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Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake created this experimental design museum, and star Japanese architect Tadao Ando constructed the building. The museum always has great installations by artists such as the industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa. —Kashiwa Sato Midtown Garden, 9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 81/(0) 3-3475-2121. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
In western Kyoto, there is a very large forest of bamboo. As you can see in the photo, the shoots grow very tall, making those who stroll by look quite small. I'm sure there are times when this road is crowded, but when we were there, people were few and far between. My only regret was not understanding that this forest would be the only one we saw. I wish I had taken more photos. Bamboo grows extremely fast, which is why it is the fastest renewable plant product that I know. It is not a tree, it is a grass. Some forests have grown to 20 to 30 feet in a growing season of four months. Just Google Arashiyama bamboo forest and you will see more photos and more data about this location and how to get there. The walk through this forest was most peaceful.
After the best sushi, there must be as well a best ramen noodle place in Tokyo. The Menya Musashi located at Shinjuku is a famous and of course busy place for a bowl of hot ramen noodle soup. Many times, the waiting line is street long. Luckily last time when I visited not during a meal time, the line was short. The pork belly ramen is the best! Just remember that you have to use cash to order your noodle from a vending machine by the door, and hand the ticket to the chef/server. Inside, it's bar seating around the noodle station, so you can watch the action and hear the chef cheering as well.
The new T-Site shopping complex is home to the flagship store for the Tsutaya chain of video and book megastores. (Full disclosure: I made the logo for them.) There’s a beautiful garden next to the bookstore where I like to read. —Kashiwa Sato 17-5 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
Honmura An in Roppongi is famous for its housemade soba (chewy buckwheat noodles). Owner Koichi Kobari uses a sobabocho (soba knife) to cut the noodles each day. I always get the soba with tororo, which is grated mountain yam, and a cold beer. —David Myers Photo by Christinab/Flickr. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
For the best yakitori I go to Toritama in Ebisu. They specialize in rarely served, unique parts of the chicken. There’s one dish in particular, a premature egg that’s still connected to ovaries, which they grill. —David Myers Photo by Marina Oliphant/Fairfax Media. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
I may be writing the dictionary of ramen noodles. I promise this is the last—Abura Soba, translated as "oil noodle." I saw this place late at night in Ginza, while looking for something different to eat. This place serves the Abura Soba, which is noodle in the oil sauce. Okay, it sounds strange but is very tasty! The oil is spicy (with different options), the noodle is fresh, and the scallion is crispy. It is very addictive, and before you realize it, you've reached the bottom of the bowl.
Koji, a volunteer for Tokyo Free Guide, knew only that I wanted to experience something in the city related to food. Instead of taking me to the Tsukiji fish market, he led me to a shopping mall in the Ginza neighborhood. We descended into the basement of the Kotsu Kaikan building, where we found about a dozen gourmet food shops, each one representing a different region in Japan. We strolled through them, munching on free samples and effectively eating our way through the country. We tasted crispy, dried seaweed from the northern island of Hokkaido; buckwheat dough dumplings from Nagano, located in central Japan; and jam made of amaou (a kind of strawberry) from Fukuoka, in the south. Koji explained that these stores are called antenna shops, and they have an interesting function. In Japanese culture, when you go out of town, it’s customary to return with small treats for colleagues. Rather than haul back food from afar, workers will just stop by the antenna shops in the morning before heading to the office—a smart (and sneaky) solution. 2-10-1 Yurakucho Chiyoda-ku, www.kotsukaikan.co.jp See tokyofreeguide.com for a similar experience.
Rokurinsha’s original shop was in the suburbs of Tokyo, a considerable hike from the nearest train station, and still patrons waited for over three hours for a bowl of soup. Neighbors complained, and when the store was given a chance to open up on the Tokyo Ramen Street, a collection of ramen shops in the basement of Tokyo Station, Rokurinsha closed its suburban location and moved in. Customers still brave massive lines to taste the tsukemen-style ramen, where the noodles are served separately from the soup. The thick, saucelike broth has deep pork and roasted fish flavors, and the noodles are thick and chewy—perfect for soaking up the soup. Tokyo Ichiban-gai B1, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Photo by Hirotomo/Flickr.
