tonkotsu_fr/

FUKUOKA : Un Japon naturel à plus d’un titre

Bien que Fukuoka soit certainement célèbre pour ses ramen, la région a bien d’autres choses à offrir et le goût de ses hôtes pour le “vrai” Japon ne sera pas déçu.

A propos de FUKUOKA

C’est la plus septentrionale des préfectures du Kyushu, qui est la troisième des grandes îles du Japon et est considérée hautla- main comme la plus belle. Fukuoka est la préfecture la plus peuplée des sept que compte l’île et offre tout un ensemble de sanctuaires, de parcs, ainsi qu’ une vie urbaine, sans être devenue un piège à touristes.
Japan-map-fukuoka

spot-1Munakata Taisha / 宗像大社
Munakata-Taisha
C’est un ensemble de trois temples Shinto (Hetsu-gu, Nakatsu-gu and Okitsu-gu), dédiés aux trois filles d’Amaterasu, bien qu’au cours du temps Munakata Taisha n’en réfère plus qu’ à Hetsu-gu seulement. Nakatsu-gu et Okitsu-gu sont situés sur des îles séparées. Okitsu-gu est sur Okinoshima. Comme le temple occupe toute l’île, les femmes ne peuvent s’y rendre et les hommes doivent se purifier avant de pouvoir aborder. Ces sites sont désignés sur la liste des héritages culturels mondiaux de l’UNESCO, car avec 120 000 objets découverts sur la seule île de Okinoshima et une collection de 80 000 trésors nationaux provenant du site et des alentours, tous abrités dans le bâtiment du trésor du sanctuaire, il est aisé de comprendre pourquoi. Tous ceux qui s’intéressent aux temples et à l’histoire du Japon ne pourront manquer d’y venir.

Munakata-Taisha-inside
Munakata-Taisha-shrine
Munakata-Taisha-stone-pillar

Munakata Taisha Hetsu-gu Shrine
Adresse: 2331Tashima, Munakata-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: En bus – à 1 minute de marche de l’arrêt Nishitetsu “Munakata Taisha Mae” En voiture – prendre l’autoroute du Kyushu, accès à 20 minutes de l’échangeur de Wakamiya.

spot-2Le Onsen Harazuru / 原鶴温泉
Le-Onsen-Harazuru
Un merveilleux onsen se niche à Asakura, à la limite de Fukuoka et d’Oita, et, sur sa réputation d’atmosphère paisible, les amateurs de onsen devront
absolument l’essayer. Vous pourrez également visiter le fameux triple moulin à eau de 200 ans situé tout près. Profitez du matin pour explorer les environs et laissez les eaux chaudes du Harazuru Onsen relaxer vos muscles fatigués tout l’aprèsmidi. (malheureusement les bains de minuit n’y sont pas disponibles !) Les bains ferment à différentes heures, alors prenez la précaution de prévoir votre déplacement. Connues sous le nom de “Meilleures eaux thermales chaudes pour la peau”, les eaux de ce onsen sont légèrement alcalines etcontiennent du soufre, unecombinaison qui exfolie et blanchit également l’épiderme. Ces sources chaudes sont fréquentées par les riverains de la préfecture de Fukuoka, mais également par des visiteurs extérieurs.Harazuru Onsen
Adresse:Asakura-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès:à 10 minutes en voiture de la gare JR Chikugo-Yoshi sur la ligne Kyudai

spot-3La ville château d’Akizuki / 秋月城下町
La-ville-chateau-dAkizuki
Akizuki, surnommée “ le petit Kyoto du Kyushu” est une cité au sud du Fukuoka et l’une des plus anciennes bourgades fortifiées au Japon. Se rendre au Temple Suiyou tout près des ruines du château vaut le déplacement, mais c’est durant la saison des cerisiers en fleur et à l’automne que Akizuki se révèle au voyageur, tout particulièrement en longeant l’artère Sugi no Baba, sous l’abondance des fleurs roses et blanches ou la gloire tardive des feuillages
automnaux.Ville d’Akizuki
Adresse:Akidukinotori,Asakura-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: à 20 minutes avec le bus pour Akiduki depuis la station d’ Amagi sur la ligne Nishitetsu Amagi . A 15 minutes en voiture de l’échangeur d’Amagi en sortant de l’autoroute d’Oita.

spot-4Musée National du Kyushu et le Dazaifu Tenmangu / 九州国立博物館&太宰府天満宮

Musee-National-du-Kyushu-et-le-Dazaifu-Tenmangu
Musee-National-du-Kyushu-et-le-Dazaifu-Tenmangu-interior

Ouvert en 2005, le Musée du Kyushu est le benjamin auto-proclamé des quatre Musées Nationaux Japonais, les trois précédents ayant été créés à la fin du XIXème siècle. Bien qu’il y ait une foule de choses à voir, l’exposition sur l’Echange Culturel au troisième étage vaut la peine d’être mentionnée. Chaque section représente une période différente et la décrit de façon à ce que les visiteurs voient l’Histoire se dérouler devant leurs yeux, depuis l’ère Jomon (14 000 avant JC – 300 de notre ère) jusqu’à la période Edo (1603-1868).Bien que cela semble étourdissant, les zones sont si bien présentées que vous pouvez aisément voir le tout sans en sortir épuisé.

Musée National du Kyushu
Horaires : mar-jeu et dim, 9:30-17:00 (fin des entrées 4:30) Vendredi et samedi, 9:30-20:00 (fin des entrées 19:30)
Adresse: 4-7-2 Ishizaka, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture Accès: Prendre la ligne Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta pour la gare de Futsukaichi, puis prendre le changement pour la ligne Dazaifu et sortir à la station Dazaifu (trajet de 20 minutes); C’est à 10 minutes de marche.
Dazaifu-Tenmangu
Dazaifu-Tenmangu-outside

Tout près du musée se tient le Daizafu Tenmangu, un temple construit sur le tombeau de Michizane Sugawara, un lettré et poète célèbre qui fut exilé de Kyoto à Daizafu en 901 par la cour impériale, et y mourut en 903 âgé de cinquante-neuf ans. Soixante-dix ans plus tard, il fut déifié et assimilé à Tenman-Tenjin le dieu Shinto de l’Enseignement et plusieurs sanctuaires dédiés à sa personne essaimèrent dans tout le pays. Les amoureux des pruniers y seront au septième ciel, car il y en a presque deux cent variétés au Daizafu Tenmangu, ce qui représente environ six mille arbres au total.

Dazaifu Tenmangu
Adresse: 4-7-1 Dazaifu, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: à 5 minutes de marche de la station Nishitetsu Dazaifu

spot-5Une croisière sur la Yanagawa / 柳川川下り
Une-croisiere-sur-la-Yanagawa
Le mot kawakudari signifie littéralement suivre le courant et il est dès lors facile de deviner d’où cette attraction tient son nom. On se relaxera en suivant les canaux centrés autour de Yanagawa, en écoutant la description de la région, bercé par les chansons envoûtantes du guide, pendant cette oisive sortie dans des paysages merveilleux. Réserver n’est pas nécessaire la visite prenant environ une heure en tout avec des départs toutes les trente minutes. C’est un trajet à sens unique, mais un bus de navette à l’arrivée vous ramènera à votre point de départ, donc pas de souci !

Une-croisiere-sur-la-Yanagawa-local
Une-croisiere-sur-la-Yanagawa-rowingg

Yanagawa River Cruising
Horaires : 9:30-17:00
Adresse: 35 Okinohatamachi, Yanagawa-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: Prendre la ligne Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta descendre à la station Yanagawa.

Stay ① Seiryuan/清流庵

Seiryuan-lady
Seiryuan-interior-tatami
Seiryuan-food

Tous ceux et celles qui veulent de la vraie cuisine Japonaise n’iront pas plus loin; Seiryuan a tout ce qu’il vous faut. Des tempura de légumes aux omelettes Japonaises parfaitement cuisinées avec un petit dessert qui ressemble à un blancmanger ou à un quatrequart, cela vaut vraiment la peine d’y déjeuner. Les chambres proposées sont également très agréables, grandes, avec leur propre salle de bain dans le style onsen.

Seiryuan
Adresse: 1058 Akizuki, Asakura-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: Prendre le bus en gare d’ Amagi sur la ligne Nishitetsu Amagi et descendre à l’arrêt Akizuki; C’est à 10 minutes de marche.

Stay ② OHANA – La Villa de la famille Tachibana à Yanagawa / 御花藩主立花邸

food-at-OHANA---La-Villa-de-la-famille-Tachibana
OHANA---La-Villa-de-la-famille-Tachibana-white-house
OHANA---La-Villa-de-la-famille-Tachibana

OHANA est une villa construite pour la famille du comte Tashibana, l’ancien seigneur du domaine Yanagawa au 17ème siècle. Le Musée Tachibana , inclus dans la villa OHANA contient une sélection de magnifiques objets anciens dont la collection Tachibana d’armures antiques, le mobilier de mariage des princesses
et des costumes de No. Le restaurant du musée, traditionnel, sert la célèbre anguille en panier à la vapeur.

OHANA- La Villa de la famille Tachibana à Yanagawa
Adresse: 1 Shinhokamachi, Yanagawa-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: Prendre le bus en face du Nishitetsu Yanagawa sur la ligne Tenjin Omuta and descendre à l’arrêt Ohana-mae ; C’est à 3 minutes de marche.

How Its Made: Beginner`s Guide to Sake

How Its Made: Beginner`s Guide to Sake

Despite being called a rice “wine”, sake has more in common with beer as it is brewed through a double fermentation process. Making quality sake involves 4 key ingredients Rice, water, kōji and yeast.

Age-old records are written around 4 – reveal that pasteurization and the process of adding ingredients to the main fermentation mash in three stages were established practices since the late 15th century.

begginers-guide-to-sake-facebook

Sake Process: Polishing

The brewing process begins with polishing the rice to remove proteins and bran.

Washing

Next, the nuka left on the polished rice is washed away and the rice is soaked.

Streaming

The ice is then steamed to make k ji mai ( 麹米 ), shubo-mai ( 酒母米 , yeast starter) and moromi ( 醪 , mash).

Pressing

After 18-32 days, the fermented mash is pressed to separate clear sake from kasu ( 粕 , lees).

Moromi

More Koji, steamed ice and water are added to the shubo and left to ferment to make moromi.

Yeast Starter

Shubo is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji and pure yeast it aids the fermentation process of the mash.

Koji

Koji kin is added to steamed ice to produce koji which is then added to the yeast.

Filtration

The sake is then filtered, pasteurized and starts to develop its flavor.

Aging

It is then placed in cold storage where it matures before it is bottled.

Table Rice vs Sake Rice
Table Rice vs Sake Rice

The Rice

There are about nine basic kinds of specially grown rice that are used to make sake and each of them produces a unique flavor. The king of these sake rice breeds is Yamada Nishiki Rice which gives a fragrant, well-blended, soft flavor. The best grains are grown in Hyogo and Toyama. To produce aromatic sake, rice needs to be polished between %50 to %70. The more polished the rice, the more delicate it becomes, and the higher the grade of sake it produces.

Hot vs Cold Sake
Hot vs Cold Sake

Water

Water makes up almost 80% of sake and helps develop its one-of- a-kind taste. Breweries often source their water from nearby springs, mountain runoffs, springs, etc. The water is either kōsui ( 硬水 , hard water) or nansui ( 軟水 , soft water) and they can affect the sort of flavor profile that the sake will take on.

Koji & Yeast

Yeast has a big influence on how a sake will taste and smell. There is a wide variety of strains, but the most common ones are #7,#9 and #1801. #7 is commonly used in complex sake like Junmai and Honjozo for its subtler, earthier rice aroma while #9 and #1801 are popular for their floral and fruity flavor and fragrance.

20% of rice sake used for brewing is turned into a mold called kōji-kin. Kōji-kin converts the starch in rice into sugar through the process of fermentation. This affects the depth of umami flavor in sake.

Discover Murakami, Niigata with Ocean Flavours

Various salmon dishes (grilled with salt, pickled in sake lees or smoked)
Various salmon dishes (grilled with salt, pickled in sake lees or smoked)

Autumn is full of activities in Tohoku! It is the time of year when locals are busy preserving food for the long, harsh winter ahead, and visitors are welcome to have a taste during this culinary tradition. Tsuruoka city’s Yura, the biggest fishing port in Yamagata Prefecture, has developed many ways to preserve its great salmon catches, one of which is covering the fish in distillers’ grains and miso paste. Besides eating it raw and with sushi, you can also grill it with salt, marinate it in soy sauce or boil it in sweet Japanese sauce.

Salmon hanging from the eaves to expose them to the cold sea breeze (Murakami, Niigata ken)
Salmon hanging from the eaves to expose them to the cold sea breeze (Murakami, Niigata ken)
An experienced cook busy salting (Murakami, Niigata ken)
An experienced cook busy salting (Murakami, Niigata ken)

Niigata’s Murakami city has enjoyed fame for its salmon cuisine since the Edo period (1603-1867). It is customary to hang salt-preserved salmon from the eaves of houses in early December. Gusts of cold winter wind dry off the moisture in the salted salmon, giving it a rich, sophisticated texture. The sight of thousands of salmon hanging from traditional Japanese houses in winter is as fascinating as it can get!

View of the Sea of Japan during autumn from Oga Peninsula
View of the Sea of Japan during autumn from Oga Peninsula

Japanese sandfish is also a common winter treat. The fish also referred to as “God fish” on the Oga Peninsula, swims to Akita Prefecture for spawning in December. Salt-preserved Japanese sandfish(Hatahata) is an important source of protein during winter. People in Akita grill it with salt, cook it in a hot pot and eat it with seaweed paper. Trying this treat is a must when you visit Tohoku!

Murakami: 1-hr ride from Niigata Station (JR Jôetsu Shinkansen) until Murakami Station (JR Uetsu Line)

Fish market in Sakata
Fish market in Sakata
Sailfin sandfish dish
Sailfin sandfish dish

Golden Rice Ears

Niigata’s golden shimmering fields
Niigata’s golden shimmering fields

When going to a Japanese supermarket, you might be surprised by the many different types of rice on sale. “Japonica rice” is well-known for its stickiness and sweetness. The Tohoku region has long been a popular rice-producing area and is famous for its delicious, high-quality varieties.

Rice ears of the Shonai Plain
Rice ears of the Shonai Plain
North Tohoku’s unique scenery of rice plants
North Tohoku’s unique scenery of rice plants

Production of this kind of unique rice is possible due to weather conditions. During winter, Tohoku’s prefectures are covered by tremendous snowfalls, and the ones along the coast (Niigata, Akita and Yamagata) are exposed to the harsh climatic conditions of the sea. When spring approaches, snowmelt water flows into the big rivers and irrigates the large, open paddy fields. Due to the foehn phenomenon, in which dry wind blows down the mountains, the mid-day temperature is very high, but it cools down substantially in the evening. The combination of these factors makes Tohoku ideal for rice production. Since a long time ago, the Shonai Plain in Sakata has been a primary storage area for rice and the warehouse “Sankyo Soko,” built there in 1893, is still in use.

In October, as harvest season draws near, golden rice ears rustle in the wind and Japan’s most representative scenery spreads throughout the region. To round up your autumn trip to Tohoku, catch a glimpse of the charming views from the local train or shinkansen (bullet train).

Kiritanpo hotpot by the fireside
Kiritanpo hotpot by the fireside
Polished “new rice”
Polished “new rice”

“Sankyo Soko” warehouse (Sakata, Yamagata Ken)
“Sankyo Soko” warehouse (Sakata, Yamagata Ken)

“Sankyo Soko” warehouse:2-hr ride from Niigata Station (JR Jôetsu Shinkansen) until Sakata Station (JR Uetsu Line). From there it is another 5-min ride by car.

For many Japanese, the region offers another special activity to look forward to: the tasting of “new rice.” In rice-producing areas, you can find diverse cuisine using these rounded grains of white gold. Akita, for example, is famous for kiritanpo, a dish in which freshly cooked rice is smashed, pressed around a skewer made of Akita cedar and grilled. It is a traditional meal served with a hotpot, which includes chicken and vegetables. Kiritanpo is sold throughout the year in local restaurants and souvenir shops, but it is especially enjoyable to eat during harvest season.

Rice Paddy Art

The villagers of Aomori’s Inakadate village turn rice paddies into canvas and paint rice shoots into different colours every year. In 2017, they used seven colours and 13 strains of rice, as well as various art and measuring techniques, to create an impeccable, highly detailed design. Although other cities try to imitate their effort, Inakadate’s rice paddy art remains the best in quality and the finest in design.

Rice Paddy Art Exhibition:20-min ride from Hirosaki Station until Tamboâto Station (JR Tohoku Shinkansen)

Rice Paddy Art Exhibition
Rice Paddy Art Exhibition

From grilled foods to deserts and drinks: Japanese street stalls

yati-food-stalls
 These mobile food stalls are a staple of the matsuri scene. From grilled foods like yakitori and okonomiyaki to desserts like choco-banana and taiyaki, these stores serve up almost any kind of Japanese festival food imaginable. The easiest way to experience yatai is to head to Fukuoka as it has the largest number of permanent stores throughout the city.

yatai-gallery

Flowing Noodles: Chopstick Fishing

flowing-noodles-nagashi-somen
Flowing noodles

This fun summer tradition has diners working to catch their meal. Aptly named “flowing noodles”, The sōmen is placed in long bamboo flumes with fast running cold water that carries the noodles past guests who try to catch them with their chopsticks. The noodles are then immediately dipped in tsuyu (つゆ, flavoured dipping sauce) and eaten.

nagashi-somen-bamboo-cups
Bamboo cups for dipping sauce (Dashi)

nagashi-somen-gallery

Why is Niigata rice so delicious?

An average temperature of 24.5°C, long hours of sunlight and large temperature differences between day and night are ideal for growing delicious rice.

portadagohanniigata

Why is Niigatamai called “Japan’s No1”? Here’s why:

  • Highest Rice Crop Yield in all of Japan: For 28 consecutive years now, “Uonuma Koshihikari Rice” has received an A rank in the annual taste ranking.
  • Most Recognized rice brand among women living in greater Tokyo.
  • Taste the difference in Japan’s finest rice

    Here are some tips on cooking Niigata rice without a rice cooker

    stepone1.Wash the rice gently in circular motions and discard the water. Repeat thrice.
    step22.Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes.
    step33.Drain the rice for 10 to 15 minutes.
    step44.Water used when cooking should be about 1.2 times the amount of rice.
    step55.Steam for 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat and remove from fire.
    step66.Keep lid on and let rice sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
    step77.Use a rice paddle to fluff up the rice and serve!

    Deeply rooted in Japan’s food culture

    Rice cultivation has set the rhythm of life for Japanese for over 2,400 years. During this time, Japan has produced many ingenious recipes for eating rice in the most delicious ways. Today, in fact, many traditional Japanese dishes that are popular around the world are prepared using only especially delicious rice because – of course – if the rice is bad, then the sushi will also be bad! The main star of the Japanese table has always been rice, so remember to pay particular attention to the rice quality whenever you eat Japanese food.

    onigiri 6x4
    おにぎり Onigiri
    The easiest way to enjoy the taste of rice – “Japan’s soul food”.
    washoku6x4
    和定食 Wateishoku Japanese-style set menu
    A set menu of rice, miso soup and grilled fish is the ultimate combinationto experience the deep flavor of rice.
    sushi6x4
    寿司 Sushi
    To make the fresh fish taste even better, only the best rice is used. In sushi shops, rice is called “gin shari”.

    どのえs

    天丼・ウナ丼 Tendon, Unadon

    “Don” is used to describe a dish consisting of a bowl of rice with a topping. Eel, tempura and cutlets are some of the examples of topping that enhance rice’s flavor, and bringing it to a new level.

    Where to find Niigata rice in Tokyo

    上越の恵 田喰 TAKU 銀座店
    Joetsu no Megumi Taku Ginzaten

    Rice and fish directly from Niigata cooked by an expert chef.
    joetsu6x4
    Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm (Mon. – Sat.),Dinner 5:30pm – 11pm (Mon. – Fri.) / 5:30pm – 10pm (Sat.) (Closed Sun.)
    Address: Ginza Puzzle Ginza 5F, 2-5-19, Ginza, Chuo-ku
    上越やすだ 新橋銀座口店
    Joetsu Yasuda – Shinbashi Ginza shop

    Established 120 years ago, this restaurant specializes in Niigata’s traditional food.
    joetsu yasuda 6x4
    Hours: 5:30pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Sat.)(Closed Sun.)
    Address:
    Hulic G10 Building 8F, 1-4-5 Shinbashi, Minato-ku
    つみき 神楽坂
    Tsumiki, Kagurazaka


    Restaurant serving Niigata sake and kama-meshi (kettle rice) with Uonuma Koshihikari rice.
    tsukimi6x4
    Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Fri.)5pm – 11pm (Sat. & National holiday) (Closed Sun.)
    Address:
    Rakuzan Building 3F, 4-3 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku

    馳走 紺屋
    Chisou Konya

    Recommended Japanese kaiseki meals with Niigata wagyu beef.
    chisou6x4
    Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Fri.) 5pm – 11pm (Sat. & Holidays)
    Address: Clair Kagurazaka III 1F, 3-1 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku

    豪農 五十嵐邸銀座
    Gonou Igarashitei Ginza

    Rice cooked in an earthenware pot together with carefully selected ingredients and sake.
    fishhead6x4
    Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2pm, Dinner 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon – Fri.) (Closed Sat. & Sun.) Address: Kumo Building B1, 7-16-21 Ginza, Chuo-ku
    新潟食楽園
    Niigata Shokurakuen

    Enjoy a lunch set with delicious rice and seasonal fish.
    niigata shokurakouen
    Hours: Lunch 11am – 2:30pm (Mon. – Fri.) 11am – 3:30pm (Sat. & Sun.)Dinner 5pm – 10pm (Mon. – Sat.) /5pm – 9:30pm (Sun. & Holidays)
    Address: 4-11-1Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

    What kind of place is Niigata?

    4 stagioni
    Just a short two hours away from Tokyo by shinkansen, Niigata sits along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Niigata prefecture is also known for its heavy snowfall, so many people visit the skiing areas. Just as they love seeing cherry blossoms in spring, Japanese love to see rice paddy fields as a symbol of the unchanging nature of their country. In Niigata, visitors can enjoy different, beautiful rice field shapes every season. The scenery of overlapping rice paddies, know as tanada, is a marvel to behold. In addition to eating, rice-producing regions also use rice to make sake. For those who want to eat fresh fish, drink superb sake and eat the best Japanese rice, Niigata is definitely the go-to place for you!

    Niigata travel guide

    must see

    portadaniigata

    Terraced rice fields of Hoshi-toge
    These overlapping paddies are also known as senmaida (千枚田), or “thousand-fold rice fields”.
    Selected as one of Japan’s 100 best rural spots, the appearance of the fields change with the growth of rice each season and is a sight to behold during sunset.

    Takada Castle
    Constructed in 1614 as the home base of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s sixth son, the area surrounding the threetiered turret is renowned as a sakura-viewing spot. During summer, lotus flowers bloom in abundance and cover the entire outer moat.

    takada
    tokinomoriken

    Toki-no-mori Park
    This park is dedicated to the toki (朱鷺, Japanese Crested Ibis), which was once an integral part of Japan’s rural landscape. Here, you can learn more about the conservation efforts made by Sado Island as well as admire the ibis in its natural habitat.

    must do

    mebaeportada

    gala yuzawa

    Try out snow activities
    Known for its high snowfall, you will be spoiled for choice when picking a resort. Gala Yuzawa has 15 different runs with varying difficulty, while Naeba offers spa treatments and is also the host of the famous Fuji Rock Festival.

    Visit a sake museum
    Found inside Echigo-Yuzawa Station, visitors can try up to 100 varieties of sake at Ponshukan (ぽんしゅ館越後湯沢店). There is even a sake onsen right next door so you can soak your worries away too.

    ponshukan
    senbeiokoku

    Make your own senbei
    At Senbei Okoku (せんべい王国), you have the rare opportunity of roasting a huge 25cm wide rice cracker, and drawing on it with shōyu to make it your very own.

    must eat

    musteatportada
    Kiwami Sushi Platter (極み寿司)
    A luxurious platter including uni (ウニ, sea urchin), ikura (いくら, salmon roe) and white fish atop warm home-grown sushi rice. Order the extravagant Kiwami Gozen set at Tomi Sushi (Niigata) to taste the best seasonal fish, which also comes with ara-jiru (あら汁, miso soup with fish) and tempura.

    Sasadango (笹団子)
    This famous treat is made of mugwort-flavoured mochi (もち, glutinous rice) and red beans wrapped in bamboo leaves.

    sasandango
    tare katsu

    Tare-katsu Donburi (タレカツ丼)
    Niigata’s take on the katsudon (かつ丼, deep-fried pork cutlet over rice) comes with katsu cutlets dipped in a savoury-sweet sauce.

    Wappameshi (わっぱ飯)
    A local specialty containing seasonal vegetables and seafood over seasoned rice, which is steamed and arranged in a container made from cedar wood.

    must stay
    portadastay
    Matsudai Shibatoge Onsen Unkai
    This inn is found 400 metres above sea level and has an exquisite outdoor bath that overlooks the mountains of the Uonuma Range and terraced rice paddies. With the right conditions, a sea of clouds form so you feel as though you are floating on them.

    tare katsu

    Kirinzan Onsen Yukitsubaki-no-Yado Furusawaya
    Opened since 1935, this ryokan faces the Agano River and the foothills of Mt.Kirin. With only 15 rooms available, you are guaranteed a serene stay with gorgeous views of the surrounding nature.

    Osado Onsen Hotel Osado
    Situated on Cape Kasuga, the open-air baths offer panoramic views of the coastline so you can sit back and relax while taking in the scenery. The meals also feature plenty of choice seasonal produce from Sado Island.

    Foreigners try the best rice in Japan

    rice tasting final
    For Japanese people rice is the main source of energy, but it’s so much more than that. It is also a source of pride and identity. And Niigata prefecture’s Koshihikari rice is the best the country has to offer.
    A group of foreign students from Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan got a chance to savor the best rice in Japan at our special tasting event, where they shared their impressions after eating a delicious bowl of Koshihikari Niigata rice, cooked in an earthen pot.

    Enjoying Niigata rice.
    Enjoying Niigata rice.
    Niigata rice is the perfect match for delicious Japanese food.
    Niigata rice is the perfect match for delicious Japanese food.
    Expert hands preparing the perfect bowl of rice.
    Expert hands preparing the perfect bowl of rice.

    Testimonials from foreign students after eating Niigata rice.

    Rachel Tan Yee Fay from Singapore

    In Singapore we usually eat long grain rice which has less of a texture, we don’t really enjoy to eat rice just by itself. We usually eat rice to accompany different dishes, but in Japan, the rice by itself is full of texture and it’s just really flavorful. Before eating the rice, I was expecting very soft rice but when I was actually eating it, each single grain of rice retained its original shape and it had great texture, I felt it was just the right balance between softness and chewiness, it was very good.
    In Singapore they do sell Japanese rice at markets, so on occasions when we want to celebrate something we tend to buy Japanese rice and we cook it once every couple of months. It’s quite different compared to the rice I’m used to eat, it’s a lot softer, stickier, chewier, and I like it a lot more, that’s why we have it for celebratory occasions, and that is why I was really happy to be able to come to Japan to study and eat my favorite rice all the time.

    Teng Siao Shuen from Singapore

    Chih-Hsuan Chen from Taiwan

    Japanese rice is fresher and even if you have it with just a few side dishes, it’s delicious. In Taiwan, you have to eat rice with something else, otherwise it tastes a bit plain. In Taiwan rice is thought of food to fill your belly, whereas in Japan they are very strict about the hardness, the flavor and the aroma of their many types of rice.
    It was very delicious, so much so that I ate around 3 to 4 bowls of rice. It was chewier and smoother than other types of rice, and appearance-wise, you can see it reflecting the light much better than other rice. I think it would go really nice with the Singapore Chicken rice. The Niigata rice would absorb very well the garlic and the chicken broth, also the texture of this rice compared with the Thai rice that we use it’s more chewy and moist, so it would taste quite well in Singaporean dishes.

    Cheryl Ng from Singapore

    Sophit Wiboonwithayanan from Thailand

    Japanese rice and Thai rice are quite different, Thai rice is a bit harder and has a strong aroma so it goes well with Thai curries but Japanese rice goes well with fish or any type of set meal, it’s very delicious. Niigata rice is the most delicious Japanese rice I have ever tasted, even it’s appearance is great as it seems to sparkle. I think Thai people like Japanese rice, but it is thought of as a luxury product because it’s expensive, so we only have it at Japanese restaurants.

    Hatsushima, an island full of adventure


    A thrilling escapade away from bustling Tokyo


    portadasagamiko
    There is an island off the shore of the city of Atami in Shizuoka prefecture with the rare virtue of combining adrenaline and relaxation. The Hatsushima island adventure starts at the Atamiko port, where visitors ride either the “Ile de Vacance Premier” or “Ile de Vacance III”, the two high-speed vessels that serve the island with departures several times a day. It’s a 30-minute pleasant ride that gives passengers the chance to admire the breathtaking view of Sagami Bay and feed the sea-gulls that try to catch up with the boat.

    Hatsushima offers a variety of amazing outdoor activities such as the Asian Garden “R-Asia”, where you can relax in a hammock and admire a great variety of flowers such as daffodils, the bird of paradise flower, and even early cherry blossoms, allowing visitors to Hatsushima to enjoy the quintessential Japanese flower as early as mid-February!. Inside the garden, adrenaline lovers can also join the SARUTOBI experience, an adventure course featuring bridges, webs and ropes hanging from the top of the trees that you have to complete wearing a special harness.

    For lunch, there are many restaurants offering a great variety of dining options and seasonal dishes. For example, from February 4th to March 12th, visitors can taste the time limited Donburi Gassen, a delicious bowl of rice with fresh and tasty fish caught by local fishermen. Visitors can also take a relaxing dip in the ocean bath “Shimano-Yu” and admire the breathtaking view at the ocean pool during summer.

    At Hatsushima, you can also get a glimpse of majestic Mt. Fuji on a clear day from the top of Hatsushima’s lighthouse or go underwater for scuba diving, spend the night in the camping site, go fishing or visit the local Maritime Museum. You will never run out of things to do.

    Two of our WAttention Ninja got the opportunity to experience a full day of adventure at Hatsushima island and this is what they had to say about the trip.

    Santiago Basterra

    To say that my day at Hatsushima Island Resort was thrilling and exciting would not make it justice, it was so much more! The restaurants had such a friendly atmosphere, small and traditional with top notch food and great attention. The miso was delicious! The Sarutobi adventure was my favorite part though, the first course was exciting and good for people who are not used to obstacle courses. Meanwhile, the second course was amazingly challenging, with the zip-line at the end being the cherry on top of the cake as you celebrate having completed the hardest course! Afterwards, the ocean bath was exceptionally tidy, everything was perfect and the water deliciously warm. Special mention to the sakura in the garden which were already blooming despite the fact that it was only February!
    lucas3
    lucas2
    lucas1
    We took a 30 minute boat ride from Atamiko port to Hatsushima island, and as soon as we arrived, we saw the great variety of restaurants offering Hatsushima’s delicious sea food. We got to try the Donburi Gassen, a special, time limited dish made with shrimp, fresh fish, rice and accompanied with miso soup. We then headed to Hatsushima Island Resort to join the Sarutobi experience. The staff was always there to help us put on our safety gear, and there is also a brief orientation where they explain the dynamic of the activity. After that, we were confronted with two courses, an easy one, where you can test your abilities and then a hard one, only for those who feel comfortable going further. At first, it can be a bit scary because of the height and the difficulty level that increases as you go along, but after a while I felt excited and had an amazing time.

    Samuel Estribi

    simon2
    1simon
    simon3

    Sample schedule for a day in Hatsushima Island
    gosagamiko

    Hatsushima Island

    Open: Asian garden “R-Asia” 9am to 4pm (varies according to the season), Sarutobi experience 10am to 5pm, Ocean Bath Shimano-Yu 10am to 9pm, Lighthouse from 9am to 4pm.

    Address:(Atamiko Port boarding place) 6-11 Wadahama-Minamicho, Atami, Shizuoka 413-0023. (Hatsushima Island resort) 1113 Kamifuruji-no-yama, Hatsushima, Atami, Shizuoka 413-0004.

    Phone: Hatsushima Island resort, PICA Reservation center 0555-30-4580

    Price: the Asian garden “R-Asia” is 900 JPY, Sarutobi experience is 1,700 JPY for adults and 1,300 JPY for children, the Ocean Bath Shimano-Yu is 900 JPY for adults and 600 JPY for children, Lighthouse is 200 JPY for adults, free for children and the Atami – Hatsushima round-trip high speed boat is 2,600 JPY for adults and 1,300 for children.

    Website: http://www.hatsushima.jp/en/

    Access: From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen Kodama for Atami Station and then take the bus bound for Atami Port & Korakuen from Bus Stop #8 (15 min). At Atami Port, get on boat named either “Ile de Vacance Premier” or “Ile de Vacance III” to reach Hatsushima.

    Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these useful tools

    ・Mt. Fuji Pass
    This is a tourist pass especially made for foreigners visiting Japan. Save on sightseeing and transportation and get preferential access to different tourists facilities, including Fuji Q Highland.
    Find out more here: http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/mtpass/
    fuji-q-resorts-
    ・Fuji-Q Resorts App
    Get insider tips to make the most out of your visit to the Mt. Fuji area
    The app is available in Japanese, Chinese, English and Thai
    Find out more here: http://app.fujiq-resorts.com/fuji-qresorts/lp/
    apli

    Forget ramen – the noodles here are one-of-a-kind!

    Wanko Soba

    s__DSC6281 2
    These soba noodles are for the competitive eater! Stack up your dishes and see who will become the noodle master. These small servings can quickly add up and a popular goal is to reach one hundred bowls of soba.

    JaJa Men

    This dish uses flat noodles made from soy and wheat and is considered one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka.” One defining feature is its miso paste, which is different in every restaurant. Enjoy it with a variety of vegetables and finish by mixing your remaining miso paste with a special egg soup.

    s_860d4bfbf49021ac4cc015d0d669547b_m
    negisquare
    Negi Soba

    If you’re not confident in your chopstick skills, this dish is for you! This peculiar soba is scooped with a long, curved green onion and is a specialty of Ouchi-Juku in Fukushima prefecture. To add some flavor, you can actually eat your utensil with your soba!

    Inaniwa Udon

    This extraordinary noodle is the only one of its kind. Inaniwa udon is thinner than regular udon, glossier than ramen and is typically handmade. This udon is quite chewy, giving it a pleasant texture. It’s no surprise that it’s considered one of Japan’s “Three Greatest Udon.”

    niwaudonsquare
    s_盛岡冷麺2
    Reimen

    Another one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka,” reimen is served chilled with a piece of fruit. Don’t get cold feet! The combination works surprisingly well and the soup is designed to taste best when cold.

    Shiroishi Umen

    There is a tale from the Edo period about a son looking for a dietary food for his sick father. He met a monk who told him about a way to make noodles without oil. His father recovered quickly and the dish was named after the area, Shiroishi. These noodles have a smooth taste from being kneaded with salt water.

    s_M02290

    Look for sweets made by locals with plenty of love

    Expect a vibrant spring and summer after the long and formidable winter!
    Be amazed by Tohoku’s sweets and fruits.

    Babahera

    The sight of ice cream being sold under colorful parasols on the streets may be reminiscent of tropical countries and seaside resorts, but here in Akita prefecture, the sight of little old ladies selling ice cream on a regular roadside is commonplace.
    This ice cream is called Babahera, a specialty of Akita. “Baba” refers to an elderly lady, while “hera” is the spatula that they use to shape the pink (strawberry flavor) and yellow (banana flavor) ice cream into a flower with practiced ease.

    s_Babahera2
    s_DSC_1004a
    Cherry Parfait

    A variety of Yamagata’s delicious cherries top this luxurious parfait. Dig deep to discover the different unique ingredients that make up this multi-layered treat and compare the various cherries. The only time to enjoy this piece of art is during the cherry season, which usually starts in June.

    Mountain and sea delicacies that you can’t get in cities

    Local dishes you’ve never had before!

    Today, restaurant chains are so popular that there seems to be no diversity in the food and experience wherever you go. But this is not true in Tohoku, where food is reflective of local weather conditions and the region’s rich cultural heritage. Prepared to be greeted with an array of unique dishes that you have never heard of nor seen before. Time to challenge your taste buds!

    Shark

    s_宮城フカヒレ丼

    Your jaw might drop at the thought of eating shark meat, but in Miyagi prefecture they use every part of this marine mammal. Prepared in a multitude of ways, such as sashimi or shark fin soup, shark meat’s endless possibilities will surprise you.

    Tuna Steak

    The number one place to find tuna in Aomori prefecture is Fukaura Town, where natsu maguro (summer tuna) is available for a long period every year. This tuna has an exquisite taste both raw and cooked, and is most commonly found as part of a “tuna steak bowl.”

    s_0803Fukaura_121
    s_pl-2014241955489
    Hoya (sea squirt)

    Hoya looks like it’s part of another animal, but it’s actually a species of its own. The sea squirt is also called “sea pineapple” because of its thorny appearance, but its taste is anything but tropical. Being described as “the flavor of the ocean,” expect a surprising mix of sweet, salty, sour and sharp.

    Hokki (surf clam)

    The flavor of this ocean critter is said to reach its full potential when lightly cooked. In Miyagi prefecture, the favored way to eat hokki is as hokki meshi, a rice dish with thin slices of hokki.

    s_pixta_16899570_M

    Shojin Ryori

    This all-vegetarian Buddhist cuisine is part of monks’ daily lives. Buddhism teaches not to hurt any living creature and Shojin Ryori is an extension of that belief. Even so, this cuisine’s menu is not as meager as you might imagine. From pickled and braised wild mountain vegetables to bowls of miso soup with silken tofu, centuries of Shojin Ryori culture in this area has led to a variety of flavorful dishes. Yamagata’s three holy mountains are a famous pilgrimage spot and the abundance of mountain vegetables makes it a top location for experiencing the life of a Buddhist monk.

    comida budista
    Himemasu (landlocked sockeye salmon)

    You don’t have to travel to the ocean to find fresh salmon. Himemasu can be found inland, making it a sweetwater fish with a different taste from saltwater salmon. Lake Towada is the top spot for this fish, where it is mainly served as sashimi to bring out its sweetness and soft texture.

    s_WatToh_秋色_Ao-Iwa_0423

    Discover the warmth of Japan’s No.1 rice


    Japan’s best rice
    from Niigata


    fotocollageniigata

    Rice is an essential part of Japanese cuisine. The rice cultivated in Japan (also known as “Japonica rice”) has a rounded, oval shape, is very sticky and features a slight sweetness. After making the effort to come all the way to Japan, don’t you want to sample the most delicious rice available? “Japan’s rice” is said to be produced in Niigata Prefecture so, for Japanese, Niigatamai (Niigata’s rice) is a very attractive brand. If you are familiar with Niigatamai, you’re already well on your way to becoming an advanced Japanese chef!

    mapaniigata

    WAttention events

    Unique Christmas Desserts

    Just as the seasons inspire traditional Japanese confectionery, the Western-style shops are inspired as well. Especially during Christmas season!

    Snowglobe Dessert (1,200 yen)

    d13835-16-709807-0
    PR Times

    Working Holiday Connection is collaborating with a café in Harajuku to raise money for people who want to make a change abroad. Only available from Dec. 16th, 2016 – Dec. 25th, 2016. Be quick to grab these adorable snowglobes as the café only has 60 seats. The main components are pistacchio and raspberry mousse, champagne jelly and cake pieces. Truly a Christmas delight!

    Information
    Working Holiday Connection
    Harajuku Omotesando YM square shop
    Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Jingumae 4-chome 31-10 YM square Harajuku 2F
    4-31-10, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    Hours: 11am – 11pm every day
    TEL: 03-6434-0359
    URL: http://wh-c.jp/

    2016 Kid’s Dream Cake (5,400 yen)

    Christmas Cake
    PR Times

    Well-known bakery chain “Ginza Cozy Corner” launched a competition to design your Christmas Dream Cake, and this is the grand prize winner! Chosen from 17,663 participants, 5-year old Manami Hirano’s design won the honor of being realised in cake form. Her “Christmas Rainbow Cake” can only be pre-ordered and there is a limited quantity of 200 cakes. Each cake serves about 6-7 portions.

