Archive for the 'Foods' Category

Food outlets

Pepper Lunch

In general, Japan seems to be obsessed with food. Almost everyday, one can see a variety program whereby the host will dine on sumptuous meal created by different chef from different restaurant. I also get the impression that Japan has some of the best cooks in the world since I haven’t had any bad-tasting food while I’m here. Prior coming to Tokyo, I’ve always heard that foods are expensive in Tokyo but I think this is an exaggeration. I don’t think it’s anymore expensive than foods in other big cities such as New York, Sydney, and is actually a lot cheaper than London. If you know where to go, you can actually taste some good food here. Failing that, you can always go to Supermarket and get yourself either some Fresh ingredients, if you have cooking equipments. If you don’t have access to cooking equipment, go to combine and get some pre-cooked foods ready to be heated in a microwave. After all, a large Onigiri (riceball) won’t cost you more than 150 Yen. Anyway, what I’ll list below are some of my favorite food outlets. They’re mostly just for my own reference but I hope you can find some use for it.

Pepper Lunch

Pepper Lunch (addendum 13/06/10): Pepper Lunch is now available in Sydney – LOL) serves quality cut grilled beef on top of rice and vegetables. In order to order food from this place, you have to use the nearby vending machine and choose the kind of dish that you’d like to eat. After paying the price, the machine will produce a ticket that you must hand in to the waitress. The price of the meals ranges from 680 Yen to around 1050 Yen depending on the quality of the meat that you choose. Anyway, after handing in the ticket to the waitress, she will usually give you a ticket for free soft drink, which you can use the next time you visit the place. Back then, however, I had to be content with a glass of water while waiting for 2-3 minutes for my food. Once the waiting is over, you’ll be presented with sizzling and only half-cooked meat and veggies on top of a hotplate. If you want, the waitress will cook the meat for you. However, it’s a lot more fun to cook them yourself and add your own sauce, etc. You can find Pepper Lunch outlet on almost every big city in Japan, especially inside the train station. If you’re in Tokyo, however, Akihabara has at least two of these outlets.

Pepper LunchSoba UdonSoba Udon

Soba Udon

Judging from its name, it’s not hard to guess that Soba Udon serves well, Soba and Udon. This place, however, is good because it provides some cheap food for those who don’t have the budget to spend too much. For only 200 Yen, you can get a cold Soba with a sauce and an additional 100 Yen can get you a Kakiage (Fried vegetable tempura). I don’t know about other people’s stomach capacity but in my opinion the portion that they gave to me was quite generous and I was both full and satisfied with the quality of the food. Of course if you have the money, you can always order the more expensive dish such as Curry Udon. Just like other eateries, you’ll usually get a glass of water free and you can refill it as much as you want. You order the food through vending machine and hand in the ticket to the waitress as usual. Although if I remember correctly, you have to tell the waitress yourself if you want a kakiage to go with your cold soba and pay the 100 Yen to her. Soba Udon can be found in various Tokyo station. There is one underneath the Ueno station.

Omosubi Gonbee/Omosubi Honnori

These two are basically food outlets selling Omusubi (Onigiri/riceball) using the finest ingredients you can find in Japan. You can read more about Omosubi Gonbee here. I really like Onigiri although the one one can get from the combini is usually not the best quality ones. Gonbee and Honnori, on the other hand, are two places that I usually go to if I want some good Onigiri. They have a wide range of selection from Fish roe to tuna to chicken. However, because they use the best ingredients available, the price of their Onigiri tends to be more expensive in comparison to the ones you can get from a combini. For example, a typical Onigiri from a combini won’t set you back more than 150 Yen while the one from these outlets can cost you up to 200 Yen. However, I think it’s worth it to give it a try from time to time. And these Omosubi/Onigiri are very filling so most people don’t need more than two Onigiri if this is all that they intend to have for lunch. Onigiri is also perfect as a light breakfast when consumed with Takuan (pickled daikon) during breakfast.