When I took my beautiful wife to Tokyo to celebrate her birthday in March, because we only had three days in town we had to very carefully curate our dining choices. While we did visit an old favourite, most of the restaurants we visited were new to us, including two sushi joints that we’d been meaning to try for years. One was a much-ballyhooed three Michelin-starred place in Ginza that is regularly discussed on forums like Chowhound and which many punters like to claim is the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo. The other is a much more modest (and much livelier) place in Yotsuya that has no Michelin stars and is rarely mentioned in Western or English-language media. Amazingly, though some Japanese friends tell me I shouldn’t have been surprised, we left the three-Michelin-starred restaurant feeling very ripped off and extremely underwhelmed. But, the meal we had at Sushi Sho, the cultish little joint just east of Shinjuku, delivered what I can honestly say was the single greatest sushi meal of both my life and my wife’s. She has since been describing the experience to friends as “life-changing sushi.” For the rest of this article, please read my post on http://chubbyhubby.net/travel/keiji-nakazawa-the-best-sushi-chef-in-the-world-to-us/
My wife’s favorite coffee shop in Daikanyama has an open terrace that’s perfect for people-watching. The space was inspired by 18th-century Italian cafés. —Kashiwa Sato 29-3 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 81/(0) 3-3770-9517. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
Kapital is a really cool clothing chain known for its denim. They have two shops in Roppongi Hills—Kapital Duffle and Kapital Legs. I always pick up tabi, these handmade split-toe socks. They are split between the big toe and other toes and are very comfy. —David Myers This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
View of Tokyo at dusk as seen from the 54th floor observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Nishi-shinjuku. Admission to the observatory is free and well worth it for a fantastic, sweeping view of the Tokyo skyline.
This shop on the Tokyo Ramen Street, a set of ramen shops in the basement of Tokyo Station, is one of the best in the stretch, and the short lines outside make it a great stop before you catch a train. Shichisai serves a clean delicious shoyu, or clear, soy-based soup, made with organic ingredients and topped with some of the best chashu, or pork, in Tokyo. Photo by Darin Dines/Flickr. Tokyo Ichiban-gai B1, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Imagine a whole flea market crammed into one small space. That’s Hollywood Ranch, where I’ve shopped since college for jeans, T-shirts, and even incense. —Kashiwa Sato 81/(0) 3-3463-5668. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
I left tropical Southeast Asia for Japan in the dead of winter for one reason - to see snow monkeys. I'd always seen pictures like the one above, of zen macaques in steaming hot springs surrounded by snow, and had no idea how accessible they were but was determined to find them. Turns out, it's just an hour bullet train to Nagano from Tokyo, and then another train to Yudanaka, a sleepy winter wonderland offering onsen galore... and the Jigokudani Snow Monkey park! A morning encounter with these primates, the only ones other than humans known to thrive in a snowy environment, is not to be missed. While the adults soak in the springs, appearing to follow a strict code of conduct surrounding this activity - much like their local human counterparts do! - the mischievous youngsters practice acrobatics and start snowball fights.
Eating at Mutsumiya is like taking a trip to Hokkaido, an island in northern Japan. The place serves the classic Hokkaido miso-based ramen, created with water brought over from Hokkaido. The shop is located on the Tokyo Ramen Street, a collection of ramen restaurants in a basement hallway of Tokyo station. It’s a great place to taste a traditional Hokkaido-style ramen without leaving Tokyo. Tokyo Ichiban-gai B1, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku.
My first glimpse of Fushimi Inari was from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Yes, I admit it. I was smitten by the scene of Chiyo running along the Shinto shrine's paths surrounded by vermilion torii, or gates. I had a chance to visit on a brisk, sunny, winter day in January 2009. The Fushimi Inari shrine is a quick train ride two stops south of Kyoto Station on the JR Nara line. I traveled solo, and my ascent through the shrine's paths and up Inari mountain brought warmth to my fingers and toes, and respite from the crowds at the base. I spent hours exploring and snapping photos of torii and stone foxes. Despite opportunities to return and visit Fushimi Inari, I have not. I can't bring myself to let go of my first impressions and treasured memories of the winter day I spent there. On my ascent, the unmarked sides of the torii imbued an inward serenity to my walk. On the descent, those same torii, now marked with the names, dates, and wishes of their donors, were a humble reminder that I am only one among many in this world, each of us desiring happiness, love, health, and prosperity.
