Day 3 in Japan – Tokyo culture

Outside our hotel just before our trek across the various parts of Tokyo, we had our first sighting of snow. The precipitation was one of huge crystal snowflakes that quickly seeped through non-water-resistant clothing.

First stop: Tokyo national museum (Ueno). Located north of central Tokyo, this is a popular place amongst Japanese history / culture fanatics. Even if you are not the biggest antiquity geek and would be bored out of your wits looking at centuries old pottery and artefacts, the various contemporary art, or samurai collection of swords and war armour might still tickle your fancy.

Tea bowl: Mount Fuji design in engraving. Edo period, 17th century. Hmm, what design?

Before hopping on the connecting train headed for Ryogoku, we hopped off at okachimachi station for a bite. Stumbling around the alleyways in the chilly air and snowy conditions, we quickly stuck our heads into a newly opened ramen place.

I wonder why is it that everywhere you go, you get served freezing cold water (probably just ambient exterior temperature which is freezing anyhow) in the middle of Winter. And then ironically serve hot tea in Summer. Why is that?

Both the miso and white-bone version of their broths were a sublime balance of rich umami and subtle saltiness – incredibly satisfying and warming in this grizzly weather. The chashu was also far better than that at the ramen museum with a chargrilled surface, a soft-moist flesh.

やきとり鳥園 –
Where: Tokyo, Ueno,5丁目-22−8. Between 御徒町駅(on Yamanote line) and 仲御徒町駅 (on Hibiya line)Cost: 600 yen.
Tip: there are usually plenty of little places in the alleyways around bigger train stations, particular in areas where multiple train lines converge.

Rating: Yummy+1.5. A great bowl of ramen.

Next destination: Ryoguko Kokugikan (Sumo museum), located just north of Ryogoku station (両国駅). It just so happened to be sumo-tournament season in Tokyo at the time, so what better excuse to see some real sumo-action. Some of the combat ended up on the front row of the audience – hope nobody broke any bones…

Live sumo action~

Tokyo night sky from Shinjuku.

There is a dizzying density of neon lights in Kabuchiko with its oceans of people during rush hour.

Originally we were to dine at Omoide Yokocho (Shinjuku) – also known as “Piss Alley” – a small network of alleyways northwest of shinjuku station and just east of 新宿西口駅 (Shinjukunishiguchi Station, on the Oedo line), which is lined with dozens of really tiny eateries serving ramen, soba, sushi, yakitori. It is a lively place, but certainly is quite run-down, smoky and in recent times more touristy. We weren’t too impressed, so we headed north into Kabuchiko.

We stumbled haphazardly around the area and landed at this izakaya. It is a small place, only a few seats along the bar, and a handful of really small tables facing out the windows. The staff were really pleasant, although didn’t speak much English – ironically a good sign that it isn’t a tourist trap.

Clockwise: Edomame, umechu, shochu, chicken skin & mushrooms.

Egg – yum!

Chicken set – cartilage/ knee, liver, heart, fatty chicken meat, kidney.

Where: 東京都, 新宿区, 歌舞伎町(Kabukicho), 1丁目26−7. Just East of Shinjuku Prince hotel.
Cost: average 200 yen / serving of yakitori; 500 yen / glass of sake.
Tip: there are pictures on the menu, but they are hardly helpful without the understanding the descriptions since they all look same-same. Be prepared to have your regular cuts of meats and plenty of offal.Rating: Yummy+1.5. A great izakaya to sit next to locals, have a few laughs when neither of you can understand each other, and have some great yakiniku (grilled meat).

takoyaki – not overly excited.

One Response to “Day 3 in Japan – Tokyo culture”
  1. You’re making me really miss Japan with these posts! I didn’t get to see sumo in action which was a shame, but I definitely loved all the ramen we had. 😀

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  • Food RATING scale

    Unpleasant: damn upset my desire to eat

    Average: palatable but many shortcomings

    Yummy: a pleasant experience

    Yummy +1: mouth-watering like rain

    Yummy +2: exquisite flavours that hit all the right notes

    Divine: sheer culinary perfection!

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