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Hachikuro Cafe + Odaiba

Hachikuro Mascot
Hachikuro merchandiseHagu statue

Anyone who read Memento on a regular basis will know that I really like an anime series titled Honey and Clover. The series was one of the most popular series in Japan last year. For some reason, the popularity propels some people to create a cafe called, Hachikuro cafe. The cafe is located in Odaiba, in order to get to Odaiba, you can either take the JR Yamanote line or the Tokyo Metro’s Ginza line to Shimbashi station. From this station, you can take the Yurikamome Monorail which will drop you at Odaiba Koen. After this, walk towards a building called Decks. The building consists of cafes and shops and is divided into several areas. If you go all the way here with the intention of finding the Hachikuro cafe, you need to go the the 3rd Floor of an area called ‘Island Mall’. Near its entrance, you’ll find the cafe.

The first thing that I noticed is that this is a very small cafe which doesn’t have that many chairs/tables in it. After I took some pictures, I approached the souvenir sections. There are several goods on sale here but unfortunately I am not interested in most of them because they are the kinds of things that I don’t collect (stuffed animals, shot glass, mug, cell phone straps, etc). I did buy some clear files. I’ll try to scan them and post the picture on Memento once I go back home. The cafe is decorated with pictures of the characters (with signatures from the voice actors) and a big Hagu statue. There’s also a big stuffed animal in the form of Hachikuro mascot placed on the entrance of the shop so you can’t possibly miss the shop when you enter the ‘Island Mall’ area.

Inside the cafeFrom outsideMessage from Yuki
Hachikuro cafeRainbow bridgeMcDonald's Ebi burger

Unfortunately it seems the menu on the cafe has changed from the first time it was opened. I remember that it used to have a much more fun and diverse menu. Nowadays, however, the cafe only serves drinks and snacks. *sigh* I was so looking to have that blue-cheese/honey Pizza. Oh well. I ended up only ordering the lemonade since I wasn’t that hungry back then. The lemonade was pretty good although it is rather pricey for a lemonade (around 350 Yen). Since there’s nothing else to see inside the cafe, I decided to walk around the building and after a few minutes, decided to get out of it. There seems to be an interesting area on the top floor that tries to imitate the back alley of Hong Kong inside a shopping mall. I was too tired to do further investigation, however, so I didn’t bother to take any picture. Maybe next time.

Having said that, it’d be silly to come all this way just to see the Cafe. Odaiba itself is a landmark place. From the Decks’s observatory area, you can clearly see the Rainbow Bridge. Yes, this is the bridge where Seishirou and Subaru from X TV staged their final fight against one another. Since I took the monorail, I actually went through the bridge. The view was really good although I’ll bet it’s even better at night. If I have time, I think I’ll try to go again during night time. There is actually a Ferris Wheel nearby in Venus Fort. I don’t think this is the one that the gang from Hachikuro went to. However, I think Mayama mentioned about it in the series. Anyway, eventually I got hungry and I decide to have McDonald’s for a change. Besides, McDonald’s in Japan tends to be better than the ones in other countries.

Fuji TelevisionVenus Fort's Ferris Wheel
The view from the escalatorYour Shounen Jump friends

True enough, I actually managed to have a rather decent burger here. It’s a new one they introduced for the season called Ebi-burger. It’s a burger filled with prawns, topped with some kind of thousand island sauce. This and Teriyaki Burger has to be some of the better McDonald’s burgers, I’ve tasted. After lunch, I decided to head towards the Fuji Television Building, thinking that they may have some good merchandise there. The building itself looks really good. There is some kind of tower which you can go up to (after paying 500 Yen) if you want to take a good look at Tokyo’s Metropolitan area from a high place. I personally think it’s a waste of money though so unless you’re that desperate to see it, I suggest that you save your Yen to buy other things.

After the tower, I decided to go to Fuji TV’s shop, which I kind of hoped will sell either Hachikuro or Nodame Cantabile merchandises. Unfortunately, the shop doesn’t seem to have that many merchandise for Noitamina series or for that matter, the more mature series aired on Fuji TV. I did, however, see many One Piece and Dragonball merchandise so if you like both series, you’re in luck. There’s also some kind of exhibition on the new live-action Saiyuki starring Katori Shingo. Anyway, since there isn’t that many things to see inside the building, I decided to go to Venus Fort, where apparently Paradise Kiss shop is opened. That, however, will have to wait until the next post since I have to go now.


