Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Asakusa -1-

There is an area called "Asakusa" in Tokyo, and from 2005, the area started to be reached by the TX line whose terminal station "Tsukuba" is in my city. The area is where you can experience Japanese old settings like the Edo, or Showa period, and old people in Japan visit Asakusa to remember their good old times. And foreign people also often prefer Asakusa over the other areas in Tokyo, just because this area is typically Japanese.

When I got out of the Asakusa station on the TX line, I found this picture. I think this is the dragon that is manipulated by many people at the summer festival. As you can see, it was illuminated by the lighting behind the picture.

There was this picture that shows you the entire map of this Asakusa area. I just thought each street should have English names so that everybody would find out where they should go.

As I was walking down the street, I saw this very old restaurant that was open. In my book, the structure of this restaurant seemed to be that of the early Showa period. You can see a dish called "Tendon" on the right side of the shelf through the window.

When I looked up, I saw this picture that presumably belongs to the genre "Ukiyoe", which depicts the secular aspects of the Edo period.

This street is called "Denpouin Doori", which runs sideways in the center of the map I showed above.

On the "Denpouin Doori", you can see many kinds of shops that sell clothes, bags, shoes and etc. I think all these shops are all run by families, and probably the businesses have been handed down from generation to generation. The price of each commodity was not so expensive, nor very cheap.

This man, who had this old-fashioned hairstyle, was selling "Asakusa yaki", which had sweet bean paste with "Yomogi", or felon herb. He said the peddlers in olden times shouldered the center stick to lift this cubic wooden carrier.

This street is called "Nakamise", on both side of which you can see many shops. I saw many people taking pics.

And one of the shops was selling fans called "Uchiwa". You might want to buy one if you come to this place as a foreigner. I think the average price for these fans was about 5 us dollars. Reasonably priced.

If you walk down the "Nakamise"street to the north, you can reach "Kaminari mon" or Thunder Gate. The original gate dates back to the 10th century, but since then this gate was burned down by fires several times, and finally this was offered by the founder of Panasonic "Kounosuke Matsushita" in 1960. You can see "Raijin" or the god of thunder on your left.  

And on your right you can see "Fuujin" or the god of the wind. The two gods often appear as a pair in some old Japanese pictures like this.

This is the big lantern you saw in the center of the gate. You'd see how big it is. The swastika you see denotes a "temple"on the Japanese maps, and it is a symbol of good luck. 

---To be continued---

Saturday, June 26, 2010


As I said before, it's hard find a very good Japanese restaurant. I usually refrain from saying this in order not to give you the wrong idea that the Japanese dishes have more delicate tastes than the others, but some Japanese dishes are sometimes very difficult to cook just because the chef has to try hard to give subtle tastes to each dishes, like whether to add a bit of saltiness. I could basically eat anything, like very cheap hamburgers, but I think I can tell which dish is good or bad.
This restaurant is called "Rafu", and is in one of the residential sections of my city. It is very hard to find this restaurant since it's kinda hidden. And this "Rafu" had prepared only a few dishes for a few customers.

The interior looked like one of those rooms in an ordinary Japanese house. But I could relax with this soft lighting that came through these "Shouji", which are doors with these very thin pieces of paper. 

I went to the bathroom, and the sink was decorated with these plants and flowers. Very Japanese-styled.

I don't remember the name of this set, but the main dish was "Tendon", which is on the far left of the tray and I introduced in this posting. What you can see in the center of the front row and back row are cucumber pickles and "Nimono" respectively. It is very hard to cook the latter because you have to fine-tune the strength of the salty taste.

As a dessert the set had this Matcha-tasted "Kuzumochi". "Kuzu" is made of powdered kudzu, and the texture of Kuzumochi is elastic like "Mochi", or rice cake. Kuzu is said to be very effective in healing your body that was made cool by air-conditioning in the summer. Here is a pic of kudzu. And "Matcha" tastes a little bitterer than green-tea.

Do you have a Japanese restaurant in your neighborhood? I'd like you to give it a try if you do. =)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Weider in Jelly

Sometimes I get feedback from friends who see my blog, and I often realize that some things are not available in other countries. I write this blog from a viewpoint of a Japanese, but if I were a foreigner, I would see things differently and easily find such rare things in Japan. It's easy to take pics of things in Japan because I live in Japan, but the downside is I don't know what seems interesting to foreign people. One thing one of my friends was curious about was this "Weider in Jelly", which is available mainly in Japan.
This jelly could be called a supplementary meal. There are several kinds of "Weider in Jelly" like "Energy", "Multivitamin", "Royal jelly", and etc., but since I like playing tennis so much, I often choose this "protein" type. You might feel hungry if you have only sandwiches for lunch, but if you have this as well you'd feel full. 
According to my research, an adult man needs 70g of protein a day. But this bag contains only 4.0g of protein, so you'd need to have something additional like meat, or beans to have enough protein. 

You might be curious about what the content is like, but what you can see is something like crushed yogurt, and it does taste like yogurt. You don't have to "eat" this, but you can drink it like having juice. 