    Information
    Ginza Cozy Corner
    Shop list (600 shops all over Japan): http://bit.ly/2ddBZBP
    Order deadline: until Dec. 18th, 2016
    Delivery/Pick-up date: Dec. 23-24-25, 2016

    Christmas Doughnuts (190 yen ~)

    d21411-6-668876-0
    PR Times

    If you’re not into the classic Christmas Cake, here are some Christmas doughnuts! Floresta is known for its animal doughnuts that now received a Christmas twist. Besides the cute designs, there are also walnut and rum doughnuts for a limited time during Christmas. Your friends will be surprised when you bring this tasty alternative to a Christmas party. Floresta uses all-natural ingredients from Hokkaido such as flour and soymilk.

    Information
    Shop list: http://bit.ly/2h0T3MT (Japanese only)
    Limited until Dec. 25th, 2016

    Christmas Tree Pancake Parfait (1,790 yen)

    d7303-451-276167-1
    PR Times

    Since its opening last year the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku has been charming diners with colorful dishes and crazy concoctions. Ingredients of this parfait are green tea mousse, cheese mousee and vanilla ice cream. This Christmas tree and snowman are made from cake and more ice cream.

    Information
    Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku
    Shibuya Jingumae 4-31-10 YM square 4F
    Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am – 4:30pm (lunch) 6pm – 10:30pm (dinner) / Sunday 11am – 8:30pm
    Url: http://kawaiimonster.jp/pc/

    Christmas Trifle (800 yen)

    d11472-428-410171-2
    PR Times

    Cute little strawberry Santas on top of fruit-filled layers. No sugary whipped cream is used so you can savor all the natural flavors.

    Information
    Nicolas House Harajuku
    Limited time menu until Dec. 30th, 2016
    address: Shibuya-ku Jingumae 4-26-5 1.2F
    Hours: Weekdays 11am – 8pm (last order at 7pm) , Weekends 10am – 8pm (last order at 7pm)
    URL: http://www.nicolasusagi.com/

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Japan Winter Street Food

    Japan is sensitive to the seasons and this is reflected in their food. When the scenery changes the food stalls change as well. Here’s some of the most popular winter-themed Japanese street food.

    Yakiimo (Baked Potato)

    If you’re in Japan during the winter season you might have seen street vendors roast potatoes on coals. There are even yakiimo carts with a real fire, you’re lucky if you spot one! Most of the time they’re standard sweet potatoes but Japan has a large variety of potatoes that differ in taste. It’s wrapped in tinfoil and baked with its skin. This warm and sweet snack is delicious on a cold winter day and the roasted skin makes the outside nice and crispy.

    1e749374292596f9f4d9e06978a18bfc_s

    Nikuman

    These meatbuns can be eaten all year round but are consumed more frequently during the winter season. The main reason is that they’re warm, delicious and fit comfortably in your hands. Your personal meat-filled pocket heater. You can buy these at special stands or at any convenience store. Besides the traditional niku-man (meat bun), there are also an-man (sweet bean paste bun), pizza-man (tomato meat sauce and cheese bun), curry-man and even chocolate-man.

    cd403495e172a84b81aa8a0d40f9cb49_s

    Oden

    There is no clear way to describe oden as it consists of various ingredients in a clear broth. Moreover, these ingredients differ per region or have different fillings. The best way to describe oden is to eat it yourself. When it gets colder, oden stalls will pup up everywhere but you can also buy it at the convenience store. Usually there is a container size you can choose from and a variety of ingredients. Take the ones you like, add some broth and bring it to the register.

    8ee2cf80d0bb14d6c5fba8ac65e4ca44_s

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Cheap all-you-can-drink Umeshu

    If you’re a lover of Umeshu, Japanese plum win, you MUST visit Puedo Bar in Tokyo. For the mere sum of 1,080yen you can drink all the Umeshu you want for one hour, possibly the best umeshu deal in Tokyo! Puedo has a large selection of umeshu from all over Japan so prepare yourself to explore all the different tastes in the world of umeshu. This Japanese plum wine is a drink typically enjoyed by women because of its sweetness. Besides Umeshu, the bar also has a dinner menu designed like the classic Izakaya offerings.
    5
    We stumbled upon Puedo after a fun day in kimono and felt a bit too dressed up for a bar. But Puedo is different, the interior is really nice and the friendly staff were ready to welcome us. We ordered some food from the menu when the waitress informed us about the cheap all-you-can-drink deal. We quickly decided to take this golden chance to get our money’s worth of umeshu.

    Rushing to make the most of our hour
    Rushing to make the most of our hour

    We received glasses and ice from the waitress and were told that the nomihoudai, all-you-can-drink, option was self service. Meaning you can freely take the bottles and pour your own drink.
    4
    When I said there was umeshu from all over Japan I meant literally from all over Japan. On the shelves you can find umeshu from Okinawa, banana umeshu, yuzu umeshu and even tomato umeshu.
    Umeshu
    When we asked the waitress what their best umeshu was one of the patrons quickly responded with “babaa no chi”, which translates to “grandma’s blood”. We were very surprised to hear this name for a bottle of umeshu but we found it right in the middle of the umeshu wall. The bottle’s label reassured us we heard correctly.
    2
    Everyone’s verdict was that all the umeshu were delicious and that the one hour deal made the evening perfect. And if you want to know how “grandma’s blood” tastes you have to visit Puedo Bar yourself. All I can say is that it tastes better than its name!

    Information

    Name: Puedo Bar
    Hours: 5pm – 11pm (closed on Sunday)
    Access: near Kitasenju station
    Address: 〒120-0026 Tokyo-to, Adachi-ku, Senjuasahicho, 41−14, Daiichi Building 1F

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Dragonball themed Café at Tower Records Café – Omotesando

    The next time-limited café for November opened its doors in the beginning of the month. The popular anime series “Dragonball” celebrates its 30th anniversary, therefore the Tower Records Cafe branch opened three Dragonball themed café’s in Tokyo (Shibuya and Omotesando) and Osaka (Umeda).

    The dishes and drinks feature the motives and characters of the anime designed by Akira Toriyama.
    While enjoying your food you can listen to the original soundtrack and watch parts of the anime via a big screen.

    IMG_8427

    The menu includes two main dishes, two desserts and four drinks. We decided for the “Trunks and My Special – Plate” which comes with grilled pork, fried rice, egg and salad (1,500yen (tax included)); the “Majin Buu‘s Sweets Plate” with light berry cream, sponge cake, frozen fruits, chocolate, cookies, marshmallows and ice cream (1,200yen (tax included)); …

    IMG_8427aaa

    … the “Planet Namek x Piccolo Soda” which is kiwi soda topped with grape sherbet and fresh cream (750yen /tax included) and the “Shenlong Soda”, melon soda topped with mango ice cream (800yen (tax included)).

    IMG_8427aaavvv

    Everything was very delicious and it´s a MUST-GO for every fan!

    Don´t forget to bring home some souvenirs as well!

    IMG_8445

    The original soundtrack, anniversary plates and coasters, T-shirts, bags, hoodies and much more are on sale!

    We had a lot of fun and definitely plan to visit the other two cafe´s as well!

    IMG_8911

    Information

    Date: November 1st (Tuesday) until November 30th (Wednesday)
    Hours: 11am – 10pm (L.O. 9pm)
    Tel: 03-5778-9491
    Access: 6min walk from Harajuku Station – Omotesando Exit (JR Yamanote Line); 2min walk from Meiji Jingumae Station Exit 5 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line); 8min walk from Omotesando Station Exit A2 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line, Ginza Line)
    Address: Imon Building 2F, 6-3-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Kapibara-san theme Café at Tokyu Plaza Omotesando

    Another limited-time café came to Tokyo in the beginning of November and enchants its guests with cute dishes featuring Kapibara-san a fluffy capybara and his friends.

    Located on the 5th floor of Tokyu Plaza’s Omotesando Building, the Tokyu Hands Café is holding a special collaboration event with a carefully made menu featuring cute dishes in the shape of Kapibara-san.

    neu3

    The place is nicely decorated with panels and stuffed animals, …

    neu

    …as well as cute welcome messages at the entrance.

    The collaboration menu covers two main dishes, one dessert and two different drinks. Of course you can also choose out of the normal menu.

    neu2

    We decided for the Teriyaki-Chicken Sandwich plate (1,380 yen including tax), the apple pancakes (1,280 yen including tax) and the Marshmallow Latte (700 yen including tax).

    Everything was really delicious and carefully decorated!

    After enjoying your meal how about spending a relaxed evening at the Starbucks Terrace on the 6th floor and view the illuminations and the sunset over Shibuya?

    neu4 neu5

    Information

    Date: November 1st (Tuesday) until November 30th (Wednesday)
    Hours: 11am – 9pm (L.O. 8:30pm)
    Tel: 03-3478-0717
    Access: 4min walk from Harajuku Station – Omotesando Exit (JR Yamanote Line); 1min walk from Meiji Jingumae Station Exit 5 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line); 7min walk from Omotesando Station Exit A2 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line, Ginza Line)
    Address: Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku 5F, 4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆
    tokyu-hands.co.jp

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    5 New Halloween Desserts

    With the end of October coming up, department stores and sweets shops are preparing their new special Halloween treats.
    Here’s Wattention’s pick from this season’s lineup.

    Halloween Bunny Parfait (1,810 yen)

    bunny parfait
    Image Credit: PR Times
    This parfait brings you all the best Autumn has to offer! Nicolas House in Harajuku is known for the best bunny themed sweets in Japan such as bunny cream puffs and cakes. The Halloween parfait is a combination of choux cream, maple jelly, kabocha(Japanese pumpkin) cream, ginger jelly, marron cream, purple pumpkin ice cream, chocolate sauce and a bunch of other ingredients. If a cute Halloween is your thing, head on over to Nicolas House!

    Dates: Sept. 20, 2016 – Oct. 31, 2016
    Hours: 10am – 8pm (last order at 7pm)
    Location: Harajuku
    Address: 4 Chome-26-5 Jingumae 426 building 1F-2F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo-to 150-0001

    “Matthew the ghost” cake (2,800 yen)

    d7398-362-584203-0
    Image Credit: PR Times
    The Osaka Bay Tower Hotel is bringing Halloween to their restaurant with this specially made ghost cake. The cake features plenty of fruit toppings and a white marshmallowy ghost filled with cake and strawberries. Who says Halloween can’t be sweet. You need to make a reservation 3 days beforehand, pickup available.

    Dates: Oct. 1, 2016 – Oct. 28, 2016
    Hours: you can decide a pickup time yourself
    Location: Hotel Osaka Bay Tower lobby
    Address: 552-0007 Osaka-shi, Minato-ku Benten 1-2-1

    Halloween Gateau Nantes (389 yen)

    Image Credit: PR Times
    Image Credit: PR Times
    Introducing a Halloween cake made in the traditional Fench way. The main features of a cake made in the “Nantais” way are plenty of sugar and almonds. Bretonne added plenty of pumpkin paste, pumpkin seeds and white chocolate. Now this French style cake got Halloween’d.

    Dates: Oct. 1, 2016 – Oct. 31, 2016
    Hours: 10am – 8pm (Sun – Thurs) / 10am – 9pm (Fri – Sat)
    Location: Bretonne shop, Osaka Hankyu Umeda department store
    Address: 30-8350, Osaka-shi, Osaka, Kita-ku, Kakuda-cho 8-7 Hankyu Umeda head office underground first floor

    Purple Pancakes (1,400 yen)

    Image Credit: PR Times
    Image Credit: PR Times
    Don’t let the purple scare you. The color comes from plenty of sweet purple potatoes combined with a delicious custard cream. Raspberry sauce and blueberries complete the overall spooky look of this dessert. Be sure to add Eggs’n Things to your Halloween must-do list.

    Dates: Oct. 1, 2016 – Oct. 31, 2016
    Hours: Depends on the location
    Location: Check all Eggs’n Things locations here: http://bit.ly/1hqLxKi(Japanese only)

    Shiseido Halloween Chocolate Parfait (1,620 yen)

    Image Credit: PR Times
    Image Credit: PR Times
    The Shiseido Parlour has been offering quality food since 1905 and continue to do so. This year’s featured Halloween item is a chocolate parfait topped with candy. The parfait’s base consists of chocolate and pumpkin cream. This parfait is only available at the stores in Nihonbashi, Yokohama and Nagoya.

    Dates: Oct. 1, 2016 – Oct. 31, 2016
    Hours: Depends on the location
    Location: Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Yokohama Takashimaya, Yokohama Sogo, Nagoya Central Towers 12F
    Address: Check all locations here: http://bit.ly/2dnqeNr

    Special Edition Halloween Snacks

    Not only people like to transform during Halloween, food does too! Japanese like to be in touch with the seasons and want their food to reflect that. Resulting in some amazing special edition snacks you can only get during Halloween!

    Lipton Tea – Halloween version

    Colder times mean warm drinks. Lipton knows this and treats us to some very delicious looking limited edition teas. The new crème brûlée tea got a Halloween makeover and is ready to parade with the blueberry muffin and apple pie tea. Even the tea bags are into trick-or-treating.

    Lipton Tea
    [Edited] Image Credit: PR Times

    Sapporo Otoko Ume Sour

    Popular beer brewer Sapporo brings us this “manly” plum drink for Halloween called “Otoko Ume Sour”. During ancient times eating a plum was believed to ward off evil. If you prefer to be one of the monsters instead, Sapporo has made a fun application to turn your photo into a traditional Japanese demon here.

    d12361-408-758494-0
    Image Credit: PR Times

    Pie no Mi

    This popular puff pastry is all dressed up and ready for Halloween. The inside is still the traditional chocolate filling, but here’s an editor’s tip to make this snack more appropriate for the season. Heat the individual pastries in the microwave for a few seconds and you have yourself a snack with a warm chocolate filling that is sure to keep the chills away.

    d2360-674-803559-1
    Image Credit: PR Times

    Pumpkin Bran Flakes

    Jack the Pumpkin King, Jack-o’-Lantern,… Everyone has heard of the famous pumpkins from Halloween. No wonder this orange vegetable is a crucial ingredient in any October-themed snack, or in this case, breakfast. Kellogg’s keeps it traditional with their Pumpkin Bran Flakes.

    d9545-65-145584-2
    Image Credit: PR Times

     

    Koala’s March

    A staple in Asian supermarkets overseas, these koalas never disappoint in deliciousness. Every individual cookie has a special chocolate imprint with a funny character. This special Halloween edition features new designs, so be sure not to get spooked when you open your package. This snack is also seen as a lucky item.

    koala
    Image Credit: PR Times

    Choco Pie & Custard Cake

    These classic Japanese snacks still taste the same during Halloween but their covers are definitely different. Both choco pies and custard cakes are individually wrapped and ready to surprise you with their special October design. Can you discover how many different types of wrapper designs there are?

     

    pie
    [Edited] Image Credit: PR Times

    Restaurant Review: Ichijodani – Restaurant

    Near the Asakura ruins is a modern restaurant that is very much in touch with the seasons. Ichijodani Restaurant changes its menu every time new local ingredients are at their peak. They then turn them into Japanese-style dishes with a Western touch. After a visit to the ruins this restaurant is a must visit.

    A 7-course menu starts at 3,500 yen. We’ll take you through their current, delicious, offering.

    7

    Italian inspired stuffed Shiitake

    The starter already made a great impression. This Shiitake was stuffed with cheese and a topping of sweet basil. It’s difficult to tell if this is a Japanese dish or an Italian but it was delicious nonetheless.
    5

    Salmon with Citrus

    The appetizer made a combination that I never think would have worked, fruit with fish. It took a while to get to the salmon pieces at the bottom so at first you’d think this is a fruit dish. On my way down I recognized salmon roe, edible flowers, pomegranate and lemon jelly.
    8

    Steamed Onion

    Personally, I am not a fan of onions. But this onion truly changed my mind. I was told that Japanese onions taste a lot sweeter than their Western counterparts and the story seems to be true. The taste of the broth had completely seeped into the onion and transformed the flavor to something different. The kelp bag it was served in was also edible.
    Onion in Konbu

    Light soup with Steamed Egg

    This cup had so many little details inside that it was difficult to eat it, but sadly, it was delicious. The vegetables well precisely cut into maple leaves to visualize the season and the mushrooms gave it that autumn taste. The eggs were very fluffy and did not get soaked by the soup, I wonder how they did that.
    4

    Chicken with Red Fruit

    When they first brought out the plate it looked like a strange modern art painting. Upon closer inspection (and taste) you could see that the different sauces were used as “paint” for this abstract piece. Red fruit, vinegar, and a sauce reminiscent of sauce hollandaise.
    The only negative point; it was difficult to eat this chicken without a fork and knife.
    12

    Japanese Pumpkin Curry

    Of course this seasonal favorite couldn’t be forgotten. Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, has a sweeter taste than the Western pumpkin and a tougher skin, making it fairly difficult to use for Halloween carvings. But luckily kabocha makes for better food than decoration, adding a special flavor to the curry. The pickles on the plate give it that extra touch.
    6

    Dessert

    For dessert we had coffee and a fruit jelly. As a surprising detail, the grape had a part cut off so it would have a flat surface to balance properly on the jelly. That’s how much detail and thought was put into every dish.
    9

    The Restaurant

    Besides serving delicious food, the interior is extremely beautiful in its simplicity. The wooden theme gives a relaxing and cozy atmosphere. There is a big hardwooden table where large groups of guests can sit together.
    Interior

    Information

    Hours: 11am – 6pm
    Price: Courses are at 3,500yen / 5,500yen / 7,000yen
    Tel: 0776-37-3712
    Access: 21min walk from Ichijodani Station. Parking available
    Address: 10-48 Kidonouchicho, Fukui, Fukui Prefecture 910-2153
    URL:www.1jyoudani.jp (Japanese only)

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    MoCHA, the stylish cat café

    d14659-9-826523-5
    Image credit: PR Times

    Japan has many cat cafés, but this chain takes it up a notch. MoCHA, reminiscent of the French word for cat “chat”, is a stylish chain in Tokyo providing both cats and visitors with a relaxing atmosphere. Cat cafés are often built to be cosy, making MoCHA unique with its trendy interior.

    How does it work?

    d14659-2-180312-8
    Image credit: PR Times

    Cat cafés all around Japan mostly have a similar system; you pay a set entry fee for a certain time limit (this may or may not include a drink) and you’re ready to go! Most often shoes are off limits, but this can depend on the café. The management will also ask not to pick up the cats or disturb them. These furry hosts get many visitors on one day and would like to be able to relax when needed.

    Rules at MoCHA
    -Don’t chase the cats
    -Don’t hold the cats
    -Don’t feed the cats any human food. If you want to feed them, you can buy some treats at the café
    -Photos are allowed, but turn off your flash
    -Don’t speak in loud voices

    What makes MoCHA different?

    The main concept of MoCHA is to provide a serene, healing space. MoCHA thought about both cats and humans while designing the interior. Wooden trees, fake bird cages, ladders and plants provide plenty of entertainment and relaxing space for the cats while being a treat for the human eye. Instead of regular chairs and benches there are relaxing sofas and reclining chairs.

    Mocha2
    Image credit: PR Times

    All that’s left to feel completely at ease is a kitty on your lap, and MoCHA has about 15~20 of them at every café! You can learn their names and favorite foods from one of the photo books. These adorable cat dictionaries also have baby pictures of when they were just a kitten.

    Cat themed drinks

    Besides offering the basic café drinks, MoCHA also has an “all you can drink” option for 350 yen. Some hot drinks come with a kitty-shaped marshmallow or snack.

    d14659-9-366920-0
    Image credit: PR Times

    Starting September 2016, MoCHA is collaborating with professional marhsmallow maker “Yawahada”, creating treats based on the café’s three most popular cats, all coincidentally named after delicious food! Wasabi: a female black and white Siberian, Azuki(sweet red beans): a female calico Munchkin, and Kinako (roasted soybean flour): a male light-cream tabby Scottish Fold. For the paws you can choose between vanilla, chocolate and black tea.

    d14659-9-466821-4
    Image credit: PR Times

    Information

    MoCHA Shibuya

    Shibuya
    Image credit: PR Times

    Hours: every day from 10am – 10pm (last entry at 9:30pm)
    Admission: 200 yen / 10 minutes (1h stay is 1,200 yen)
    Location: Asoruti Shibuya building, 8F
    Access: 5-min walk from Shibuya Station
    Address: 32-12 Udagawachō, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0042
    Characteristics: The café is like a big lounge, watching over Shibuya
    URL: http://catmocha.jp/shibuya/

    MoCHA Ikebukuro West

    Ikebukuro West
    Image credit: PR Times

    Hours: every day from 10am – 10pm (last entry at 9:30pm)
    Admission: 200 yen / 10 minutes (1h stay is 1,200 yen)
    Location: Near Ikebukuro Westgate Park, there is a seven eleven store on the 1st floor
    Access: 1-min walk from Ikebukuro Station West Exit
    Address: 1 Chome-15-6 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 171-0021
    Characteristics: Natural materials such as wooden trees and soft ambient light give this café its relaxing atmosphere.
    URL: http://catmocha.jp/ikebukuro/

    MoCHA Ikebukuro East

    Ikebukuro East
    Image credit: PR Times

    Hours: every day from 10am – 10pm (last entry at 9:30pm)
    Admission: 1,800 yen general admission
    Location: Sanke building 4F
    Access: 3-min walk from Ikebukuro Station East Exit
    Address: 1 Chome-22-5 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0013
    Characteristics: Relaxing lounge style
    URL: http://catmocha.jp/ikebukuro2/

    MoCHA Harajuku

    Harajuku s
    Image credit: PR Times


    Hours
    : every day from 10am – 8pm (last entry at 7:30pm)
    Admission: 200 yen / 10 minutes (1h stay is 1,200 yen)
    Location: Cross Avenue Harajuku 3F
    Access: Right next to Harajuku Station Omotesando exit
    Address: 150-0001 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingūmae, 1 Chome−14-25
    Characteristics: Refreshing green carpets, wooden trees and fake bird cages for the cats to rest
    URL: http://catmocha.jp/harajuku/

    My Neighbor Totoro Café in the heart of Tokyo

    Hidden in the backstreets of the popular fancy Shimokitazawa Area, a small cute café called Shiro-Hige´s Cream Puff Factory attracts their customers with self-made cream puffs and cookies shaped in the silhouettes of the characters appearing in the movie “My Neighbor Totoro”.

    IMG_7599

    The entrance welcomes you with selected Totoro merchandise and the whole ambience feautures the charm of a cozy, friendly and warm home.

    daiso

    On the first floor you can visit the little shop selling cookies and cream puffs for take-out.

    BRN001BA9EC6508_012205

    The filling of the cream puffs come in different flavors, two standard ones (custard & fresh cream, chocolate cream) and some which are limited to the current season (caramel banana cream: January – April; strawberry cream: January – June; green tea cream: May – August; peach cream: July – September; chestnut & chestnut cream: October – December; raspberry & cream cheese: September – December).

    We went up to the second floor and where happy that a lunch and dinner menu is available as well, beside their speciality, the cream puffs.
    We ordered the steak lunch together with custard & fresh cream cream puffs. (The cream puff must be ordered together with a drink.)

    food

    It was really good, and we couldn´t stop taking pictures of the cute Totoro-shaped goodies.


    Information

    Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory
    Hours: 10:30am – 7pm (Closed on Tuesday)
    Tel: 03-5787-6732
    Access: 3min walk from Setagaya-Daita Station (Odakyu Odawara Line)
    Address: 5-3-1 Daita, Setagaya-ku, 155-0033 Tokyo
    URL: http://www.shiro-hige.com/ (Japanese only)

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Visit the Origin of Ninja (3) : Ninja Soba

    Togakushi Soba Yamaguchiya

    On the way back from the hill, we visited Yamaguchiya Soba restaurant. They specialize in making Togakushi Soba with a unique concept. The recommended menu is Ninja Soba (cold soba with shredded radish, vegetable tempura and original walnut soba sauce). Moreover, they have a ninja menu for ladies called the Kunoichi Soba that comes with a Japanese dessert. Both menus are ninja-themed with edible components such as shredded radish that represents ninja smoke bombs.

    Ninja Soba Set
    Ninja Soba Set
    Kunoichi Soba Set (Ninja Soba set for ladies)
    Kunoichi Soba Set (Ninja Soba set for ladies)
    Soft serve ice cream
    Soft serve ice cream

    Mr. Yamaguchi, the owner of Yamaguchiya and ninja master, told us that the secret to make delicious Togakushi soba are premium ingredients and pure water. He also said that in training to be a ninja, energy is extremely necessary so food that contains a lot of energy but can also be easily digested and healthy such as soba, is the best menu for ninja.

    Currently, Mr. Yamaguchi is an instructor for ninja training as well. Some ninja trainees are not local Japanese, and some even came all the way from Europe to explore the way of the ninja with different purposes. The key to be a ninja is not complicated techniques, high power or good items but ability to adapt all ninja skills. Moreover, those skills are for defend and protect ourselves not for attack others.

    Ninja pose with Mr. Yamaguchi
    Ninja pose with Mr. Yamaguchi

    Read other articles in the series:
    Visit the Origin of Ninja (1) : Togakushi Shrine
    Visit the Origin of Ninja (2) : Museums and a Ninja Trick House
    Visit the Origin of Ninja (4) : Kids’ Ninja Village

    Information

    ninja3-0989_R
    TOGAKUSHISOBA YAMAGUCHIYA
    Opening Hours: 9.00 – 17.00
    Address: 3423 Togakushi Chusha Nagano city, NAGANO Japan.
    TEL: (+81)26-254-2351
    URL: www.togakushisoba.com

    Katana Fair and Samurai dining

    Go on a journey back in time to two of the most iconic periods for samurai; the Sengoku and the Edo period.
    Diamond Dining is offering a unique dining experience for Japan’s history-loving women called Rekijo(歴女). The event is split into two areas, Sengoku and Edo. If you and your friends love Japanese history or you want to meet a Rekijo, this event is made for you!

    d7303-411-598040-0

    Sengoku Area

    The Sengoku period (戦国時代) was from 1467 – 1603. The name literally means civil war era because of the many internal conflicts that were going on in Japan at the time. Local lords battled each other for more territory and army campaigns were a common occurrence. During this dark time genius strategists and powerful samurai were born. Some of the most famous samurai and swords have been incorporated into the dishes served in this area. The armors of Date Masamune, Yukimura Sanada, Keiji Maeda and Kenshin Uesugi welcome you to your private dining chamber.

    d7303-411-102492-12

    d7303-411-536939-1
    Heshikiri Hasebe (Sweet Potatoes in bamboo /780 yen
    This dish is based on one of Nobunaga’s stories. One time he sensed an enemy hiding behind wooden planks and he pierced him right through the wall with his sword Heshikiri Hasebe. Oda Nobunaga lived from 1534 – 1582 and was one of the most powerful lords of Japan. He almost succeeded in completely unifying Japan before he was assassinated.

    d7303-411-456779-2
    Date Masamune nabe (2,980 yen)
    This luxurious nabe is meant to mimick famous warlord Date Masamune’s hospitality. The beef is imported from Sendai. During his life (1567 – 1636) Date Masamune was the lord of Sendai and turned it into a prosperous city. He was very loyal to the military government but everyone feared his power. Because of his missing eye he was nicknamed “the one-eyed-dragon”.

    d7303-411-921976-3
    Tsurumura Kuninaga (830 yen)
    This dessert is based on a famous white sword with a white scabbard. It is said that the sword stayed perfectly white even after hundreds of years. Its first owner possibly lived during the 13th century but it’s confirmed that the Date family possessed the sword somewhere during 1716 – 1736. The strawbberies mimick the blood that would have marked the pure white sword.

    d7303-411-440021-4
    Mikazuki Munechika (880 yen)
    Regarded as one of the “Five Famous Swords of Japan”, this blade has a strong curve typical of a katana and a crescent pattern. The dish resembles the famous crescent curve and contains seasonal pike fish.

    d7303-411-498331-5
    Ichigo Hitofuri (1,280 yen)
    This blade is the only tachi(long katana) made by Awadaguchu Yoshimitsu. The dish aims to mimick the alterations that have been made to the straight temper line of the blade to fit every new owner. Beltfish (a member of the cutlass family) and ginger are the main components.

    And more…

    The Edo Area

    The Edo period (1603 – 1868) comes right after the Sengoku period and is a time of relative peace. Japan is united under the Tokugawa family, a military government with the Shogun as leader. Schools and roads are built, art flourishes and the population rises. It is only at the end of the Edo period that Japan is in turmoil again and the samurai rise again in a period known as the Bakumatsu (1853 – 1867).

    Ikedaya Affair House

    d7303-411-708327-14

    In 2015 Diamond Dining already held the “Ikedaya fair” and thanks to the success it’s back again. Based on the “Ikedaya affair (1864)”, a famous event where Kyoto’s special police force, the Shinsengumi, managed to stop plans to deliberately burn down Kyoto. Members of the Shinsengumi will lead you to your table and serve your drinks.

    d7303-411-476750-19
    d7303-411-725266-20

    1) Kashuu Kiyomitsu
    This sword belonged to the captain of the Shinsengumi’s first troop, Okita Souji. This sword was said to be used during the Ikedaya affair where its tip broke off. Contains cranberry and grenadine.
    2) Yamatonokami Yasusada
    Forged in the early Edo period, this sword had many owners but its most famous one was Okita Souji. Okita used this very lethal sword after Kashu Kiyomitsu broke at the Ikedaya affair. Contains calpis and lemon soda.
    3) Nagasone Kotetsu
    Belonging to Kondo Isami, the Shinsengumi’s commander, this fake kotetsu blade was probably the most famous. Made by Minamoto Kiyomaro, one of the best smiths of the era, it bears a fake signature. Contains mango and pineapple.
    4) Izuminokami Kanesada
    Shinsengumi’s vice captain Hijikata Toshizo, nicknamed “demon vice captain” was this sword’s owner. Made by the 11th generation Kanesada and a very popular sword. Contains white wine and raspberries.

    Edo Shinsengumi Area

    d7303-411-890503-15
    When you enter the dining area it will feel like you entered the Shinsengumi’s headquarters. Statues of Kondo Isami, Hijikata Toshizo and Okita Soji welcome you before being lead to a private dining area.

    d7303-411-194589-7
    Horikawa Kunihiro (850 yen)
    Inspired by the demon vice captain’s wakizashi (accompanying smaller katana). Contains pickled radish and a tartar of avocado. Hijikata was said to love pickled radish. One famous story tells of him taking a bucket of pickled radish with him after his host told him to take as many as he likes.

    d7303-411-124342-8
    Yamatonokami Yasusada (650 yen)
    The are rumors that Shinsengumi first troop captain Okita Souji had a sweet tooth, but that’s not what this dessert is based on. One of the most feared swordsman of the Bakumatsu, the red bean paste and sweet potato’s color mimick his many assassinations.

    d7303-411-520415-9
    Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki (1,980 yen)
    This beef nabe carries the name of Sakamoto Ryoma’s sword, the famous reformer of Japan. Containing miso, sweet sake and vegetables this was said to be Sakamoto Ryoma’s favorite dish made by his wife Oryo. Can be ordered by two people. Be careful to not let this nabe get too close to any of the Shinsengumi dishes as they were sworn enemies.

    d7303-411-162670-10
    Kashuu Kiyomitsu (680 yen)
    Sushi roll bearing Okita Souji’s family crest and decorated with flowers.

    d7303-411-134031-11
    Nagasone Kotetsu (680 yen)
    The commander of the Shinsengumi liked “tamago fuwafuwa”, literally meaning “fluffy eggs”. This is a kind of egg soup that became popular during the Edo period. The dish is decorated to resemble Kondo Isami’s family crest.

    Information

    This special event will run from Oct. 1, 2016 – Nov. 31, 2016

    Sengoku Area

    Hours: 5pm – 0am (Mon – Thurs) / 5pm – 3am (Fr – Sun)
    Location: Shinjuku Kabukicho T-wing building 4F
    Access: 3-min walk from Shinjuku station
    Address: 160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-6-2 T-wing building 4F
    TEL: 03-3209-2277
    URL: http://www.diamond-dining.jp/shop_info/sengoku-buyuden/(Japanese only)

    Ikedaya Affair House

    Hours: 5pm – 11pm (Mon & Sun) / 5pm – 4am (Tue – Sat)
    Location: Musashino Hall 6F
    Access: 2-min walk from Shinjuku station
    Address: 160-0022 Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Shinjuku 3-27-10 Musashino Hall 6F
    TEL: 03-5360-7644
    URL: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g465407/(Japanese only)

    Edo Shinsengumi Area

    Hours: 5pm – 0am (Mon – Sat) / 5pm – 11pm (Sun & Holidays)
    Location: Shinjuku building B1
    Access: 1-min walk from JR Shinjuku station West Exit
    Address: 160-0023 Tokyo Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, 1-4-2 141 Shinjuku building B1
    TEL: 03-3347-2207
    URL: Http://R.Gnavi.Co.Jp/g600187/(Japanese only)

    Don’t forget to pick up one of the free tsuba(Japanese sword mounting) gifts you get with each dining experience!
    Tsuba
    Source: PR Times

    6 Things You Need to Know About Izakaya

    57984bac4e0ac_5798490847df1_369145134
    An izakaya is a Japanese-style pub. This means you’ll have alcohol as well as food, but instead of everyone receiving their own main dish, the standard procedure is for everyone to order lots of small, typically inexpensive dishes that are shared by everyone around the table, ordering subsequent rounds along with accompanying drinks.

    6. Izakaya Meaning
    57984bad75e00_5798492290e37_1782291313
    The word izakaya is made up of the kanji 居酒屋, meaning “stay,” “alcohol,” and “room” or “shop.” So an izakaya is, in the most literal sense, “a shop for people to stay with alcohol.”

    5. Getting a Table
    57984badbefe0_579849444b007_1601504168
    When you enter an izakaya, you’ll first be asked how many people are in your party. If you don’t speak Japanese, just showing the number with your fingers is fine, and even a common practice among Japanese people. If it’s a big number—and izakaya are much more fun with more people—just say the number slowly in English, and be ready to reinforce by counting up on your fingers if necessary. Pretty much every Japanese person is comfortable with numbers one through 10 in English, but any higher and it depends on how much they enjoyed English in school.

    Depending on the style of izakaya—or simply where you’re placed—you may be seated at a regular table, at a bar, or on straw tatami mats. If you’ve got tatami, you’ll have to take off your shoes before stepping on the mats (some places will give you a little locker for your shoes; keep the little tab in your pocket to retrieve them later). Most tatami rooms will have a hole in the floor under the table, so you’ll still have a place to put your legs.

    If you’re in a truly classic tatami room, you may find no hole in the floor, and you’ll have sit cross-legged or kneel in seiza! This is pretty rare nowadays, but it can happen from time to time (as you can see in the photo above). After a while, most people will stretch out, so just put up with your cramped legs for a few minutes, then ask if it’s okay to extend your legs (just indicate your legs and say, “Ii desu ka?,” which means, “Is it okay?” Everyone will know what you mean).

    4. Oshibori & Otoshi
    57984bae2e9f1_57984983dd53e_474011486
    You’ll probably be given an oshibori (wet towel) upon sitting down, which you should use to clean your hands. A nice oshibori will be refreshingly cool in the summer and satisfyingly warm in the winter, though cheap spots may just give you one made of paper.

    You’ll also probably receive a very small appetizer called an otoshi (or possibly tsukidashi if you’re in the Kansai area). This will be charged to your table, so don’t be surprised at the end! (And no, you don’t have a choice.)

    3. Ordering

    So, how do you order all those rounds of drinks and food? You just need one word: Sumimasen! This literally means “Excuse me,” and is the standard for getting staff attention (more on this incredibly useful word here).

    While chain shops will often have buzzers on the tables for summoning staff, a classic izakaya will be a big, noisy room, and nobody has any compunctions about hollering “Sumimasen!” over the din to secure the next round. The key to sounding friendly is to draw out the last eh sound; if you just clip it off at the end, you sound pretty grumpy. Once you get accustomed to it, it’s lots of fun to call out, “SU-mi-ma-SEHHHHHN!”

    57984bae6f4a1_579849acadcfb_208858778

    Most chain izakaya will have a pictographic menu, so if you don’t read Japanese, just point and use extremely simple English (“This, two,” “This, one,” etc.). If you’ve wandered into a spot with no images and you’re stuck, just ask, “O-susume wa?” (“What’s your recommendation?”). Otherwise, pointing at random also works!

    Typical dishes will include a selection of yakitori (grilled meat on sticks), kara-age (fried chicken pieces), tamagoyaki (sushi-style omelette blocks), sashimi, grilled fish, small meat dishes, tofu and salads—and you’ll pretty often find French fries as well (just as for “potato” or “potato fry”)! The standard appetizer is, of course, edamame.

    “Beer” is biiru in Japanese, so you can get one of those pretty easily (just say “Beer” and hold up the number for the table with your fingers). Another common word is nama, which means “draft,” as in “draft beer,” and can be used interchangeably with biiru.

    57984baecba03_57984b1716b14_726201820

    You won’t find Western-style cocktails on most menus, but you’ll have lots of choices of umeshu (plum wine), shochu (distilled liquor akin to light vodka), sake (which you can also order hot as atsukan), “sour” drinks (or sawaa, basically shochu combined with soda and various kinds of fruit juice; grapefruit sour is the standard), and very basic whisky (usually a single brand on the rocks or with soda).

    Non-drinkers will also be able to get soft drinks and green tea. When everyone gets their drinks, remember the Japanese word for cheers: Kanpai!

    2. Nomihodai
    57984baf5fe60_579847262b3aa_986370000
    One of the most important things to decide when starting out at an izakaya is whether or not to get nomihodai—all-you-can-drink. While you probably won’t be able to get nomihodai at a small, local shop, most chains will offer a 90-minute or two-hour deal for about the price of three or four beers—though there are discount shops with cheap nomihodai deals as well! However, either everyone at the table gets nomihodai, or nobody gets it. Three people can’t get all-you-can-drink while a fourth sips on water: it’s all in or all out.

    Be aware that the nomihodai deal usually won’t be for everything on the drinks menu, either. You’re typically limited to a much smaller selection of alcohol that will mostly focus on beer and sours.

    1. Paying
    57984bafbde80_57984ba69d041_422795564
    To get the bill, you can either pull a “Sumimasen!” and cross your index fingers, or simply stand up slowly and head toward the door, where the bill will be waiting for you.

    While most restaurants in Japan are great at divvying up the bill betsu-betsu (individually by person), this is simply not possible at an izakaya, where everybody has been sharing multiple rounds of dishes. You’ll just have to split the total evenly between the members of your group.

    If you’re in a large group, you’re definitely going to want to sort out the bill at the table—because there’s always one person who showed up late or had only one beer and doesn’t want to pay the same amount as everyone else, and nobody ever has exact change. If you’re in charge of collecting the money, be aware that it always seems to end up that at least half of one person’s contribution is missing, and since nobody can ever figure out who paid too little, you’ll either have to appeal to the group to cough up some extra or cover the gap yourself.

    Between the shared dishes and the need to collaborate on your next order, izakaya are great for encouraging people to interact, which may be the key to their overwhelming popularity for groups of friends heading out in Japan!


    Read the original article on All About Japan: 6 Things You Need to Know About Izakaya

    You might also like:
    7 Smaller ¥100 Chains Not to Miss!
    The Devil Is in the Details
    10 After-Midnight Time Killers Around Tokyo

    Winning Flavors: 5 Lucky Japanese Food Items

    From lucky-sounding snacks to food that was shared with the gods, the Japanese believe some foods can ward off failure and ensure success. Lucky or not, these food items are delicious and comforting, so try and eat them when you’re studying for an exam or preparing for a big game. Who knows, you might just get a little extra luck!