Japan Take 2

Nippon Ichi-ban

Well, I never thought I’ll be going to Japan again but here I am sitting inside my hotel’s internet room typing this. I have to say that I really miss Japan. It’s only been six months since I was here the last time around but I feel that it’s been longer than that. I was flying using JAL (Japan Airlines) and I have to say that it’s been one of the nicer flights I’ve had. Well, I didn’t actually enjoy the flight itself because I had the misfortune of sitting in the window seat with 2 seats next to me. So it was rather hard to do anything. However, the flight provides free overnight stay at a hotel here complete with complimentary breakfast before I leave to go to UK tomorrow. And much to my surprise, the hotel is clean and comfortable. It’s not big but it’s not small either. It’s pretty much my ideal hotel room.

Chotos, bento box, and an unidentified dessert

The first thing that I did after dropping my bags was going to combini right away. I couldn’t help it. I’ve been missing combini foods far too long. I am also on a budget so I can’t afford to go around spending 2700 Yen just to have dinner at a restaurant. Especially not when I have to go to England first before I revisit Japan next week (tonight is just a transit night). I can’t wait until the time when I get back here. I have bought JR pass again and this time I think I’ll go to Wakkanai or Sapporo just like Takemoto from Hachikuro. The only difference is, I’m not going to be riding bike. Not in this kind of weather. I am also curious about England since this will be my first time visiting the country. Thankfully I have a lot of friends living in that part of the world so I’m not going to be alone most of the time.


Densha, Chikatetsu, and Shinkansen

「電車」 – Electric Train
「地下鉄」 – Subway
「新幹線」 – Bullet Train

Inside a Shinkansen

I actually wanted to write about this before my post about Okazaki Castle. However, due to the incident that happened in Japan around the same time, I figure it’s a bit insensitive to do it back then. So I decided to wait even though chronologically, this happened first prior to my visit to Okazaki Castle or my arrival in Okazaki for that matter. Oh well, these things happen and besides, I use train from time to time so I don’t see how it’ll make that much of a difference whether or not I post this now or back then.

Anyway, when I first learned about ‘Densha’, ‘Chikatetsu’, and ‘Shinkansen’, I had a bit of difficulty understanding the difference between the three words. This is mostly because, in general, all three are basically trains that travel at high speed. It’s not until I arrive in Japan that I understand what the Japanese refers to as ‘Densha’ are basically all of the normal ground trains. These trains are mostly operated by JR (Japan Railways) although there are other companies that run similar service as well.


‘Chikatetsu’ are basically underground trains or subways, as some people called them. So far I’ve only encounter subways when I go to the big cities like Tokyo or Nagoya. To give you an example, if you want to go to Akihabara and you happen to own a JR rail pass, you’ll want to take the Yamanote line. However, if you stay at Asakusa like I did, you can’t take the Yamanote line straight away from Asakusa station. You first have to catch a subway from Asakusa to Ueno, then take the Yamanote line from the Ueno station.

Then there’s the ‘Shinkansen’. These are basically on-the-ground trains that travel at a speed that is faster than normal Densha. IIRC, these days Shinkansen runs at around 300km/h. Apparently the super-fast Nozomi runs even faster than that. The Shinkansen that I used was basically the one that services the Tokaido/Sanyo lines. This Shinkansen basically connects Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. Depending whether you take Hikari or Kodama, it’ll take approximately 3 hours to go from Tokyo to Osaka.


These trains travel so fast to the point that when another train passes by next to it, sometimes you can feel a slight shake inside the train. It took a while for me to get used to this and not have my heart jumped every couple of minutes. After a while, however, it was a pure joy to be inside a Shinkansen. If you happen to have a PSP+Ridge Racer game, try playing it inside a Shinkansen. I guarantee that you’ll get a kick out of it. It feels as if you really are driving a very fast car. The outside view is not that bad either, IMO.

