Archive for the 'Tokyo' 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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Parakiss Shop + Venus Fort

Yukari/George, Paradise Kiss

Right, as I promised, I would write about The Parakiss Shop, which is located inside Venus Fort. It’s been a few days since I visited the site so the detail is kind of sketchy. But basically you can just walk from Odaiba to Venus Fort and it’ll basically take you around 5 to 10 minutes. You won’t get lost because all you have to do is to look where the giant Ferris Wheel is located. Once you find that, you’ll pretty much find Venus Fort. Venus Fort is basically a shopping mall for those who are interested to purchase good brand name clothing at a good discounted price. Well, when I went there, most of the items were discounted so I got that impression. But then again it’s probably because it’s January/February, the time when big discounts usually are on offer by most shops.

I actually didn’t have any intention to come here. But while I was inside Fuji TV building, I saw a brochure advertising Paradise Kiss. Upon asking the shop attendant, I found out that Venus Fort is only within walking distance from the building, so I set out to find the place. It was a good decision too because I was looking for a long coat since I didn’t have any warm clothing on me besides a jumper and a thin jacket and the weather was cold. Oh right, Parakiss shop. The shop is located on the ground floor, IIRC. You have to get deep inside the shopping mall and you know that you’re close to it because you’ll see a tree decorated with blue lights. It’s not really a ‘shop’ but more like an open exhibition. The place basically showcases Yukari’s, George’s, and Miwako’s dress from Paradise Kiss series.

Ferris Wheel on the roof of Venus FortBlue treeYukari's gown
Yukari and George's costumeButterfly ringAll costumes

Yukari’s showcase dress looks okay in my opinion. I think I was a bit disappointed with it because IMO the dress would have been better if it was darker in colour. But then again, I’m not the bloody author/designer, so what do I know? George’s shirt looks good for exhibition piece but is too over the top for my taste so I don’t think I’ll touch it with a ten foot pole. There is also a Blue Rose that Yukari wears in the fashion show being sold for 8,925 Yen (around $90). Last but not least, the butterfly earring that George gave to Yukari retails for around 39,900 Yen ($400). For visitors who just want less extravagant items to purchase, there are Happy Berry statue, notebooks, clear plastic files, etc. I’m not really a Parakiss fan so I decided to save my money for more Honey and Clover items.

Anyway, sorry for the lousy photographs. Just like anywhere else in Japan (except outside temple areas), I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take photograph. But there was no forbidden sign so I was in a hurry to take as many photographs as possible before the store attendant flashes the ‘Batsu’ (X) sign. After taking those photos, I moved on since I did need to buy a coat. As I said before, Venus Fort itself is basically a place for anyone who intends on shopping for clothes. So it was kind of lucky that I managed to get one quite easily before moving on to take some more photograph. There is this rather nice Venus statue/water fountain in the middle of the shop. Almost every single tourist that stumbled upon the area was busy taking pictures so it was hard to take a good angle. It doesn’t help that I’m not a professional either to begin with.

Venus statueVenus statueVenus statue
Exhibition AreaVenus fort shopping mallFor pregnant women, the elderly, and alien

Eventually I’ve had enough of everything and decided to go back to my hostel especially since I already promised a friend to meet later on that night. On my way back, I decided to take the subway and realizes that the special seating area (where pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly normally sit) is actually marked with a sign that looks like an Alien’s head. Okay, it’s actually a picture of a chair but for a second I thought it’s some kind of subliminal messages that it’s also special area for Gaijin. :P Anyway, I think I’ll talk about food on my next post since I realized that I have some eateries in Tokyo that I visited quite often. Maybe after that I’ll talk more about Akihabara and anime shops.


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.


Nihon Ryouri

「日本料理」 – Japanese dish

Display foods

Well, I hope you guys are hungry because there are a lot of food pictures here :P Kidding aside, one thing that you should do while you’re in Japan is, of course, taste all of the foods that this country has to offer. And by that I don’t mean the Teriyaki Burger from McDonald’s. Although that will be kind of interesting to try as well since this type of burger doesn’t exist in my country. Anyway, Japan has different kind of foods. Just looking at them already makes one wants to be a glutton. Not only that the foods taste good, they normally are packaged rather well.