One of the highlights, albeit a cold one, of visiting the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market at 5 a.m. is getting to watch the tuna auction—only the frozen carcasses, though, as the fresh tuna auction is held in another warehouse room, closed to the public. The tails of this huge fish have been sliced open so the bidders can examine the flesh. Another benefit of an early morning visit: The sushi restaurants in the neighborhood open for breakfast, serving up what they've just procured from the market. For more about the market, visit www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
The museum was built to house the private collection of a railroad company mogul. Works by the Buddhist artist Ogata Kōrin are on display in April and May. —Kashiwa Sato 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, 81/(0) 3-3400-2536. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
Ishi no Hana in Shibuya is one of the most progressive bars in the city. The mixologist, Shinobu Ishigaki, creates forward-thinking, modern concoctions from rare seasonal ingredients such as saffron syrup and lavender brought over from Hokkaido. —David Myers Photo courtesy of Ishi no Hana. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
Ameyayokocho The open-air stalls underneath the train tracks were once a haven for criminal transactions. Today they’re a paradise for bargain-hunters looking for such essentials as green tea and dried fish. Don’t miss the labyrinthine underground food counters located beneath the Ameyoko Center Building. 4-7-8 Ueno, Taito-ku Kappabashi A well-known shopping area for local restaurateurs, Kappabashi is the place to go for kitchen utensils and plastic food displays. Located between the Ueno and Asakusa neighborhoods, northeast of Ameyayokocho. Hifumi-an At this 1920s-era restaurant, diners can try kaiseki—traditional multicourse meals. Chefs also teach cooking classes off-site. 4-2-18 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, 81/(0) 3-5832-8677 —Marie Doezema Photo courtesy of Ken Cameron/iStockphoto. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.
Owner Nobiyuki Nakamura’s whiskey obsession is on display at his scotch bar. He has a full collection of traditional Irish whiskeys and Scottish single malts. The whole place is obsessive, right down to the hand-carved ice cubes that go into the drinks. —Kashiwa Sato 7-13-12 Minami-Aoyama, Mori Building 2F, Minato-ku, 81/(0) 3-3486-4220. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
This restaurant was recommended by the "Tokyo Guide" iPhone app I was using. It looked great, and I love dumplings. When we walked in, we were a bit worried because everything was in Japanese, even the menu. Donna, who knows Chinese, was trying to make sense of the characters when the waiter brought over an English menu, phew! The gyoza were amazing, with I think two flavors, and you could choose fried or boiled. The side dishes were simple but delicious as well.
The Chuzenji Temple in Oku-nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, was originally founded in 784 by a Buddhist monk known as Shodo-shonin and is located on the shore of Lake Chuzenji, which is approximately 1,300 meters above sea level. In the middle of the Meiji and early Showa periods, many European embassies built vacation houses around the lake, lending a unique atmosphere to the environs. There is something to do or see all year round here: cherry-blossom viewing in the spring, bird watching, marine sports and hiking in the summer, autumn colors in the fall, and the Snow and Ice Festival as well as cross-country skiing and ice skating in the winter. You can either rent a car or catch a bus from Tobu-nikko Station, about a 40-minute ride.
If Manhattan’s famous music club CBGB were reimagined by a Japanese food fiend, the result would be Tatemichiya. The izakaya, or Japanese-style tapas bar, in Tokyo’s Daikanyama neighborhood, is the brainchild of punk-music fanatic Yoshiyuki Okada. He plastered his tiny space in posters of the Clash and the Sex Pistols—bands also heard on the house soundtrack—and serves dried shishamo (smelt) and ei hire (skate fin), above. Bonus for purists: Okada is one of the few izakaya owners who still grills his yakitori the old-school way, on coals. B1, 30-8 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 81/(0) 3-5459-3431. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Curtis Christophersen.
The soup at Ikaruga is so thick and creamy that you might believe it contains milk or butter. In reality, the wonderful texture of the tonkotsu broth is the result of pork bones simmered for hours upon hours. Among the restaurants on the Tokyo Ramen Street, a collection of ramen shops in the basement of Tokyo Station, Ikaruga is the most upscale. The staff are dressed in sharp uniforms and speak in (relatively) gentle tones. Photo by Shibainu/Flickr. Tokyo Ichiban-gai B1, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
On the east side of Tokyo, travelers can experience the city’s frenetic spirit. In the Ameyayokocho neighborhood, you’ll find seedy-looking love hotels, pachinko parlors, and chatty street vendors. When the chaos becomes too intense, escape to nearby Nezu and Yanaka, two historic districts where the artistry of imperial Edo culture lives on. Photo courtesy of Jose Fuste Raga/Age Fotostock. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.
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