    1. Katsudon

    6e57a3b1a5ef4ca7ad546597d6be388d_m_luckyfood
    Comforting and filling, the hearty katsudon has been the classic “winning” food in Japan for decades. The reason why it’s considered lucky is straightforward – “katsu (カツ)” as in “cutlet” is pronounced the same way as “katsu (勝つ)” as in “win”.

    2. Omusubi

    ac5390339122a6ddf7da045385474944_m_luckyfood
    The humble Japanese rice ball is said to be especially auspicious, originating from farmers who sought the favor of the mountain gods. The farmers would form the rice in the shape of a mountain and would bring them on their journeys to the mountains to share with the deities.

    3. Pasta

    3a0dbb7570d5d93a6bd9307fdd9ece5a_m_luckyfood
    Comparatively new and hip on our lucky food list is pasta. The shape is fortuitously long like soba, but most importantly, pasta sounds like pass-da!, as in “I passed the exam”!

    4. Slimy textured food

    db6131cfd03a39ef6c224a74fa775045_m_luckyfood
    Perhaps slightly harder to stomach for foreigners, this food group includes the infamous natto (fermented soybeans), tororo (grated mountain yam), and okra. Supposedly filled with health benefits, they’re considered lucky because the onomatopoetic Japanese word for slimy is “neba-neba”, which sounds a lot like “never, never (give up)”.

    5. Kit Kats

    IMG_6369_luckyfood
    Pronounced “kitto katto” or “kitto katsu”, it means “sure to win” in Japanese. A lot of people swear on the lucky powers of Japan’s many-flavored Kit Kats, but look out for the special “exam season” version, which would usually be on sale in January and February with messages on them in Japanese to cheer you on.

    Honorable Mention: Koala no March

    IMG_6364_luckyfood
    The Japanese word for falling can also mean failing, and since koalas don’t fall off their trees even when they sleep, these adorable cookie puffs featuring koalas with delicious chocolate filling should give you a steadfast grip on your dreams!

    Ninja ID: ururumeru


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Melissa Wullur
    I’m an amateur writer and avid reader who’s been living in Japan since 2007. I enjoy reading and writing about food, travel, and quirky trivia. I treat 100 yen shopping as therapy.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Looking for a Great Local Restaurant in Japan? PlanB to the Rescue!

    PLANB-mainimg-e

    PlanB is a new website which offers a dining concierge service for those who are looking to get the best dining experience. A PlanB concierge will listen to your specific needs, propose dining options and make the reservation for you!

    WAttention signed up as a PlanB concierge recently. With many years of publishing travel magazines, we have in-depth knowledge and information only locals know. We are here to help you get the best and truly authentic experience in Japan!

    How PlanB works

    Dialog with WAttention Tokyo _ PlanB
    Everything is done in an easy-to-use PlanB messaging system.

    On their website, you can see a list of helpful and knowledgeable concierges. The concierges all have different experiences and specialties. You can also see their reviews from other users. After registering with the service, you can select the one you like and tell them your preferences and requirements.

    Step-by-step: As easy as 1-2-3!

    customer

    Customer A

    My husband and I are planning on climbing Mt. Takao this coming October for our wedding anniversary. We want to end the day with some nice authentic Japanese food with exquisite service near there. Any recommendations?
    Congratulations on your anniversary! We will select restaurants that are perfect for this occasion.
    Here are our selections! What do you think?
    squarelogo-wattention

    Concierge (WAttention)


    Restaurant Am_165239_R
    Located at the foot of Mt. Takao, Restaurant A specializes in char-grilled chicken. You will be seated in a traditional Tatami room with a picturesque view of a Japanese garden.
    Link: http://www.restaurant-a.com/
    Restaurant Bm_104018_R
    This restaurant serves a traditional Japanese course menu, using only fresh ingredients that are in season. They also offer a selection of premium local sake, which complement the meal.
    Link: http://www.restaurant-b.com/details
    Restaurant Cm_159039_R
    Surrounded by the bamboo garden, this secluded restaurant offers a quiet and serene atmosphere as well as exquisite Japanese kaiseki meals.
    http://www.restaurant-c.com/en/#

    customer

    Customer A

    Wow, thanks! All of them seem so nice!
    We absolutely love the Japanese garden of Restaurant A. Can you book a table for us on Oct. 25th at 7pm?
    Absolutely.
    We just made a reservation for you on Oct. 25th at 7pm!
    squarelogo-wattention

    Concierge (WAttention)

    customer

    Customer A

    Thank you so much!

    A few days later…

    customer
    Customer A
    5stars
    “We had a wonderful evening! The food was excellent and the service was superb. We would recommend this restaurant to anybody. Thanks WAttention for making our anniversary memorable.”

    It’s that simple! With PlanB, you can easily get top-notch recommendations and reservations from local dining experts in Japan. That’s why, if you ever need failproof dining plans, PlanB dining concierge services are truly worth a try.

    Click here to check out PlanB’s website

    A quick guide to Halal Japanese Cuisine in Tokyo

    The struggle is over. What was thought to be extremely difficult – finding Halal Japanese cuisine that is both allowed and prepared according to the Islamic dietary guideline – is no longer the case as meticulous and attentive Japanese restaurants step up to the demands of a group of visitors they have long neglected. As more Muslims are drawn to the land of the rising sun, Wattention brings to you a myriad of choices, perfect amalgamations of Halal and Nippon cuisine, that will satisfy every single, each and one of your cravings!

    1. YAKINIKU

    Did you know, that prior to 1872, there was a 1,200 year ban on meat eating in Japan?It was not until the Meiji Period that the restoration government sought to remove this centuries-old social taboo against meat. As meat lovers went on to experiment and perfect their craft of preparing meat, we now have the fortune of enjoying Japanese BBQ, or more fondly known as “Yakiniku”!

    Gyumon

    Unassuming entrance
    An unassuming entrance | Photo Source

    Ready yourselves for a battle of speed as we huddle over an arena of charcoal grills, protected by extractor systems to whip away the wonderfully distracting smell and smoke, equipped with the longest tongs and eagle eyes to swoop in at the finest meat that is marinated in perfection.

    Isn't this tempting!
    Need I say more!? | Photo Source

    One of the most-raved about Halal Yakiniku restaurant in Tokyo, Gyumon prides itself for its generous portions and succulent, delicious beef Yakiniku. This traditional and cosy restaurant even offers its diners a crash course on understanding their food!

    Gyumon 3
    Cow-tography 101 | Photo Source
    Mouthwatering halal dining
    DIY – You can be the next Asia’s masterchef! | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: 3 Chrome-14-5 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku Toyko
    • Average Price: JPY4000~
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 5pm – 4am; Sun & Pub Hols: 5pm – 11pm
    • Halal Status: Certified by Malaysia Halal Corporation Co. Ltd
      *Reservations recommended!

    Sumiyakiya Nishiazabu 

    This BBQ restaurant rose to fame when former Prime Minister, Mr Mahathir bin Mohamad visited and tried their Halal Yakiniku. A family-ran business, the restaurant came up with the idea of a Halal menu when they noticed a gap in the market that dedicated to Halal service. Since then, they have worked closely with professionals to learn how to prepare food in accordance with the Halal traditions.

    Sumiyakiya 1
    Korean style BBQ, Japanese style ingredients! | Photo Source

    Using  ‘F-1’ Yakiniku (Herb-fed crossbred between Holstein cattle and Wagyu), Aomori Shamo chicken and Herb-fed Chicken from Brazil,  Sumiyakiya ensures that all their Halal meat used for your BBQ is Halal-certified. A unique (and healthy!) feature of Sumiyakiya is that their choice of cattle are herb-fed, and their Halal meats are marinated with plenty of herbs – as their slogan goes: “Herbs do more than simply adding flavor and color to your favourite dishes!”

    Sumiyakiya 2
    Cosy setting for family and friends | Photo Source
    Sumiyakiya 3
    All set to feast! | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: 3-29-16, Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY2000~ (Lunch); JPY4000~ (Dinner)
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 1130am – 3pm, 6pm – 1130pm; Sat: 6pm – 1130pm (Closed on Sun & Pub Hols)
    • Halal Status: Malaysia Halal Corporation
    • Official Website: http://sumiyakiya.com

    2. TEPPANYAKI

    Teppanyaki, which literally means “grill on an iron plate”, should definitely be on your food-to-try list in Japan! The strong emphasis on the freshness of ingredients, coupled with the performance aspect of the chef’s preparation, it will be both eye-candy and mouth watering experience!

    Saishoku Teppan Ippin

    Founded by La Copakku Japan, Saishoku Teppan Ippin aims to provide its diners with a ‘healthy and beautiful’ dining experience. As a pioneer in the Halal Teppanyaki industry, the restaurant has worked relentlessly to create a Halal menu to allow its Muslim diners to indulge in true Japanese culinary.

    Ippin 1
    Spoiled for choices? | Photo Source

    Armed with skilled chefs, stashes of organic vegetables and premium selection of meat, Saishoku Teppan Ippin challenges its diners’ taste buds to a waltz they will never forget.

    Ippin 3
    Soaking in the atmosphere | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: Langs Daikanyama 2F, 2 Chome 13-16, West Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY1000~ (Lunch); JPY3000~ (Dinner)
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 1130am – 3pm, 5pm – 11pm; Sun: 5pm – 11pm (Closed on every 3rd Sunday of the month)
    • Halal Status: Certified by Nippon Asia Halal Association
    • Official Website: http://ippin-halal.jp

    3. SHABU SHABU

    This bubbly dish got its name from the ‘Shabu Shabu’ sound supposedly emitted when ingredients are stirred in the hotpot. Finding its roots in Japan, it is one aspect of the traditional Japan cuisine a faithful tourist should not miss!

    Hanasakaji-san

    Named after a fairy tale, Hanasakaji-san beckons with quiet dignity; its simple and almost too-well-hidden entrance indicates its food’s quality with utmost confidence. A short-walk from Shibuya station, hungry diners after a day’s shopping can find comfort for their tummy at this lovely restaurant.

    Hanasakaji 1
    Hanasakaji-san’s special Halal stew! | Photo Source
    Hanasakaji 2
    Beef Shabu Shabu | Photo Source 

    While Hanasakaji-san is not exclusively Halal, they are thoroughly committed to providing an authentic Japanese experience for their Halal diners. Taking extra steps such as keeping their Halal meat in a separate freezers from non-Halal meat, designating utensils for Halal diners which are kept separate from non-Halal diners and even serving non-alchoholic wine and champagne, the restaurant is faithful, helpful and genuine to its Halal diners.

    Hanasakaji 4
    Eat till your heart’s (tummy’s) content! | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: Sakura Build B1f 3-22 Sakuragaoka Shibuya Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY4000~
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 1030am – 3pm, 5pm – 12am; Sat: 5pm – 12pm (Closed on every Sun)
    • Halal Status: Certified by Malaysia Halal Corporation Co. Ltd
    • Official Website: http://hanasakaji-san.jp/
      *Reservations recommended!

    4. RAMEN

    The origins of Ramen are unclear – however, Ramen has become such a popular dish in Japan that anyone who dreams of slurping down the best of these piping hot noodles would necessarily associate it with Japan. As Ramen is extremely affordable and can be found effortlessly all around Japan, it makes an ideal dining option for any traveller!

    Naritaya

    It is not uncommon for Ramen shops to use pork broth as the soup base or chashu for the Ramen toppings. But fret not, fellow Muslim travellers! Naritaya, who opened just earlier this year, is pioneering the Halal Ramen revolution so that people from all around the world can share in the enjoyment of Ramen.


    Welcoming customers from all walks of life | Photo Source

    In its carefully thought-out Halal menu, Naritaya does not use any pork or alcohol in its preparation of food. Ingredients for their Ramen include noodles made from domestic wheat produced at its very own noodle factory, refreshing chicken broth as its soup base, and toppings such as the usual nori seaweed, seasoned bamboo shoots, green onions and boiled egg.


    Halal Ramen – First of its kind! | Photo Source

    Embracing the internationality of its diners, the Japanese-ran Naritaya also has instructions in English plastered on its walls on how to eat their personalised Ramen. Naritaya even has a prayer room for its Muslims diners, including an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca. This thoughtful Ramen stall sure deserves a thumbs-up!


    Step-by-step Guide | Photo Source

    Prayer Room | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: 2 Chome 7-13 Asakua, Taito-ku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY1000~
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 11am – 10pm; Sat & Sun: 8am – 8pm
    • Halal Status: Certified by Japan Islamic Trust

    T’s Tan Tan

    As farmers’ markets become a regular feature on Tokyo’s urban landscape and diners choose to be increasingly health-conscious, we see more vegetarian restaurants and more places offering vegetarian menus to cater to the change in taste. Priding itself for using “smile veggie”, T’s Tan Tan uses only fresh vegetables and soy-meat to create a range of delicious Japanese-Western fusion dishes, including the unique vegan ramen!


    Bestseller! T’s Shoyu Ramen | Photo Source
    T's Tan Tan 3
    For spicy-flavour lovers! Shiro TanTan | Photo Source

    Located at an inconspicuous corner in JR Tokyo Station, favourable reviews rave of T’s Tan Tan creative and amazing vegan ramen, which is topped with soymeat, beansprout, green onion, seasoned chinese bamboo shoot and seaweed. I don’t know about you, but soymeat sure sounds enticing for eat-clean-foodies like us!!

    T's Tan Tan 4
    Tokyo’s first vegan ramen! | Photo Source

    Simple interior to house hungry customers | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: Keiyo Street, Tokyo Station, 1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY1000~
    • Opening Hours: Daily: 7am – 11pm
    • Halal Status: Not Halal certified, but welcomes Muslim diners (Vegetarian Restaurant)
    • Official Website: http://ts-restaurant.jp/tantan/

    5. KAISEKI

    Kaiseki refers to a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner that originates from the 16th century tea ceremony rituals. A culinary art form of the highest degree, it shows off the chef’s skills and techniques in preparing a meal that would utterly tantalize their diners’ taste buds.

    Minokichi

    Minokichi was founded in 1716 by Jurobe Satake, descendant of the highly respected Akita Satake Samurai Clan, and has a rich history in preparing the Kyoto Kaiseki cuisine. It While based in Kyoto, Minokichi has devoted to designing Halal menus for at least one of its branches in Kyoto, Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo.

    Minokichi 3
    Exquisite food models by the Shop Entrance | Photo Source

    The Muslim-Friendly menus encompass a myriad of Kyoto dishes, including traditional Japanese appetizers of  seasonal dish,  beef shabushabu, grilled fish, halal tempura, assorted simmered vegetables and more! All ingredients are meticulously prepared to ensure that the food does not include pork or alcohol. If you are craving for a slow-paced, finely detailed and delicious meal, this is your to-go!

    Minokichi 5
    Kyoto Kaiseki in a Box! | Photo Source

    Instagram-worthy Food! | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: Spice Ikebukuro Tobu 15F 1-1-25, Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY3000~ (Lunch); JPY7000~ (Dinner)
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 11am – 11pm; Sun & Pub Hols: 7pm – 10pm (Closed on New Year’s Day & 3rd Wed of February and Aug)
    • Halal Status: Certified by Kyoto Council for Sharia and Halal Affairs
    • Official Website: http://www.japanese-kyoto-cuisine.com/
      *Reservations 2 days in advance required!

    Kusumoto 

    Located in the heart of Nishi-Azabu, a quaint and serene location that homes small restaurants and bars, Kusumoto aims to provide Muslims living or visiting Japan a taste of authentic Japanese food. Serving a brilliantly designed Halal Kaiseki, the restaurant only allows dine-in during dinner. Nevetheless, one can still order their beautiful Bento boxes for lunch delivery to your door-step!


    Bento delivery for lunch on a restful day! | Photo Source

    Dinner Dine-in | Photo Source

    The beautiful restaurant is extremely committed to its Halal standards – all cookwares for halal menu are completely labelled and kept in specific places whilst all ingredients used for the Halal menu, even right down to the details such as  their seasoning, are Halal certified! If you are ever shopping around the Roppongi Hills area, be sure to check out this chic diner~

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: 3-23-5, Nishi-Azabu, Minatoku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY2000~ (Lunch – Bento Delivery ONLY); JPY10,000~ (Dinner)
    • Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 6pm – 11pm; (Closed on Closed on Sun & Pub Hols)
    • Halal Status: Certified by Nippon Asia Halal Association
    • Official Website: http://www.tokyomuslim.jp
      *Reservations required! 5 days in advance for lunch delivery; 2 days in advance for dinner

    6. FINE DINING

    Kozue

    Throwback to the olden days with traditional amber wood and handmade pottery and waitresses in kimonos – then past forward again to the modern times where you dine in a quiet restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooks the Tokyo Skyline. That interplay between Japanese traditional and modern culture is exactly what Kozue sells.

    Kozue 3
    Pamper yourself to luxurious scenery and food | Photo Source

    Breathtaking scenery | Photo Source

    Resting on the 40th floor of Park Hyatt hotel, one can even see amazing views of Mount Fuji on e a clear day. While the restaurant may be pricier than most other Halal options, it continues to be highly recommended by online Muslim travel guides. As expected of a luxury brand, the service is known to be top-notch. The waiters and waitresses explain with much patience and details the ingredients used to prepare each dish – all of which that retains the traditional element despite the restaurant’s setting – as they serve the exquisitely designed dishes to their customers.


    Sashimi – Perfectly sliced! | Photo Source
    Kozue 2
    Yonezawa Sirloin wrapped in Hoba Leaf | Photo Source
    Kozue 5
    Doesn’t this look too pretty to be eaten? | Photo Source

    In a nutshell:

    • Address: 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
    • Average Price: JPY3000~ (Lunch); JPY10,000~ (Dinner)
    • Opening Hours: Daily: 1130am – 230pm (Lunch); 530pm – 930pm (Dinner)
    • Halal Status: NIL
    • Official Website: http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/Kozue.html
      *Reservations required!
      *Dress Code: Smart Casual (Sportswear/ Beachwear not allowed)

    Read the original article on WAttention Singapore.

    No Beef with Kobe: Eat, See, Enjoy!


    picture source

    I took a day trip with K-san (unnamed for privacy) to Kobe during my week-long Japan vacation. We took the direct JR line (around 50 minutes) from our Osaka accommodation to Kobe’s central station, Sannomiya Station. Check out Japan Guide for a detailed travel guide between Osaka and Kobe!

    Wagyu immediately comes to mind when Kobe is mentioned, and I am so excited because we planned to visit a good wagyu restaurant, and do some leisurely sightseeing. The area leading to our first stop, Mt. Maya, was covered in beautiful sakura blooms lining a river. There were also many sakura trees outside the Art Center of Kobe. Appreciative remarks about the sakura made by the hanami viewers could be heard as we enjoyed our walk through the area.

    Tsubaki flower on the rail
    Tsubaki flower on the rail

    After many kirei desu ne (綺麗ですね, it’s so beautiful) the pair of us finally reached the bottom of Mt. Maya. Mt. Maya is one of the smaller peaks of the Mt. Rokko chain, and is highlighted for its scenic and natural beauty! There were already a few hikers heading up the mountain before us.

    A word of advice: wear comfortable shoes! The bottom steps of the mountain were oddly shaped so it can be difficult to climb. The hike up to the waterfall was steep but I really enjoyed the serenity of the place. Hiking never really appealed to me, but the experience is really meditative. You either introspect, admire nature, or talk to your companion. I highly recommend this for either pairs/couples or individuals. 🙂

    Can you feel the energy from the waterfall?
    Can you feel the energy from the waterfall?

    The waterfall we saw wasn’t that majestic or big, but still beautiful nonetheless. Visitors and hikers alike were quietly talking amongst themselves, keeping the peace of the place. Perhaps they are bathing in the negative ions of the waterfall!

    We decided to climb a little higher towards the observation platform, which promised a skyline of Kobe city. The platform was also surrounded by sakura trees! Few people were in this area so we could take as many pictures as we liked at our leisure.

     

     

    shrine
    A hidden shrine on the way up to the observation platform
    sakura kobe
    More beautiful sakura await at the observation deck!
    kobe skyline
    The Kobe skyline. The air was so fresh and rejuvenating! Singapore was so hazy when I left. ):

    Finally, it was time for our lunch reservation at Wakkoqu, a restaurant famous for quality Tajima wagyu! You definitely have to make an early reservation either at their website or call them directly because they are very popular. They also have English speaking staff and a website in English, so reservation is fuss-free and easy. Do double-check that you have chosen the right store as they have two locations.

    The A4 wagyu steak that went into our bellies. :D
    The A4 wagyu steak that went into our bellies. 😀

    We were ravenous for some yummy wagyu after our workout, so we ordered the Lunch Wakkoqu Course: 150g sirloin, six kinds of grilled vegetables, soup of the day (potato soup), salad, rice and Japanese pickles, dessert, and coffee. I think “heavenly” is the best adjective here.

    IMG_2855
    In midst of preparation. Can’t wait!

    We could not stop gushing about how scrumptious the food was. The course started with the potato soup, which was creamy but light with small bits of potatoes. Meanwhile, the chef brought out the A4 sirloin, while we were served the salad. We were rather disappointed that the sirloin was divided between the both of us instead of being served one each.

    The chef prepared the sauces and condiments-salt, pepper, garlic, mustard, and soy sauce-before grilling the garlic and the steak. If you have eaten good quality steak before, you will know that each piece of meat just melts in your mouth. The first piece was sprinkled with salt and pepper, the conventional way of eating steak. I really loved the meat juices that melded with salty flavour. The next piece was paired with pepper and garlic. The sweet garlic and fragrant pepper really complemented the steak. This must be what people call a medley of flavours dancing in your mouth. The third piece was quite unusual-soy sauce and mustard. I really loved the spiciness of the mustard but I felt that the soy sauce was a little underwhelming. Out of these three styles, I preferred the very first. Of course, you are always welcome to eat the steak in any way you like!

    IMG_2858
    Beansprouts and wagyu fat!

    The chef had also cut the strip of fat and cooked it with some beansprouts. It was delicious because of the added beef flavour but I probably would have just liked it the same attached to some meat. Even so, the different textures of the wagyu can really be enjoyed to the fullest. I really want to go back.

    After the starters and main course, we were served some delightful yuzu sorbet and coffee. The portions were slightly small but the food was certainly delicious. Gochisousama deshita! (Thank you for the meal!)

     

    IMG_2871
    UCC Coffee Museum Tasting: Blend coffee (left) and 100% Brazil origin coffee (right)

    We headed to the UCC Coffee Museum on a whim as it was in the area. Unfortunately, coffee tasting was over so we didn’t get any. I am slightly disappointed because UCC’s drip coffee smells really good and the kokumi (こくみ, richness or depth of flavour) is just rightnot too acidic or bitter.

    Different parts of the coffee seed
    Different parts of the coffee seed

    So now you know, coffee tasting is held at specific times! The museum’s website (in Japanese) explains that for the month of April 2016 visitors can compare blend coffee (Brazilian base) and 100% Brazilian coffee at 4 designated times.

    If you miss the coffee tasting, you can always either buy some from their cafe or the museum shop. Coffee aficionados should definitely visit at least once, even if to try the coffee or out of pure interest for the  technical details of coffee plant seasons to the interactive exhibits.

     

    The coffee belt of the world. The red line is the equator.
    The coffee belt of the world. The red line is the equator.

    There were so many interesting facts I never knew about the coffee plant, i.e. the flowers of the coffee plant are white. You can challenge the quiz they have in the museum to get a Dr. Coffee Certificate. Not to worry, they have the questions in English as well.

    I think the most interesting fact I’ve learned that day is about the coffee belt. The coffee plant is grown only between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, which points to warmer countries – but does not include Japan! The coffee plant is also rather sensitive to climate changes, so coffee may become scarce in the future. 🙁

     

    What volume of coffee beans can be harvested from a single coffee tree? Click the photo for an answer!
    What volume of coffee beans can be harvested from a single coffee tree? Click the photo for an answer!

     

    Want More Kobe? 

    These were some of the places we wanted to visit but couldn’t fit in our schedule. They shall be on our itinerary for our next trip to Kobe!

    1. Nunobuki Herb Gardens

    Nunobiki Herb Garden Glasshouse | Source
    Nunobiki Herb Garden Glasshouse | Source

    This place comes highly recommended by nature lovers due to the sheer volume of stunning flowers in the greenhouses. The area is really big so I reckon I can easily spend a hour or two strolling in the flower fields.

    2. Handmade Nada Shop

    aa5個_パッケージ_ロゴ
    Chewy Crunchy Cacao | Source

    Like its namesake, the pastries are all handmade! This shop serves delicious pastries and sweets which you can either get as a takeaway or indulge at their cafe area. The images on their website looks irresistible! Give me some now!

    3. Rokkosan Pasture and Kobe Cheese House

    The cute sheep you'll get to see at the farm | Takuya
    The cute sheep you’ll get to see at the farm | Takuya

    You should definitely visit this place if you love animals and nature! You can pet them at designated parts of the farm. There are also many hands-on activities where you can make ice cream, butter or engage in wool craft. You can also observe the cheese-making process at their factory.

    1. Mt. Rokko
    The night view from Mt. Rokko | Charlie Brown
    The night view from Mt. Rokko | Charlie Brown

    I didn’t get the chance to scale Mt. Rokko but someday, I really want to see the nightscape in person at the top of this mountain! You can also build a musical box at the Rokko International Musical Box Museum, or enjoy a leisurely walk through the Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden.

    1. Kobe Animal Kingdom
    Rock eagle owl | No
    Rock eagle owl | Noppawat Charoensinphon

    This place is basically an interactive zoo suitable for animal lovers and families. Their main feature though, is the largest collection of owls! Seasonal flowers also grace the zoo making it one of the highlights for visitors.

    1. Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
    Hakutsuru Brewery Museum | Source
    Hakutsuru Brewery Museum | Source

    Sake is known to be a Japanese alcoholic beverage but do you really know how it’s made? In addition to observing the sake-making process, you can also acquire some special sake at their museum shop!

    Read the original article on WAttention Singapore.

    Top 4 Vegan & Vegetarian Ryokan Accommodations in Japan

    Though many people say that it’s difficult to be a vegetarian in Japan, the truth is Japan has centuries worth of tradition processing plants in a plethora of delicious ways. Taking it one step further, their traditional Buddhist vegetarian cooking, called shojin ryori does not even kill plants. Using soy beans and parts of the plant without hurting the stem, these dishes are seasonal and produce very little waste, making them good for the body and the soul. If you can find the right places to eat and stay, there’s no better place to be a vegetarian than Japan!

    Speaking of finding the right places, Booking.com Japan recently announced a list of the best accommodations that are vegan and vegetarian-friendly. With this selection of ryokan (Japanese style inns) you can indulge in the complete Japan experience with top-notch Japanese hospitality and vegetarian cuisine.

    1. Myojinkan – Nagano Prefecture

    sub1
    Located in hot spring haven Tobira Onsen area in Nagano, Myojinkan boasts spacious hot spring areas as well as beautiful Japanese-style rooms.
    sub2
    Their French cuisine by chef Masahiro Tanabe are elevated works of art, combining the sensibilities of Japanese macrobiotics and holistic health with the essence of gastronomy.

    Information
    Address: Iriyamabe 8967, Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
    Access: 30 min. by shuttle bus or taxi from JR Matsumoto Station
    Book now: http://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/myojinkan.html

    2. Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin – Wakayama Prefecture

    sub3
    Stay in Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin, a ryokan within a 1200 year old Buddhist temple located at the heart of Mount Koya. Partake in Buddhist morning services and Sutra readings then soak in their hot-spring baths for a truly tranquil experience.
    sub4
    For breakfast, they provide traditional shojin ryori dishes. You will be wanting more, so make sure to reserve dinner.

    Information
    Address: Koyasan 657, Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture
    Access: 10 min. drive from Koyasan Cable Car Station
    Book now: http://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/fukuchiin.html

    3. Ryokan Koyokan – Shimane Prefecture

    sub5
    Koyokan is located within the premises of Kiyomizu Temple in Yasugi, Shimane which is part of the 33-temple route of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, giving you the best views of the surrounding nature on the temple grounds.
    sub6
    Achieve a complete state of Zen by strolling around the premises then having their shojin ryori dishes for dinner.

    Information
    Address: Kiyomizu-cho 528, Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture
    Access: 15 min. drive from JR Yasugi Train Station
    Book now: http://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/koyokan-yasugi.html

    4. Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo – Kyoto

    sub8
    Enjoy Japan’s changing seasons in this ryokan that is surrounded by beautiful Japanese gardens.
    sub7
    Located next to historical Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto, you can indulge in a vegetarian multi-course dinner, prepared in the traditional Japanese style.

    Information
    Address: Sakyou Nanzenji Fukuchi 34, Kyoto City, Kyoto
    Access: 25 min. drive from JR Kyoto Station
    Book now: http://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/kyoto-garden-ryokan-yachiyo.html

    Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Cafe

    sub7_kewpie
    Another awesome place to have lunch in Shibuya! Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Cafe just opened in Shibuya for a limited period of time until September 23. The cafe’s concept is to deepen your love of vegetables. And it’s definitely working for us!

    Their mouthwatering lunch items include a wonderful Egg & Shrimp Cobb Salad (available from Aug 24 – Sep 8) and an energizing Chicken and Grapefruit “Power Salad” (available from Sep 9 – 23).

    Egg & Shrimp Cobb Salad
    Egg & Shrimp Cobb Salad
    Chicken and Grapefruit "Power Salad"
    Chicken and Grapefruit “Power Salad”

    While their dinner menu offers Romaine Lettuce Grilled Caesar Salad and Fresh Vegetables with Colorful Mayo Dip 4-ways
    Romaine Lettuce Grilled Caesar Salad
    Romaine Lettuce Grilled Caesar Salad
    Fresh Vegetables with Colorful Mayo Dip 4-ways
    Fresh Vegetables with Colorful Mayo Dip 4-ways

    They also have some cute Kewpie and Veggie Buddies merchandise, so make sure to check it out!

    Information

    sub9Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Café
    Hours: 11am – 11pm (last order: 10pm)
    Access: A 10-min walk from JR Shibuya Station
    Address: 2F Royal Garden Cafe Shibuya, 4-3 Udagawacho, Shibuya
    URL: http://www.kewpie.co.jp/event/yasai_cafe2016/tokyo/index.html (Japanese)

    Ninja ID: ururumeru


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Melissa Wullur
    I’m an amateur writer and avid reader who’s been living in Japan since 2007. I enjoy reading and writing about food, travel, and quirky trivia. I treat 100 yen shopping as therapy.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Hokkaido: Indulge in the Paradise of Gourmet Food

    Hokkaido Food (4)

    Known as the Kitchen of the North, Sapporo boasts an endless list of delicious local specialties from ramen and fresh sea food to all sorts of sweets and confectionery. Plan your perfect Hokkaido holiday around gourmet food and get some souvenirs for your loved ones back home.

    Hokkaido Food (3)

    Miso ramen
    First developed in Sapporo, miso (soybean paste) ramen usually features plenty of hot pork lard to keep your body warm during Hokkaido’s harsh winter. Typically bean sprouts are added to balance the robust and heavy flavor of the soup. If you want to eat like a local, order extra toppings of corn and butter.

    Where to eat?
    Ramen Sumire
    URL: http://www.sumireya.com/ (Japanese only)

     Hokkaido Food (1)

    Soup curry
    This is a famous local dish that consists of rice and curry-flavored soup with lots of spices and ingredients such as vegetables, seafood, and tender chicken thighs. You can find many restaurants serving this dish around Sapporo, each with its own recipe. Besides eating in, you may as well bring home a microwavable meal of soup curry as a souvenir.

    Hokkaido Food (5)

    Where to eat?
    Soup Curry Cocoro
    URL: http://www.cocoro-soupcurry.com/english/index.html

    Hokkaido Food (2)

    Crabs and prawns
    Seafood lovers will know that Hokkaido is a land of gourmet delicacies, especially when it comes to seafood. There are three famous crabs in Hokkaido, the King Crab, the Snow Crab, and the Horsehair Crab. The best way to try everything at one sitting is to head for a sumptuous crab buffet that offers not only unlimited crabs but also fresh prawns prepared in various styles such as sushi and deep-fried tempura.

    Where to eat?
    Ebikani Gassen
    URL: http://www.ebikani.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

    Hokkaido Food (7)

    Seafood rice bowl
    Donburi Chaya is a seafood donburi (rice bowl) specialty store serving delicious seafood at incredibly low prices in Sapporo. Fresh ingredients are brought in from Nijo Fish Market, which explains why its seafood is so delicious and affordable. Donburi Chaya opens early, at 7:30 a.m., and during lunchtime it’s always packed with locals and tourists. Since it’s located right inside Nijo Fish Market, you can blend in with the lively atmosphere while enjoying a delicious meal!

    Hokkaido Food (6)

    Where to eat?
    Donburi Chaya
    URL: http://www.donburi.jp/ (Japanese only)

    Scenic Food Spots: Mori no Eki Fujisan

    Our next spot to get good food with a million-dollar view is Mori no Eki Fujisan, a newly opened eatery and souvenir shop at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Look out of their giant glass windows for a breathtaking and unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji.

    sub1_R
    sub7_R

    They serve dishes made from ingredients taken from the local area as well as fresh seafood from Suruga Bay.

    Try their green onion and pork soba, made from pork raised at the foot Mt. Fuji and buckwheat that was cultivated in nearby Gotemba.
    sub2_R

    If you prefer beef, try their “Hayashi Rice” (hashed beef rice) made to look like Mt. Fuji.
    sub3_R

    If you plan to go as a large group, you can reserve a grand meal in buffet-style, consisting of more than 20 types of dishes including sushi and freshly cut roast beef.
    sub5_R

    For an additional 2,000 yen to the price, you can even add crab to the menu!
    sub9_R

    Find interesting Fuji-themed treasures on the 1st floor souvenir shop, as well as some seasonal vegetables harvested from the surrounding area.
    omiyage
    IMG_5846

    Being at the foot of Mt. Fuji, this eatery is located in an extremely strategic spot. There is a large parking lot nearby for people planning to climb up Mt. Fuji. It is also within a short driving distance from major tourist spots around Mt. Fuji, such as the Fujisan skyline and Grinpa theme park, making this place a convenient and beautiful place to eat and rest during your trip up and around Mt. Fuji.

    Information
    Address: Shizuoka Prefecture, Susono, Suyama
    Hours: 9am – 5pm
    Telephone: 055-998-0085
    URL: http://www.pica-style.co.jp/retail/morinoeki.html (Japanese)

    Shibuya’s Peko-chan Restaurant

    In the heart of Shibuya, across from Shibuya 109 you can find a branch of Fujiya Restaurant featuring its cute mascot character Peko-chan.

    DSC_0006 Fujiya Food Service Co., Ltd. famous throughout Japan for its confectionery stores and restaurants, opened its first store in 1910 in Yokohama. The chain’s mascot is a little girl with pigtails who is constantly licking her lips.

    Her name is Peko-chan, a play on the word ‘peko peko’ which is the onomatopoetic sound for being hungry or peckish in Japanese. You can spot a figure of her in front of every Fujiya pastry shop and restaurant, greeting customers. Here is Peko-chan and her boyfriend, Poko-chan sitting above a store in Kamakura right next to Kamakura Station.

    The restaurant in Shibuya offers a cheap lunch menu with great value.DSC_0662

    The advertisement says pasta & parfait lunch, including a salad and drink for only 950 yen (tax included)! We were curious and had to try it!

    IMG_5496

    You have the choice between six different main dishes, including pasta, gratin and doria/pilaf dishes, five parfaits and several beverages.

    It was a hard decision, but in the end we ordered the shrimp & chicken macaroni gratin and the custard-pudding strawberry parfait.

    DSC_0662ss

    Our stomaches were filled and the taste was really good!

    IMG_5497

    You can even celebrate your birthday together here with Peko-chan.

    For every 500 yen you spend at the restaurant you will get one stamp on your point-card and if you collect several points you can exchange them for special Peko-chan goods at the restaurant.

    DSC_0662ssssss

    After collecting two point cards you can receive this cute, round box for example!

    Information

    Hours: 11am – 11pm
    Tel: 03-3477-2226
    Access: 5 min walk from Shibuya Station (Hachiko Exit)
    Address: Sanrui Building 2 F, Udagawa-cho 26-2, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    URL: http://shop.fujiya-peko.co.jp/b/fujiya/info/84129/

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Ginza Cozy Corner’s monthly cake-set

    Japanese people love food. They’re willing to line up for hours to enter popular restaurants and cafés, and they value taste as well as the appearance of the dishes. Therefore, cooks and pastry chefs are always making new improvements on their creations whether it is the taste or the arrangement of the menu to satisfy the high expectations of their guests.

    Ginza Cozy Corner is one of the most popular pastry factories in Japan, establishing its first shop in January, 1948 in Tokyo´s Ginza district. Throughout the decades, the company has opened 400 shops, including cafés, restaurants and take-out shops all throughout Japan.

    A cake set which comes with 9 delicacies is one of the highlights of Ginza Cozy Corner’s take-out shops. The variety and taste changes monthly and features a different theme each time.

    Until July 31st, the cake set theme was Alice in Wonderland, celebrating the new movie that was recently released in Japan. The cakes come in a beautiful designed box. If you have a long way to your destination, don´t worry, they will put ice packs inside the box, so that the cakes will stay fresh until you arrive.

    Unbenannt-2

    The artwork is very pretty and promotes the little cakes very well.

    DSC_0663

    Each piece features a character or item of the fairy tale and was additionally decorated with little plastic parts contributing to the atmosphere.

    S_4692715679709

    1 Tea jelly (Earl Grey)
    2 Tea with milk pudding
    3 Banana fresh cream & raspberry jam tart
    4 Lemon fresh cream & tea cake
    5 Pistachio fresh cream & apricot jam tart
    6 White chocolate fresh cream cake
    7 White chocolate mint fresh cream tart
    8 Raspberry cream swiss roll with strawberry jam
    9 White chocolate fresh cream & raspberry jam tart

    Unbenannt-4

    Now we’re all set for a Mad Tea-Party in the world of Alice!

    Starting August 1st, the new line of cakes features a refreshing summer theme, which seems to be a big hit during these humid hot days!

    DSC_0663

    The name of the product is “Petite Selection - refreshing cool fruits” and contains the following delicacies: 1 Lemon Tart, 2 Mango Pudding, 3 Kiwi Tart, 4 Peach Jelly, 5 Strawberry Mousse, 6 Soda Jelly, 7 Fruit Tart, 8 Passion-Mango Mousse, 9 Blueberry Tart.

    Get your cake set at your nearest branch of Ginza Cozy Corner!

    Information

    Ginza Cozy Corner – Shinjuku Station South Exit Branch
    Hours: 9am – 11pm
    Period: Aug. 1-31
    Price: 2,268 yen (tax included)
    Access: JR Shinjuku Station – South Exit within the ticket gate area.
    Address: 3-38-1 Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0022 Tokyo
    URL: Ginza Cozy Corner

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Beer and Soul Food @ B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo

    The annual B-1 Grand Prix started as an event aimed to promote Japan’s regional dishes though now the focus has shifted to a more holistic approach, promoting the local towns and cities instead of just the food. Even though this event was credited for starting the B-kyu gurume (B-grade gourmet) boom that swept the nation, the “B” in B-1 actually stands for Brand, with each region bringing their own brand to the table. And the quality of what they’re bringing is definitely not B-grade!

    sub5_R2

    The B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo Aki-Oka Caravane in Akihabara is the first certified place to serve award-winning B-1 dishes within Tokyo so you can enjoy 16 delectable local dishes from 16 different prefectures, all within a 3-minute walk from Akihabara station! Prices range from 300-700yen.

    sub2_R

    sub3_R

    As if that’s not enough, their summer beer event lets you drink all the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks you can drink in 1 hour for 980 yen.

    sub6_R

    This year’s local cuisine beer garden will continue until Sep. 30.