Each Shinkansen is usually divided into smoking and non-smoking cabins. If you are a non-smoker like I am, then I suggest that you make a booking for a non-smoking cabin because you really don’t want to spend 3 hours in a cabin full of smokers. I once passed through it and I felt as if I’m smoking as well. In general, however, the Shinkansen is clean and tidy. So if you go to Japan, you probably want to try it once. And if you have the money to spare, you may want to pay for the more expensive Green cabin or even better, the super-fast Nozomi trains.

Bento boxBento boxBento box

Inside the Shinkansen, you can also find some toilets, vending machines, and a mobile cafeteria that sells drinks, snacks, and bento boxes. The bento box is also another thing you should try while you’re taking Shinkansen. Each box is carefully prepared so that the food looks appetizing. Unfortunately, the bento boxes sold inside a Shinkansen do not contain hot foods so if you’re not into cold food like Sushi and Japanese pickled vegetables, this may not be your cup of tea. I enjoyed mine though it’s nice to try something different every day.

Anyway, because all trains travel at such a fast speed, it is rare that the train is late to arrive at the destination. However, this also means that you have to be on time for your train whether it’s Shinkansen, Densha, or Chikatetsu. If the train is supposed to leave at 9am in the morning, and you arrive at the station at 8.55am, then you have precisely 4 minutes and 59 seconds to board the train. That’s right, 4 minutes and 59 seconds, not 5 minutes, not 8 minutes, let alone 10 minutes. So if you’re late, you have no one to blame but yourself.

StationOmiyageNoodle Shop

The major train stations themselves are pretty interesting to see. These stations normally have multiple entry and exit area and can be confusing for first time visitors. Some train stations have various shops that sells Omiyage (souvenir), Bento Boxes, and Clothes. There are also various restaurants if you go to the big one like the one in Ueno. I have to admit that I’m now somewhat converted to the wonder that is Ramen after trying a bowl of Ramen at a ramen shop inside Nagoya station.

Well, that went a lot longer than what I had in mind. There goes my plan to revise chapter 14-19. I better stop here but I’ll try to do another train/station entry if I manage to take some pictures when we go to Nagoya to watch the Dragons’ baseball game. I’ve heard that different province has different Omiyage on sale so I’d try to take pictures of the Omiyage in Nagoya. Anyway, if you have a specific pictures you want me to take, please let me know. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to take them but I’ll give it a try.


Night Stalls

Night Stalls

I’m sorry that I haven’t updated this blog for a while. Along with my promise not to publish articles without carefully checking their legibility, there have been some unexpected development here in Japan. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I didn’t expect my study workload to be this heavy. In addition to attending school from 9am to 2.30pm, we are expected to learn many new vocabularies and finish our homework every day. It feels like high school all over again – only far more fun, I think.

On top of this, I also didn’t expect to make new friends while I’m here. But that’s exactly what happened. Back in my country, I barely had the time to socialize with other people since I work from 9 to 5. I do have some friends that I sometimes spend time with. But since all of us have a job, we don’t get together that often. This is why I had quite a lot of time to blog back then. When I first arrived here in Japan, I thought I’ll be using most of my time to study and the rest of the time to blog. However, it wasn’t long before I met some really nice people here.

Candied StrawberriesSmall itemsBaked Fish
Fishing gameIkayakiAtmosphere

Anyway, moving on to the actual story, Japanese night stall is something that I never experienced before I went to Japan. The stalls don’t open until around 6pm-ish, if I remember correctly. The products on offer usually are snack foods like Ikayaki (grilled squid on a stick), Takoyaki, Oden, Candied Apple/Strawberries on a stick, Churos, etc. Unfortunately, the price is rather expensive in comparison to almost similar items you can get at a nearby convenience store. Having said that, I think it’s good to buy them just to soak in the atmosphere. In addition to the food stalls, there are also various game stalls where you can pay 300 yen to try a fishing game, for example.

The night stalls that I went to just happened to be set up not far from the Okazaki Castle. And since I went to the Castle a bit late in the day (around 4pm-ish), by the time I finished taking all of the photographs, the stalls were already opened. I saw a lot of high school students visiting the stalls in pair. I supposed, it is a rather romantic place to spend the time together with your loved one. The place was also filled with working mother/father taking their young children so I got the impression that the place attracts different types of people despite the high number of students that filled the area.


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