And what should be noted is this jelly is advertised by an actor called "Tomohisa Yamashita", who is a member of an idol group NEWS. He is handsome, but is also known as a very muscular guy. No wonder he heeds this protein jelly. 

The video below is a commercial in which Tomohisa is pitching this protein jelly. He is apparently doing weight lifting longer than his superior to prioritize the exercise over a BBQ dinner. As you can see, he's insinuating "With Weider protein jelly, you don't need to have meat". The red Japanese words in the last part of the video say, "A 10 seconds meal that builds your body".

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shirokujichu (A Japanese restaurant)

I didn't dine out so often last year, but since I thought you'd be interested in the food of a country you like, I decided to dine out so often this year. Sure, it costs some money, but if the purpose is to fill my stomach and take pics, I can get the two things done at a time.

I didn't like Japanese food so much, but since I started to have more Japanese food, I found some of our food to be better than the others. This restaurant is called "Shirokujichu" or 4x6 hours. If 4 is multiplied by 6, it equals 24. And yes, "Shrokujichu" means 24/7. 

I came here for lunch, but when I arrived here it was about 11:30am, so I didn't see any customers except for us. Most of the Japanese restaurants open at 11am, save some family restaurants like GUSTO, which is open all the time.

I chose this "Tori Gobou Ohitsu". To explain each word, Tori is chicken, and Gobou is burdock, and Ohitsu is a kind of bowl like this in which we put rice. I've heard Americans and Europeans don't have burdock for a meal, but it does taste good if it is seasoned with soy sauce and sugar.

The green vegetable is called "Mitsuba" or trefoil. It tastes a bit bitter, but most Japanese seasoned rice like "Takikomigohan" have this on top of it. Here's a pic of Takikomigohan. 

If you can't finish the rice, you can have it as "Ochazuke", which is had with hot water and some pickles. Actually this restaurant served "Dashi" instead of hot water. Dashi is something like broth. Some Japanese people have it as an additional dinner. Japanese salarymen often get home later than 9pm, and in that case they have this "Ochazuke". "Ocha" is (green)tea, and "Zuke" means "to sop". 

We often have rice even at western restaurants. For example, you can choose either bread or rice if you order steak.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


One of my online friends suggested I make a posting on Purikura, and I took some photos of a Purikura machine. It is for girls, or a girl with her boyfriend, so I usually stay away from Purikura machines, but as far as I know it has developed quite significantly recently.

I was a bit too embarrassed when I came closer to this machine. Wish I was a girl. The black kanji say, "The appeal of eyes".  That kind of girls you see are often called "gyaru", and we can see many of them in Shibuya, Tokyo. Here's a pic of Shibuya.I think the age limit of being a gyaru is 24 or younger.

You can fine-tune the pics you take. The pen on your right lets you modify the shape of your eyes, eyelashes, and so on. It seems the quality of pics you take is HD, which I think is important since high-schoolers usually don't have digital cameras but cellphones with cameras. I looked around carefully so that I wouldn't be taken as a weird guy >.<

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shimaya (A provincial Soba restaurant)

It gets a bit cool in June in Japan since this month is when we start to have the rainy season. But however cool, the temperature is often around 20 degrees Celsius or more, and we need to have something cold as meals. When I went to the countryside the other day, I dropped by this Soba restaurant to have cold Soba or "Zaru Soba". 

I think there are not so many Soba restaurants that belong to a chain. Rather, soba restaurants are often owned by a family and that's one of the reasons we see a good one in the countryside too.

When I got in I saw this sacred shelf called "Kamidana". People enshrine their local god there who is also enshrined in some shrines. You could go to a shrine to pray for your well-being, but this "Kamidana" is often a place where people could pray anytime at home. You can see two white bottles that include Japanese liquor "Sake". People often offer such a thing for the god. 

This cat is called "Maneki Neko", or a "beckoning cat" that is said to bring more customers to your shop. You can see his left hand beckoning you. It originated in the 18th century in Japan, and farmers also have had it for their homes since a cat repels mice.

I ordered this "Zaru Soba" with Tempura. I hadn't been kept waiting for a long time before this was served. Maybe the chef had been already prepared to cook this in preparation for many customers that he has over the weekend.

We often have a fried prawn as Tempura, but what you can see is all wild vegetables. One of them was "Fuki no Tou", which is a part of the stalk of a Chrysanthemum flower.  It tasted a bit bitter for me. And I had fried apple as well on the dish. My friends and I ordered the same dish and we enjoyed it a great deal. 

I think I will have more "Zaru Soba" as we have hotter weather. You'd enjoy it with wasabi like you do with sushi. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Center of my city -2-

I showed what the center of my city looked like in the night last November, but I haven't showed you pics taken there during the day. There are a shopping mall, department store, library and park in this center. So it is no exaggeration to say that you can do or get everything here.

The building you see on your left is the library. Of course it is fun to look for good books there, but you'd also enjoy strolling this aisle in early summer. It was so hot, but when you stay under the shadows of the trees you'd feel cool again.