    Information

    B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo Aki-Oka Caravane
    Address: 15-1 Kanda Neribeicho, Chiyoda Tokyo
    Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm Sat-Sun, Holidays 11am-8pm
    Access: 3 min. walk from Electrical Town Exit, JR Akihabara station
    URL: http://www.jrtk.jp/b-1gp/index.html (Japanese)

    Scenic Food Spots: Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudo

    Good food in a picturesque place is one of the best luxuries in life and Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudou in Shari, Hokkaido gives you exactly that. Looking out to the Okhotsk sea, indulge in awe-inspiring ocean and sunset views all summer long.

    img_108342_1_R

    Opened in July, 2015, this restaurant offers seafood freshly caught off the coast of Utoro as well as rice, vegetables and other ingredients from Hokkaido.

    img_108342_4_R

    Have some fresh seafood on top of soft fluffy white rice.

    img_108342_7_R

    Or try delicious Hokkaido beef, crab or shellfish slow-grilled over hot charcoal in rustic robatayaki style.

    img_108342_2_R

    If you want something more exotic, they also have “kumadon” (bear meat rice bowl) on the menu.

    img_108342_6_R

    This restaurant is open every day until Oct. 17, 2016. They plan to open again during ice floe season (end of January – February).

    Information

    Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudou
    Address: 361 Utorohigashi, Shari, Shari District Hokkaido
    Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Dinner 6pm-9pm
    Access: http://shiretoko-hotel.jp/meal/ (Japanese)

    【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Emergency Food Items

    TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
    tokyuhands

    With an unknown future constantly looming over us, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for disasters and emergency scenarios. We need water, shelter and support from each other. But most of all, we need food! Nonperishable food items that could last a long time not only gives you a boost of energy and comfort in a time of need, but having it around in the house also gives you peace of mind. And just because they’re made for emergencies doesn’t mean that they lack in flavor! In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 delicious and nutritious emergency food items.

    rankNo. 1: Onisi Alpha rice Series

     

    th_emergencyfood-01

    Even in an emergency, don’t deprive yourself of the comfort of delicious white rice that tastes just like it would freshly steamed. Made possible by flash freezing alpha rice, all this emergency preserved rice needs is for hot water to be poured in and left for one minute to become steaming and fluffy. 100% domestic rice is used and can be kept at room temperature for five years. Available in 12 flavors such a five-mixed ingredients rice and prawn pilaf.

    Price: 302 yen~432 yen (including tax)
    Category: Emergency Food
    WAttention Editor’s comment: “The many flavors look delicious enough to eat even on a regular basis!”

     


     

    rankNo. 2: Nomura, Emergency Provision Millet Biscuits in a Can

    th_emergencyfood-02

    Nomura manufacturing has been making snacks for more than 90 years. Millet biscuits, one of the long-selling products by Nomura, have been approved by the Kochi prefecture as emergency food. Unlike the regular Millet biscuits, these emergency provisions are baked and can be stored for 5 years. Even though they are considered as snacks, they provide substantial 431 kcal per 100 gram. No eggs, milk or butter is used; they are great snacks for those who have dietary restrictions as well. Beloved by children and adults alike, their slightly sweet and comforting flavor brings a smile to everyone.

    Price: 594 yen (including tax)
    Category: Emergency Food
    WAttention Editor’s comment: “Millet biscuits are small and thin, they are easy to eat even for small children and the elderly.”

     


     

    rankNo. 3: imuraya, AZUKI-BEANS POWER EIYO-KAN

    th_emergencyfood-03

    Azuki red beans are known for their nutritional value, and these yokan – or jellied azuki red bean paste bars – are a handy way of getting an energy boost. Each bar provides 171 calories (around one bowl of rice) and is easy to chew, with a light sweet taste and requires no preparation. The packaging is also designed to be easy to open even in the dark. This traditional sweet snack also makes for a great energy bar while doing outdoor activities such as running or cycling.

    Price: 432 yen (including tax)
    Category: Emergency Food
    WAttention Editor’s Comment: “It’s a great idea to turn this classic Japanese sweet into an emergency food. Azuki red bean is an important part of the Japanese diet after all!”

     


     

    rankNo. 4: BOURBON, Canned Hard biscuit

    th_emergencyfood-04

    Baked till fragrant, these easily digestible canned biscuits are also fortified with calcium. Sugar cubes are also included in the can which is made of metal. The drying agent included helps to keep these biscuits fresh and delicious for 5 years. The container can be recapped for later consumption.

    Price: 270 yen (including tax)
    Category: Emergency Food
    WAttention Editor’s Comment: “This is a long-selling item in Japan that is often kept as a regular snack at home, not just for emergencies.”

     


     

    rankNo. 5: Can de Bo-Lo’Gne

     

    th_emergencyfood-05

    This canned Danish bread brings emergency food to a whole new level. Unlike the usual canned bread which is dry and tasteless, Can de Bologne is fragrant, mildly sweet and moist and chewy like regular Danish pastry. Not only does it make for a great treat during emergency use, it is also suitable for children’s camps, mountain climbing or travels. This canned bread maintains its freshness for 3 years and is resistant to shock.

    Price: 432 yen (including tax)
    Category: Emergency Food
    WAttention Editor’s Comment: “This delicious-looking Danish looks like it would make for a great breakfast any day!”

     


     

    TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

    Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

    WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

    スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

    A Visit to the Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku

    Wattention staff visits the Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku!

    IMG_5272

    This café is exactly what Harajuku stands for: crazy – psychedelic – cute – strange – spooky!

    The layout of the café resembles the belly of the chopstick monster. The belly symbolises Harajuku, it creates its own crazy culture by swallowing all the world’s fashion trends and turning it into Harajuku Fashion.
    S_4630057978936

    The concept of the restaurant was made by the Diamond Dining group – owner of the Alice in Wonderland theme restaurants, and Sebastian Masuda – owner of the 6% Doki Doki boutique and creator of the layout for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu´s Number one hit “Pon Pon Pon”.

    While entering the café you will walk down the tongue of Choppy the monster.

    entrance-rgb
    The doors open and you are in front of the cake shaped Merry-go-round called “Sweets Go Round”.

    merry-go-round

    The café is divided into four differently designed areas – “Mushroom Disco”, “Milk Stand”, “Bar Experiment” and the “Mel-Tea Room”. We were welcomed by two cute “Monster Girls” in crazy outfits and were guided to our seats in the “Milk Stand” area.

    milkstand

    The “Milk Stand” area features huge neon animal heads and milk bottles hanging down from the ceiling.

    mushroom

    The “Mushroom Disco” is a forest of mushrooms and huge flowers, with private seat areas.

     

    We received the summer lunch menu and decided to go for the Colorful Pop Burger.

    rent may

    The menu includes a salad, a drink, the main dish and a mini-parfait. You can choose to upgrade your dessert or drink by paying some extra money.

    food-kawaiimonster

    While waiting for the food, a 10-minute show by the Monster Girls started in front and on top of the merry-go-round!

    monstergirls

    The Monster Girls are wearing specially made crazy costumes in all different styles. Their stage names were Candy, Dolly, Baby, Crazy and Nasty. All of them speak English, and Chinese and Korean services are available as well.

    After leaving the café you will reach the merchandise area where you can purchase a lot of Kawaii Monster goods!

    Image_ee1134e

    It was an interesting experience to immerse yourself into this crazy and unique world of Harajuku.

    Read also: Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 9 for a more in-depth review of the subculture behind the cafe.

    Information

    Kawaii Monster Café

    Hours:
    Monday to Saturday Lunch Time 11:30am – 4:30pm (Last Order 4pm); Dinner Time 6pm – 10:30 (Last Order 10pm)
    Sundays and Public Holidays Lunch Time 11am – 8pm (Last Order 7:30pm)
    Entrance Fee: 500 yen per person
    Address: YM Square Building 4F, 4-31-10, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    Access: A 7-min walk from Harajuku Station (Omotesando Exit)
    URL: http://kawaiimonster.jp/pc/

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands

    Nestled in the highlands between the Yatsugatake Mountains and Minami Alps, Hokuto City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a true jewel worth exploring. Surrounded by majestic mountains from 3 sides and the view of Mt. Fuji to the south, awe-inspiring views abound no matter where you look. Only two hours by train from Tokyo, the alpine weather in Hokuto is considerably cooler, making this one of the best places to escape from the summer heat of the Kanto region.

    hokuto_DSC_1526_R

    Hokuto is blessed with some of the purest, most mineral-rich water in Japan flowing down from the mountains into their many natural springs.

    This water lends to extraordinarily tasty vegetables, fruits, and produce. It is also credited for delicious soba, wines, whiskey, and sake that is loved by many connoisseurs.

    Beautiful flowers grow in abundance here, evidenced by their many flower fields and gardens.

    hokuto-flowers

    In Hokuto you can see a blend of different cultures. Yet, all those different cultures seem to be perfectly at home here, anchored down harmoniously by the sky, the mountains and the surrounding nature.

    In the northeast, you will encounter many Western styled houses and facilities. Seisenryo that wouldn’t be out of place in the American countryside, the Blue in Green guesthouse that is reminiscent of a French country house, and Moeginomura that looks like it was taken straight out of a German fairy-tale are all within driving distance.

    A few minutes drive to the southwest will take you to a more Japanese area with expansive rice paddies and old-fashioned establishments including the Shichiken sake brewery and confectionery manufacturer, Kinseiken.

    hokuto_IMG_4347_R_R
    hokuto_IMG_4315_R_R
    hokuto_IMG_4316_R_R
    hokuto_IMG_4464_R_R

    You can enjoy outdoor activities such as horseback riding, segway tours, trail walking, or plain old trainspotting. And being out in the countryside doesn’t mean you can’t have a posh holiday. Go taste-testing in “wine resort” Risonare Yatsugatake or the Hakushu Whiskey Distillery. Hokuto also houses several art museums including the Keith Haring Museum and the Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum.

    hokuto_DSC_1385_R_R
    DSC_0780

    So what are you waiting for? Quench your thirst this summer with picturesque views, good food and drinks, and cultural experiences here in Hokuto.

    Read the rest of the series:
    The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
    The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
    The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
    The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
    The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
    Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

    Ramen Notebook : Cold Ramen by Ramen Specialist – Ishiyama Hayato

    What better way to cool down than with a bowl of ramen that “gives you the chills”? In Japan, ramen doesn’t have to be served hot and the possibilities are endless. Here are some selected shops that pride themselves in offering cool, chewy noodles with delicious clear broth. Slurp the summer heat away!

    1-1
    Cold ramen (Hiyashi ramen) 900 yen

    Beefy goodness from Yamagata
    Taiboku @Oyama

    Quality beef bones from Yamagata Japanese Black Wagyu are simmered over low flame for 12 hours every day to make a richly flavored but transparent broth. The key in making a good broth lies in the right combination of cooking time and temperature, said the shop owner, who is from Yamagata, the birthplace of cold ramen. Their roasted beef is a must taste. While most ramen shops top off their noodles with pork slices, Taiboku uses beef that is roasted over low heat until the meat is tender and almost melts in one’s mouth. Once the noodles are cooked, they are quickly poured into ice cubes for immediate cooling. Chewy noodles nestled in beefy goodness is heaven in a bowl.

    taiboku-gaikan
    Taiboku
    Hours: 11:00~15:00 and 17:00~23:00, closed every Monday
    Address: 60-15 Oyamahigashi-cho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo
    Access: Two minutes’ walk from Oyama Station

     


    2-1

    Cold ramen (Hiyashi ramen) 800 yen

    Cold Tonkotsu Ramen from Kyushu
    Saga Ramen Midori @Asakusa

    Following his apprenticeship in a 59-year-old ramen restaurant in Saga of Kyushu, the Midori owner traveled to Tokyo to open his own joint, specializing in tonkotsu ramen. He made sure that pork thigh bones are cooked for 36 hours to render a delicate but intense broth. Unlike the usual thick tonkotsu broth, Midori’s broth is light and comforting, perfect for a hot summer’s day. The noodles are thicker than Hataka style ramen but silky smooth and cooked just to the right softness. Though served cold, the bone broth doesn’t gel and comes with a rich aftertaste.

    midori-gaikan
    Saga Ramen Midori
    Hours: 11:30~14:30, closed every Wednesday
    Address: 4-24-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
    Access: Five minutes’ walk from A2 Exit Tsukuba Express line Asakusa Station

     


    3-1

    Yamagata Mizu Ramen 900 yen

    Cold Ramen Alfresco Style
    Pour café @Ginza

    It’s hard to imagine that this classy café in Ginza has ramen on their menu. What’s more surprising is that they are one of the few that serves “Yamagata Water Ramen,” a chilled bowl of soy sauce base ramen that originates from Yamagata. Using dried fish, scallop, and mushroom as a base for broth is quite common in the northeast region of Japan. The taste is very different from the typical tonkotsu or chicken soup because the broth is first frozen into blocks and then taken out of the fridge right before serving. Decorated with green onions, boiled eggs, bamboo shoots and tasty pork, the ramen is definitely an enjoyment for both the palate and the eyes.

    midori-gaikan
    Pour café
    Hours: 7:30~23:30 Monday to Thursday, 7:30~25:00 Friday, 9:00~23:30 Saturday, 9:00~18:00 Sunday and holidays (ramen is served after 11:30)
    Address: 1-14-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
    Access: Two minutes’ walk from Ginza Ichome Station

     


    ishi
    Author
    Ramen Specialist – Ishiyama Hayato
    Ishiyama has authored more than 20 books on ramen and interviewed more than 2,000 ramen restaurants. He set up a ramen research club while in college and visited more than 7,000 ramen joints across Japan’s 47 prefectures—eating two bowls per day. Follow him for the latest ramen updates!

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ishiyamahayato

     

    Freshest of the Fresh: Seafood from the Sanriku Coast

    海の幸
    Sanriku refers to the three northeastern prefectures facing the Pacific Ocean: Aomori, Miyagi and Iwate. The Sanriku Coast is a bountiful fishing ground, supplying huge amounts of fresh, quality fish throughout the country for hundreds of years. In autumn and winter, fish and other sea creatures gorge themselves in preparation for the long cold season, enriching their flavor. As an example, Iwate’s donko hot pot features locally caught white-spotted greenling that release an intense, robust flavor of the sea. Miyagi and Aomori also are known for juicy seafood dishes bursting with remarkable flavor and served with exceptional creativity. Every city located along the coast has a fish market or two, so take a chance to taste the freshest of the local specialties on the spot – or bring home some fantastic seafood as souvenirs!

    Make your own “Nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings)” by adding the freshest seafood at Furukawa Fish Market.
    Make your own “Nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings)” by adding the freshest seafood at Furukawa Fish Market.
    Aomori: Tuna butchering demonstration at Oma Town Tuna Festival
    Aomori: Tuna butchering demonstration at Oma Town Tuna Festival
     Ippachizushi  Address: 1-10-11 Shinmachi Aomori-shi Aomori  Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon. to Sat.), 11:30am to 9pm (Sun. & Holidays)

    Ippachizushi

    Address: 1-10-11 Shinmachi Aomori-shi Aomori
    Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon. to Sat.), 11:30am to 9pm (Sun. & Holidays)

    Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

    The common soba (buckwheat noodles) is made from buckwheat flour mixed with wheat flour that acts as a “tsunagi” or binding agent that keeps the dough together. Only soba restaurants with the most skilled craftsmen are able to produce Juwari soba, which consists entirely of buckwheat and Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi is one of them.

    soba_facade_R

    No need to hide
    You can see for yourself how skilled their soba craftsmen are through the big window that looks into the kitchen.

    soba_DSC_0740_R

    Even in the peak of summer which is said to be the hardest time of the year to produce soba, they were able to roll and fold the dough evenly, their quick and precise cuts producing uniformly thin soba noodles.

    soba_IMG_4033_R

    Water worth fighting for
    The secret of Sanbuichi’s soba lies in the spring where they got their name and water from. Sanbuichi Yusui is arguably the most famous spring in Yatsugatake. Legend says that Takeda Shingen, an exceptionally famous samurai warlord divided the flowing water into three using this triangular stone in order to settle a feud among his farmers over the spring water.

    soba_IMG_4055_R

    The water comes from the snow and rain that falls on the peaks of Yatsugatake which then filters through the ground, emerging as pure water filled with healthy minerals. The water flows throughout the year, neither drying out during summer, nor freezing over during winter.

    soba_IMG_4052

    Soba so good
    We tried their Juwari Soba Tenmori, which consists of Juwari soba and a side-dish of crispy tempura of season vegetables and shrimp. The tempura batter is thin enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the fresh vegetables. Dip them lightly in fine-grained salt for a subtle flavor. The soba is fragrant and has just enough chewiness in them. Put a bit of wasabi on the soba before dipping them in the tsuyu (dipping stock).

    soba_DSC_0752_R

    soba_IMG_4040_R

    Afterwards, pour some soba-yu (hot water mixed with buckwheat flour) into the leftover tsuyu and drink it like a soup. It’s believed to give you longevity.

    Don’t forget to visit the farmer’s market shop adjacent to the restaurant where you can pick up vegetables and rice from the surrounding fields, some Shingen mochi (with a picture of Takeda Shingen on the packaging!) or some buckwheat flour and tsuyu to make your own soba-yu at home.

    soba_DSC_0761_R

    soba_IMG_4019_R

    soba_IMG_4043_R

    soba_IMG_4045_R

    Noodle flavor rate: ★★★★★
    Freshness of ingredients:★★★★★

    Restaurant information

    Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi
    Price range: 1,000 yen – 5,000 yen
    Location: 292-1 Nagasakacho Koarama, Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture
    Access: A 10-min walk from Kai-Koizumi Station

    Read about other interesting spots in Hokuto City:
    The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
    The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
    The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
    The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
    The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots

    Looks Great, Tastes Even Better: Kozuyu Soup, Fukushima Prefecture

    kozuyu_dummy
    Originally developed for the samurai class, kozuyu later spread among the common people and has become a must for festivals, celebrations and momentous occasions in Aizu. In the past, fresh seafood was hard to come by in the landlocked region, so dried scallops and bonito were used to add flavor to the soup, which contains taro potatoes, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and tiny balls of wheat gluten called mamefu.

    What’s up with Watermelon

     

    Watermelon (Suika スイカ) and Japanese summer go together like fireworks and yukata. This refreshing fruit is in season from June to August and is best eaten during beach parties or while relaxing on your porch at home. But no matter where you decide to eat it, its taste means summer.

    A fancy gift

    Fruit in Japan is very expensive and the watermelon is no exception. Some of the most famous watermelons auction for 350,000 yen a piece during the first days of harvest. And then there’s a special type of black watermelon grown in Hokkaido that retails for around 5,000 yen apiece. But why is fruit so expensive?

    Unlike the West, fruit is not an everyday item in Japan and therefore it is considered a luxury product. Gift giving is a Japanese tradition and is meant to show appreciation or build a relationship. The importance of gifts is not to be taken lightly and there are luxury stores dedicated to fruit gifts. Combined with the fact that Japanese farmers only want the best fruit, removing the bad or misshapen fruits from the general market. This means fewer fruits actually make it to the store and this increases the price.

    7f4ff7535d12162454c7be60114666ba_s

    You want it round or square?

    Japan gained international watermelon fame with the introduction of the square watermelon. The reason why farmers decide to grow their fruits in square glass boxes is so that it would fit better in refrigerators. This type of watermelon quickly became a product of luxury instead of a product of convenience. Nowadays you can also find watermelons in heart shapes, with a face printed on them or even in the shape of a human face! A square watermelon is not a common sight in supermarkets, so be prepared to pay at least 10,000 yen for a regular sized one.

    Square melons

    Suikawari (スイカ割り) – the art of smashing watermelons

    If you want to eat your watermelon in an original and destructive way, look no further. Suikawari is a summer game where a blindfolded person attempts to smash a watermelon with a stick. Everyone takes turns and the first person to crack the watermelon open wins. Usually a sheet or piece of cardboard is placed under the watermelon so the smashed pieces are kept safe from the ground.

    Suikawari is so popular that in 1991 the “Japan Suika-Wari Association (JSWA)” established a set of written rules for the game. The association no longer exists but it is pretty amazing that it even did. Some of the rules concerned the distance between the watermelon and the player, the type of stick to be used and JSWA-recognized blindfolds were to be used. Judges at the competition were required to have eaten at least ten watermelons in the current year. It makes you wonder how they were even able to check all these rules.

    9abe29e30a15d62efcfc8cf07e3e0654_s

    You want some salt with that melon?

    Japanese fruits is generally sweeter than the fruit most people are used to. But this is not the reason you will sometimes see Japanese add salt to their watermelon. There are three possible reasons for adding salt to a watermelon. Firstly, it is used to increase the already sweet taste of the fruit. Apparently adding salt to something sweet increases your taste buds’ reception to any sweet flavor. Secondly, summer is a very hot and humid season in Japan and your body craves salt because of excessive sweating. The warmth actually makes you crave salt and the addition of a cool watermelon makes it all the more refreshing. And finally, watermelons in Japan are almost always iced or cooled making them nice and refreshing. However, the cold temperature removes some of the sweet flavor and it can only be resurrected by using some salt.

    4a4c95ec1752cec6b125db4df170054b_s

    We hope you get to enjoy many watermelons during your summer in Japan!

    Salmon Harvest: Delicacies Abound, Niigata Prefecture

    Murakami, dubbed “the Salmon City,” has a long history of catching and processing salmon. Over the centuries, the area has accumulated hundreds of homemade recipes that range from fermented, salted and sake-marinated salmon to salmon simmered in miso broth. When preparing fi sh, the locals make sure nothing is wasted: heads, bones and entrails are used either as main ingredients for stock or grilled to the perfect texture. During New Year’s season, many households hang rows of salmon upside down from the ceiling to dry; it’s a truly unique spectacle well worth seeing!

    “Hizu Namasu” pickled salmon head with radish and salmon roe
    “Hizu Namasu” pickled salmon head with radish and salmon roe
    “Shake no Sakebitashi” sake-marinated salmon
    “Shake no Sakebitashi” sake-marinated salmon

    Heart Warming, Soul Lifting: Imoni and Konnyaku, Yamagata Prefecture

    Imoni

    芋煮_R
    Imo, or tubers in Japanese, are traditionally a staple food in Tohoku. It is dense in nutrients and an ideal source of carbohydrates. The root vegetable is often cooked with meat and served in a thick soup for visitors, family and friends. In autumn, locals often gather near a river and enjoy imoni together, a tradition called imonikai.

    Konnyaku

    玉こんにゃく_R
    Konnyaku has been known as a “miracle food” in Japan since about 1,200 years ago. The jelly-like substance is said to have many significant benefits, such as detoxification and beauty enhancement, and is loved by all generations. In Yamagata, people like to have their konnyaku in a round shape and skewered on a bamboo stick. The savory snack is an essential part of festive activities in Yamagata.

    Photos provided by Miyagi Prefecture Tourism Division

    Scrumptious Winter: Iburigakko & Kiritanpo Hot Pot, Akita Prefecture

    Kiritanpo

    きりたんぽ3
    Kiritanpo, mashed, steamed rice in the shape of a cylinder, is a specialty that is welded strongly on the identity of Akita Prefecture. In the past, kiritanpo was an easy-to-carry preserved food used primarily by hunters. Today, however, the delicacy is cut into bitesized pieces and served in a hot pot with chicken and a variety of vegetables.

    Traditionally, kiritanpo is grilled over an open hearth.

    kiritanpo


    Iburigakko

    いぶりがっこ2_R
    Iburigakko, smoked radish, is one of the most famous pickled vegetables in Tohoku. Smoked with cherry blossom wood then preserved with salt and malted rice, the appetizer gives off a fabulous aroma and goes perfectly with any variety of sake.

    TOKYO MIDTOWN ♡ SUMMER

    Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi opened its yearly summer event last week! You can enjoy and explore five summer themed areas until August 28th.

    The highlight of the event is the Summer Light Garden, which opens between 6:30pm and 11pm and shows three 6-minute light shows within one hour. The illuminations are based on the three biggest and most popular fireworks from Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture (shown from August 1st until August 14th), Oomagari in Akita Prefecture (shown from July 15th until July 31st) and Tsuchiura in Ibaraki Prefecture (shown from August 15th until August 28th).

    DSC_0635

    rent may

    DSC_0724

    The representative director of Tokyo Midtown, Mr. Yasuhiro Nakamura (the person wearing a Yukata on the left) announced that this year is the 10th anniversary of Tokyo Midtown. He also shared his vision for its 20th or 30th anniversary; he aspires to change Tokyo Midtown into an even more sparkling place with the grand firwork illumination!

    Next to the Summer Light Garden is the Bacardi Midpark Café. You can enjoy several Mojito drinks made with Bacardi Rum, as well as different kinds of grilled food and salads.

    DSC_0628 DSC_0597

    DSC_0602 DSC_0605

    If you are here with friends, why not try the the “Mega Water Melon Mojito” (5,000 yen) or the “Mega Pineapple Mojito” (2,000 yen)?

    DSC_0614 DSC_0609

    One of the recommended food items is the BBQ plate which comes with grilled chicken, spare ribs, smoked sausage and fries (2,400 yen).

    DSC_0612

    In the vicinity, there are a lot of areas to explore. The third spot features the Ashimizu area which literally means putting your feet into the little stream, and enjoy the evening breeze and relax. The fourth spot is inside the Galleria building, where you can see about 450 wind chimes in 15 different styles. This event is called Furin Saisai. The last event features the Roppongi sprinkling water event on July 22nd, where you pour water on the streets to cool down the city.

    On this map you can see the different locations of the events:

    Unbenannt-1

    1. Summer Light Garden
    2. Bacardi Midpark Café
    3. Ashimizu
    4. Furin Saisai – Wind chime area
    5. Roppongi sprinkling water event

    Information

    Summer Light Garden
    Date: July 15th until August 28th
    Hours: 7:30pm – 11pm (cancelled in case of rain)
    Entrance fee: free

    Bacardi Midpark Café
    Date: July 15th until August 28th
    Hours: 5pm – 10pm (L.O. 9:30pm) during weekdays; 12 – 10pm (L.O. 9:30om) during weekend and public holiday (closed in case of rain)
    Price range: drinks 500 yen – 5,000 yen, food 800 yen – 2,400 yen
    Seats: 100, reservation not possible

    Ashimizu
    Date: July 15th until August 28th
    Hours: 2pm – 8pm (cancelled in case of rain)
    Entrance fee: free (optional: towel 100 yen)
    Seats: 60

    Furin Saisai – Wind chime
    Date: July 15th until August 28th
    Hours: 11am – 9pm
    Entrance fee: free

    Roppongi sprinkling water event
    Date: July 22th
    Hours: reception 5:20pm; start 5:40pm
    Entrance fee: free, please bring an empty 2l bottle

    Tokyo Midtown
    Access:
    Direct access from Roppongi Station, Exit 8 (Toei Oedo Line); Exit 4a (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line)
    3-min walk from Nogizaka Station, Exit 3 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
    10-min walk from Roppongi-itchome Station, Exit 1 ( Tokyo Metro Namboku Line)
    Address: 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 107-0052 Tokyo
    URL: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/events_news/detail.php?id=697

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Combini Checkout: A beginner’s guide to Onigiri

    Whether it be for a outdoor picnic or a quick lunch break at your office desk, the Japanese rice ball, onigiri or omusubi is filling, convenient, and can pack a whole lot of flavor. It has been in the diet of Japanese people for so long, they say you can tell a person’s character by their choice of onigiri!

    For the same reason, any decent Combini (convenience store) in Japan will have at least one dedicated rack with a variety of onigiri. Here are some of the most common types and the personalities that favor them:

    1. 鮭 Shake/Sake

    shake
    Salmon that is grilled with salt then shredded, it should always be perfectly seasoned and not dry. People who favor this filling tend to take things slowly. They are also deliberate, strong-willed and steadfast in their principles.

    2. ツナマヨ Tuna Mayo

    tunamayo
    Sometimes also called シーチキン (Sea chicken), the tuna should not be overwhelmed by the mayonnaise, and the mix should be creamy and slightly tart. People who like this filling are said to be of pure heart and possess inner beauty, but also have a tendency to be hard-headed.

    3. 昆布 Kombu

    kombu
    Shredded Kombu (edible kelp) that is cooked in a soy sauce based mixture until tender, it should taste slightly salty and sweet. People who like this filling are said to favor simplicity. They avoid complications and prefer things (and relationships) that are straightforward.

    4. 明太子 Mentaiko

    mentaiko2
    Mentaiko or spicy cod roe, is sometimes mixed with karashi (mustard), mayonnaise, egg or other ingredients. People who choose mentaiko are tuned in to new trends and are up to date. They also tend to be good at fashion, cooking, and/or socializing.

    5. 梅干し Umeboshi

    umeboshi
    Salty and sour pickled plum, it is sometimes cut up and mixed in with the rice. People who prefer umeboshi in their onigiri are said to be faithful and reliable. They also tend to be extremely detailed and prefer to do things properly.

    Other types of onigiri

    焼きおにぎり Yaki onigiri – Rice basted with sauce and grilled without filling.
    yakionigiri

    おかか Okaka – Dried bonito flakes seasoned with soy sauce.
    okaka2

    赤飯 Sekihan – sticky rice steamed with adzuki beans, tinting the rice with a reddish color.
    sekihan2

    Also check out our other Combini Checkout articles:
    Combini Checkout: A beginner’s guide to bottled tea


    WAttention Ninja Writer Profile

    melissa-profile100

    Melissa Wullur
    I’m an amateur writer and avid reader who’s been living in Japan since 2007. I enjoy reading and writing about food, travel, and quirky trivia. I treat 100 yen shopping as therapy.

    Ninja ID: ID001-M

    Q-POT Café attracts guests with their new Sailor Moon themed menu

    After the popular “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” exhibition which was held until June 19th in Mori Tower in Roppongi, Q-POT Café located in Omotesando follows the hype by creating a new menu featuring the different characters of the popular Anime and Manga series.

    Q-POT is more known as a jewelry brand, producing jewelries and accessories in the shapes of cookies, chocolates, and other confectioneries. A majority of their fan-base are girls who are into Lolita Fashion. For those who don’t know, this fashion style is based on Victorian clothes, featuring a knee length skirt or dress with a petticoat underneath, a frilly blouse, knee high socks, and a headdress.

    DSC_0623a

    Wattention staff visited the Café on Saturday, July 9th. For now, entering the café requires you to make a reservation online. Be prepared since during this reservation process you already need to decide what you would like to eat, as well as where you would like to sit. The payment needs to be made in advance as well.

    We ordered the “Pink Sugar Heart Parfait” together with the “Gift of the Moon Fairies Tea”, which comes as a set for 2,500 yen (tax not included).

    DSC_0607aaThe parfait consists of a star shaped sugar paste on the top, Chibi-Usa´s accessory made of a heart jewelry shaped strawberry jelly, strawberry sorbet, a heart-shaped cookie, fresh fruits, strawberry cream, fresh strawberry purée, peach jelly, cornflakes and custard sauce. You will also receive the special designed Chibi-Moon coaster as a present.

    The Tea represents the colors of the three cats, Luna, Artemis and Diana who appear in the anime. The upper part of the drink filled with fresh cream and milk comes in shape of Artemis, the white cat. The ears and the moon sign are made of white chocolate. The blueberry and cassis purée in the lower part of the drink resembles the color of Luna. If you mix the two colored ingredients together, they turn into the same color as Diana, the daughter of Artemis and Luna. Now you can enjoy a delicious blueberry milk drink.

    DSC_0604aaa

    Specially made Sailor Moon merchandise is also available in the store.

    DSC_0610aaa

    If you make a purchase over 15,000 yen at the Q-Pot store, you will receive one of these limited “Sailor Moon x Q-Pot” fans as a present, perfect for the hot and humid summer in Japan.

    DSC_0611a DSC_0615a

    You are welcome to take a picture together with Tuxedo Mask´s silhouette.

    DSC_0612a DSC_0613a DSC_0617a

    The special designed mug featuring the lovely cat family can be purchased in the café. The tail of Artemis forms a Q which acts as the handle.

    The Café consists of different rooms, each featuring a different theme.

    DSC_0618a DSC_0619a

    On the picture you can see the Whip Strawberry room and the Religieuse room.

    Information

    Q-POT Café – Sailor Moon Menu Period
    Hours: 11:30am – 7:30pm (Last Order: 7pm), Closed during New Year
    Tel: 03-6427-2626
    Price: 1,950 yen to 3,900 yen (tax not included)
    Access: A 3-min walk from Omotesando Station B2 Exit
    Address: Kita Aoyama 3-10-2, Minato-ku, 107-0061 Tokyo
    URL: https://www.q-pot.jp/shop/cafe/?eng=1

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Edo Tokyo Soba no Kai : One-day soba making lesson

    Become a Soba master

    Love eating Soba (buckwheat) noodles? You’re not the only one, as these noodles have been a beloved specialty in Tokyo ever since the Edo period. Especially since soba is considered auspicious in Japan.

    Seiiro soba

    If you’re wanting to do more than just eat soba, why not try making it? See if you’ve got what it takes to become a Soba master!
    Edo Tokyo Soba no Kai is a soba making school in Tokyo that offers one-day lessons on making your own Soba by hand with English interpreters.

    edo-sobauchi

    Learn how to start from ground soba grains and shaping the dough to rolling and cutting. The instructors do a good job in walking you through the steps.

    soba

    And of course, afterwards you can enjoy the deliciously fresh soba noodles that you’ve made!

    230c1bcb920b648f79ac969a3db447a9_m

    Prior reservation is required. You can do that in English by sending an email to [email protected]

    ■Days: One-day classes are offered in English on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
    ■Hours: 11am–1:30pm; 3pm–5:30pm
    ■Address: Higashi Tateishi 3-248, Katsushika
    ■Access: 5-min walk from Keisei Tateishi Station (Keisei Oshigami Line)
    ■URL: http://www.edotokyosoba.com (Japanese)

    In Harmony with the Seasons : Tanabata

    Traditional delicacies of the summer: “Somen (fine noodles)”were originally intended as a treat, dedicated to deceased children so that they wouldn’t feel neglected. The paper mulberry leaves were used to write wishes on, later replaced by the colorful strips of paper used for Tanabata decorations. text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
    Traditional delicacies of the summer: “Somen (fine noodles)”were originally intended as a treat, dedicated to deceased children so that they wouldn’t feel neglected. The paper mulberry leaves were used to write wishes on, later replaced by the colorful strips of paper used for Tanabata decorations.
    text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
    Japan has four distinct seasons and there is a strong tradition of rituals and festivals closely connected to each season. Two of the major festivals of the summer are “Tanabata” and “Obon”. The actual dates of these events varies depending on the region, but both are festivals of remembrance, for literally ’communing’ with the souls of people passed away, including ancestors. The “Mukaebi (welcoming torch)”
    and the “Okuribi (farewell torch)” are lit at each end of the Obon period to help souls navigate between worlds. Food also plays an important part in Japanese rituals. Pictured above are the seasonal delicacies of summer, such as chilled watermelon, somen (fine noodles usually eaten cold), edamame (young soya beans in the pod), azuki bean jelly,pickles… they all have significance. The origin of the 5 colored cloth and paper mulberry leaves
    lies in the tradition of animism: they are used to thank mother nature and pray for a good harvest. This is a picturesque, traditional summer table.


    Rieko Ido
    A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

    Yamagata Adventure (3) – Summer Sweets Hunting

    Tendo-City is not only famous for its delicious cherries and Shogi (Japanese chess) production, but also it’s a heaven for sweets lovers as well! After visiting the Oh! Show! Café located on the grounds of OHSYO FRUITS FARM, we visited two more places which serve delicious desserts to die for!

    1. Akatsuka Ice Production – Ice Café ‘Kosui’

    Akatsuka Ice Production was founded in 1908. They began producing ice products by using natural spring water from the Amayobari Mountain near Tendo-City.

    Unbenannt-2a

    During the past 120 years, they have became one of the leading ice manufacturing companies by expanding their products which include ice cubes in all sizes and forms, as well as ice balls!

    Unbenannt-20aDSC_1025aa

    Kosui started as a street stall and opened its own café in 2016 so that customers can enjoy the freshly made ice sweets even on rainy days. Kosui is popular for its ‘Kakigori,’ a dessert made of shaved ice which is popular in summer. Syrup and condensed milk are used as a topping to add flavor and sweetness to the shaved ice mountain.

    Unbenannt-8a

    BRN001BA9EC6508_010248a

    Since all the ingredients are provided by nearby farms and suppliers, the list of flavors changes by season. The selection which is available right now is shown on the wall, but according to the Café´s pamphlet there are many more varieties throughout the year.

    There are two options for ordering a Kakigori dessert. The normal one is made out of shaved ice and the sweet topping. The special one comes with soft serve cream hidden inside the mountain of shaved ice!

    My recommendation would be the special Kakigori, since the shaved ice won’t melt so fast due to the soft serve cream inside.

    Unbenannt-1a

    The process of creating a Kakigori dessert. The topping consists of Strawberry sauce and purée, as well as sweet condensed milk.

    Unbenannt-AUnbenannt-B
    Closeups of the Sweet Strawberry Milk, Cherry Milk, Kiwi Yogurt and Brown Sugar Syrup Azuki Bean Milk Kakigori dessert.

    Information

    Akatsuka Seihyo – Ice Café Kosui
    Hours:
    May- September: 10:30am – 4:30pm (Monday to Friday), 10am – 5pm (Sat, Sun and Holidays), Closed on Tuesdays
    October – April: 11am – 4pm (Monday to Friday), 10:30am – 4:30pm (Sat, Sun and Holidays), Closed on Tuesdays
    Tel: 023-653-2446 (9am – 5pm)
    Price: 200 yen to 600 yen
    Access: A 15-min walk from Tendo Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
    Address: Kabushikigaisha Akatsuka Seihyo, Higashi-Honcho 3-6-40, Tendo-shi, 994-0026 Yamagata
    URL: http://www.akatuka-ice.com/enjoy_ice/


    2. Fruttier Fruit Bar

    Fruttier is famous for its fresh fruits and its fruit desserts. The name “Fruttier” is a shortened version of the phrase “Fruits Communicator.”

    Unbenannt-4aaa Unbenannt-4aa

    The most popular dessert is called Pontiti, a fruit punch like dessert in which a variety of freshly cut fruits are mixed together creating a perfect harmony. No colorings, flavors, preservatives are added, you can enjoy the freshest and purest flavor! The cute Pontiti characters welcome the visitors behind the counter of the Fruit Bar.

    Unbenannt-2aaaa

    Besides all the yummy parfaits, home-made juices and fruit shakes, you can also buy actual fresh fruits and the Pontiti fruit dessert (Mango 4,320 yen, Melon 4,320 yen, Fruit Pontiti 324 yen).

    Unbenannt-2aUnbenannt-3a

    We ordered the Cherry Parfait, with chocolate flavored whipped cream and the Fruit Mix Parfait with Kiwi Purée topping.

    Information

    Fruttier Fruit Bar
    Hours: 10am – 6pm (Closed on Monday)
    Tel: 0120-45-6651
    Price: 308 yen – 928 yen
    Access: A 10-min walk from Tendo Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
    Address: Fruttier Fruit Bar, Mikkamachi 1-4-2, Tendo-shi, 990-0036 Yamagata
    URL: http://fruttier.com/fruitbar/

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Picturesque Matsumoto (8) – The Strange Ice Cream of Matsumoto –

    Icecream_sm2

    During our visit to Matsumoto City in Nagano prefecture, Wattention staff found some very interesting ice cream flavors. Please enjoy these unique finds when you make a trip to Matsumoto and don’t forget to check out our other articles for more sightseeing spots.

     

    1) Cream Cheese

    Found during our hike in Kamikochi, this ice cream can be purchased in a souvenir shop at the main bus terminal near Kappabashi bridge. It tastes very refreshing during a warm day and the cheese flavor is not too overpowering.

    Cream Cheese Ice Cream

    2) Wasabi

    We all know it as that green spicy substance served with sushi, but did you know it also makes great ice cream? Don’t be afraid to try this frozen green treat as even non-wasabi lovers will be able to handle it. There is no hint of the sharp wasabi flavor, you’re only left with a nice and mild green taste. Available at the Daio Wasabi Farm.

    Wasabi Ice Cream

    3) Miso

    This was the weirdest but also the most surprising flavor in all of Matsumoto. Miso is made from fermented soybeans and is a staple in the Japanese kitchen. Producing that uniqe Japanese umami flavor, miso is becoming loved all over the world. But we never would have thought about putting it in ice cream! The flavor is very unique and reminiscent of sweet and salty English fudge. Only available at the Ishii Miso Brewery.

