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.
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!
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)
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.
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).
“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)
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.
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
1.Wash the rice gently in circular motions and discard the water. Repeat thrice.
2.Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes.
3.Drain the rice for 10 to 15 minutes.
4.Water used when cooking should be about 1.2 times the amount of rice.
5.Steam for 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat and remove from fire.
6.Keep lid on and let rice sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
7.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.
The easiest way to enjoy the taste of rice – “Japan’s soul food”.
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.
To make the fresh fish taste even better, only the best rice is used. In sushi shops, rice is called “gin shari”.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This famous treat is made of mugwort-flavoured mochi (もち, glutinous rice) and red beans wrapped in bamboo leaves.
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.
A local specialty containing seasonal vegetables and seafood over seasoned rice, which is steamed and arranged in a container made from cedar wood.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Sample schedule for a day in 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.
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 PassThis 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/
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kashuu Kiyomitsu (680 yen)
Sushi roll bearing Okita Souji’s family crest and decorated with flowers.
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.
This special event will run from Oct. 1, 2016 – Nov. 31, 2016
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!
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
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
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
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.)
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!”
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.
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!
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.
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!