And this is one of the biggest intersections in my city. You can see the buses running, and the building beyond those buses is the shopping mall. I drop by the mall to look for good CD's and some clothes. And those blue buses are owned by a company called "Kantetsu", which operates some lines as well in my prefecture.

The terminal station Tsukuba of the railway TX is connected to the first floor of this shopping mall. And this penguin was asking people to take advantage of an electronic money card called Suica. As I told you before, you can store some money on the card and if you flash it over a ticket gate you can pass through it.

I hadn't known that a flea market was being held at this mall.

This mall basically consists of two buildings and there is a narrow street in between. I've seen before live performances taking place here a few times.

You can see those character stuffed toys, but since I'm a guy I couldn't tell which character was which. All I could recognize was the Hello Kitty cushion over there.

I introduced "Kaki Goori" or shaved ice last summer. And this bus-looking stall was already selling it and gelato as well. Whenever I come to this place I never fail to see this bus. 

Some of you might know the main international airport in Japan is called "Narita". And you can go to either Narita or Haneda airport by bus from this center of my city. And besides that you can reach by bus newly opened Ibaraki airport as well. 

And this is the bus that takes you to those airports. It takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach Narita airport. When I came back from the US years ago, this station didn't look like this, but I took this bus on my way back home from Narita airport. 

I was so tired after taking so many pics that I had an iced coffee at a coffee shop called Veloce. I tend to discard about a half of the pics I take, 'cause I'm not good at taking pics at all =/

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kappa sushi

This is the 4th posting on a Kaitenzushi restaurant. We're now in recession. I repeated this phrase over and over again, but Japan still lags behind many developed or developing countries when it comes to economic recovery. The Nikkei Stock Average dipped below 10,000 yen recently partly because of the deteriorating economies in the EU, and because our consumers refrain from buying things, and it caused the companies across the nation not to profit from domestic consumption. Okay, I don't want to talk about economic problems here, but the reason why I referred to that is because I wanted to explain why people still go to a Kaitenzushi where they can have one-dish-a-dollar sushi. 

I told you before our neighboring city has Kappa as the symbol, and in fact this restaurant was in the city, but these Kappa characters have nothing to do with it.

In my book, this Kaitenzushi restaurant really differs from the others in that almost everything this restaurant offers is for kids. The green things are stuffed Kappa toys as you can see.

Kids would be pleased to see this. When you order sushi on the touch panel screen, the chefs put the sushi on this bullet train and it stops just in front of your table. Isn't this funny?

We never have a "fried" shrimp as sushi, but we can have it here. I don't know about foreign kids, but Japanese kids like fried things such as fried chicken.

I introduced a Japanese specialty "Takoyaki" last year, but this "sushi" restaurant does serve it. Each ball has a piece of octopus, and sauce and dried bonito on top of it.

Kids like to put mayonnaise on top of everything. And this sushi has tiny pieces of shrimp and vegetables with mayonnaise. Sushi wrapped by seaweed like these are called "Gunkan", or battleship.

But you can have ordinary sushi as well. The two sushi nearside are "Uni (left)" and "salmon (right). Uni means sea urchin as some of you already know.

It was reported a little while ago that this Kappa sushi is the most profitable of all Kaitenzushi chains. But why can this kind of Kaitenzushi profit despite each sushi is only one dollar? According to an article I read, such a sushi restaurant can cut back on the personnel cost easily 'cause while your are eating you don't have to talk to the waiters, but you just take sushi dishes off the conveyor or touch the screen to order. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I don't want to brag, but my city is quite comfortable to live in, and I can find many very good restaurants here. You might want to try Japanese restaurants when you're in Japan, but on the other hand you might miss western restaurants when the stay is a bit too long. I often see more foreign people walking around in the streets than in other cities, and they seem to like spending time at the western restaurants in my city.
Let me introduce a restaurant called NON where I had lunch last weekend. You can have pasta, hamburgers, and some Asian dishes with rice here.

My friend and I chose a table on the second floor. It was so sunny, but not humid at all. But, unlike western countries, usually it gets so humid in the summer in Japan. The average humidity in the summer is from 75% to 85%, so you'd easily sweat whether you're in your room or outside.

I saw this Audi on sale on the first floor of this restaurant. The price as you can see was 3.58 million yen, or about 39.3 thousand $. We consider cars like Lexus are really good, but still ones made by Audi, Mercedes, and BMW are considered better.

This is a sandwich with cheese, lettuce, and onion in between. The price was about 10$.

I'm a huge fan of hamburgers, which you could see in some postings. I like Burgerking better than Mcdonald's, so I really enjoyed this authentic hamburger. I personally want to hear what Americans would think of this. I was so full that I didn't have much for dinner on the day.

Finally the best season to have iced coffee has come. I have it in the winter as well though. I just wonder why iced coffee isn't always available all over the world. Why not have coffee cold when it's so hot?

We have Japanese dishes at restaurants only from time to time, but Japanese people seem to have foreign dishes more often. In this respect, I think Japan is similar to other Asian countries such as China, South Korea where you can see many western restaurants.