    Miso Ice Cream - resize

    Big lunch with great value in Shibuya’s back streets

    Having our office in Shibuya means that there is a plethora of lunch options for WAttention staff to choose from and thus we are always on the lookout for value for money restaurants that offer satisfying lunches.

    Yesterday we discovered a new restaurant called Café Restaurant M.Nature Aoyama, which is located in the back streets of Shibuya, right across the street from Aoyama Gakuin University.

    IMG_4611

    We walked into a serene interior filled with fresh greenery. It was like stepping into a little oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya. The concept of the restaurant is to offer safe and healthy meals for customers.

    Their lunch menu features a total of three different main dishes. You can choose between pasta (900 yen), a salad (900 yen) or the daily special (1,000 yen).

    Yesterday’s daily special was Omurice, an omelette filled with fried rice and topped with ketchup. The eggs were soft and creamy, a perfect match for the fried rice. The set also included a salad, a drink and a dessert as well. The amount was huge, I almost couldn’t finish it!

    DSC_0211
    Salad, Omurice and Gateau chocolat for dessert

    Everything was very delicious and our stomachs were comfortably full with yummy goodies!
    They also offer a wide range of cakes from NY style cheese cake to orange & spinach pound cake. Maybe next time we will try their cake set!

    Information

    Café Restaurant M.Nature Aoyama
    Hours: 11:30am – 11pm (Mon. – Fri.), 12:00 – 11pm (Sat. & public holidays)
    Access: A 8-min walk from JR Shibuya Station (East Exit), a 7-min walk from Omotesando Station (Exit B1)
    Address: Luka Building B1, Shibuya 2-2-3, Shibuya-ku, 150-0002 Tokyo
    URL: http://mnature.jp

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Picturesque Matsumoto (4) – Daio Wasabi Farm –

    You know wasabi as that green thing they serve with your Sushi, but do you know how it’s grown? 32km north from the center of Matsumoto City is a 15 hectares wasabi farm that has been in operation since 1915. Its location and prosperity is no coincidence, as the fresh Alps water provides the most ideal conditions for the perfect wasabi.

    4

    わさび_160205_cs 2
    Wasabi is a fickle root and takes a lot of effort to grow. If the leaves are damaged the whole growth process of the plant can slow down. The root needs constant caring since it requires plenty of fresh water. Furthermore, the plant can take up to three years to grow for the flavor to fully develop. This is why some wasabi can be very expensive. But for those who love Sushi with wasabi, it’s worth the wait and money.

    During the warmer months with plenty of sunshine, farmers cover the wasabi with black nets so the sun doesn’t damage their leaves. The temperature of the water at Daio Wasabi Farm is kept at a constant 13°C all year.

    9

    Wasabi

    But the farm is not the only reason why visitors come to this area. There are beautiful walking trails between the fields where you can take in the fresh air and admire the crystal clear water from the Japanese Alps. Near the farm stands the Daio Shrine which enshrines the spirit of ancient local hero Hachimen Daio. It’s no wonder the farm was named after him.

    3 10

    All the parts of the wasabi are harvested and processed for consumption. The restaurant and food stalls near the farm offer all kinds of food with wasabi: From the popular wasabi soba noodles to refreshing wasabi ice cream. If that’s not enough wasabi for you, stop by the gift shop and surprise your friends with some wasabi beer, wasabi chocolate, wasabi crackers, etc…

    wasabi food

    If you want to spice up your journey, come over to Daio Wasabi Farm where you can try all things Wasabi.

    Information

    Access: A 10-min taxi ride from Hotaka Station (JR Oito Line). Rental bikes (15-min) are also available in front of Hotaka station for 200 yen/hour.
    Admission: Free
    Hours: 8:45am – 5:30pm (April – October), 9am – 4:30pm (November – March)
    URL: http://www.daiowasabi.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

    Little Mermaid themed Sweets Buffet at Keio Plaza Hotel

    Since the sweets buffet events are very popular among Japanese young women, the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku adds to that trend and prepares a special menu every month. The buffet’s main theme for this summer is the “Little Mermaid” and between June and August you can enjoy refreshing desserts and cakes. For June a range of blueberry flavored dishes are prepared, for July special peach flavored desserts are planned, and the main flavor for August’s menu will be mango.

    Wattention staff tried out the buffet on Sunday afternoon at the Hotel’s restaurant “Jurin.” The beautiful ocean-themed decoration and the LED board which highlighted a selection of desserts raised our spirits.

    DSC_1273

    DSC_1273a

    DSC_0136
    Colored roses, blue and green candles, as well as hydrangea flowers which represent the rainy season in Japan are used for decorations.

    We entered the restaurant and were guided to our table in front of the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the garden.

    DSC_0139

    The event starts at 3pm, so we had the chance to take a closer look at the already set up buffet and take some pictures.

    DSC_0151qqq
    We received an explanation about the buffet and the time limit, as well as the drink menu.

    The all-you-can-drink menu is in Japanese, but the staff will explain everything in English as well. You can choose between a variety of coffee, iced beverages and juice. Regarding the tea menu, a self service counter is set up to prepare your own pot of tea.

    At 3pm we were allowed to enter the buffet and lined up in front of the mouth-watering delicacies.
    DSC_0124Everything is carefully prepared, looks cute and tastes delicious.

    DSC_0128
    Round shaped rusk and Danish pastry with blueberry filling.

    DSC_0137

    DSC_0132
    Cold and iced desserts are served as well.
    DSC_0133aaa
    From left, Mermaid Blue Sky Gelee, Pasta in Tropical Soup, Blue Soup and Honey Tiramisu.

    DSC_0131

    Unbenannt-1
    Rare cheesecake tart.
    DSC_0129sss
    Blueberry waffle sandwich and rice flour role-cake.

    Beside desserts, you can choose a variety of savory dishes as well, like sandwiches, mini burgers, pasta, fried chicken, fries or variations of bread.

    DSC_0120aa

    DSC_0144

    DSC_0152a

    DSC_0038Everything was very delicious and we had the chance to experience new flavor compositions as well. We are excited for the next month buffet!
    You will receive a point card during the payment.

    The card is valid for one year. If you collect 5 stamps, the next sweets buffet is for free! This is a really good deal and made us want to come back for the next buffet.

    Information

    Jurin – All Day Dining (Sweets Buffet – Little Mermaid)
    Date: June until August
    Time: 3pm – 5:30pm (Last Order 5pm)
    Price: 3,800 yen (Adults), 2,600 yen (Children between 4-12 years old)
    A reservation is recommended. Tel: 03-3344-0111 (English & Japanese OK)
    Address: Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, Main Tower 2F, 2-2-1 Nishi-Shinjuku,
    Shinjuku
    Access: Shinjuku Station (West Exit – JR, private railway, subway) -> 5min walk; Toei Oedo Line –> Tochomae Station (Exit B1)
    URL: Sweets Buffet
    URL: Restaurant “Jurin”

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Fancy Afternoon Tea in Tokyo’s Hilton Hotel

    13321016_1020715364649038_1822880850_oSeveral times a year, Hilton Hotel Tokyo holds a special themed sweets buffet and afternoon tea. This is a rare opportunity to experience Hilton chefs’ superb culinary skills and creativity.

    At the moment, they are offering an “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” themed sweets buffet that takes place between May 23rd and August 27th. Wattention staff went to try out the “Afternoon Tea with Alice” at the “Bar & Lounge ZATTA” on the 2nd floor of Hilton Hotel Tokyo.

    We were guided to a nice seat near the panorama window, and since it was a Saturday, our afternoon was accompanied by a live guitar performance.

    S__25813006

    The Afternoon Tea includes an all-you-can-drink set, which serves a wide range of tasty beverages. You can choose between different kinds of tea, coffee or iced drinks.

    2After 20 minutes we received the ètagére full of goodies. Lemontea Madeleines and Orange Macarons on the first tray. Chocolate Brownies and Orange Marmalade Cream-Cheese Muffins on the second tray. Mini Scones with different creams and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes on the third tray.

    S__25813007

    The savory dishes are placed on the fourth tray. Gazpacho, Corn and Bean Salad, Mushroom Quiche and Cesar’s Chicken Baguette-Sandwiches.

    You can order a refill of the sweets as often as you like within a span of two hours. With extra 1,000 yen, you can also get ZATTA’s original “Drink Me” set which includes 6 different beverages. If you are a fan of “Alice in Wonderland,” we would definitely recommend this buffet. This is a grown-ups version of Alice’s tea party: sophisticated, elegant, and of course, delicious.

    [ Information ]
    Bar & Lounge ZATTA – Afternoon Tea with Alice
    Address: Hilton Hotel Tokyo 2F, 6-6-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku
    Date: May 23 (Monday) – Aug. 27 (Saturday)
    Time: 2:30pm – 6pm
    Price: about 4,000 yen per person
    Live Music: Friday to Sunday & Public Holiday, 1:30pm-5:30pm

    A reservation is recommended.
    Tel: 03-5324-8039 (English & Japanese OK)

    Access: A 10-min walk from Shinjuku Station, West Exit
    A free Shuttle Bus service (Platform No. 21) is available in front of the Keio Deparment Store.
    URL: ZATTA – Afternoon Tea with Alice

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Eat Vegan and Gluten-free in Shibuya

    Whether you are a full-time healthy eater, gluten intolerant, or just looking for a quick way to cleanse yourself after eating that mouth-watering spicy ramen or sinfully good burger, this tiny cafe and juice bar tucked away in a backstreet in Shibuya should be your next destination!

    WAttention staff tried their house salad, priced at 1,000 yen. The volume is overflowing and judging by the colorful array of vegetables, this bowl is jam-packed with much-needed vitamins and minerals.

    housesalad

    And since we love sweets (proven by this, this, and this article), we also tried their gluten-free muffin made from almonds, raisins, coconuts, chia seeds and oranges and we were not disappointed! Apparently they change the flavor of the muffins every few days or so since we previously had one with walnuts and bananas.

    muffin-salad

    They are also well known for their cleansing cold-pressed juices and smoothies, even providing cleansing courses where you can buy a set of bottled juice to drink in 1-5 days.

    Sky High Aoyama
    Hours: 10am – 7pm(12am – 5pm on Sundays)
    Address: Aoyama TN Building 2-3-4 Shibuya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
    URL: http://skyhigh-tokyo.jp/

    Centuries of Craftsmanship : Ninben

    004_R
    Stock Up On This
    Established in 1699, Ninben has been known as the leading brand in dried bonito flakes for centuries. Stock made using the fermented bonito is said to be origin of Japanese flavors. Now you can recreate these flavors at home with handy flavored-soups and seasonings here, which also make great souvenirs. See how the professionals shave bonito into flakes at live demonstrations here.

    003_R
    Nihombashi Kezuriba: See bonito blocks being shaved here and enjoy the fragrance of fresh bonito flakes.

    006_R

    001_R
    Mazefuri (furikake) seasoning powder set of 3: 1,850 yen

    Nihonbashi Dashi Bar Hanare
    Experience real “UMAMI”

    002_R
    Located at COREDO Muromachi 2 is a newly opened restaurant, Nihonbashi Dashi Bar Hanare, where you can get savory cuisine full of seasonal ingredients and flavor.

    Shop Info

    ninben-store
    Ninben Original Nihonbashi Store
    Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi, 2-2-1 COREDO Muromachi 1 1F, Chuo
    Hours: 10am -8pm (same rest days as COREDO)
    URL: http://www.ninben.jp/

    ninben-store2-1
    Ninben Nihonbashi Dashi Bar
    Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi, 2-3-1 COREDO Muromachi 2 1F, Chuo
    Hours: 11am -11pm (Last order 10pm)

    Tastes of Tradition

    For an affordable taste of Edo flavors passed on through the generations, stop by for lunch at one of these classic shops that preserve the methods of old.

    SUSHI

    Sushi as we know it today first developed in the Edo era as a type of fast food, eaten while standing at a street stall.  Sushi in the old days was also made in bigger sizes then, unlike today’s delicate servings.

    Janoichi Honten
    Real Edomae Sushi

    鮨_R
    Edomae sushi doesn’t get more authentic than this. Janoichi, now run by the 5th generation, has been feeding the hungry tradesman working at the fish market since over 120 years ago. Come here for a luxurious dinner or try the value-for-money set lunches.

    外観_R

    [ Shop info ]
    Address: Nihombashi Muromachi 1-6-7, Chuo
    Hours: 11am – 2pm (lunch), 5pm – 10pm (dinner)

    YOSHOKU

    Literally meaning “Western Food”, this type of Western-influenced Japanese cooking – using foreign ingredients such as Worcester sauce and ketchup – started during the Meiji Restoration.

    Taimeiken
    Egg-cellent Choice

    L1180119_R
    Omurice is a dish of tomato sauce-flavored fried rice wrapped in an omelette – hence the name which is a combination of omelette and rice. Taimeiken, founded over 80 years ago, is one of the most famous yoshoku restaurants in Tokyo.

    たいめいけん  外観1-1_R[ Shop info ]
    Address: Nihombashi 1-12-10, Chuo
    Hours:   11am – 8:30pm (last order)(Mon-Sat) 、 11am – 8pm(last order) (Sun, National Holiday)
    *For first floor dining

    SOBA

    Buckwheat noodles are known one of the three main foods of the Edo era, in addition to tempura and sushi. These thinly sliced noodles can be eaten either cold and dipped in a broth or served in hot soup.

    Nihombashi Yabukyu
    Soba So Good

    IMG_0689_R
    This soba shop has been serving up soba at the very same location since 1902 and is now run by the 4th generation. Savor the fragrance of buckwheat noodles, accented by the smoky flavors of its bonito broth.

    IMG_0999_R[ Shop info ]
    Address: Nihombashi 2-1-19, Chuo
    Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am – 3:30pm (last order)(lunch), 5pm – 22:30pm (last order)(dinner)
    Sat: 11am – 3:30pm (last order)(lunch), 5pm – 9pm(last order) (dinner)

    Bunmeido Nihombashi Café – Fit For Royal Tea –

    002_R
    Adjacent to the cafe is the Bunmeido Gallery where works of Shinsui Ito are displayed.

    Bunmeido started in Nagasaki Prefecture over 100 years ago and is the most famous castella cake maker in Japan. While this cake is said to originate from Castilla, Spain, no doubt the Japanese have perfected the recipe to rich and moist perfection. Head to the Nihombashi Café for a taste of this confectionery which is also served to the royal family of Japan.

    001_R
    Bunmeido Cocktail in classic Japanese kiriko glass: 630 yen (tax included)

    001_R
    Bunmeido Premium Castella: 880 yen (tax included)

    004_R
    Freshly Baked “Mikasa” Pancake: 780 yen (tax included)

    Shop Info

    bunmeido-logo-small
    Bunmeido Nihombashi Café
    Address: Muromachi 1-13-7 Nihombashi, Chuo
    Hours: 11am – 11pm

    Mikado Coffee – Pioneering Coffee Connoisseur –

    Humble Origins - Mikado Coffee started its long history as a coffee stand in 1949
    Humble Origins – Mikado Coffee started its long history as a coffee stand in 1949

    Mikado can be said to be a pioneer in the third wave coffee movement, roasting imported coffee beans in house to suit the local tastes since 1948. They take pride in good acidity in their brew, balanced with body and aroma.
    Left: Mikado coffee is mild and smooth, perfect for your everyday cup of joe.  Right: A signature menu, Moca ice cream.
    Left: Mikado coffee is mild and smooth, perfect for your everyday cup of joe.
    Right: Coffee float (brewed coffee topped with a swirl of their signature Mocha ice cream).
    mikado2

    Shop Info

    Mikado_Storefront
    Mikado Coffee – Main Store
    Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-6-7, Chuo
    Hours: 7am – 7pm (Mon – Fri), 8am – 6pm (Sat), 10am – 6pm (Sun, Holidays)

    Bar Hopping in Osaka

    Tokyo is not the only city that never sleeps in Japan. Osaka, the neon lit metropolis also offers a plethora of nightlife experiences. From classic bars to specialty bars, live houses and a whisky gallery, your choices are infinite.

    Classic Bar

    Bar Augusta Tarlogie

    Bar Augusta Tarlogie1_R

    Behind the unassuming façade lies a whiskey bar brimming with character – and bottles of rare whiskeys, both Japanese and international.

    While entering a small bar like this can be daunting for first-timers, veteran bartender and owner, Mr. Kiyomitsu Shinano, is ready to welcome you in refined English. Here, no effort is spared, from the preparation of hand-carved ice-balls to the choice of water used to mix drinks – spring water from Scotland for Scotch whiskeys and Japanese spritzers for local whiskeys.

    Recently, visitors from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia have come to sample various Japanese whiskeys, and the stock here is extensive with around 20 different labels.

    Order a rare Japanese whiskey – such as a 1980’s Nikka Miyagikyo single malt – that might set you back several thousand yen for a shot, or the frothily refreshing signature cocktail, Augusta 7, vigorously shaken up with passionfruit liquor, lemon and pineapple juice.

    The menu is minimal, with just finger food such as nuts, cheese or parma ham, but the conversation with Mr. Shinano is sure to be free flow.

    [ Information ]
    Bar Augusta Tarlogie
    Hours: 5pm – midnight
    English Menu Available
    Credit Card  OK
    Access: 4-min walk from Hankyu Umeda Station

    River Cruise

    Kitahama Rumba

    Kitahama Rumba3_R
    Enjoy a riverside meal of tapas with wine while enjoying the breeze on the open air terrace of this Spanish restaurant and bar that overlooks the Tosaborigawa River. From here you can also get a view of the Osaka’s most famous bridge, the Naniwabashi Bridge, and the illumination of the Osaka City Central Public Hall. For an unforgettable night out, book a river cruise that sets off from the nearby pier.

    Kitahama Rumba2_R

    This is one of the restaurants that makes up the Kitahama Terrace. The riverbank is officially opened from end-March, when all the eateries open their terraces for dining.

    Kitahama Rumba4_R

    [ Information ]
    Kitahama Rumba
    Hours: 6pm – 12 midnight (last order 11pm)
    Cuirse Hours: Depart at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm
    English Menu Available (partial)
    Credit Card  OK
    Access: 1-min walk from Kitahama Station (Keihan Line, Sakaisuji Line) or a 2-min walk from Naniwabashi Station (Keihan Line)

    Live House

    Billboard Live OSAKA

    Billboard1_R

    Entertainment brand Billboard – internationally known for charting the top artists and songs around the world – brings you its selection of the hottest international and domestic artists. Catch acts ranging from Jazz and J-Pop to reggae and rock, live on stage at this centrally located underground theater.

    Expect fine dining to accompany your first-class performance, with a gourmet seasonal menu and a drink selection featuring original cocktails and a wide array of whiskeys and wines. Seat choices range from bar stools and standing room in the casual area, to table and counter seats, to spacious box seats with an excellent view of the stage.

    Access couldn’t be easier, as the landmark Herbis Plaza Ent building is directly connected to underground public transportation.

    [ Information ]
    Billboard Live OSAKA
    Hours: 11am – 10pm (Weekdays), 11am – 8pm (Sat & Nat. Hols), 11am – 7pm (Weekdays with no shows scheduled), Closed Sun.
    English Menu Available
    Credit Card: Accepted
    Access: 3-min walk from Nishi-Umeda Station (Yotsubashi Line)

    Bar

    Rooftop Bar OO

    Rooftop bar1

    Rooftop bar2

    If you’re with a crowd that can’t decide whether they want to go clubbing, have a good restaurant meal, or chill at a bar, this is the perfect place to go.

    Away from the throngs of tourists at Dotonbori, find an international party crowd here on the 7th floor of the New Japan Sauna complex. Rest your feet at one of the plush sofas at the lounge area (and even play some board games!) or watch what’s on the 500-inch projector screen outdoors by the pool – great for watching sports matches at!

    Events are held regularly with DJs mixing up house, club, hip-hop, trance and the lot to keep party people on a constant high. Otherwise, the usual BGM makes for a relaxed resort atmosphere.

    The menu features seasonal buffets (eg: oysters in winter) and an extensive a la carte menu serving pizza, pasta, salads and bites that go with beer.

    [ Information ]
    Rooftop Bar OO
    Hours: 6pm – 3am (Closed Tues)
    English Menu Available
    Credit Cards Accepted
    Access: 4-min walk from Midosuji Line Namba Station

    Specialist Bar

    SUNTORY WHISKEY HOUSE

    Suntory1

    If you haven’t already discovered Japanese whiskey, this is the place to do so. Suntory, recognized as one of the top whiskey makers in the world, originated from Osaka, and this three-in-one concept store is the first of its kind, combining a Whiskey Gallery, Whiskey Dining WWW.W and Whisky Bottle Bar.

    Suntory2
    Whiskey Gallery

    Whisky Dining WWW.W is the only dining establishment in Japan where you can try five popular types of Suntory Japanese Whiskey in one set. You can also savor the much sought-after Hibiki 21 Years Old that clinched the International Spirits Challenge Trophy 3-years in a row. The Roast Beef Cutlet Sandwich is a must-try, or choose from a wide array of dishes created to go with whiskey.

    Suntory5
    Whiskey Dining WWW.W

    Suntory3

    *Note: Whiskey is not sold over the counter here, though bottle-keep services are available at the Whiskey Bottle Bar.

    Complement your whiskey collection with tasteful furniture or household accessories made from the over century old white oak used to make whiskey casks, only available for sale at this gallery. Study the history of Suntory’s award winning whiskey at the displays here as well.

    [ Information ]
    SUNTORY WHISKEY HOUSE
    WHISKEY DINING WWW.W
    Hours: 11:30am – 2pm (lunch)
    5:30pm – 11pm (dinner)
    English Menu Available
    Credit Card OK

    WHISKEY GALLERY
    Hours: 11am – 8pm
    Access: 5-min walk from JR Osaka Station, Midosuji Line Umeda Station

    The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

     

    A festival in Japan is not complete without rows of street stalls selling soul food and street snacks before the main event. Here are some all-time Matsuri favourites:

    Yakisoba (焼きそば)

    This dish of Worcester-sauce flavoured stir-fried noodles with vegetables, pork and topped with pickled red ginger is a staple dish at any festival. Toppings vary according to region.

    4c0e8adea0d8fcef1979a543e74fc62a_s

    Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

    Originally from Osaka, these ball-shaped snacks are a festival favorite for sure. Fillings vary for each region but the main ingredients are minced or diced octopus, tempura pieces and green onion. When done, they are sprinkled with their signature takoyaki sauce and topped with bonito flakes (dried fish) and mayonnaise.

    e48296c49b96e0f5c74263b5f666383b_s

    Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

    Just like takoyaki, this savory Japanese pancakes come from Osaka in the Kansai region. Nowadays there are many variations of this dish as the name literally means “grill it how you like it.”  The Kyoto okonomiyaki has chopped scallions and the Hiroshima version has noodles, but the basic ingredients are always slices of pork, cabbage, and okonomiyaki sauce. Just like the takoyaki, okonomiyaki is topped with mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

    cd63a26bb840d6fd1bcc7d81cbf30765_s

    Taiyaki (たい焼き)

    This is a fish-shaped pancake-like pastry most commonly filled with red bean paste. More modern fillings include custard, ice cream and whipped cream.

    7a79fea5eff589ea6af4b8b2d3b1517a_s

    Candied Apple (りんご飴)

    A sweet treat of apples covered in a sugary and sticky starch syrup and eaten on a stick. Similar to the candied apples eaten in the West.

    ringoame

    Choco Banana (チョコバナナ)

    This snack has had a huge popularity boost in the last few years. While it may not seem traditionally Japanese, the bananas are always decorated with fancy colours giving them that touch of “Japanese festival flair.”

    16819ac11ab5a7ce89e8ef114fd026a3_s

    Kakigori (かき氷)

    Eaten since the Heian period (11th century) but made affordable for people in the late 19th century, this shaved ice has been Japan’s favorite festival treat to cool down. Flakes are shaved from a huge block of ice and then topped with syrup and condensed milk. Popular flavors include green tea, strawberry, blue Hawaii, cherry, lemon, grape and melon.

    a76f14d879fb76613da5b217f58e49d9_s

    Next in this series: The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

    Chichibu Soul Food & Shrine Tour

    Just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo lies the bucolic town of Chichibu, that with its abundant nature consisting of mountains and rivers, makes for a pleasant day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the metropolis.

    One of the best ways to get to know a city is by its local cuisine. In Chichibu, Miso Potatoes are the soul food of the locals.

    7
    Miso potato, a Chichibu soul food.

    Potatoes are dipped in tempura batter and fried, then dressed with a sweet and salty miso sauce. Locals eat this around once a week, either buying them from the supermarket or making them at home.

    Chichibu townsfolk love their miso, and are also famous for their miso marinated pork. Misoyaki butadon, or grilled miso marinated pork slices on rice, is a must-try while there.

    As Chichibu is not a rice-growing region, it is famous for its soba, and there are many soba shops in town. At some soba shops you can even find the yakimiso butadon on the menu, so you can try both local specialties in one sitting.

    If you are lucky, you may find stalls selling wild honey – with a bee or two soaked in the honey jar! These honey combs are harvested from the forests of Chichibu, and eating the bees is said to boost your body’s vitality!

    8
    Honey bees in honey, a Chichibu specialty.

    Chichubu Town is very walkable, so it is recommended to walk off your lunch by heading to the historical “powerspot”, the Chichibu Shrine, which was established hundreds of years ago and is one of the oldest shrines in the Kanto region.

    p1040414

    The many carvings on the shrine pavilion recall the World Heritage Site of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture.

    The shrine pavilion was reconstructed under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo era. And a famous sculptor at the time, Hidari Jingoro, who worked on the Nikko Toshogu Shrine also worked on this shrine, incorporating the same techniques and style – even parodying the famous “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” monkeys with a trio that are depicted with their eyes, ears and mouth wide open!

     

     

     

     

    Kyoto’s Okonomiyaki

    Most people who have been to Japan have encountered Japan’s savoury pancake known as “Okonomiyaki”. The name of this dish literally means “bake it how you like it”, so it’s to no surprise that this dish, originally from Osaka, received a Kyoto twist.

    P1050349

    The restaurant “Isshen Yoshoku” in Kyoto’s Gion district serves only one dish, and that dish is also called isshen yoshoku. The owner started this restaurant to offer a cheap food option near the Gion area. The whole restaurant is decorated with weird statues, slightly inappropriate woodblock prints and mannequins wearing kimonos. According to the owner the kimono ladies are there to trick drunk men to come inside for a late night bite.

    P1050352

    Kyoto’s okonomiyaki is made with a wheat flour based batter cooked like a crepe on a hot plate. Then they add chopped scallions, egg and slices pork, fold it over and cook it a bit more. It is garnished with lots of sauce and strips of nori (dried seaweed).

    P1050351

    After eating your okonomiyaki you can get a commemorative stamp to add to your travel journal.

    P1050354

    Information

    Address: 238 Giommachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto 605-0073
    Hours: 11am – 3am (Weekdays), 10:30am – 10pm (Sundays and Holidays)

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Restaurant Review : Penguin Bar

    Near Ikebukuro’s West Exit is a bar with some very special dining guests, penguins. The Penguin Bar offers you the experience to enjoy a drink and eat some food while watching penguins frolick in the water. Wattention staff went to check out this unusual Penguin Bar.

    P1040831

    The bar itself is not that spectacular, but it’s the penguins who are the main attraction. There is the option to only have a drink, eat from the menu or take one of the bar’s course plans. These plans start at 3,000 yen per person for students and include a 4-course meal with free drinks for two hours. That’s a great deal for a fancy bar in Tokyo!

    P1040863

    The napkins are folded in penguin shapes, which added some cuteness to the whole penguin theme. TV-screens on the ceiling play documentaries about penguins on loop. Don’t worry about coming to this bar if you can’t speak Japanese, the staff can provide an English menu. After ordering your food you are free to go look at the penguins and take photos.

    P1040828 P1040849

    The portions were smaller than expected but the food tasted very good. Even after leaving the bar I still had a nice taste in my mouth.

    P1040862

    The penguin bar is a nice novelty bar in central Tokyo for the true penguin lovers out there. They offer reasonable dining courses for dates, friend’s night out and parties. Seats at the Bar are limited, so come on time if you want to have an amazing evening with penguins.

    Access

    Cosmy 1 1st floor, 2-38-2 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

    Opening Hours : 18:00 – 04:00

    Admission fee : 800 yen + one drink per person

    Notice: the bar does not serve special dinner plans during Golden Week and other public holidays.

    Website: http://www.penginbar.jp/en/

    Best Matcha Parfait in Kyoto

    Matcha is loved all over Japan and foreigners are joining in on the powdered green tea hype. The delicious multi-layered dessert called “parfait” is very popular in Japan and many cafés have at least one on their menu. Now combine this tasty treat with all the goodness of green tea and you get an amazing Matcha Parfait!

    The best matcha – and parfaits – are found in Kyoto at Tsujiri. This shop has been specialized in matcha since 1860. The founder Riemon made many important contributions to the tea industry such as inventing the tea cabinet and enhancing tea flavors. Tsujiri has always used tea from Uji near Kyoto, the best area for green tea in Japan.

    P1050379

    Walking in the Gion area of Kyoto you might miss this small shop as it completely blends into the street with similar facades. On the first floor you can buy take-out sweets and souvenirs. But where we really want to go is the second and third floord, Tsujiri Café. If you can’t read Japanese, don’t worry! The café has English menus available.

    P1050357

    Out of all the amazing parfaits to choose from I decided to go with the current Spring Special parfait and once the parfait came I did not regret my decision for even a second. It was a beautiful creation of variatons of ice cream, matcha jelly, dango, matcha cream, cookies and crunchy flakes.

    P1050366-2

    Even the coaster was so pretty that I had to take it home with me as a souvenir.

    P1050373

    The interior of the shop is very Japanese and just invites you to sit down and relax.

    P1050374P1050376If you are in Kyoto, a visit to this café is sure to delight any sweets and tea lover.

    P1050370

    Access:

    573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa Shijo Dori Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074.

    Hours: open every day from 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Top 6 Must Try Unique Japanese Breads

    Japan’s food culture might be best known for rice and noodles, but did you know that bread, or pan was already common in the early years of the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) ? So widespread is the love for bread, that even noodles are used as a filling for buns!
    While first introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, bread did not become mainstream in Japan until the 19th century. Throughout the last 100 years, Japanese bread has evolved in its own way, with a great amount of unique types of buns and sandwiches that will surprise if you thought that Japanese food is only about sushi, tempura and ramen. Especially kashipan, or sweet buns, have truly become a distinct genre and could be considered by some as the best thing since, well, sliced bread!

    3ede5f1360abb8ca0c4c505d0d359ba6_s
    Here are 6 buns and sandwiches you won’t see back home (except at a Japanese bakery)!

    1. Anpan
    Anko, or red bean paste was already used in Japanese confectionery long before bread became mainstream. It is therefore no surprise that Japan’s first sweet bun was anpan, introduced by bakery Kimuraya in 1874. This is still a favorite among the locals.
    アンパン

    2. Melon Pan
    Melon pan is a sweet bun made with a crispy cookie dough. Despite its name, it’s not melon flavored. It’s not certain why this bun is called a melon pan, but its similar appearance is pretty suspicious!
    melonpan2

    3. Yakisoba Pan
    Fried noodles in a hot-dog bun might sound weird to most cultures, but in Japan this is a classic. In the fifties, bakery Nozawaya sold hot-dog buns and yakisoba noodles separately until one of their customers asked to put the noodles inside the bun. The combination became an instant hit.
    焼きそばぱん

    4. Curry Pan
    Curry pan was invented in the early 20th century as a combination between the two most popular western foods in Japan at the time, curry and fried pork cutlets. Curry is wrapped in a dough coated in bread crumbs, which is then deep fried like pork cutlets instead of being baked.
    d968d22df56ba1a65017e7f42267c390_s

    5. Cornet
    Cornet is a horn shaped bread with a hole in the middle which is filled mostly with custard cream or chocolate. The filling is only added after the Cornet is baked, which keeps the filling fresh.
    a92ff203c60d2b98149640f98174938a_s

    6. Katsu sandwich
    Tonkatsu, or fried pork cutlets as a sandwich! In the thirties, Tonkatsu restaurant Isen came with the idea of putting their tonkatsu in sandwiches to prevent Geisha from getting their mouth dirty with crumbs or sauce.
    027cc29727947e6d2571cbc7dade1562_s

    Hellish Hot Pot @ The Lockup

    This winter, prison themed restaurant The Lockup offers a new super spicy nabe (hot pot) menu from hell for their fearless guests. Are you brave enough to try its burning hot soup with so much chili it looks like a bloodbath?

    sub4

     

    sub1

    Meticulously decorated like the setting of a horror movie, not only the food, but also the staff are waiting to torture and suffocate you, so be prepared!

     

    The Lockup Shibuya Outlet

    Address: Utagawa-cho 33-1-B2 Shibuya

    Hours: 5pm-1am (5pm – 4am on Fridays, 4pm – 4am on Saturdays and the day before public holidays, 4pm – 4am on Sundays and public holidays)

    Express Sushi in Shibuya

    IMG_2513

    Today WAttention headed to Sushi-Nova, a new sushi eatery that opened just this September by the United Nations University on Aoyama-dori Street. Though considered a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) store, this high-tech restaurant delivers your sushi express upon ordering on the touch screen panel.

    Lunch Set D, 1,000 yen
    Lunch Set D, 1,000 yen

    Not only is the sushi very fresh and tasty for a kaiten sushi restaurant, the lunch sets are also very reasonably priced, ranging from 800 – 1,500 yen. Anago (eel) lovers will want to be sure to try the lengthy cuts here.

    Large anago (eel), 360 yen
    Large anago (eel), 360 yen

    IMG_2534

    Sushi-Nova Aoyama Oval Bldg Store
    Hours: 11am – 11pm, Last Order 10:30pm
    Address: Jingumae 5-52-2, Shibuya

    Ohanami Sweet Treats

    Ohanami is the Japanese word for cherry blossom viewing. There is a Japanese saying, “Hana yori mochi”, which means “Rice ball rather than flowers” – referring for the tendency for people’s practical preference for some edible delight rather than enjoying the beauty of the sakura above them.

    With sweets as delightful as these, little wonder that the mochi wins our hearts and stomachs!

    Sakura mochi

    2dda2d4f5af07f42cbcda4a6ae3ba689_s

    Sakura mochi is a piece of mochi dyed pink, which is filled with sweet bean paste and then partially wrapped with a salted cherry leaf. You can choose to eat the leaf or not. It is said that sakura mochi was invented in Tokyo during the Edo period.

    Ohanami dango

    b139d01ca2d8c4aaffdc83fd0745cfe4_s

    A pink, white, and green dango on a stick is called O-Hanami Dango.  There are many stories about the colors of the dango.  The pink and white are said to bring good luck, and green is known to ward off evil.

    Ichigo daifuku

    e072522f355402907c4a9b17032eee6c_s

     

    Also known as strawberry daifuku, this is a strawberry wrapped in chewy mochi skin. Because of its connection to the seasonal fruit, it is often eaten during springtime.

    Nerikiri

    8200f9668d326a7a7546e4962a0b01d1_s

    Nerikiri are Japanese sweets in different shapes that reflect the season. They’re made from white kidney bean paste (shiro-an) and soft mochi.

    Sakura manjyu

    Manjyu dough is also made with rice but it is different from mochi. Sakura Manjyu is filled with sweet bean paste and sometimes there is a cherry leaf on top.

    30061f13fdd0362a1ef810232f0814d3_s

     

    And many more…

    Of course there are many other sakura-themed sweets. Every spring confectionery manufacturers release limited-edition sakura version of food and drinks. So if you look around Japanese stores in springtime, you will see the famous pink flowers everywhere. Don’t forget to look up and enjoy the view though!

     

     

    Combini Checkout: Fit To A Tea – A beginner’s guide to bottled tea

    The Japanese are great fans of tea and there is tea for the mornings, afternoons and nights, tea to go with oily foods, tea to help you loose weight – whatever it is, you are sure to find your cup of tea at the Combini (convenience stores). Here is a taste of what you can find on the shelves:

    Ryokucha (Green Tea)

    Ryokucha is a collective term for all green tea that is steamed.  Japanese green teas are steamed giving them a more “vegetative” or “leafy” taste. The most common types of green tea are:

    • Sencha: First round of harvest and the leaves are exposed to the sun
    • Bancha: Low grade tea from the later rounds of harvesting
    • Gyokuro: The highest grade from the first round of harvest. The leaves are shaded from the sun.

    Bottled teas are not commonly made with high grade tea, but of course there are exceptions. The most well known green tea is Oi-Ocha from ITOEN. This company was the first to introduce bottled tea to the Japanese market and they currently handle more than 20% of all the tea leaves in Japan.

    Hojicha

    Roasted green tea which has a more sweet, caramel-like flavor. Hojicha is always made from Bancha, the earlier mentioned low grade tea. The caffeine level in this tea is lower than that of regular green tea, making it ideal to drink during the evening.

    12986618_10209157043393085_875620650_o

    Genmaicha

    This green tea contains grains of roasted brown rice and was originally drunk by poor people and the rice was added to serve as a filler and to reduce the price of the tea. When served, the rice in the tea excretes its sugars and gives the tea a nice sweet aroma and a light brown color.

    Genmaicha
    Genmaicha

    Oolong Cha (Oolong Tea)

    This is a Chinese tea where they wither the plant under the sun as it is growing. The leaves are then curled, twisted and rolled into a ball. As a final step, the tea is roasted or baked. It’s a black tea with an earthy flavor.

    Black Tea
    Black Oolong

    Mugicha

    Also known as Barley Tea. This tea is extremely popular during the summer and has a roasted taste with a slightly bitter undertone. Drink this tea to cool down during a hot day. When you go to a Japanese restaurant during the summer, this tea is most commonly served.

    Mugicha
    Mugicha

    Jasmine Cha (Jasmine Tea)

    This tea is most popular in Okinawa but it is also drunk on mainland Japan. Jasmine flowers are added to the green tea to give everything a more flower-y aroma. If you are a fan of scented teas you should try it.

    Jasmine Tea
    Jasmine Tea

    Kocha

    Also known in general as “black tea” or “foreign tea”.

    Darjeeling Tea
    Darjeeling Tea

    Matcha

    Matcha is the highest grade of green tea grinded into a fine powder. The leaves of the tea are infused with the water giving this tea a strong bitter taste. Matcha is served during tea ceremonies or temple visit and needs special preparation. Finding it in a bottled form will be very difficult. However there are plenty of Matcha-flavored snacks at the Konbini. So if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a big tea ceremony or a high class package of matcha, you can always snack on some Matcha sweets.

    Others

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

    MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Detective Conan Café in Shibuya

    Detective Conan celebrates his 20th anniversary as an Anime in 2016!

    For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Detective Conan follows the story of a talented and renowned high school detective named Shinichi Kudo. He got in the way of a criminal syndicate, known only as the “Black Organization” who attack him and force him to swallow a drug called “APTX4869”, that transforms him back into a child. He assumes a fake name: Conan Edogawa and while keeping his true identity hidden, he continues to solve cases.

    To celebrate the new movie, Detective Conan: The Pure Black Nightmare (released on April 16th), Detective Conan Cafés were opened in various locations throughout Japan (Nagoya・Hiroshima・Tokyo・Yamagata (until May 8th) , Osaka (until June 19th)).

    WAttention staff visited the one in Shibuya, Tokyo.

    P1020511
    You should plan some extra time for lining up, especially during lunch and dinner time because it might be crowded.P1020514

    The front of the Café is features the main characters of the Anime.

    At the takeout stand you can buy éclairs wrapped and shaped in the image of the “APTX4869”, the drug which transformed Shinichi into a younger version of himself.

    After entering the Café you can take a commemoration picture at the photo spot with Conan and his rival Kaito Kid.

    P1020468

    The windows at the back of the Café have “Mori Detective Agency” 毛利探偵事務所 (Mori Tantei Jimusho) written on them, just like in the Anime.
    DSC_0031

    The whole theme of the Café is inspired by London, the home town of Sherlock Holmes, another famous detective character created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Detective Conan chose the same name as the author of the detective whom he admires so much.