I’m actually quite surprised at how affordable foods in Japan turned out to be. I mean if you keep going to the restaurants, then obviously you’ll be running out of money in no time. But you can save money by getting a bento box for around 500 Yen (around 4-5 US Dollars) from local convenience stores. And don’t look down on convenience stores here. In Japan, convenience stores are light ahead in comparison to convenience stores in other countries. Not only Japanese convenience stores have more variety, the foods in the shelves are normally very fresh. The foods are re-stocked every couple of hours, so there’s little chance that they will go stale.

VegiesBentofish cakes

But if going for a pre-cooked foods is not your thing, then there’s always local ramen/tonkatsu (fried chicken/pork)/sushi place where you can get cheap foods. Having said that, please note that I’m talking about my experience so far in Tokyo and Okazaki city. I’m not sure about other cities just yet. I’ve heard that Kyoto is a tourist trap and that everything is expensive over there but I haven’t been there myself. But in Tokyo, at the very least you don’t have to worry about not having enough money to buy foods. If you’re strapped for cash, there’s always one of those Onigiri (those triangle-shaped rice) or breads which you can get for around 150 Yen.

I have a lot of favourite Japanese foods and these includes: Takoyaki (squid-filled fried balls), Chicken Katsu Curry (fried chicken topped with curry sauce), Flower-topped Hamburger (Hamburger meat patties topped with flower-shaped egg – must take a picture of this next time I eat), not to mention the various breads, drinks, pocky (did you know that there’s a lemon cheesecake flavour?), and fruits. I wonder why I haven’t gone fat with all of these foods even though I haven’t gone to the gym for the last 2 weeks. Maybe it’s because in most cases, the portions are not too big. Or maybe all of those bike riding that I do every day eliminates the need to go to the gym.

MeatMos BurgerKatsu Curry

Anyway, the best food I’ve had so far was this meat dish on a hot plate when I visited Akihabara. The eatery is called Pepper Lunch and it basically serves fresh meat and vegies which you then cook yourself on a hotplate. It doesn’t take long before everything are cooked well and since it’s not overcooked, they taste really fresh and the meat remains tender. I also had a good experience at one of Japan’s fast food outlet called Mos Burger. Their burger is much better than anything that McD’s serves and the Matcha (thick green tea) drink that they have at the place is rather good.

And oh, for those of you who are still wondering about Kibidango, I just realised that I have some photos of them which I didn’t discard after all. The Kibidango is the one with brown sugar coating. I personally haven’t tried the black or the yellow-coloured ones. But the next time I see them again, I’ll make sure that I do just that. Anyway, I think I think if you go here, it’s a good idea to try different food variety. What’s the point of going all the way here and only end up eating McD’s day in, day out? Make sure you make the most of your time while you’re in Japan and that means having some of the local foods.


Akihabara and PSP


One of the reasons, sorry scratch that, the main reason that I chose to stay at Asakusa was its close proximity to Akihabara, the one place where electronic, games, and anime fans gather to satisfy their expensive hobby. If you already have an addiction to any of the things mentioned above, it’d take a lot of willpower and restraint to stop yourself from going on shopping spree. I don’t know what actually stopped me from blowing all of my budget at once but I’m glad I managed to restrained myself.

On the weekend, some streets are purposely off-limits to cars so pedestrian can run around the area safely while spending their hard-earned money. This place is simply *unbelievable*. Here we have an entire suburbs dedicated to selling electronics, games, and anime. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this anywhere else in the world. Hell, there are many buildings that has nothing from its first to sixth level but anime, manga, and character merchandises.

AkihabaraAkihabaraMai Hime

The best thing about the place is that if you look hard enough and have enough luck, you can probably find one of those ‘limited edition’ anime box/DVD that the Japanese online retailers don’t carry any longer. Strangely for some reason there’s nothing that I want to buy at that point. I saw some Mai Hime DVDs but there’s nothing unusual about them so I don’t want to waste money buying them. I also think that this is because my mind was mostly on a ‘find the cheapest PSP available’.

So in the end I ended up getting a PSP and a game. I have to say that this thing unbelievably good-looking. I love the sensation of playing Ridge Racers on a moving Shinkansen. It has to be experienced to be believed. I also managed to re-encoded some of the anime that I have and put it into the memory stick. And the result, as you can see in the picture above, is quite stunning. It’s really fun to be able to watch Tsubasa Chronicle or Speed Grapher while I’m at a food court, etc.


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