    P1020503

    The walls are covered with pictures of the characters.

    The time limit for staying at the Café is about one hour.
    DSC_0006

    The menu is divided into savory dishes, sweet desserts and drinks. Every dish is connected to the Anime.

    We decided to order “Danny’s Special Chicken Curry” together with “Haibara & Ayumi´s homemade Black Curry”.

    P1020488

    Every savory dish comes with a 2.5 dimensional figure which you can collect and also purchase in the merchandise store in front of the Café.

    For dessert, we ordered the “Tropical Strawberry Parfait”….

    P1020490

    …and the “Conan Caffè Cappuccino”, which is designed with either Conan´s or Kaito Kid´s silhouette.

    P1020494

    As a present you will receive a specially designed coaster.

    After eating, you can buy limited merchandise at the official “Conan Café Shop”.

    P1020504

    There is a variety of goods that you can choose from. Your purchase will be then put into a limited paper bag with the new movie’s commercial image and the logo of the Café.

     

    Café details:
    Café Manduka (Detective Conan Café + Detective Conan Official Shop)
    Lumine Man Shibuya 1st floor
    Jinnan 1-22-11, Shibuya-ku
    Tokyo 150-0041
    Opening period: April 8th ~ May 8th
    Opening hours: Café 11:00 ~ 24:00 (last order 22:30)
    Shop 11:00 ~ 21:00
    Access: 2min walk from JR Shibuya Station – Hachiko Exit.
    Website: http://www.conancafe.jp/en/

    Ninja ID: nene16


    WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

    Image_

    Tabea Greuner
    Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Restaurant Review: Moeginomura ROCK

    This curry will rock your world!

    Bacon and runny eggs and butter may sound like a typical American breakfast but these are the toppings to Rock’s unique curry.

    Practically every Japanese household or restaurant that serves curry has its own secret recipe. Some stew bananas, apples or chocolate for a sugar and spice curry, others add a touch of red wine, soy sauce or even bonito shavings. Toppings can be anything betweeen natto, cheese and fried pork cutlets. Japan’s competition in curry is so high it is probably only second to India.

    Still, it is safe to say that Brewpub Restaurant ROCK’s version of Japanese style curry can count itself among the true curry elites.

    plate_R

    Brewpub Restaurant ROCK is located within Moeginomura, a pleasant area with picturesque gardens, restaurants, cafes and shops located in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture. The area makes for the perfect setting for a European mountain village postcard, except for the fact that it is located on the other side of the planet.
    In the middle of this setting, ROCKS’s old-fashioned American saloon style architecture creates a remarkable juxtaposition between European and American architecture in Japan!

    DSC_0959

    Before I start talking about the curry, it cannot go without mentioning that ROCK is also famous for its craftbeer brand, TOUCHDOWN.
    TOUCHDOWN has 5 different flavors as well as lager brewed beer and has won the prize of “Best beer of Asia” at the World Beer Awards of 2014.

    touchdown
    ROCK’s curry is so beloved that it would be hard to find a local that never gets cravings for it. It has a history of over 40 years, and while maintaining its roots, it has continued to evolve and capture the hearts of young and old.

    The curry’s roux is on the thick side, tastes sweet but has a spicy and slightly sour fragrance at the same time.
    Spices and ingredients stewed to create this roux are a company secret, but the slight sourness made me speculate that TOUCHDOWN beer could have been used as seasoning to add a special final touch.

    The toppings play a role just as significant as the roux in ROCK’s curry, so let’s have a closer look. You will first notice the giant lump of juicy bacon which has been a trademark ever since ROCK originally opened in 1971, but that’s just beginning of this richly topped curry. A soft-boiled egg (or onsen egg in Japanese as it is boiled at the same temperature of hot spring water) is placed on top of the bacon so that the egg yolk may drip over it later on.

    imagesWhat might be even more important, is the raisin butter you seen in front of the bacon. Mix this melting morsel with the roux for a sweet, rich taste that really distinguishes it from other Japanese curries.

    While the dish might appear to be voluminous, note that half of it consists of fresh vegetables that come from nearby farms. The pickles on the right edge are capsicum, a vegetable rarely pickled in Japanese cuisine or even in general.

    Altogether ROCK’s beef curry makes for a unique curry that is hard to compete with. Those that seek for even more satisfaction can add toppings as an extra slice of bacon or fried sausages.

     

    Degree in which the curry stands out from its competitors: ★★★★☆

    Degree in which the restaurant’s facade stands out from its surrounding: ★★★★★

    Important Message:
    In the early morning of Aug. 8, 2016, fire broke out in Moeginomura ROCK, causing heavy damage to the building. Excluding Rock, all the other buildings in Moeginomura were not affected and are operating as normal. No word yet on what may have started the fire and there is no definite date yet on when they will resume its business, but according to their website, Rock will definitely re-open. We do hope that they re-open quickly and we can once again enjoy their iconic curry.

    UPDATE: Starting September 17, Moeginomura finished setting up a provisional kitchen and are currently re-opened for business. Even though the seating is still outdoors under a tent, we are glad to be able to once again savor the flavors unique to this beloved (and resilient!) restaurant.

    ROCK

    Price Range: 1,000 – 2,000

    Hours: 10 am – 11:30 pm

    Location: Kiyosato 3545 Moeginomura, Takanecho, Hokuto, Yamanashi  山梨県北杜市高根町清里3545 萌木の村

    Access: 10-min walk from Kiyosato Station (JR Koumi Line)

    An online shop with a Café?

    Popular online retailer Rakuten has a Café in Shibuya. Besides serving food and drinks that are popular on the site’s main retailing webpage “Rakuten Ichiba”, the staff can give you information about anything on Rakuten from financial to product advice. Free e-readers are available as well as free 1GBPS wifi, in case you want to make a Rakuten purchase.

    Location: Ma Maison Shibuya-Koen-Dori Building, 1-20-6 Jinnan, Shibuya Ward.
    Hours:
    11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (7 days a week)

    47 50

    PomPomPurin Café in Yokohama!

    If you are a fan of Sanrio’s adorable Golden Retriever character PomPomPurin, then what better way to celebrate than at one of his cafes? Here is an introduction to the latest PomPomPurin Cafe that opened in Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture, the latest addition to the cafes in Harajuku, Tokyo and Umeda, Osaka.

    IMG_0568

    There’s no mistaking the cafe as its facade has PomPomPurin’s silhouette awaiting you.

    Inside, the Café is divided into two sections with a maritime theme, in line with Yokohama´s history as a port city.

    IMG_0572

    The furniture is all color coordinated to match PomPomPurin’s custard pudding appearance, and there is also a long cushioned bench lining the wall with fluffy cushions, inviting you to spend a relaxed afternoon while enjoying your meals.
    IMG_0595

    When you enter the Café you will be welcomed by a statue of PomPomPurin which is also a memory-photo spot for the customers.

    IMG_0594

    In all of the three Cafés you will find a corner where you can purchase limited merchandise of the characters, like stuffed animals, pillows, pencil cases, pouches, hand mirrors, bags, t-shirts, key charms and much more.
    IMG_0575

    Choose between food like pasta or curry, desserts like parfait, cakes or pancakes  and drinks like coffee and soda. Every meal and drink comes with its own lovely PomPomPurin design.

    IMG_0573

    The average price range for food is between 990 yen and 1,490 yen, the desserts start at 500 yen and the drinks are between 750 yen and 790 yen. (All prices excluding tax)

    WAttention staff decided for the “LoveLove hot Marshmallow Latte” (790 yen) …

    IMG_0579

    …and the “Ice on Mango Soda” (750 yen).

    IMG_0580

    Regarding the food we ordered the “Good Friend Cup de Taco Rice” (1,290 yen (+tax))…

    IMG_0583

    …and the “PomPomPurin Seafood Doria Plate” (1,490 yen), which is only available at the Yokohama branch. As a present you will receive a new sample of the little mug.
    IMG_0585

    For dessert we chose the “PomPomPurin marine Frenchtoast” (1,290 yen)…

    IMG_0588

    …and the “Macaron-chan apricot Pudding” (500 yen), both limited to the Yokohama branch.

    IMG_0591

    Everything tasted as good as it looked and was definitely worth the price.The specially designed plates, cups and cutlery made the experience a lot of fun!

    If you are lucky, PomPomPurin and his little friend will also accompany you while eating.

    cats

    PomPomPurin Café – Yokohama
    Yokohama Sotetsu Square
    Minamisaiwai 2-1-5
    Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi

    Opening hours: 10:00 ~ 21:00 (last order 20:30)

    Access: JR [Yokohama Station] – West Exit: 5min walk
    Sotetsu Line [Yokohama Station] 2min walk

    Website: http://bit.ly/1cG1z0F

    Seasonal Spring Sweets

    Seasonal Sweets, pleasing to the eye as well as the palate

    Many Japanese people are masters at incorporating seasonal flair into their everyday lives. Be it an Ikebana arrangement of fresh flowers, meals cooked with ingredients fresh from the farm or practicing seasonal traditions. There’s something poetic about celebrating a new season and to be in sync with nature.

    But for people like me who live in a metropolis such as Tokyo, it’s really hard to appreciate nature, let alone find it. Taking a subway to work, all I see is the concrete wall of a dimly lit tunnel. Working at the office with windows that are fixed shut, I sit in an air conditioned room all day long. At the supermarket, most staple vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, and even tomatoes are available all year. City life is easy and convenient, yet unfortunately it has made us lose touch with nature.

    So what can a city girl do to get a sense of the spring season?

    Find seasonal sweets! Here’s a selection of sweets that are currently in season.


     Toraya2

    Caption: From left, Kumoi no Sakura (Half size) 1,944 yen, Taori Sakura 486 yen, Haru Dokei 519 yen, Sakura Mochi 411 yen

    Toraya

    One of the oldest Japanese confectionary shops in Japan, Toraya was the favorite purveyor of sweets for imperial palace and feudal lords. Its confectionary creations are simple, yet they speak the language of season elegantly. There are about 80 shops throughout Japan.

    Cozy Corner2

    Caption: Sakura Mille crêpes 410 yen, Sakura Cake 410 yen

    Cozy Corner

    Cozy Corner opened its first shop in Ginza in 1948, since then it’s been expanding the number of stores and selections. The cakes are generously-sized and reasonably-priced, Cozy Corner is a favorite choice for many Japanese families celebrating special occasions.

    KIHACHI

    Caption: Sakura Roll Cut 562 yen, 14cm 2,160 yen, 28cm 4,320 yen

    Patisserie KIHACHI

    KIHACHI started as a restaurant with the philosophy: the best ingredients, communication, hospitality and originality. This concept must have resonated with their customers, as KIHACHI now owns cafes and patisseries, many of which are located at major department stores.

    So why not bring a little taste of the season to your table (and tummy)? Even if you can’t find the time and location to explore nature in your busy schedule, these sweets definitely bring you the joy as well as the flavor of the season. Happy Spring!

    Shibuya’s Goat Cafe

    unspecified-25

    This is Sakuragaoka Cafe in the backstreets of Shibuya’s Sakuragaoka-cho.

    unspecified-28

    This cafe is different from other cafes because…

    unspecified-27

    you can pet and feed the goats here!

    unspecified-26

    The goat, Sakura-chan is waiting for you, so why not stop by?

    Information

    23-3 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya

    Hours:
    Morning time 8:30am-11:30am (last order 11am) ※Weekdays only
    Lunch time 11:30am-3pm
    Idle time 3pm-5:30pm
    Dinner time 5:30pm-11pm
    Midnight time 11pm-6am Sunday (holidays until midnight)

    BQpedia: Yakisoba

    BQ-1-760x615

    BQpedia: Your guide to the underbelly of Japanese cuisine

    B級グルメ (“B-Kyu Gurume”) may mean “B-Grade Gourmet” but the only thing “B-Grade” about this food category is the price, as most Japanese will swear by the “A-Grade” taste of these local favorites. Not to be confused as the equivalent of “fast food” in the West. Let WAttention walk you through this food culture with our definitive BQ Gourmet guide!

    Today’s BQ menu: Yakisoba / ˌyäkēˈsōbə

    yakisoba

    What it is: Yakisoba is a simple dish of stir-fried wheat flour noodles that is a staple menu at any matsuri (festival). The usual ingredients are sliced pork belly, cabbage and other vegetables, with the key flavoring being a tangy sosu, or Japanese Worcestershire sauce – a thicker and sweeter version of its English counterpart.

    そーす1
    A popular variety of yakisoba sosu, available at most supermarkets.

    Where to find it: At matsuri (festivals) stalls, outdoor barbeques, old-style Chinese restaurants, and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) eateries in the Kansai area (eg: Osaka).

    b253c03cc2ecf3c38b613513d968709f_l

    Why people love it: The tart, smoky scent of sizzling sosu wafting in the air is enough to set Japanese stomachs rumbling. This nostalgic soul food reminds one of fond childhood memories – from festival fun to hometown memories of mom whipping up a quick batch in the kitchen. As a dish that’s hard to go wrong with, it’s also a favorite item for student fundraising stalls at school festivals!

    Katsuobushi bonito flakes are a common topping.
    Katsuobushi bonito flakes are a common topping.

    Its various forms: Besides the standard sosu yakisoba, look out for this favorite in a variety of forms, such as the following:

    f36d31d719033dfda5ce5885d41f92bd_m
    Yakisoba is a main ingredient in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.

     

    Yakisoba pan (bread) is a cheap on-the-go snack, available at convenience stores and bakeries.
    Yakisoba pan (bread) is a cheap on-the-go snack, available at convenience stores and bakeries.

     

    This instant version is a favorite, available only in the Hokkaido area.
    This instant version is a favorite, available only in Hokkaido!

    Taste of Northern Tohoku

    The rich land and sea of Tohoku produces great delicacies all year around. Indulge in fresh gifts of nature during the harvest season, as well as great local dishes to warm up to in the crisp winter!

    NOODLES
    Slurp varieties of unique local noodles

    Don’t forget to try unique and delicious local noodles! To eat like the locals, don’t hesitate to slurp loudly!

    wanko-soba
    Wanko soba
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-2
    Morioka rei-men
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-3
    Miso-curry-milk ramen

    SWEETS
    Fresh ingredients turn into mouthwatering sweets

    Rich and fresh dairy products and fruits of Northern Tohoku are made into delicious sweets. Try anything with the region’s seasonal specialty – apples!

    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-6
    Cheese cake from Koiwai Farm
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-7
    Sake jelly
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-5
    Apple pie

    MEAT
    The rich land nurtures great local meats

    Get ready to be blown away by locally-grown meats of Northern Tohoku! From savory beef to flavorful chicken, the fertile land has the best meats to offer.

    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-10
    Iwate wagyu-beef
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-11
    Sasuke buta-pork
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-1
    Hinaijidori oyakodon

    SEAFOOD
    Rich bounty of the sea turns richer in cold season

    Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, fresh seafood is abundant in Northern Tohoku. Tuna from Oma in Aomori is regarded one of the best in Japan!

    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-8
    Scallop
    Taste-of-Northern-Tohoku-9
    Nokke-don at Furukawa Market in Aomori

    Limited-Time Character Cafe at Shibuya Parco

    mainOn Jan. 28, “Kanahei’s YURUTTO CAFE” featuring illustrator, manga artist, and LINE stamp creator Kanahei’s cute characters, will open for a limited time at Shibuya PARCO’s THE GUEST cafe & diner.

    sub1

    Besides the original menu based on Kanahei’s “Piske & Usagi” characters and her “Small Animals” series, find original goods only available at this cafe’s shop, as well as a commemorative photo spot at the store front!

    Kanahei’s YURUTTO CAFE
    Location: THE GUEST cafe & diner (Shibuya PARCO Part 1, 7F)
    Dates: Jan. 28 – Mar. 14, 2016
    Hours: 11am – 10pm (last order for food), 10:30pm (last order for drinks)
    Website: http://www.parco-art.com

    Discover Drinking Alleys In Japan (II): Neighborhood Yokochos

    Almost every area has its own yokocho for locals to gather and unwind. Here are some other alleyways with character worth stopping by.

    1) Asakusa Hoppy Dori 

    17hoppy1

    Hoppy has a reputation as being the mixer of choice of the older generation, and for good reason—it was created in their younger days as a cheaper alternative to beer, to be mixed with stronger liquor such as shochu. In this alleyway, you can even find “draft” hoppy. The specialty here is “motsu stew”, or a hearty dish made from pig or cow innards, vegetables and konjac.

    Access: 3-min. walk from Metro Asakusa Station

    2) Amazake Yokocho 

    SONY DSC

    Unlike the other alleyways that come alive at sunset, this 400m alleyway is more of a daytime place with a refined Shitamachi (old downtown) feel of the Edo era and famous for its amazake, or sweet non-alcoholic rice wine, and taiyaki baked pastry from a 99-year-old shop.

    Access: 2-min from the Metro Ningyocho Station

    3) Harmonica Yokocho 

    SONY DSC

    Formerly an underground flea market that sprung up in the early post-war period some 70 years ago, this is lined with small shops and bars just like the holes on a harmonica mouthpiece. While some of the tenants date way back, this area is now popular with the younger crowd for its trendy standing bars and hip restaurants.

    Access: 2-mins walk from East Exit of Kichojoji Station

     

    4) Koenji Gado-shita

    20koenji1

    This is known as the alley for aspiring musicians and to support these struggling artistes are cheap bars, pubs and shops selling used CDs, musical instruments and clothes. Hang out with the lively crowd here under the tracks on the west side of Koenji Station. A must try is the “Gyoza for zero Yen” at Tachibana gyoza restaurant where you get a sizeable free gyoza portion with every drink ordered.

    Access: 2-mins walk from JR Koenji Station

    A Taste Of Sh旬n: Anglerfish Hotpot

    anko
    Say Ahh..nkou!

    The ankou, or anglerfish, is one of those grotesque deep sea creatures (not unlike the hoya) that one wouldn’t fathom putting in one’s mouth. But the ankou is a winter delicacy that many Japanese look forward to eating, usually in the form of a hotpot. It is popular with the ladies for its reputed high collagen content in its gelatinous skin.

    ankonabe1

    The springy flesh of the anglerfish – similar to that of the fugu, or puffer fish – makes it suitable to be boiled in a hotpot. The ankou nabe (anglerfish hotpot) is usually flavored with a miso-based soup with the ankou liver mixed in with a splash of sake.

    anko3

    The ankou liver – or ankimo – is known as the “foie gras of the ocean” for its rich taste and smooth texture.
    anko5

    In fact, all parts of the ankou can be eaten, from head to tail. Due to the slimy nature of the skin, it is sliced and gutted while hung. This is a much anticipated spectacle, like that of a tuna cutting show.

    There is a saying that “Fugu in the West, Anglerfish in the East”. Ooarai in Ibaraki Prefecture is famous for its catchment of anglerfish, and there’s even an Anglerfish Hotpot Festival every November. So don’t forget to try the ankou while it’s in season from December to February!

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

     

    Discover Drinking Alleys In Japan (I) : The “Yamanote Yokochos”

     

    1

    Yokocho in Japanese literally means “side alley” and usually refers to a small, winding smoky lane that leads you into another realm of Tokyo where grit rules over grids.

    While popular as tourist spots today, these clusters sprung up randomly in the ashes of post-War Japan as black markets or unlicensed bars and businesses. Its role, however, remains the same—as a place to either lose, find or just be yourself off the mainstream hustle and bustle of life.

    The Way of the Yokocho 

    Entering a drinking hole along the yokocho for the first time can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak Japanese. Fortunately, some shops in the bigger yokochos have English and Chinese menus. Otherwise, following these simple rules will help make your experience enjoyable.

    1. Always order a drink or more to go with your food
    2. Don’t invade the counter space of the person next to you
    3. Don’t linger after finishing your food—bar hop to the next stop!
    4. Do bring enough cash to pay, credit cards are often not accepted

    YAMANOTE YOKOCHOS 

    Check out these famous yokochos along the Yamanote Line, all within close walking distance from the station. Discover the different character, flavors and scents of each alleyway.

    1) Ebisu Yokocho

    12Ebisu1

     

    This yokocho is unique for being indoors and hence, sanitized. Opened in 2008 after renovating an old apartment block, it maintains the alleyway feel of being cramped, or cozy, with a good mix of 21 food stalls. The crowd here has a higher proportion of expatriates, and is perhaps reflected in the choice of stalls which includes a couple of wine bars – one even selling Iberico ham!

    Access: 2-min. walk from JR Ebisu Station East Exit, or the Hibiya Line Ebisu Exit

    2) Ameyayokocho (Ameyoko)

    15ameyoko2

    Ameyoko is thought to have its roots as a black market after World War II, where “ame” – standing either for candy or American goods – was sold here when such goods were scarce. Today, this 500m long street is packed chock-a-block with shops selling everything from snow crabs to candy and snacks, bags, clothes, shoes and exotic foreign foods. The alleyways off this alleyway house a maze of izakayas which start from as early as 10am.

    Access: 1-min walk from JR Ueno Station Chuo Exit

    3) Shimbashi Gado-shita 

    16shinbashi1

    Located near the central business district, this stretch of watering holes under the train tracks is the big brother of drinking alleys and known as the “salaryman’s heaven” where tired men in dark suits go to knock back a swig or two over a couple of skewers on the way back from work, or to unwind on a Friday night with colleagues.

    Access: 2-min. walk from Karasumori Exit of JR Shimbashi Station

     

     

     

    4) Omoide Yokocho 
    1

    Take a walk down “Memory Lane” (Omoide Yokocho) which lies in the shadows of Shinjuku’s skyscrapers. Numerous izakayas and bars line this winding back alley where stalls selling grilled cow and pig innards (motsuyaki) emerged in the post-war days when flour was scarce. Today, about one-third of the nearly 60 shops here still dish out this soul food. Salarymen can also be spotted queuing up for their favorite soba shop or yakitori joint. Pull up a bar stool, grab some skewers, and soak in the retro atmosphere here while creating some new memories of your own!

    Access: 1-min. walk from JR Shinjuku Station East Exit. URL: http://www.shinjuku-omoide.com/english/index.html

     

    5) Nonbei Yokocho 

    SONY DSC
    SONY DSC

     

    Tucked away from the Shibuya crossing crowd and fancy fashion malls is Nonbei Yokocho (literally, “Drunkard’s Alley”) that still offers a glimpse of 1950s Shibuya, when shops were low-rise and had wooden structures. Take a reminiscent stroll through this 36-eatery-lined alleyway and you’ll understand why some tourists might mistake this for time-travel theme park.

    Access: 4-min. walk from JR Shibuya Station Hachiko Exit.

    URL: http://nonbei.tokyo

     

     

    In Harmony with the Seasons: Zoni

    text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe, decoration/ Junko Kibe

    The pictured zoni dish is a soup of chicken dashi stock with simmered root vegetables,
    to which roasted mochi and fragrant mitsuba (cryptotaenia japonica) has been added.

    Zoni is the name of a soup containing mochi that is traditionally eaten in Japanese households on the first day of the New Year. Depending on the region, the ingredients can vary, and the soup may be a clear soup, soy sauce-based, or made with miso or white miso. But whatever the style, zoni is a combination of a soup containing several vegetables.

    Preparations for a New Year’s feast traditionally begin on December 31. Considering that the first day of the month had been called tsukitachi (rising

    of the moon), a dark, moonless night was important for resetting everything, and eating zoni on the morning after that also meant that the body was being prepared to accept new things.

    Burying yourself in the diversity of a full year—despite being surrounded by an array of happenings, the people of ancient times must have focused their wisdom and consideration for their health into these tiny servings of zoni, praying that they could continue to live on.

     Eating mochi, where the god of the New Year had been believed to dwell, first thing in the New Year, is an act that represents receiving their energy. For the Japanese, this god had no been doubt a manifestation of their ancestors.


    Rieko Ido
    A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

    In Harmony with the Seasons: Toshikoshi Soba

    text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
    text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
    The tradition of eating soba on the last day of the year – Dec 31, also called omisoka – has been around in Japan since the mid-18th century, or the mid-Edo era. This came to be known as toshikoshi soba, or year-crossing soba. Eating soba right before the new year is meant to symbolize cutting off or puting an end to all bad events that happened within the year, hence the choice of soba, as it can be easily cut by chopsticks. On the other hand, the fact that it is long and thin is meant to symbolize longevity and a sustained prosperity for the family.
     In addition, the soba plant also embodies resilience and sturdiness as it survives even in cold climates and recovers quickly from damage by wind and rain with just a little sunlight, plus, it is known to be good for cleansing the blood and lowering blood pressure, hence it is said that eating soba helps to clean the body from the inside to welcome the new year.
    There is another interesting saying that goldsmiths in the Edo era would, on the last day of the year, use a ball made from
    soba flour to gather all the gold dust that had gathered within the year off the tatami mat, and this association between soba and wealth accumulation made toshikoshi soba popular.


    Rieko Ido
    A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Christmas, A Time For…Fried Chicken?

    For most part of the world that celebrates Christmas, a roast turkey is the main star of the Christmas meal. But in Japan, Christmas means a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    KFC

     

    There are various theories as to how this tradition came about – either from a very successful marketing campaign by KFC years back, an innate Japanese preference for all things smaller and more compact (stemming from a perception that bigger objects tend to taste bland with a less refined taste), or even perhaps the uncanny resemblance between Colonel Sanders and Santa Claus…

    KFC-Japanese-Christmas-Christmas-Chicken-Shop
    Ho,ho,ho…goes Colonel Sanders, laughing all the way to the bank.

    Orders are taken for the KFC bucket around two weeks before Christmas. And, in a bid to get a piece of the Christmas pie, convenience stores and supermarkets have also started frying up chickens in zest.

    Fried chicken 1
    If you don’t want to queue at KFC, just head to the combini.
    Friedchickencombini
    7-11 (left) and Circle K Sunkus amost those joining the fowl play.

    So, if you haven’t already placed your KFC orders and don’t fancy a long wait for fast food, you know where to go for your Christmas Fried Chicken. Or, you could just go cold turkey.

    Here’s wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas!

     

    A collaboration between Hooters and NAMCO

    Florida based chain restaurant Hooters, famous for its chicken wings and Hooter Girls (waitresses in sexy outfits) opened its new interactive sports bar GAMING BAR SIDE-B at its Shibuya branch on December 18.

    2

    This entertainment zone was made possible through a collaboration with Japanese video game and entertainment giant, NAMCO, the company famous for iconic video game franchises as Pac-Man and Tekken.1
    With a New York downtown style, you can watch sport matches or dancing Hooter Girls over a beer and some chicken wings here, as well as play table football and arcade basketball.5
    Spot Information
    Address: Dogenzaka 2-29-5 SHIBUYA PRIME
    URL:  http://www.hooters.co.jp/en/shop/shibuya/

    Ippudo’s original ramen for just 500 yen! (Dec. 19-22)

    IMG_0705

    In celebration of its one year anniversary, SHIROMARU BASE (by Ippudo) in Shibuya is offering its classic Shiromaru Base Ramen for just 500 yen (normally 700 yen) between Dec. 19-22.

    World-famous Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone-based broth) ramen eatery Ippudo has changed its recipe multiple times since its founding in 1985, but only at SHIROMARU BASE (five stores across Japan) can you try the 30-year old original flavor that started the craze.

    In addition, you can also get an extra serving of noodles (kaedama) for free for any ramen that you order during this campaign, including the spicier Karaka Base Ramen pictured above (620 yen).

    IMG_0709

    SHIROMARU BASE Shibuya Store
    Hours: Mon – Thurs & Sun 11am – 5am; Fri, Sat 11am – 6am
    Address: Udagawacho 25-3, Shibuya

     

    Kanpai to Shibuya Beer!

    Developed by Cafe Udagawa in April 2015, Shibuya Beer is the newest alcoholic trend in town with already more than 150 restaurants & cafes serving this original craft beer.

    sub2

    The high-quality maca (a root vegetable) used in Shibuya Beer makes it a drink that not only boosts one’s spirit, but also stimulates one’s health, as maca is good for anti-aging. The grapefruit flavored beer aims to become synonym to Shibuya, and online retail has recently started here (Japanese only).

    Caramel Apple Frappuccino & Hot Apple in Starbucks

    starbucks_xmas_001

    “Caramel Apple Frappuccino” and “Hot Apple” are the newest seasonal flavors at Starbucks across Japan. For limited time only!

    DATE:Dec. 1-25, 2015
    PRICE:
    Apple caramel Frappuchino
    Tall 540yen+tax
    Grande 580yen+tax
    Venti 620yen+tax

    Hot Apple
    Short 420yen+tax
    Tall 460yen+tax
    Grande 500yen+tax
    Venti 540yen+tax

    BQpedia: Oden

    BQ-1-760x615

    BQpedia: Your guide to the underbelly of Japanese cuisine

    B級グルメ(“B-Kyu Gurume”) may mean “B-Grade Gourmet” but the only thing “B-Grade” about this food category is the price, as most Japanese will swear by the “A-Grade” taste of these local favorites. Not to be confused as the equivalent of “fast food” in the West. Let WAttention walk you through this food culture with our definitive BQ Gourmet guide!

    Today’s BQ menu: Oden / oʊ·ˈden

    oden_R

    What it is: A traditional winter hot pot dish, commonly consisting of radish, kelp, boiled eggs and konjac, tofu and fishcakes in various shapes and sizes, simmered in a dashi soup broth, which is heavier in soy sauce in the Kanto Area (eg: Tokyo) and lighter tasting in the Kansai Area (eg: Osaka). In Shizuoka, the soup is black as beef stock is used along with a generous dose of soy sauce, whereas in Nagoya where the miso-culture wafts strong, a miso-broth is used.

    IMG_00232

    This mixed stew evolved from a snack called dengaku which is tofu grilled on a stick with a dollop of miso paste, named after the eponymous dancers who performed on sticks. In the Edo era, other foods like potatoes and konjac yams were also skewered and grilled. Over time, these skewers were put in a hot pot of broth and stewed. It can be speculated that when these items were taken off the sticks, “gaku” was dropped from the name and the honorific “O” was added to give the current naming of Oden.

    141115052020-760x399

    Where to find it: Finding oden is as easy as heading to a local izakaya, street stall, or yes, nearly every convenience store (conbini), as early as September. To order at the conbini, simply pick out your preferred items, pour the soup to your liking, and pay at the counter. And if that’s not convenient enough, you can even find canned oden vending machines in Akihabara! Of course, aficionados can also search for specialty stores with set menus—some offering a selection of over 50 items.

    e55l_0643b-001-760x507

    What’s inside:

    Daikon: radish that soaks up the broth thoroughly
    Konjac: made from the konjac potato, springy with near zero calories!
    Goboten: fried burdock root (gobo) with fish paste
    Kinchaku: a small pouch of deep-fried tofu, filled with mochi
    Shirataki: translucent konjac strings have a chewy texture, and are the perfect low-calorie noodle alternative!

    BQ-2

    How to enjoy it: Oden is enjoyed on its own as a main dish. At some conbini you may have the option of adding udon to the soup. Choose any item that looks appetizing or interesting to you—the taste may be mainly of the broth, but enjoy the different textures.

    ICHIRAN New Branch Opened in Asakusa

    The best ramen with the best company

    ramen_R

    Fukuoka based ramen shop ICHIRAN, a favorite of many tonkotsu (pork bone broth) lovers will open its 13th Tokyo branch in Asakusa on December 10, 2015. It will be the first branch in Tokyo with the “ICHIRAN Yatai” concept, which resembles the spirit of ramen food stalls common in Fukuoka. Different from ICHIRAN’s separated seats that make sure you are not distracted and can concentrate on the noodles, “ICHIRAN Yatai” is a cozy open space were you can enjoy the ramen and other dishes together with your friends!

    êÛëêìX_àÍóñâÆë‰
    ICHIRAN focuses purely on tonkotsu ramen, striving to bring you the best bowl in the genre. Topped with its iconic red-pepper sauce, the classic tonkotsu ramen here can be customized according to  your preferences. The order sheet (which is available in English, Chinese and Korean) allows you to choose the strength and richness of the flavor, the amount of garlic, spiciness of the red-pepper sauce, firmness of the noodles and more.

    IMG_0240

    This classic bowl of tonkotsu ramen is one of WAttention’s favorites, and it feels great to finally be able to enjoy it with company!

    IMG_0251
    Together with Tokyo’s first ICHIRAN Yatai, Premium Sliced Pork – Kamadare Style – also makes its Tokyo debut. Topped with nori, these juicy pork slices go great with rice during lunchtime or as a snack together with your beer after a hard day of sightseeing.

    IMG_0190
    For dessert, how about a green tea flavored annin tofu, or matcha annin tofu? Although annin tofu is a common dessert in Japan, green tea flavor is a rare find!

    IMG_0183

    ICHIRAN Asakusa

    Price range:1,000 – 2,000 yen

    Location: Asakusa 1-1-16 B1F Tatio

    Access: 1-min from Asakusa Station (Ginza Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tobu Skytree Line)

    Crispy but soft, a new style of pancakes

    During this year’s Christmas season, confectionery maker & café Nicolas House’s Omotesando branch presents a new style of pancakes. Decorated with thorny meringues that together look like an elf’s cap,  this fluffy pancake’s unique texture and flavor can only be enjoyed here. This could very well be the next big hit at Tokyo’s mecca of pancakes, Omotesando.

    nicola1

    Nicolas House Omotesando Store

    Address: 4-26-5 Jingumae Shibuya
    Hours: 11am-8pm
    WEBSITE:http://www.nicolasusagi.com/

    Cinnamoroll Cafe Opens for Limited Period

    Meet and bite super cute “dog” characters. Cinnamoroll Cafe’s special dishes and beverages feature Sanrio’s (the company also responsible for Hello Kitty) Cinnamon friends.

    CINNAMOROLL is a character series created by Sanrio in 2001. The main character, Cinnamon, is a white puppy with long ears, blue eyes, pink cheeks, and a plump and curly tail that resembles a cinnamon roll.

    cn_cafe_shibuya_parco_04

    Be quick as this cafe at Shibuya PARCO is only open until 28 December. Original character goods are also available at the shopping counter inside the cafe.

    cn_cafe_shibuya_parco_03

    cn_cafe_shibuya_parco_02

    Information
    PLACE:THE GUEST cafe&diner in PARCO,Shibuya
    4,Dec-28,Dec,2015
    OPEN: 11:00-22:00
    ・twitter
    https://twitter.com/THEGUESTcafe
    ・facebook
    https://www.facebook.com/THEGUESTcafe
    ・instagram
    https://instagram.com/theguestcafe/

    Welcome back popular Japanese limited edition Häagen-Dazs flavors!

    hanamochi_01

    hanamochi_02

    From Häagen-Dazs, two new ice cream flavors, “Kinako & Black Honey” and “Mitarashi Walnuts” are re-release today, December 8, 2015 (Tuesday)! These traditional Japanese flavors were actually once on sale in February, but were so popular that stock ran out immediately. So, if you find the package with the “hana mochi” sign, just grab it.

    Sit down face to face with your savory pie @ Pie face

    pie

    渋谷モディショップ_内観画像

    The newest faces in town here in Shibuya are these yummy Australian savory pies.

    pie2

    They come in more than 10 flavors, each with a smiley that resembles that flavor. Since Pie face opened on November 19 at Shibuya Modi, these pies have been selling like hot cakes!

    pie3

    【メイン】Pie face イメージ_チャンキー

    Information: Jinnnan 1-21-3 Shibuya-MODI 1F ,Shibuya
    Hours: 9am to 10pm (open everyday)
    URL: http://www.duskin.co.jp/service/pieface/ (Japanese)

    Try Milan’s best pizza in Shiubya @ SPONTINI Shibuya-Modi

    As a little kid, my mother once took me to Milan. We coincidentally found a pizzeria called Spontini, which was queueing with locals. I have always remembered the pizza there as the best of my life. Last month, more than 15 years later, Spontini has opened its first branch outside of Italy, and in Tokyo! Its second branch opened this month in Shibuya Modi, Shibuya’s newest shopping facility!

    spo1

    spo2

    Restaruant Information: Jinnnan 1-21-3 Shibuya-MODI 1F・2F ,Shibuya
    Hours: 11am to 11pm (open everyday)
    ※Reservations are not accepted.                                                    URL: http://www.pizzeriaspontini.jp/english.html

    Ryugin, the world’s 29th best restaurant

    Japanese restaurant Ryugin – located in Roppongi – is one of Tokyo’s 12 restaurants that boast 3 Michelin stars, and has received this honor for 4 years in a row! It is also one of the two only Japanese restaurants to be listed in “The Worlds 50 best restaurants”, coming in the 29th spot! No wonder that Ryugin is one of Tokyo’s most popular dining spots for those that can afford the luxury.

    While classic Japanese restaurants traditionally have counter seats faced towards the kitchen, Ryugin only has normal table seats and a private room for 4 people. The somber interior is significantly different from most other Japanese restaurants, representing a modern sense of style.

    Ryugin

    Ryugin’s refined cuisine brought to you by chef Yamamoto, puts an emphasis on only using the freshest and best ingredients of the day without any use of food additives. While authentic seasonal ingredients gathered from the whole country form traditional kaiseki dishes, Ryugin’s methods and techniques are groundbreaking at the same time, with philosophy behind dishes that go not only well with sake, but with quality wine carefully selected by chef Yamamoto as well.

    sake
    Given the fact that the ingredients are different from day to day, Ryugin does not have a steady menu, but courses are available for 27,000 per person (exclusive of beverages).

    Here follow some images to give you an idea on what you can expect out of a course at Ryugin.

    ryugin前菜
    The course starts with cold and warm appetizers like this
    龍吟味おわん
    It is then followed up by a seasonal owan (bowl) dish
    龍吟お刺身
    Expect an assortment of the freshest sashimi of the day!
    龍吟鮎2
    Grilled fish like this Ayu (sweetfish) is a feast for the eye and tummy
    しゃぶしゃぶ
    Shabu shabu hot pot with fresh vegetables is a relatively common dish at Ryugin
    龍吟味肉
    Grilled meat decorated with nori seaweed
    龍吟ご飯
    In this case, the rice dish of the day came with Japanese soul food Unagi (eel)
    龍吟デザート2
    The dessert usually uses fresh seasonal fruits of the time of the year.
    龍吟味プリン
    Ryugin’s original “Roppongi Pudding” which focuses on the original taste of eggs, makes for a great souvenir!

    Another interesting fact is, that while Ryugin is ranked as the 29th restaurant of the world internationally, at Japan’s largest food community Tabelog, it is only ranked as the 74th best restaurant of Japan (34th in Tokyo). This really shows how many incredible restaurants Japan – the country with the most Michelin stars in the world – hosts, creating a true paradise for foodies!

    Photo credit: Shen Mu Photography

    Spot Information

    Location: Roppongi 7-17-24 Minato

    Access: 2-min walk from Roppongi Station Exit 2 (Hibiya Line, Oedo Line)

    Price Range: 30,000

    Hours: 18pm – 1am (last order: 10:30pm)

    *Reservations are required!

    Say “Cheese” to new Pablo Café opening on Dec. 12

    bakedcheesetart

    Famed for their melt-in-your-mouth cheese tarts, Osaka-based Pablo will open their first café in the Kanto area in chic Omotesando on Dec. 12.

    表参道外観イメージ

    While you can pick up their classic cheese treats on the first floor – much like at their other stores across Tokyo – you can also dine on their expanded menu at the fashionable 2nd floor café, which includes Honey Cheese Toast, Sweet Cheese Fondue, and their limited item Baked Mini Cheese Tart Camembert x Quattro Fromage – available only at this Omotesando location!

    表参道2F内観イメージ

    bake

    cheesetoast

    cheesefondue

    Address: Jingumae 1-14-21, Shibuya
    Hours: 10am – 9pm (Last Order for food at 8pm, drinks at 8:30pm)
    Price: Baked Mini Cheese Tart 780 yen tax included, Baked Mini Cheese Tart Camembert x Quattro Fromage 1,500 yen tax included
    Website (Japanese) http://www.pablo3.com/shops/omotesando.html

    12 years of world-class cocktails @ Bar Ishi no Hana

    ishinohana

    International award winning cocktail mixologist Shinobu Ishigaki’s bar Ishi no Hana celebrates is 12th anniversary. WAttention editors visited the bar earlier this year and were deeply impressed by cocktail “Japanese Old Fashioned” prepared by the master himself.

    ishinohana2

    Visit Ishi no Hana from December 1 to December 15 and receive a special souvenir. How about celebrating your own special day at this classy bar?

    ishinohana3

    Restaurant Information: Shibuya 3-6-2 Dai 2 Yagi Bldg. B1, Shibuya Hours: 6pm – 2am URL: http://ishinohana.com/en/

    Farmer’s Market @UNU Aoyama

    unu3

    Farmer’s Market is held in Aoyama every weekend!

    UNU

    You can get fresh veggies, foods, bread and more at these markets.

    unu2

    unuAll Photos:http://farmersmarkets.jp/

    Date:Every Saturday and Sunday from 10am~4pm
    Place:United Nation University in Aoyama
    Address:5-53-70, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    Website: http://www.farmersmarkets.jp/

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Feeling Crabby?

    crabA
    Clockwise from left: hairy crab, taraba crab and the snow crab

    Crab season is officially here, with the start of the snow crab fishing season beginning off the Sea of Japan last week. The snow crab, or zuwaigani, is a much-loved winter delicacy by the Japanese. Other popular types of crabs include the hairy crab and taraba crab. The season lasts till around March next year.

    AS SASHIMI

    crabcollage
    Snow crab sashimi (left) and taraba crab sashimi (right)

    As with all things fresh in Japan, snow crab is best savored raw with soy sauce or ponzu (a citrus-based sauce). However, as crab has to be handled very carefully in order to be served raw, this is not always available at restaurants.

    BOILED IN A HOTPOT

    crab1

    Another popular way is to boil the crabs in a hotpot, either on its own or as part of a mixed hotpot, which will lend a sweetness to the resulting broth.

    GRILLED

    crab2

    For many, the aroma of grilled crab wafting in the air is irresistible. As the crab meat is already flavorsome, no additional sauce or seasoning is necessary. Just enjoy the natural juices of this tasty crustacean!

    SHABU-SHABU

    crab4

     

     

    Another popular way is to briefly blanch the snow crab legs in hot soup in shabu-shabu style.

    CRAB MISO 

    crab6

     

    While the flesh of the crab is tasty, many a crab fan will tell you that the best part of the crab lies in its “miso”, or a greyish-green mix paste which is a mix of internal organs. It has a creamy texture and flavor perhaps best described as close to that of uni (sea urchin).

     

    MISO SAKE 

    crab7

    To round off the crab feast, pouring hot sake into the crab shell to result in a complex flavorsome brew is a must try! Boiling the sake in the shell crab to extract more of the essence of the crab and miso is highly recommended.

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

     

    Hokkaido By Rail and Car Day 4: Biei and Furano

    Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island, is also referred to as the “The Big Land in the North” by the locals. Blessed with picturesque nature and bounty from the sea and land, it is a favorite getaway destination for the Japanese and tourists alike. WAttention flew in to Sapporo and did a 5D4N rail and rental car tour through the big land. Follow our trip and train details here!  

    IMG_6078

     

    0840h Leave Sounkyo Onsen by local bus
    0915h Arrive Kamikawa Station
    0925h Leave Kamikawa on L’EX Okhotsk No.2 for Asahikawa
    1010 Arrive Asahikawa Station
    1030 30 min drive from Asahikawa to Biei

    BIEI, LAND OF ROLLING HILLS AND FAMOUS TREES

    秋の丘(11月上旬)

    Biei’s rolling hills and fields of patchwork colors (depending on the crop of the season) makes it a picturesque place to drive through and almost transports you to an English or European countryside.

    biei

     

    Some of its famous trees include the Ken and Mary Tree, a poplar tree that became popular after it was used as a location for a Nissan Skyline commercial in the early 1970s, and the Parent and Child Trees, though the “child” tree in the middle was recently blown away by strong winds, leaving the parents behind (bottom right of the photo collage).

    PICNIC LUNCH

    picnic

    Picnic is the name of a cosy little cafe that serves soup, burgers and sandwiches for eat-in or takeaway, perfect for an outdoors picnic in summer or autumn!

    AOIKE (BLUE POND)

    IMG_0693

    After lunch, WAttention headed to the Blue Pond, around 20 minute’s drive from the Biei Station. This pond is naturally blue due to the natural minerals dissolved in the water. It is actually part of an erosion control systme to prevent damage to Biei in the event of an eruption by Mount Tokachidake nearby.

    WINE DINNER AT FURANO

    furano

     

    Around 45 minutes’ drive from Biei, is the city of Furano, which is famous for its wine and cheese production. Furano Wine House, located atop a hill, offers a great night view to go with fine food, from steak to deer meat, and pizza made with Furano White Cheese.

    NINGURU TERRACE AT FURANO PRINCE HOTEL

    niggle

    Ninguru Terrace is a quaint little village of boutique shops housed in cottages, and makes for a particularly pleasant stroll when colored by autumn foliage or covered in snow. Enjoy the scent of the surrounding pine trees as well for a truly sensory walk.

     

    Stay tuned for the final leg, Day 5 where we try Furano’s soul food, Omurice Curry, and sweets!

    Here’s the rest of the series:
    Hokkaido By Rail & Car: Day 1,2 – Sapporo, Lake Toyako
    Hokkaido By Rail and Car: Day 3 – Kamikawa, Sounkyo
    Hokkaido By Rail and Car Day 5 : Feasting at Furano

    Hokkaido By Rail and Car: Day 3 – Kamikawa, Sounkyo

    Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island, is also referred to as the “The Big Land in the North” by the locals. Blessed with picturesque nature and bounty from the sea and land, it is a favorite getaway destination for the Japanese and tourists alike. WAttention flew in to Sapporo and did a 5D4N rail and rental car tour through the big land. Follow our trip and train details here!  

    IMG_5645
    L’EX Okhotsk No.2

    Day 3:
    7:21 Board the L’EX Okhotsk from Kamikawa Station
    9:41 Arrive Kamikawa Station

    BEAR PARK AND ICE PAVILION

    sounkyo
    Feed the bears and experience minus 21 degrees all in one venue!

    Bears roam freely on some mountains in Hokkaido, but you don’t have to head to the deep forests to see one. In fact, you can see 12 huge bears at the Asahikawa Bear Park at the Daisetsu Mori-no-Garden and watch how they try to charm you for cookies (provided by the park). After that, find out why the bears decide to hibernate in the Hokkaido winters by entering the Ice Pavilion, literally the coolest entertainment place in Japan with temperatures going below minus degrees Celsius.
    Around 15 minutes by car from the station.

    LUNCH @ FRATELLO DI MIKUNI

    mikuni
    Set lunch at Mikuni, a fine dining restaurant by Mikuni Kiyomi

    Within walking distance from the Daisetsu Mori-no-Garden, is a fine dining restaurant with a view of the Daisetsuzan Mountain Valley, run by renowned chef, Mikuni Kiyomi, who is also known as the Food Ambassador of Hokkaido.  Enjoy the tastiest food of the season here at prices that won’t break the bank!

    KURODAKE ROPEWAY 

    ????????????????????????????????????
    Autumn foliage from the ropeway

    Mt. Kurodake is the highest peak in the Daisetsuzan National Park at 1,984m and is easily accessible by ropeway which leads to the 5th Station halfway up to the peak. From there, one can take a chairlift further up to the 7th Station. The view of the carpet of autumn foliage on the dramatic mountain ranges is simply stunning.
    Around 30 minutes by car from Fratello Di Mikuni.

    GINGA WATERFALL AND RYUSEI WATERFALL

    sounkyo

    Two minutes’ drive from the ropeway are two waterfalls around 80m high, with water that comes from melted mountain snow. Ginga (silver river)  is meant to be a “female” waterfall for the way it falls in several strands and Ryusei (meteor) is thought to be a “male” waterfall for its powerful straight stream.

    SOUNKYO ONSEN

    露天風呂06

    What better way to end the day than to soak in an outdoor hot spring, with autumn foliage and the background soundtrack of the gushing river?

    dinner

     

    And the onsen experience of course wouldn’t be complete without a kaiseki meal featuring foods of the season such as river fish!

    DAY 4 brings us to Furano!

    Here’s the rest of the series:
    Hokkaido By Rail & Car: Day 1,2 – Sapporo, Lake Toyako
    Hokkaido By Rail and Car Day 4: Biei and Furano
    Hokkaido By Rail and Car Day 5 : Feasting at Furano

    Nagoya Tastes: Miso and More

     

     

    Nagoya is a treasure chest of street food and has a unique food culture from that of Tokyo and Osaka, the other two major cities it is sandwiched between and often bypassed for. Just coming here for a gastronomic adventure is worth the trip itself!

    MISO CUTLETS

    P1050583

    Nagoya is famous for its miso food culture. The dominant type of miso used is 八丁味噌, or hachomiso, which is a miso with a sweet and nutty taste. This is used as a seasoning for all sorts of food, such as oden, and most famously on its pork cutlets as miso cutlets.

    SEKAI NO YAMACHAN

    nagoya2

    Sekai No Yamachan, or literally, Yamachan of the World, is a popular restaurant chain specializing in Nagoya dishes, and famous for its spicy and crispy chicken wings. There are 75 branches within Japan, with 37 in Aichi prefecture and 17 in Tokyo. You can also eat other Nagoya specialties here such as kishimen.

    KISHIMEN

    kishimen

    This is a broad and flat noodle with a broth that is not as soy sauce heavy as the Kanto style and not as light as the Kansai style. Its smooth and chewy texture makes it a tactile treat.

    MORNING 

    nagoya

    “Morning” in Japan refers to breakfast, and the most famous component of breakfast in Nagoya is the red bean paste toast served with a dollop of butter. Try this melting blend of east meeting west here!

     

     

     

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Nuts Over Ginko

    ginnan4

    Come autumn, the leaves of the ginko tree, also known as a the maidenhair tree and the city tree of Tokyo, turn a bright yellow and the tree starts to bear fruit. While the view of a yellow canopy of ginko trees against a clear blue sky is breathtakingly beautiful, the stench of squished ginko nuts can take your breath away in another sense.

    ginnan2

    That said, ginko nut hunters come out during this season to gather these nuts off the ground and wash off the skin, in pursuit of the nut inside which has a bitter sweet taste, making it perfect for frying or baking. The ginko nut is also known for its health properties such as lowering cholesterol levels. Often found in chawanmushi (steamed egg), the ginko nut is also often eaten on its own.

    ginnan

    Grilled ginko nuts with salt are a popular item at izakayas as a healthy snack with beer. The texture is slightly firmer than that of a boiled potato and has a slightly bitter aftertaste.

    ginnan3

    Fried ginko nuts are also sold off the shelves at supermarkets or convenience store as a snack for the health conscious.

    ginnanrice

    And last but not least, another popular way of eating ginko is to of course, to steam it with rice.

    The Takaoka Street Treats Tour

    Situated between the two capital cities of Toyama and Kanazawa, Takaoka is often bypassed by tourists. But with lots to offer in terms of culture, crafts, gourmet, historical streets and a Doraemon street, Toyama’s second largest city is one you don’t want to miss. Find out more about the hidden charm of Takaoka in this 5-part series.

    DSC05945

    Sightseeing and snacking go hand-in-hand, and with nearly all the major tourist attractions in Takaoka City within walking distance, these street treats make the perfect pairing for your exploring.

    Anything and Everything Konbu

    DSC05133

    Though green konbu kelp isn’t cultivated locally, the Kitamaebune ship trade routes from Hokkaido to Toyama Bay made this seaweed a staple here for over 300 years. Sure, its furry texture may not be what you’d expect on your onigiri riceball or atop your oden, but it makes for a savory and healthy addition to almost any dish!

    DSC05779

    Takaoka Croquette

    DSC05164

    Croquette is a favorite across Japan, but perhaps no other city treasures this crispy potato-filled treat more than Takoaka, where sales are said to be highest in the nation. From local Hida beef-filled versions, to the oversized Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) version, over 40 stores are ready to dish out this deep-fried soul food.

    Black Dorayaki

    DSC05788

    Combining the rich black soy sauce flavor of Toyama’s famed Black Ramen with animated hometown hero Doraemon’s favorite food, this red bean paste and butter-filled pancake is the perfect way to commemorate the city’s beloved blue cat.

    DSC05796

    Melon Bun

    DSC05942

    Though not native to Takaoka City, this melon bun chain store from next door Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture (whose name humorously reads “The World’s Second Best Freshly Baked Melon Bread Ice Cream”) has been featured on TV numerous times since opening. Straight out of the oven, its slightly crispy texture and sweet taste is delicious by itself or with a scoop of ice cream inside. Apparently the world’s best fresh baked melon bun refers to the first person to have created it…

    DSC05839

    Black Kaki no Tane

    DSC05802

    Only available in the Hokuriku region, try the black version of this traditional kaki-pi (crescent-shaped rice cracker kaki no tane and peanuts) snack. Just don’t be confused, as unlike all the other black dishes in Toyama, this one gets its color and flavor from black squid ink, not soy sauce.

    DSC05786

     

    The Takaoka Taste Tour

    m_182525

    From historic copperware craftwork to the futuristic cartoon cat Doraemon, Takaoka City is the home of traditional and modern culture for all ages. And thanks to the recently completed Hokuriku Shinkansen, visiting this picturesque town located along Toyama Bay, facing the Sea of Japan, has never been more convenient. Travel with WAttention as we bring you Takaoka’s top eats, spots, and traditions in this five-part series.   

    The Takaoka Taste Tour

    Toyama Bay is indeed gorgeous, named as one of the Most Beautiful Bays In The World by UNESCO last year. But it is also a breeding ground for Japan’s tastiest seafood, some of which can only be found here. Whether raw, fried, or in your ekiben (“train bento”), bite into the bay’s best eats while they’re at their freshest in neighboring Takaoka—and don’t forget about it’s iconic ramen either.

    Shiroebi (White Shrimp)

    DSC04975

    Referred to as the “jewels of Toyama Bay”, full-scale fishing for these little whitish-pink creatures takes place only here, between April and November. Savor its sweet melt-in-your-mouth creaminess by trying it raw, or eat it whole as a crunchy fried snack.

    DSC05755

    Hotaruika (Firefly Squid)

    m_182559

    These, one of the smallest species of squid, are as delicious to eat as they are fascinating to watch, as they light up Toyama Bay with their glow in early spring. Often boiled and served in a sumiso (vinegar and miso) sauce, this delicacy can also be enjoyed as tempura, or of course, raw.

    DSC04994

    Toyama-wan Zushi (Toyama Bay Sushi)

    m_182565

    With over 500 species of fish swimming throughout the waters here, there’s no shortage of toppings for fresh sushi. Typically served as a set of 10 atop Toyama-grown rice, Toyama-wan Zushi offers a sampling of all the local favorites, including yellowtail buri and honmaguro tuna.

    DSC06371
    A Toyama-wan Zushi display inside Shin-Takaoka Station

    Masu no Sushi

    m_182563

    300 years ago, a samurai dedicated this dish of pressed pink trout sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves to the daimyo lord Toshiaki Maeda, and ever since, it has been considered a classic. Be sure to grab one of the ekibens for your train ride back, as these have won numerous national awards for best boxed lunch!

    SONY DSC

    Toyama Black Ramen

    DSC05137

    Dark soy sauce is the secret ingredient to this, the flagship noodle dish in Toyama Prefecture. But don’t let the color scare you, as this ramen took first place three consecutive years at the Tokyo Ramen Show. And unlike the other dishes above, it can even make a great omiyage if you buy the instant version at any convenience store in the area.

    IMG_1941

    Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake: A Japanese Wine Paradise

    Savor it, experience it

    Japan is not the first destination that comes to mind for wine tasting. But times have changed and Japan is no more a country of just sake. The quality of the country’s whiskey has been acknowledged globally with some of the finest liquors, and while still standing in the shadows of top-class vineyards as, say, Italy’s Tuscany or France’s Provence, Yamanashi Prefecture is gradually spreading its name throughout the world as an area of quality wine.

    The best way to see, feel, and of course savor the wines of Yamanashi, is without a doubt by staying at Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake located in Hokuto city. This “wine resort” allows you to get familiar with the local wines in style and comfort that few, if not no other facilities can compete with.

    wineresort-8_R

    At Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake, the amount of activities available to get you familiar with the local wines are staggering. Taste 24 different local wines at the resort’s YATSUGATAKE wine house, have dinner at OTTO SETTE – the resort’s chic Italian restaurant that serves refined dishes to go with the wines – and enjoy a conversation with an experienced sommelier.

    risonareyatugatake

    But that is not where it ends. Hosnino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake offers various plans to make your stay as romantic and wine-full as possible. How about a stay at the “wine suite room”, for example? While a stay in this wine-themed suite might be a little pricey, do note that it includes 5 quality wines for you to freely drink and take home, a chic dinner and breakfast at the resort’s restaurants and more.

    客室ワインスイートルーム_R
    Everything about this suite just screams wine!

    Of course, there are plenty of other activities not related to wine available as well. The resort’s stylish Piment-dori street has seasonal activities and stores that range from local bred vegetables on sale in summer to Halloween illumination and a Christmas show.

    ピーマン通り_R

    Il Mare, the resort’s spacey pool equipped with a cafe is ideal to relax and Yatsugatake activity center offers plenty of outdoor activities for the children while you receive a winter limited VINO Fonte treatment at the resort’s spa that uses wine grape draffs.

    recreationhoshino

    If you are an outdoor person, horse-riding through Hokuto city’s picturesque forests or skiing in the winter can also be enjoyed.

    絶景紅葉乗馬
    Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake

    Location: 129-1 Kobuchizawa-cho 129-1, Hokuto, Yamanashi

    Access: 5-min by pickup bus from Kobushizawa Station (Chuo Main Line, Koumi Line)

    URL: http://www.hoshinoresorts.com/en/resortsandhotels/risonare/yatsugatake.html

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Say Cheese To Persimmon

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Persimmons, or kaki (柿), and pumpkins are the signature orange foods of autumn. From September till around December, persimmon trees can be seen ablaze with the orange fruit.

    kaki10

    The flesh tastes mildly sweet, and depending on how ripe it is, ranges from a crunch to jelly-like texture.

    drykaki

    In the rural areas, it is common to see strings of persimmon being hung up to dry. This heightens the sweetness of the persimmon, and gives it a more chewy texture.

    kaki8

    More recently, dried persimmon has also been used to make sweets and desserts, most popularly with cream cheese which compliments its taste–much like how cheese goes with other dried fruits such as apricot.

    kaki1

    Persimmon leaves, known for their anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial qualities, have also been used to wrap sushi and lend some fragrance to the rice and raw fish.

     

     

    Three Ways To Eat Fugu

    Fugu, Safe and Yummy

    Being a poisonous fish, Fugu, or pufferfish is one of the most notorious delicacies in Japanese cuisine. Although most of our  readers are probably familiar with it, I assume that most of you have yet to try it out for yourself.

    585dc393c5f257a50b0cf42b111def1b_l
    While between 1 to 6 people die by Fugu poison per year in Japan, calling an evening at a Fugu restaurant “Japanese roulette” would be unfair. More than 90 percent of the Fugu poison incidents do not occur at restaurants, but at home by eating self-caught and self-prepared fugu.
    To be allowed to serve Fugu at a restaurant, all the chefs need to have a license, which can only be obtained by 3 years of hard training. Furthermore, the liver, a Fugu’s most poisonous part, is forbidden to be served.
    While eating an amateur prepared Fugu can indeed be very dangerous, having Fugu at a restaurant is a lot more safe than for example driving a car, practicing sports or even eating fast food!

    tuboraya3
    The iconic Fugu of Tsubora, a famous Fugu restaurant in Osaka

    While Fugu is widely renowned for being poisonous, what is less known, is how it is eaten.
    At a Fugu restaurant, a dinner course that has several dishes with Fugu prepared in different ways is generally ordered. Here are the 3 major ways in which Fugu is often prepared.

    1. Fugusashi

    Fugusashi, or Fugu as sashimi, is without a doubt the most traditional and most famous way of serving fugu. Due to Fugu’s firm texture, normal sashimi slices would be too hard to chew. This is why fugu is cut in slices so thin that they are transparent, also making it a feast for the eyes. The slices are served on a large plate, often in the shape of a crane.
    Fugu as sashimi is dipped in Ponzu (citrus soy sauce) rather than plain soy sauce.

     

    2. Fugu  no karaage

    6363563515_74241aaed7_o

    Today, Fugu chunks deep fried in a thin layer of flour are one of the most popular ways to eat Fugu. These crispy delights can be dipped in either Ponzu or salt.

     

    3. Fugunabe, or Techiri

    nw-fugu-fc102

    The main dish of a fugu course is usually Fugu nabe, a hot pot dish with a konbu (seaweed) broth soup that includes many vegetables as shiitake, enoki mushroom, Chinese cabbage, spring onions etc. which are simmered together with the fish. Once only the soup is left, the dish can be finished by adding some salt and rice. This is called zousui and is also common in other Japanese hot pot dishes.

    Other popular Fugu dishes include Shirako (Fugu’s soft roe), jellied Fugu, Hire-zake (dried fugu fins served in hot sake), and the now forbidden Fugu liver.

    Matsumoto Must Try Delicacies

    Matsumoto City is probably most well-known overseas for its historic castle, the Matsumoto Castle, which is over 400 years old and a National Treasure of Japan. Nagano’s second largest city also has lots else to offer, which WAttention will introduce in this 4-part Matsumoto Must sightseeing series. 

     

     

    MUST TRY DELICACIES 

    Ask any Japanese and they will tell you that Nagano Prefecture is famous for soba, horse meat, bee larvae and grasshoppers–not all in one dish, of course!

    Matsumoto has a unique local soba of its own, called Toji Soba, which literally means “dipping soba into soup”–or how the soba is eaten. Cold soba is given a dip in hot dashi broth, shabu shabu style, and then eaten with the soup which has pork, mushrooms, mountain vegetables and fried oily tofu as ingredients.

    soba

    In Japan, horse meat sashimi is commonly eaten in Nagano Prefecture and Kumamoto Prefecture. Like beef, there are various cuts of different fat marbling. Horse meat has been gaining popularity in Japan for being low in fat and high in protein.

    8 (2)

    Bee larve is known to be rich in protein. The taste and texture is perhaps best described as similar to a dried natto. These little bugs are understandably hard to harvest and hence don’t come cheap! The color variation indicates the stage of the larvae’s maturity–the darker, the closer it was to becoming a busy bee.

    4

     

    Grasshoppers are flavored tsukudani-style, ie. with soy sauce, mirin and sake–with a nice crunch. Good with sake!

    5

    The region has also developed its own breed of salmon, Shinshu salmon–a crossbreed of two trouts to result in a fish rich in oil content. This is only available at restaurants in Nagano.

    6

    Now, for more common local soul food, there is yuba (tofu skin)…

    5 (2)
    Rich and creamy tofu skin!

    …and for something a bit more hearty, the sanzoku (literally meaning Mountain Thief) fried chicken cutlet.

    7 (2)

     

    Now, do you feel like you could eat a horse?

    Training Through Tohoku (3): Strange Foods

    DSC01474

    The Strange Foods List

    Trying new foods is half the adventure of traveling, and Tohoku is full of land and sea creatures—or the above dish, which looks straight from outer space—served so fresh that sometimes they’re still moving on your plate. Be on the look out, or perhaps beware, of the following!

    DSC01064

    Dancing Squid (Aomori)

    This freshly sliced squid dish is served so quickly that it actually moves or “dances” when you touch it with your chopsticks. Though most famous in Hakodate, Hokkaido, where even a festival dance called the Ika Odori (Squid Dance) exists, you can also catch it in Aomori—one of the Japan’s largest squid suppliers. Fear not if you find yourself squirming in your seat as well. They’ll usually grill, fry, or boil the unsliced portion for you to eat if you ask.

    DSC01469

    Fujitsubo (Aomori)

    On Aomori’s official list of “Eight Delicacies”, these creepy crustaceans are actually barnacles, often eaten steamed or boiled in shell. The naming is a lot more delicate than its appearance–meaning literally “wisteria vase”, the shape of the barnacles resembling in a crustacean wisteria, perhaps. Even within Aomori at peak season in the fall, it might take some searching to find a place that serves this uncommon specialty. We had to settle for just looking at it poke its head (or claws?) out at us in the market.

    DSC02335

    Tataki Hakkinton Pork (Morioka)

    This premium “platinum” (hakkinton) brand of pork, native to Hanamaki City in Iwate Prefecture is a rare sight, literally. Forget everything you’ve learned about always needing to cook your pork thoroughly, as here you can find it lightly grilled (tataki) and as pink on the inside as the pigs themselves.

    DSC02953

    Same no Shinzou “shark heart” (Sendai)

    Though shark-filled waters aren’t usually considered a blessing, they are in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the few places in Japan where you can find shark sashimi. Since raw shark can only be eaten when extremely fresh, it’s no wonder that it has a very clean taste, with hardly any fishiness to it. Not for the chicken-hearted.

    DSC03365

    Tsuyahime Soft Serve Ice Cream (Yamagata)

    It is said that Yamagata’s distinguished tsuyahime rice tastes great not just when freshly cooked, but even after cooling, and this is surely the the coldest way to enjoy it. Rice is used as a base for a number of Japanese treats, from mochi to the non-alcoholic fermented amazake drink, and this soft serve carries the same subtle sweetness—the perfect dessert for this article’s odd menu.

    Next up: the Tohoku Must Buy List.

    Training Through Tohoku (1): The Must Do List

    Training Through Tohoku (2): The Must Eat List

    Training Through Tohoku (3): Strange Foods

    Training Through Tohoku (4): Traditional Crafts

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Ode to Oden!

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    O, Oden!

    For the past three days, I’ve had oden for lunch. Oden, for the uninitiated, is a staple winter dish in Japan that comprises fishcakes, tofu, radish, konjac, boiled eggs , kelp and anything that can a) soak up the flavor of the  broth, or b) contribute to the flavor of the broth or both.

    With the weather getting cooler in Japan past mid-autumn, oden stalls can be seen in combini (convenience shops) throughout Japan.

    oden3

    You pick whichever morsel you fancy, pour in the soup and pay at the counter, where you’ll be asked if you’d like miso sauce, Japanese mustard or yuzu kosho (yuzu pepper paste) as a condiment.

    People from different regions of Japan have different condiments of choice: for example, if you are from Nagoya which has a strong miso-culture you’d definitely choose miso to go with your oden.

    SONY DSC
    Toyama Oden, where kelp is a topping

     

    In Toyama prefecture, where kelp is heavily consumed, shredded kelp is commonly added as a topping.

     

    Coming from Singapore, the dish reminded me of something we have back home called Yong Tau Fu, which means stuffed tofu–but various vegetables, not just tofu, are also stuffed with fish paste, and lots of other ingredients including fishcakes are also available for the picking.

     

     

    oden

     

    That said, the sight of floating white marshmallow-like things in the soup did seem rather strange to me–these white fluffy things being the “hanpen”, made basically from whipped fish paste and egg white.

    oden5

    Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for its “black hanpen”, which is darker because it uses fish like mackerel and sardines rather than cod for the fish paste.

    hanpen

    So, the next time you are in a convenience store or izakaya, don’t forget to give these steamy morsels a try!

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

     

    Matsumoto Must Try Street Eats!

    Matsumoto City is probably most well-known overseas for its historic castle, the Matsumoto Castle, which is over 400 years old and a National Treasure of Japan. Nagano’s second largest city also has lots else to offer, which WAttention will introduce in this 4-part Matsumoto Must sightseeing series. 

     

    MUST TRY STREET EATS 

    1) Oyaki おやき

    These baked buns are a specialty of the Nagano prefecture. They are traditionally filled with savory stuffings such as picked Nozawana vegetables, miso pickled eggplants or shredded radish and baked over a big hot plate, hence its name Oyaki, which means “something baked”. You can find these sold almost anywhere in the prefecture. These come from Naraijuku Post Town, an hour’s local train ride from Matsumoto City.

     

    2) Taiyaki たいやき

    taiyakit

    It’s always a good sign when you see locals frequenting a shop, and this little taiyaki shop, Taiyaki Furusato, located at Nawate Dori Shopping Street along the Metobagawa river had a steady stream of locals taking home boxes of this griddled pastry with red bean filling. Crispy and not too sweet, this is perfect for have as a street snack while checking out the shops along Nawate Dori.

     

    3) Goheimochi 五平餅


    mochi2

    This is a variation of the usual round mochi or dango (rice dumpling) which is chewy and made of rice flour. The goheimochi (which literally means Five Flat Mochi, though as you can see, it does not refer to the number of mochi) is made from coarsely crushed rice that is molded onto a stick and grilled. So it is slightly crisp to the bite with the texture of rice grains remaining. The sauce is made from sesame – sometimes more than one type of sesame – soy sauce and/or miso.

     

    Next up, Matsumoto Must Try Local Gourmet: Horse meat, Grasshoppers and Baby Bees

    8 (2)
    So hungry you could eat a horse? Well, Matsumoto is the right place for you!

     

     

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Nuts over Chestnuts

    The slightly acrid smell of roasting chestnuts in the air is one of the fixtures of autumn in Japan, and heading to the countryside for some chestnut picking is one of the popular autumn activities for Japanese.

    kuri1

    The chestnuts fall to the ground and split when ripe, and the seeds inside are pickled from their spiky shell.

    One of the most common way to enjoy these mildly sweet nuts is by roasting them over charcoal, and you can often see street stalls selling these by the roadside. Those from the Tanba region in the north of Kyoto are particularly famed for being big and perfectly shaped, as well as for their sweetness. These used to be presented as offerings to the Emperor and Shogun over 1,000 years ago.

    kuri4

    Another favorite way to enjoy these nuts is to boil them with rice, for kurimeshi (chestnut rice).

    kuri3

    The taste and texture of chestnuts also makes them perfect for use in desserts.

    kuri2

    You will see mont blancs (a sponge cake dressed in chestnut cream and topped with a candied chestnut or marron glace) being offered in most patisseries.

    kuri8

    In wagashi shops, or Japanese confectionery shops, you will see the kurikinton — a chestnut-shaped wagashi made of chestnut paste and sugar.

    kuri6

    And of course, don’t miss out on the seasonal limited editions of classic souvenir snacks, such as Iwate Prefecture’s Kamome no Tamago (Seagull’s Eggs) with chestnut paste inside!

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

     

    Training Through Tohoku (2): The Must Eat List

    DSC02946

    The Tohoku Must Eat List

    Though seafood (like the highest quality black tuna pictured above) and beef are the biggest draws for foodies here, the tastes of Tohoku extend far beyond. Known to have a richer flavor than cuisine from other regions of Japan, these treats will have you dining like Lord Date Masamune…or well, like a king.

    DSC01532

    Nokkedon (Aomori Prefecture)

    “Nokke” means “topping”, and here at the Furukawa Ichiba, you can build your own seafood bowl!

    DSC01487

    Start by picking up a set of ten vouchers (1,080 yen), two of which you’ll use to get your bowl of rice (or just one for a smaller portion for those cutting back on carbs).

    DSC01502

    Then go on your own seafood hunt through three long rows of stalls, waiting for you to redeem your coupons for scallops, squid, sashimi and more.

    DSC01519

    Not only is it fun to design your own don, but a great way to experience the morning market atmosphere of this coastal city.

    DSC01535

    Furukawa Ichiba Access: A 5-min. walk from JR Aomori Station.

    DSC02104

    Reimen “Cold Noodles” (Morioka)

    Located in central Iwate Prefecture, Morioka is the last place you’d expect to find a Korean-style noodle dish. But for over the past 50 years, these chewy noodles served in a refreshing cold and spicy soup have become one of the “Three Great Noodles” of the area, along with Wanko Soba and Jajamen.

    DSC02640

    Gyutan “Cow tongue” (Sendai)

    Though rumored that gyutan became popular throughout Sendai as it was the least wanted and most affordable part of the cow in post-war days, it now reigns as the capital’s chief delicacy. A bite of this—one of the juiciest and most flavor-packed cuts of beef—will show you why. Just don’t let the name get to you.

    DSC03172 2

    Tama-konnyaku “Konjac balls” (Yamagata)

    Rounding up our list (literally) these skewered konjac balls are made from the starchy konjac root native to Japan. This snack is so famous in Yamagata, that nearly every tourist spot and shopping area here is almost guaranteed to have a big pot of these gelatinous-textured treats, simmering in a soy sauce base (which sometimes includes Japanese sake).

    DSC03170

    Now that you’ve got the essentials down for feasting in the northeast, get ready for some strange foods in our next article, perhaps not for the faint of heart!

    Training Through Tohoku (1): The Must Do List

    Training Through Tohoku (2): The Must Eat List

    Training Through Tohoku (3): Strange Foods

    Training Through Tohoku (4): Traditional Crafts

    Shichiken: A Traditional Sake Brewery With Modern Ideas

    A brewery that is a world of its own

    Yamanashi Prefecture Hokoto City’s Hakushu area might be famous for Suntory’s Hakushu Whiskey, but did you know that it is also home to long-established sake brewery, Shichiken? WAttention went to check it out, and quickly came to the conclusion that Shichiken is much more than just a sake brewery. It is a museum, a restaurant, a cafe, and you could even call it a world of its own!

    entrance_R
    Shichiken brewery ‘s entrance was built in 1835, and its traditional facade alone already makes it worth a visit

    Shichiken as a brewery:

    Shichiken is a Japanese sake brewery with over 300 years of history, and has been run by the Kitagawara family for 12 generations. Rather than secretly developing techniques without opening up to the public, the young Kitagawara brothers take a more modern approach towards their craftsmanship, welcoming anyone to come and observe the process of sake brewing, and even to see the Kojimuro (a room where the malt is dried), where traditionally not even workers at the brewery were allowed to enter unless they were involved in the process.

    0327-01-096

    Sake tasting can be enjoyed near the brewery’s entrance, and is sipped from wine glasses. While this may sound unauthentic, wine glasses have proven to be best for sake, as their round shape allow you to enjoy its fragrance more.


    Shichiken as a museum:

    The Shichiken brewery’s main building is almost 200 years old. In 1880, Shichiken had the honor to receive Emperor Meiji to stay at the brewery during his journey in Yamanashi, Mie and Kyoto. The Kitagawara family redesigned three complete rooms for the Emperor to function as his palace away from palace, which has been left completely intact.
    Upon his arrival, Emperor Meiji passed through Shichiken’s main gate. This gate was never used again to this day, as it would be odd to have ordinary people pass the same gate the holy Emperor has passed.
    Until it became a museum for visitors, not even the Kitagawara family entered the three rooms Emperor Meiji emperor stayed at, despite the fact that these rooms make up for the major part of their residence. One of the Kitagawara brothers told me that as a young child, he did not know what was in these rooms, and was scared of it. Having lost 3 rooms of their house, the Kitagawara family continued to live in the smaller rooms that were left over.

    DSC02851

    Shichiken as a restaurant:

    Next to Shichiken, is restaurant Daimin, which belongs to the brewery. The water served on your table is the same water used for Shichiken’s sake.
    Daimin uses fresh meat and vegetables from the region, but what makes it special, is that these ingredients are prepared using sake. For example, the fried salmon on this picture was coated in a sauce made of malt left over from the sake. Stewed dishes use sake instead of wine, vegetables were pickled in sake lees and even the delicate dessert had a tint of sake fragrance to it. The result is not only delicious, but also environment friendly as ingredients left over from sake brewing can be used here. That’s the mottainai (a Japanese philosophy of not wasting anything) spirit!

    _DSC7569

    Shichiken as a cafe:

    In the same mottainai spirit as that of DaiminKoji’z, a small cafe located inside the brewery, uses malt left over from sake brewing to create yummy “Koji smoothies”, or malt smoothies. Their natural sweetness is their greatest appeal, as no artificial sugar is added, using only the original sweetness malt contains. These are mixed with local fruits as peach and blueberry, resulting in a healthy yet yummy (alcohol-free) drink dessert.


    Shichiken

    Location: Tagawara 2283, Hakushucho, Hokuto, Yamanashi

    Access: Approx. 2 hours by car from Tokyo. 15-min by taxi from Nagasaka Station (Chuo Main Line) or Hinoharu Station (Chuo Main Line).

    URL: http://www.sake-shichiken.co.jp/eng_chn_kor.html

    Yakitolympic: That Other Event Hosted By Japan

    Japan’s best skewers all at one spot

    If you are a Yakitori lover, you absolutely have to visit the Yakitolympic, which will be held in Higashimatsuyama (Saitama) on the weekend of September 26 and 27. This is the 9th time this olympic of sticks is held (just to make sure, by sticks I mean skewers, not the sticks used in high jumping!)

    DSC_0318
    This image is of the same event in 2014.

    Why go to an event like this if you can also have great Yakitori at an Izakaya or at small eateries in Yokocho alleys, you ask? Well, this event brings together Yakitori from the whole country, including the best skewers from the so called “7 Yakitori Towns”, which are Bibai (Hokkaido), Muroran (Hokkaido), Fukushima (Fukushima), Higashi Matsuyama (Saitama), Imabari (Ehime), Nagato (Yamaguchi) and Kurume (Fukuoka). Being able to try out all these big names on one day, is almost like seeing the 7 world wonders on 1 day! I know, I’m exaggerating a bit, but this is really a big deal!


    I go the chance to try out the skewers that will be at the event on a press event last Monday, and I have to tell you, anyone that’s visiting this event is in for a real treat. It was also my first time to realize that Yakitori is a dish with so much variety. Not only is the meat different (while chicken is main, pork and even horse meat can also be used), but the tare (sauce) also differs greatly depending on the skewer’s region of origin. It was really interesting to compare the flavors of all these skewers. However, one thing they have in common is that they are all heaven on a stick!


    The 9th Yakitolympic

    Date: September 26 (Saturday) and September 27 (Sunday)

    Hours: 11am – 7pm

    Location: Matsuyama Shiminkatsudo Center’s North Parking Space

    Address: Matsumoto-cho 1-9-35, Higsahimatsuyama, Saitama

    Access: 10-min from Higashimatsuyama Station East Exit (Tobu Toujo Line)

     

    Water dessert! Kinseiken’s Mizu-shingen Mochi

    Water selling like hot cakes

    It was on a rainy Saturday morning that we arrived in Hakushu, Yamanashi Prefecture, but a long queue was already snaking its way to the entrance of Kinseiken, a Hakushu based long-established confectionery manufacturer with the facade of a traditional Japanese residence. And were these folks queuing for in the rain? Nothing less than what looks like a big drop of water–the Mizu-shingen Mochi.

    The Ojira river that courses through Hakushu is widely known for its clear and pure water and has been selected as one of the best 100 water sources of Japan, which is why many breweries and mineral water producers are based or have a factory in the area, including Suntory and long-established sake brewery Shichiken.

    So what’s the fuss with the “Mizu-shingenmochi”? Shingenmochi is a beloved sweet rice-cake that has been a staple product of Japanese confectionery manufacturer Kinseiken for over a hundred years. However, it was not until 2013 that the people at Kinseiken had a once-in-a-lifetime stroke of genius and developed “Mizu-shingenmochi”, which would become a revolutionary dessert in the following year.

    Looking almost identical to a waterdrop, it is no wonder that Mizu-shingenmochi was produced under the concept of creating “edible water”.

    Before actually trying it out, I imagined the texture of western jelly and the sweetness of Mizu-yokan (a Japanese confectionery that consists of red-bean paste, sugar and agar), but I couldn’t have been more wrong. While biting into my waterdrop dessert, I immediately realized that Kinseiken’s statement of having created “edible water” was not an exaggeration nor a marketing trick; it really tastes and feels like it, with a slight amount of sugar added to remind you that it is a dessert. The kinako powder (roasted soybean flour) and brown sugar syrup also used for original Shingenmochi is there to add some extra sweetness if you want, but eating it without sweetening allows you to savor and appreciate the water’s pureness to the max.


    Despite that fact that there are no train stations located hear Hakushu and that it takes roughly 3 hours to reach by car from Tokyo, people were already queuing at 8 am, which is one hour before Kinseiken opens.
    850 portions of Mizu-shingenmochi are served on a weekend day, but they usually sell out between 11 and 12. That means that visitors from Tokyo are advised to depart as early as 7 am if they want to make sure they can get their 300 yen portion of edible water. This is literally water selling like hot cakes!

    Although the recipe of this watery dessert was leaked, none have succeeded in matching Kinseiken’s quality. This is because Hakushu’s pure water is what makes Mizu-shingenmochi such a refined dessert in the first place.

    Mizu-shingenmochi cannot be taken back home as it shrivels and dissolves within 30 minutes.
    To try out Mizu-shingenmochi yourself, your only option is to directly pay a visit to Kinseiken in Hakushu. To make things even more difficult, Mizu-shingenmochi is only sold during the weekends from June to September.
    This may all sound like a lot of trouble for a drop of water, but trust me, it’s worth the effort!

    Kinseiken

    Hours: 9am – 6pm (Closed on Thursdays)
    *Mizu-shingenmochi are only available during weekends from June to September in 2015.

    Location: Hakushu-machi Daigahara 2211, Hokuto, Yamanashi

    Access: Approx. 2 hours by car from Tokyo. 15-min by taxi from Nagasaka Station (Chuo Main Line) or Hinoharu Station (Chuo Main Line).

    Get Bowled Over By Kourakuen

    Real Ramen at Unreal Prices 

    For tourists who can always do with more time and money, Kourakuen brings happiness and fulfilment just as its name suggests.

    Click here for a 10% discount coupon at Kourakuen! (Detailed information can be found at the end of this article)

    IMG_0695

    Ramen was first known in Japan as “chuka-soba”, or literally, Chinese-style noodles. That is why Kourakuen, which has been selling ramen for over six decades since the Showa era, says “chuka-soba” on its signboard and not ramen. Kourakuen’s rapid growth from a 3-man hole-in-the-wall eatery in the Aizu area of northern Japan to a nationwide ramen chain of over 500 stores comes from its founder’s mission to provide ramen that is tastier, cheaper and faster.

    Kourakuen in Roppongi

    Goma Miso Chashu Ramen (Sesame and miso-based ramen with chashu) 637 yen
    Sesame and miso go well together and also with the toppings of sweet corn, spinach and chashu (barbecued pork slices). The sesame fragrance is enhanced by a generous sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds! Yummy!

    gomamiso
    Though it looks rich, it’s surprisingly light and refreshing!

    Tonkotsu Kotteri Chashu Ramen (Rich pork-based ramen with chashu) 637 yen
    For those who love full-on flavor, this kotteri (thick) broth is your best bet. Combined with thick and chewy noodles and a generous portion of chashu, you won’t find a more satisfying bowl of ramen at this price!

    -UjjLDUYhhzi7zAYhsdMgehWjfAq37IgjnRIjf9Yok4
    The richness of this ramen will satisfy your cravings

    Tsukasa Ramen (Pork broth and soy sauce-based ramen with thinner noodles) 561 yen
    A must-try for those who sometimes find pork broth too cloying or strong-tasting but crave something a little more than just soy sauce.

    6Qdo3pBr0jCWnYd1Xh77EGtfF_OtQl5WifngmHekZIo
    Perfect balance of richness without being cloying!

    Tsukemen (Noodles and dipping sauce served seperately) 421 yen
    This has gained popularity lately. Dip and slurp up on generous portions of noodles that go well with an addictive sweet, spicy and sour dipping soup.

    tsukemen
    Shio Yasai Ramen (Ramen noodles topped with a mountain of veggies in a salt soup) 529 yen
    This salt-based vegetable ramen is a healthy choice especially popular amongst the ladies.yasai

    On the side…

    Gyoza 216 yen
    Golden-browned to perfection with lots of juicy pork and cabbage filling.

    gyoza

    Half-Sized Fried Rice 334 yen
    Kourakuen was the first to introduce half-sized fried rice as the perfect side-kick to your ramen.

    siv70eNQiQ01POKCLio0MP86T_rDgCr6Q9hrrRtyINA


    Kourakuen Original Pudding 194 yen
    Ladies rejoice! This pudding surprises with its creaminess and delicate sweetness that belies its ramen roots!

    pudding

    Korakuen Roppongi Branch

    Hours: 24 hours

    Address: Roppongi 7-14-13, Minato

    Access: A 1-min. walk from Roppongi Station (Hibiya Line & Oedo Line)

    10% Discount URL: http://www.wattention.com/kourakuen-coupon/ (Valid until Dec. 10, 2015 for use at these branches: Roppongi, Dogenzaka, Nihonbashi Sakuradori, Hirakawacho, Nakano Station (Southern Entrance), Shinbashi-karasumori. Not valid with other coupons or discounts.

    URL: https://www.kourakuen.co.jp/

    Japanese Dishes With An Identity Crisis

    Flavors can be deceiving

    Japan has a rich cuisine culture, but it’s not just about sushi, sashimi or yakisoba.

        Yoshoku, which literally means western cuisine, boasts many western-looking dishes that can actually only be found in Japan. Japan’s Chinese cuisine also has its fair bit of dishes that are unheard of in China.
    Let’s have a look at some of Japan’s most popular western and Chinese dishes that in fact don’t come from too far.

    1. Doria

    66c77f6e479659a69b74c2abc246d829_s

    “The Japanese love rice so much that it should even be in gratin” thought Saly Weil, chef of Hotel New Grand in Yokohama in the thirties. The dish was named Doria, and can be found at pretty much any “family restaurant” or Yoshoku restaurant in Japan today.

    2. Spaghetti Napolitan

    f7c8dca3f4b0c2b540ee3672cfe426c6_s

    Shigetada Irie, Saly Weil’s successor at Hotel New Grand, saw American soldiers slurp away at their spaghetti mixed with ketchup sauce which was one of the military rations. He adapted the idea, but fried the spaghetti on an iron plate in similar fashion to that of Yakisoba, or Japanese fried noodles. Napolitan’s sauce is a mixture of ketchup, tobasco and worcester sauce, and common ingredients include capsicum, onion, bacon and sausages.

    3. Omurice

    200ff59246839219f51992b8fcca2eb1_s
    As its name suggests, Omurice consists of a portion of chicken rice (fried rice with chicken in ketchup sauce) wrapped up in an omelet. During the early 20th century, the dish was prepared as a quick stomach-filler for the staff of Rengatei, a Yoshoku restaurant in Ginza. The customers soon started requesting to bring the dish to the restaurant’s menu, and so Omurice was first served to the public.

    4. Hayashi Rice

    00212
    No, this is not curry, but Hayashi rice, a dish of beef and onions stewed in a demi-glace sauce that consists of tomato sauce and red wine. There are several stories behind its origin – one is that it was invented by a cook named Hayashi who served this at staff meals at the Ueno Seiyoken yoshoku restaurant. Another is that it has its roots in “hashed beef”, and evolved into a Japanese pronunciation of it – “hayashi”.

    5. Tenshindoni005_535

     

    Tenshin is the Japanese name for Tianjin, a Chinese harbor city located near Beijing. However, Tenshindon, a crab fried rice omelette dish with starchy sauce could not be found anywhere in the city until Japanese tourists started asking for it and Chinese restaurants smelled good business. There are various theories to when and how Tenshindon was created, but all indicate that the dish is at least 100 year old and has its origins in Japan.

     

    Ramen for Beginners

    For a smooth slurping experience

    haruki
    It has become almost impossible to find someone that has never had ramen before, let alone someone that has never heard of it. Still, without knowledge of the Japanese language, stepping into a ramen shop in Japan can be a little bit intimidating. That said, this is an experience not to be missed, so get familiar on how ramen is served and slurped in Japan with this article before you duck under a noren, or shop curtain.

    1. How to order

    Most ramen shop menus are very simple, but that doesn’t mean ordering is simple if you don’t know how to. While ordering methods differ depending on the shop, here is some basic knowledge that won’t hurt you on your ramen rendezvous.11992214_949889525069984_530041929_n

    Ticket vending machines: At the majority of ramen shops, you purchase a food ticket at a ticket machine (usually located at the entrance) and put this ticket on the counter in front of your seat or on your table. If the ticket machine has no pictures and you can’t read Japanese, find any of the following characters for a portion of ramen → ラーメン らーめん 中華そば
    Once you get used to purchasing food tickets in advance, it is easy to forget to pay at ramen shops that have no ticket machines, so be mindful!

    写真 2015-06-17 13 32 37

    From Konaotoshi to Barikata: At most ramen shops, you can order how you want your noodles cooked. This is especially common in Fukuoka Prefecture, where you will hear customers loudly shout their preferences. If you see people around you do this, how about giving it a try yourself? Just shout any of the following: konaotoshi (almost uncooked), harigane (extremely firm), barikata (very firm), kata (firm), futsu (normal), yawa (soft), bariyawa (very soft).

    2. Mastering the art of slurping, or deciding not to.

    Depending on your culture, slurping noodles might be unheard of. However, in Japan, slurping your ramen (or other noodles for that matter) are the basics of the basics. Noodles are slurped not with the pure purpose of cooling them down, but also to allow the soup’s flavor to spread throughout one’s mouth. This might sound strange if you are not used to the concept, but note that wine experts are on the side of the Japanese as they prefer to slurp their wine in order to savor its fragrance throughout the mouth. Slurping your noodles can also be seen as a gesture towards the master, showing that you are enjoying your bowl to the max.

    IMG_1827
    Once you have mastered the way of slurping (and even if you decide to go on without doing so), let’s move on to the next step!

    3. Don’t take too much time!

    Dining at ease while enjoying a conversation is great, but not advisable when you are having ramen. The noodles loose their firmness and become too soft after a short period of time, so eating them right after they are served is considered best. Also, keep in mind that popular ramen shops often have people waiting in long lines in front of the shop to get their hands on a bowl of ramen, so staying too long after finishing your dish can be impolite.

    hatuneretu

    4. End with a gesture from your side

    Some might say that the customer is king, but showing that you enjoyed your slurp will make your ramen master’s day. If you are sitting at a counter seat, putting your finished ramen bowl back on the counter top is a gesture that is always welcome. Don’t forget to say “Gochisosama”  (thank you for the meal), and give a friendly nod as you leave.

    yatai4

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Matsutake Mushrooms

    Matsutake-Nagano2The world’s most expensive funghi is the matsutake mushroom, or literally “pine mushroom”, costing up to US$2,000 per kilogram.

    Found at the foot of pine trees, Japan’s answer to the black truffle sprouts during autumn.

    The earthy, pungent taste of the matsutake is used to flavour rice and soups.

    unnamed
    The Tamba region in Kyoto is most famous for its production.images (1)

    And in some places you can even try matsutake shochu!

    All About Ramen

    Everything You Need To Know To Become A Ramen Expert

    Just like how spaghetti is served in different sauces (tomato-based, carbonara and alle vongole come to mind), ramen comes in a wide array of different soups. The flavor of these soups vary from each other just as much as the character of one ramen master varies from another. However, most ramen can be categorized in the following types.

    Shoyu (Soy Sauce) : The Classic Ramen

     

    TRS2015sozai900x600
    This Shoyu Ramen is served at Nidaime Nyaga Nyaga Tei in Tokyo

    Shoyu Ramen is the most basic version of Japanese ramen, and has its roots in Tokyo. A soy sauce based soup similar to that of Japanese noodles as soba and udon was used to familiarize the Japanese with a type of noodle that was still foreign to the nation at the time. Together with soy sauce, a wide array of ingredients such as chicken bones, niboshi (dried sardines) and vegetables are used to bring out an original flavor.

    Shio (Salt) : The Delicate Ramen

    【麺処 ほん田】厳選素材の塩ラーメン
    This Shio Ramen is served at Mendokoro Honda in Tokyo

    For those that want something a bit lighter on the stomach, Shio Ramen is the best choice as the soup is not as thick and fatty as most other ramen. Together with salt, which is used as the basic ingredient for the soup, chicken bones and pork bones are often used in the soup broth, but aren’t boiled as deeply as in other ramen, resulting in a more delicate flavor. Tanmen, a popular type of Shio Ramen, is especially beloved by the ladies as it is topped with a mountain of fresh vegetables.

    Miso: The Heartwarming Ramen

    【金澤濃厚中華そば 神仙】濃厚味噌「炎・炙」肉盛そば
    This Miso Ramen is served at Kanazawa Noko Chuka Soba Shinsen in Ishikawa Prefecture

    Miso Ramen first came to life when a customer at a small eatery in Sapporo asked the cook to put ramen noodles in his tonjiru (miso soup with pork meat) in the fifties. Today, miso ramen is often mixed with pork bone broth and pork lard to keep you warm during the winter. Corn and butter are often used as topping, which you will not often see in other ramen.

    Tonkotsu (Pork Bone Broth) : The Heavyweight Ramen

    This Tonkotsu Ramen is served at Kourakuen throughout the country

    You could say that Tonkotsu Ramen is what cream sauce is to spaghetti. The deeply boiled pork bones create a thick, creamy soup that is without a doubt the heaviest on the stomach among the basic ramen soups. Although Tonkotsu Ramen – which has its origins in Kyushu – is arguably the most popular sort of ramen today, it was not until the nineties that it became popular throughout the country.

    Tsukemen: Another way to serve ramen

    【山岸一雄 一門】特製もりそば
    This Tsukemen was prepared by the disciples of Kazuo Yamagishi.

    Tsukemen puts the main focus on the noodles rather than the soup by serving them separately to dip in the soup. Tsukemen noodles are usually thicker than that of standard ramen, and are cooled down to create an extra firmness. Tsukemen was invented by Kazuo Yamagishi of Taishoken Ramen in 1955, who passed away in April 2015.

    The dashi

    The essence of a ramen’s soup lies in its dashi, or soup stock. A number of different ingredients are boiled over a long time so that their flavor is extracted. The choice of ingredients for the soup stock and how long to boil them, are crucial elements that heavily influence the flavor of the soup, and a true ramen master will keep perfecting this art for his entire life.

    Regular soup stock ingredients are:

    dashi
    From left to right: Tonkotsu (pork bone), Torigara (chicken bone), Niboshi (dried sardines), Konbu (dried kelp), Katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings)

    The noodles

    Ramen noodles differ in texture, thickness and shape.
    In Japan, you can specify the firmness of your noodles – hard, regular or soft. 
    In general, the Japanese prefer chewy, firm noodles, but in some regions a more soft texture can also be popular. Of course, this is a matter of personal taste, but it cannot be denied that just as in Italy, al dente is how the majority likes their noodles cooked.
    And like how the type of pasta changes to match the sauce used, the same goes for the shape of ramen.
    For Tonkotsu Ramen, the main focus is the soup, which is why Hosomen, or thin noodles are often used to keep the dish from being too heavy. Futomen, or thick noodles, go better with Tsukemen as the dipping soup finely escorts their chewy texture.
    When the soup is light in flavor, straight noodles might not be able to carry the soup to one’s mouth even if the art of slurping is properly executed. But fear not, in a case like this, chijiremen – or curly noodles – will do the job, keeping a hold on the soup due to their curled shape.

    noodles
    From left to right: Straight Hosomen (thin noodles), Chuboso Chijiremen (curled noodles of medium thickness), Futo Chijiremen (thick curled noodles)

    The toppings

    The picture is only complete once the chashu (roasted pork), a boiled egg, leek, nori, menma (fermented beansprout) and naruto (fishcake) are topped on the ramen. These toppings also give the dish a more healthy balance (well, at least to some extent). Toppings vary depending on the ramen in question, but these are the most common.

    topping
    First row from left to right: Chashu, Menma, Negi Second row from left to right: Ajitama, Nori, Naruto

    With this knowledge, we hope you will be able to enjoy ramen to the max the next time you get to slurp one of these yummy bowls. Don’t forget to let us know once you find your favorite ramen!

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Sanma-time in Autumn

    The end of summer brings about the season for the similar-sounding “sanma” – or Pacific Saury. But it’s name in Japanese characters, 秋刀魚, means literally “autumn sword fish”, and the aroma of salted, grilled sanma wafting in the air heralds the arrival of autumn and the start of a season loved for its delicious harvests from the land and sea.

    sanma2
    Sanma sushi

    Indeed, the southward migration from the northern Pacific Ocean towards Japan at the end of summer is eagerly anticipated by fans, who can’t wait to relive the taste of what could be Japan’s favorite seasonal fish – best savored raw, of course, to enjoy its freshness and natural oils.

    sanma5

    Every September, there will be a Meguro Sanma Festival where the fish is grilled over charcoal and given out to everyone in the line for free! In early Autumn, sanma contains the most oil – almost 20% of its body content – and hence makes for a very good grill, crispy on the outside and juicy inside.

    sanma4

    The sanma used to be a humble fish for the locals as it used to be hauled in abundance and full of tiny bones, but there is a famous tale about the Emperor who got so hungry on a hunting trip that when he smelled grilled sanma in the air he asked his servant to bring him that tasty morsel. When the royal kitchen tried to replicate the taste, they removed the bones and did so many intricate seasonings to the fish that it tasted nothing like the manna from heaven the Emperor tasted on that fateful day. And so, he declared that sanma is only delicious in Meguro!

    Grilled or raw, the sanma is no doubt the fish of autumn!

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

     

    Shinyokohama Raumen Museum: Ramen in Showa fashion

    A delightful “timeslurp”

    Contrary to its naming, Shinyokohama Raumen Museum is more a theme park than a museum.
    But fear not, by theme park I don’t mean crazy, looping roller coasters, pendulum rides, drop towers and what not, as such attractions would not be very good on one’s stomach after slurping a portion of ramen noodles. However, what Shinyokohama Raumen Museum’s atmospheric ramen stalls do have in common with such attractions, are the lines you will have to queue at before you get your hands on your bowl of choice.

    m_181523

    The stairs to the museum’s basement floor serves as a time machine that takes you to a nostalgic Japan of a long-gone era. As you make your way through narrow alleys with replicas of drinking holes, tobacco kiosks and bathhouses of postmodern Showa facade, you might bump into a policeman on an old model bicycle who gives you a friendly nod as he passes by.
    The main square is decorated with movie posters of Japanese film’s glory years and the publishing firm on the corner looks so real you wouldn’t be surprised to see literary legends such as a young kimono-clad Yasunari Kawabata or Yukio Mishima walk inside with a manuscript under arm.

    kaijo

    Of course, the main attraction of this food-themed attraction park is the ramen, and Shinyokohama Raumen Museum does not disappoint in this field either. A total of nine famous ramen shops from all over the country and even overseas are gathered here to bring you their version of Japan’s now internationally beloved soul food.

    raumenmuseum
    *Please note that these ramen images are posted for the mere purpose to give you an idea on what to expect and are not the actual products available at the Shinyokohama Raumen Museum.

    Although eating all 9 ramen on one day is a nearly impossible task, the available “mini ramen” make slurping more than just one ramen possible even for the ladies. The 9 ramen stalls change from every 3-months to 1 year, so even in the unbelievable case that you manage to eat all 9 bowls, this museum is still worth a second visit!

    IMG_1820

    The connection between ramen and the museum’s postmodern theme, you ask? Good question! Apparently, the museum is replicating a Japanese urban landscape of 1958, the year in which Abe Momofuku invented instant ramen. Ramen itself, was already in Japan before WWII, but only started its journey to become the Japanese soul food it is today after the war ended and soldiers tried to recreate the Chinese noodles they couldn’t forget about.

    Shinyokohama Raumen Museum

    Location: Shinyokohama 2-14-21 , Kohoku, Yokohama

    Access: A 5-min walk from Shinyokohama Station (Tokdaido Shinkansen, JR Yokohama Line, Yokohama Municipal Subway)

    Entrance Fee: 310 yen (13 or older) 100 yen (from 6 to 12)

    URL: http://www.raumen.co.jp/english/#manual

     

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Power of Shijimi

    shijimi9

    For many Japanese, summer brings to mind the eating of unagi, or eel, on designated days called Doyo no Ushi no Hi, in the hopes of beating summer fatigue with nutrition from the unagi. But there are some people who shun the (expensive) eel for the humble shijimi (freshwater clam), calling these appointed days the Doyo no Shijimi instead.

    shijimi3

    In fact, eating these tiny clams in the summer makes more sense as, unlike the eel which is at its fattiest in the winter, the shijimi is at its plumpest from around July till August during its spawning season.  The shijimi is known to be rich in ornithine, which helps to purge toxins from the liver – hence salarymen can be seen slurping shijimi soup when they have a hangover from the previous night’s drinking session.

    Exif_JPEG_PICTURE
    Hangover cure, shijimi soup

    The shijimi also comes into season in the winter, when the cold waters makes its flesh firmer and sweeter. Unlike other clams that are found in the ocean, the shijimi can only survive in estuaries that are a mix of sea water and freshwater.

    shijimi8

    Shimane Prefecture’s Shinjiko Lake produces the most shijimi in Japan. This lake contains a slight amount of sodium in its water, making it a suitable habitat for the shijimi. These crustaceans are added to the local ramen as a topping and its flavors extracted for the soup stock, making this ramen the perfect way to round off a night of drinking.

    shijimi7

    It is also often boiled together with rice or thrown into pastas.


    shijimi6

    shijimi5

    And for those who are a bit more adventurous, there is even shijimi curry, a local dish from Shimane!

    shijimicurry

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season,” but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season,” refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」 aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Time for Tokoroten

    tokoroten5jpg

    As hot and humid days continues to suppress appetites in what may sometimes seem like a never-ending summer in Japan, cooling, light and slurp-easy foods like the tokoroten provide gastronomic relief.

    This is perhaps best described as a jelly-like noodle, made from seaweed and usually eaten with a mix of sweet vinegar and soy sauce, with a sprinkling of seaweed, sesame and Japanese mustard for a refreshing slurp. It can also be eaten sweet with black honey.

     

    tokoroten1
    Tokoroten in its seaweed stage

    After the seaweed has been dissolved in water and congealed into a jelly form, it is pressed out into noodle form.

    PicMonkey Collage

    Unlike gelatin desserts, the tokoroten has a firmer texture. It is eaten as a summer snack, though as it practically 90% water, it is popular as a diet food as well, used to replace carbohydrate-rich noodles such as udon.

    tokoroten7

    It’s unique production method of being pressed out via a block device has made it a sort of cultural icon, even replicated in quirky souvenirs. So the next time you spot this at a souvenir shop, you’ll know what it is!

    tokoroten2

    About Shun:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

    Cafe Crawl: Koso-an

    Authentic Japan in the midst of chic cafes and boulangeries 

    Tea-house Koso-an is located in Jiyugaoka, the suburb with Tokyo’s highest dessert and confectionery density.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    While serving fantastic sweets and desserts, Koso-an is the exact opposite of the European-inspired boulangeries and cafes prominent in the area.

    In a remote corner of Jiyugaoka, close to the Kumano Shrine, which is the favorite playground of children in the neighborhood, you will find Koso-an, a 90 year old Japanese wooden residence that functions as a tea-house.

    original3
    Koso-an was a popular retreat for writers in the glory days of Showa literature, and indeed, both the facade and inside of Koso-an seem like the ideal spot for a writer to think about his work and receive new inspiration.


    Traditional Japanese desserts as Anmitsu and Matcha Zenzai have a more authentic taste to them while gazing at the well maintained Japanese garden from your tatami seat.


    The classy madam at Koso-an takes care of her guests like a loving mother. And so, while being exotic, Koso-an is also a home away from home for anyone with a sweet tooth.


    On my visit, I ordered a sweet portion of Anmitsu, a delightful Japanese dessert with red bean paste, agar, seasonal fruits and black honey syrup. Delicate Japanese desserts like this go great with a cup of Japanese tea.


    Savoring the atmosphere: ★★★★★

    Savoring the dessert itself: ★★★★☆

    Koso-an

    Price Range:

    Location: Jiyugaoka 1-24-23, Meguro, Tokyo

    Access: A 5-min walk from the main exit of Jiyugaoka Station (Toyoko Line, Oimachi Line)

    URL: http://kosoan.co.jp/

    Bite Into Japan’s Best Burgers At Hakodate’s Lucky Pierrot

     

    pierrot17
    Japan’s best local buns: Lucky Pierrot’s Chinese Chicken Burger, 390 yen

    Hakodate in Hokkaido may be famous for its fresh seafood and salt-based ramen but it also boasts what has been voted as Japan’s “Best Local Burger” in  a Nikkei survey. And 1.8 million customers a year can’t be wrong.

    In fact, their 17 stores are almost always packed, with locals and tourists alike queuing for a taste of what can only be found in Hakodate.

    P1060768
    Funky facades are Lucky Pierrot’s Trademark

    This local burger chain started in 1987, and soon became a hit for their Chinese Chicken Burger (featured in the photo above), which consists of juicy fried chicken with a hint of ginger and drizzled with a sweet and slightly spicy sauce.

    Since then, their menu has expanded to include other originals such as:

    Squid Burger, as Hakodate is famous for its squid

    peirrot20

    The Foot-Long Burger, limited to 20 a day:

     

     

     

    pierrot18

     

    Scallop Burger, a result of a customer contest:
    pierrot13

    Genghis Khan Burger, the taste of Hokkaido:

    peirrot11

    Hakodate Snow Burger:

    pierrot14

    As well as curries…

    peirrot10

    Pasta…

    peirrot15

    And what some claim to be Hokkaido’s bests Omurice, or omelette rice:

    perrot19

    All featuring the much-loved Chinese Chicken.

     

    Each restaurant interior is distinct and overflowing with as much character as the quirky storefront murals, and each store has a slightly different menu.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    Soul food for the locals.

     

    P1060768
    The first Lucky Pierrot store, located near the Hakodate Bay Area.
    peirrot6
    A newer store near the Hakodate Bay Area.
    peirrot4
    The Chinese Chicken Burger looks set to take the top seat for a long time.

    Lucky Pierrot is such an institution that it even has its own array of souvenirs for tourists to take home, from canned sodas, to chips and of course, t-shirts.

    peirrot16

    One reason for the queue is that the food here is prepared upon order, using fresh ingredients. To avoid waiting, one is advised to call beforehand to place your order and come to pick it up. Don’t bother testing your luck, as there’s almost always a queue!

    pierrot5

    URL: http://luckypierrot.jp/ (Japanese only)

     

     

    Strolling the Shotengai: Togoshi-ginza

    The most original “unauthentic” Ginza

    If you are a tourist in Tokyo for only a short time, there’s a pretty big chance you will skip on Togoshi-ginza Shotengai (shopping street). But if there is one neighborhood shopping street worth visiting, it has to be this original “unauthentic” Ginza.

    Togoshi-ginza, 15 min from Shibuya, is the first of many neighborhood Ginzas to spring up around the early 1920s, borrowing the name from Tokyo’s main shopping street in the hope that some of Ginza’s glamour may rub off on them.

    While none of the neighborhood Ginzas really resemble the real thing, they are charming in their own right.


    Togoshi-ginza is one of Japan’s longest shopping streets, and with more than 400 nostalgic mom-and-pop stores standing side by side, it offers a nostalgic walk interrupted only by delicious finds.

    To be honest, I myself had never thought of visiting Togoshi-ginza until recently, despite being a Tokyoite for almost 10 years. Walking along the streets of Togoshi-ginza Shotengai, I immediately realized how much charm I had been missing on.

    Most people would agree with me that the best way to enjoy a shotengai stroll is with a snack in hand. So here is a guide to some of the best finds!

    Floresta Nature Doughnuts
    Editor comment: Too cute to eat, but also too yummy to not eat!

    Dobutsu Doughnuts, or animal doughnuts. Price range is from 240 yen to 360 yen (depends on the animal of choice)

    Henteco
    Editor comment: I give up! These are just too cute, I can’t eat them!

    SONY DSC
    A chocolate tapir and hazelnut squirrel

    Kumono

    Editor comment: Crispy croquettes from the butcher shop. Fried in tallow instead of normal oil.

    120 yen potato croquettes

    Goto Kamaboko
    Editor comment: Goto Kamaboko is a good old Oden (simmered vegetables, Japanese fishcakes and egg) stall where you can pick your favorite ingredient.

    Price differs depending on the ingredient.

    Tori & Deli
    Editor comment: Kara-age, or Japanese fried chicken dipped in a Hawaiian salsa sauce!

    Fried chicken leg meat (270 yen) together with Hawaiian mango salsa sauce (100 yen)


    Togoshi-ginza’s milkman
    Editor comment: I was glad to see that someone born to be a milkman can still be a milkman even in modern times.

    Normal milk (127 yen), fruit milk (117 yen) and coffee milk (117 yen) bottles come with a lovely smile from our favorite milkman

    Togoshi-ginza shopping district

    Location: Togoshi, Shinagawa, Tokyo

    Access: In front of Togoshi-ginza Station (Ikegami Line)

    Jiyugaoka, stylish and yummy

    Suburban strolling in sweet Jiyugaoka

    For stylish and yummy suburban exploring, the leafy neighborhood of Jiyugaoka is the perfect pick. While only 10 minutes away from Shibuya by train, Jiyugaoka is a calm village compared to the hectic and crazy youth culture center of Tokyo that is Shibuya.
    However, don’t underestimate Jiyugaoka, as it is a creative neighborhood in its own chic, stylish and sweet way.

    While strolling around, one soon notices Jiyugaoka’s undeniable European influences. Leafy promenades with benches lined along the street, shops and restaurants with Mediterranean and South European facades, and even a romantic canal streaming through town that strongly hints Venice.

    0c21f63dc2a3484b3c19eadac0abf009_m

    Ginza might be Tokyo’s center of high-end fashion, and Shimokitazawa is second to none when it comes to vintage clothing, but Jiyugaoka is the place to be if you are looking for something stylish and classy yet unique, as there are many fashion boutiques scattered throughout the neighborhood that burst in character.

    The most difficult question to ask someone in Jiyugaoka would be “What would you like for dessert?”, as nowhere in Tokyo is the dessert and confectionery density as high as here. The streets are literally filled with too beautiful to eat pies, rolled pancakes, parfaits and what not at display at cafe’s, bakeries and ice-cream parlors.

    jiyugaokasweets
    jiyugaokasweets2

    Jiyugaoka even hosts “Sweets Forest”, a sweets theme park that celebrates its 11th anniversary this year.

    fa26ebb8e72beb624edabc9e87033ddd_m

    Jiyugaoka is anything but your typical Tokyo suburb, but European culture has not completely taken over quite yet. Keep walking west and you will find the ancient Joshinji temple that reminds you that this area hasn’t always been a chic area of boutiques and boulangeries. And if you have a sweet tooth that is looking for something more authentic, Kosoan, a cafe with the facade of an old Japanese residence and a Japanese garden attached to it will more than satisfy your cravings.

    kosoan1

     

    Jiyugaoka

    Location: Jiyugaoka, Meguro, Tokyo

    Access: Get off at Jiyugaoka Station (Toyoko Line and Oimachi Line)

    Nagomi Visit: A Brief But Precious Local Dinner

    Gather around the dining table of a local household anywhere in Japan!

    16625266906_b06dcc8809_o

    Curious to see what an everyday dinner spread looks like in Japan? Hope to make local friends during your stay in Japan? Interested to see the inside of a Japanese house but find couchsurfing too extreme?
    Nagomi Visit offers a brief but precious local experience that fulfills all these wishes at once.

    7728561106_42d591efd2_z

    Nagomi Visit gives you the opportunity to be invited for lunch or dinner by a local host anywhere in Japan. Instead of preparing a huge feast, the host just cooks an everyday meal to give you an authentic impression of what a real Japanese dining table looks like.
    This is an experience no restaurant can give you.

    16432362831_f2426d2b5f_o

    It’s easy to get started. Just make an online booking at Nagomi Visit’s website and choose where in Japan and when you want to be invited.

    After you have made a successful booking, you contact your host in advance so that you can already get to know each other a little bit. Your host might even be so friendly to give you a few tips on your trip! On the day itself, you meet at the train station designated by your host from where your host will take you to his/her home.

    8802351192_048168413c_z

    In just a couple of hours over lunch or dinner, you will be an experience richer, and hopefully have a great time with your new Japanese friends!

    16246448988_62756f43a3_o
    Nagomi Visit

    URL: https://www.nagomivisit.com/

    A Taste of Sh旬n: Secrets Of The Uni-verse

    Uni, or the sea urchin, is one of those love it or hate it foods. Given its spiky and explosive mine-like appearance, one has to wonder what was going through the mind of the first person who decided to try and eat it.

    uni4

     

    Probably something along the lines of: something so well-armored must be trying to protect something very precious inside, let’s find out what!

    uni3

     

    Plainly speaking, what the inside consists of is mainly the sea urchin’s gonads – precious to the uni in its own universe of course, and now, also to the growing number of fans of uni throughout Japan, and the world.

    The summer months from May to August, before spawning season, is when the uni is at its creamiest and tastiest, with the Bafun Uni being the most famous and expensive type in Japan.

    Now,”Bafun” literally means “horse dung” – which is probably what the uni’s appearance reminded some people of. While fresh and good uni tastes sweet and creamy, not-so-fresh and not-so-good uni could potentially bring to mind the unmentionable. So if the uni facing  you looks dry and listless, it is best avoided, as it will probably taste like it looks.

    uni0
    Uni-ted as one bowl!

    Uni can be enjoyed in various ways – uni fans fantasize of devouring uni rice bowls, while those who just want a taste of it can try it in sushi form.

    uni8[

    In the Sanriku region of Tohoku in the northeast of Japan, uni is often baked in a clam shell. Whereas in Hokkaido, you will see uni being grilled in its own shell.

    uni5
    Ready to conquer the uni-verse?

    uni7

    In Aomori, uni is put in a clear broth, together with slices of abalone, in a traditional dish caled “Ichigo Ni”, which literally means boiled strawberry. Apparently the cloudy appearance the soup took on when the uni was added reminded people of strawberries in the morning mist.

    uni9

     

    And to end off your journey of the uni-verse, why not try uni-meshi, which means uni rice and is rice that has been cooked together with uni.

     

    Themed Izakayas To Experience Japanese Culture

    It’s all about theme-work! 

    Experiencing Japanese summer is not complete without going to themed restaurants and Izakaya (bars). Savory food and refreshing drinks are alluring to start with, but these venues offer great entertainment such as a theatrical display of the past, sumo wrestling matches and shamisen performances.

    2) Ikedaya Hana no Mai, Kyoto

    theme4

    For a feel of history, head to Ikedaya, run by the Mai izakaya chain. This is at the location of the original Ikedaya Ryokan where the Ikedaya Affair took place. This was an armed encounter, nearing the end of the tumultuous warring states era, between masterless samurai employed by the Choshu (now Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Tosa (now Kochi Prefecture) clans and the Shinsengumi, or the shogun’s special police force in Kyoto.

    Recreating the interior of the ryokan from around 150 years ago, there are various photo spots for fans of the Shinsengumi.

    theme5

     

    Address: Sanjo Kawaramachi, Higashi Iri Nakajima-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture,
    82 Salwa Sanjo building

     

    3) Hana no Mai, Ryogoku

    20150706_闃ア縺ョ闊杤D4A_1090

    Believe it or not, this is the inside of an izakaya, located at Ryogoku district where the sumo stadium is. From 7pm almost everyday, various events are held such as sumo matches by former sumo professionals, shamisen performances (a three-stringed instrument) and taiko performances.

    DSC08208
    A summer dance event held around the sumo ring.

    And of course, don’t forget to try the staple diet of champions – chanko! This is basically a hotpot of crab, chicken, pork, fish vegetables – pretty much anything edible goes into it.

    横綱ちゃんこ

    Address: Yokoami 1-3-20Sumida-ku, Tokyo

    A Taste of Sh旬n: River Fish

    ayu2

     

    Heading to the river to catch unsuspecting river fish (by hand!) has long been a favourite summertime activity in Japan. Other than being a good family-bonding activity while reigniting that long lost hunting instinct in mankind, river fish are also tastiest in summer when their bones are softer.

    1) Ayu (sweetfish)

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Grilled salted ayu, or sweetfish, is a staple at summer festival food stalls. When thoroughly grilled, it can be eaten from head to tail. The slightly-bitter intestines lend a nice balance to its sweet flesh, and is safe to eat because river fish only inhabit clean water.

    2) Yamame (kind of trout) 

    yamame

    The yamame is another kind of river fish that inhabits rivers flowing from high mountains, giving rise to its name. 山女. which means mountain lady. This can also be salt grilled, or grilled with miso on a leaf, in Gifu prefecture, where it can be found.

    3) Iwana (white spotted char)

    iwana

    The iwana also inhabits clear rivers and streams, and can be found in places like Kamikochi, sometimes referred to as the Swiss Alps of Japan. You’re unlikely to be able to eat the sashimi of river fish in Tokyo, but if you go to where it is caught, you may be able to.

    iwana2

    Unlike other river fish, the iwana is often used as a flavouring for sake, known as iwana kotsu sake, or literally, iwana bone sake. After grilling, it is dunked in a fish-shaped sake container with warm sake for the fish to impart its char-grilled fragrance and umami of its oil. This is a unique way of consuming sake probably unfamiliar to non-Japanese. You have to try it for yourself to understand why there’s fish in your drink!

     

    About Sh旬n:
    Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節(kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.

    Editor’s Pick: Top Three “Little Edo” Streets

    For a feel of what it was like to live during the Edo era, one can head to an Edo themepark, but why pay an entrance fee when you can still walk along streets almost unchanged since then? Here are three recommended Little Edo streets with kura or warehouse-style buildings for the time-travelling tourist.

    1) Kawagoe Koedo, Saitama Prefecture 

    kawagoe008

    Kawagoe Koedo literally means “Little Edo” in Kawagoe town. This is one of the nearest Little Edo streets from Tokyo, just 30 minutes from Ikebukuro via an Express train. The clock tower in the center of the town called the Toki no Kane (Bell of Time) is the symbol of Kawagoe and harks back to around 40 years ago. Its melodious tone has been recognized as one of the “100 Sound Sceneries of Japan”. It rings four times daily at 6am, noon, 3pm and 6pm.

    kawagoe2kawagoebeer

    The town prides itself on the murasaki imo (purple potato) and you can find various confectionery made of this, such as manjyu and of course, soft-serve ice cream. The Coedo craft beer、which has won several awards globally, is also a must-try.

    dagashi2
    Be like a kid in a Show candy shop

    For a taste of Showa era nostalgia while in Little Edo, there’s the Dagashi Yokocho (yokocho meaning alley, dagashi referring to sweets made for children) where you can find all sorts of small sweet treats from cigarette-shaped chewing gum, to all sorts of candy imitating “adult food” like grilled eel or pork cutlets.

    dagashi3
    Tobacco-free cigarettes to chew on, anyone?

    Access: 30 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo Line Express Train bound for Kawagoe.

     

    2) Inuyama Jokamachi, Nagoya Prefecture 

    inuyama

    Inuyama Castle is a small, unassuming castle in Nagoya Prefecture that’s statue belies its historical importance. That aside, there is a charming Edo Street at the jokamachi, which means street leading up to the castle.

    inuyama4

    The famous product of the area has to be the world’s longest radish, the moriguchi daikon, which can grow up to 1.9m, or taller than most of the people passing by it on the streets! This radish is sold as a pickle, and that pickled flavour also takes the form of an ice-cream (no surprise there).

    inuyama2

    Here, you will find a Showa Yokocho, or Showa Alley, reflecting the nostalgia for that era now past.

    inuyama6

    Access: 25 minutes from Nagoya Station on the Meitetsu Line for Inuyama Station, and a ten-minute walk from the station.

     

    3) Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 

    kurashiki3

     

    Kurashiki, which can roughly be translated as “warehouse town”, has a canal area dating back to the Edo era when the city served as a rice distribution center.

    kurashiki2

    Many of the beautifully-preserved, grey and white-motif warehouses have been given a new lease of life as cafes, fashion boutiques and restaurants, though some old buildings still serve their original purposes as soya sauce retailers and rice wholesalers.

    kurashiki
    Kurashiki is popular with Japanese ladies going on joshitabi (ladies’ trip).

     

    So signature is the kura-style architecture to the town that even the vending machines blend in!

    kurashiki4

    Access: 17 minutes from Okayama Station via the Sanyo Honsen bound for Kurashiki Station.