Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

“Destroy Shit/Hole” at Harajuku

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Mural on Cat Street, Harajuku

Ly, an up-and-coming painter born and raised in Tokyo, brings her imaginary world of the fantastical monster named LUV in grey-scale paintings and murals. For more of Ly (#ly_painter), check out her instagram and/or website.

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August 12, 2017 at 6:26 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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East meets west? I think not.

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Super soft mochi balls with various syrups – honey, tart lemon, green tea, and strawberry. With sweet adzuki bean, tart and dried plum blossom and soy bean powder.

Jean-Paul Hévin’s mascarpone – layered chocolate and banana mousse.

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August 12, 2017 at 5:17 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

Japanese pottery

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There is traditional pottery that comes with amazing glazes and hand painted artwork and then there is the Japanese minimalist aesthetic. Both extremes are stunning. Former is relatively easy to find in Tokyo – every guidebook will provide a pointer or two. The later on the other hand was serendipity for us.

Yumiko Iihoshi Porcelain: Yumiko Yoshihoshi is the artist behind the line and is relatively recent graduate of Kyoto Saga College of Art and Ceramics Degree. As far as I could decipher from auto translation, her designs use both industrial production and hard craft. The pieces are mass produced but hand glazed.

Fine workmanship, delicate pieces, and beautiful organic but minimalist shapes. The Harajuku store is in a strange building called Co-op Olympia. It is a renovated old building with cavernous hotel like walkways. It took us two trips to locate. The shop is is one of the suites.

The traditional designs are explosion of colors or textures. Absolutely delightful. And if you have taken a class or two of pottery, you will appreciate the art even more so.

Overall, the size of the piece and prices are not very correlated. Japanese are fond of small and beautiful objects and there are many delicate small dishes for serving kaiseki style food.  These are not dishwasher friendly, no two pieces are exactly alike. What you typically get is beautiful shapes, textures, and glazes and sometimes, fine hand painting.

A beautiful sake pot with two serving cups.

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August 11, 2017 at 6:58 am

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Whiskey and sushi?

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Omotesando neighborhood of Tokyo has a whisky bar delightfully named The Whisky Library with its wall to wall whisky collection. And these were not just empty display bottles, the servers were climbing ladders to serve. We tried two flights – one from the famous Suntory distillery and other from Nikka. Suntory family had a maple/woodsy finish and Nikka had a sake/salty finish. Both excellent.

Miyagikyo (single malt), Yoichi (single malt), and Taketsuru (blended malt) from Nikka distillery and Yamazaki (single malt), Hakushu (single malt) and Hibiki (blended) from Suntory.

The flights were followed by sushi at Tsukiji Tama Sushi Sasashigure at Omatesando Hills mall. Don’t frown at mall sushi – while the $300-$500 sushi at the likes of sushi master, Jiro, is no doubt sublime, a high end mall sushi meets expectations, particularly after a a few shots of delightful whisky.

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August 10, 2017 at 6:26 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Baby octopus teppanyaki style

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First some cabbage and mung bean sprouts

Toss with some salt and spices

Next some baby octopuses on the hot plate

Buttered up and tossed with soy sauce

Time to plate

Yummy! More so with some potato sake. Served on the edge of hot plate, a few inches away from diner’s plate, so stays hot while one lingers on the cold sake.

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August 8, 2017 at 8:59 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Specters by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

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Ōta Memorial Museum of Art at Harajuku shows exhibitions of ukiyo-e wood-block prints. It is one of the few museums to continuously exhibit ukiyo-e. The main part of the collection consists of about 12,000 pieces collected by one individual, Seizō Ota Ⅴ, former president of Tōhō Insurance Company. His extensive collection was made available to public by his family after he passed away in 1977. During our visit, the exhibition showed “Specters” by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

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August 8, 2017 at 8:44 am

Did someone say horse sashimi?

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Sora An restaurant was at the footsteps of our AirBnB. We went in for a bento lunch and ended up being repeat customers.

Super lean horse sashimi served with grated ginger and minced garlic

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August 8, 2017 at 4:37 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Cocktail tasting at Gen Yamamoto

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This is unlike any alcohol flight, the experience is closer to a sushi bar with 8 seats and a chef’s menu.

Slightly tart ume (plum) juice tart and sparkling sake with superfine cucumber dice

Tomato with sanshō pepper based gin, possibly Roku.

Unfiltered sake, edamame and milk

Finnish gin, Napue, peach and wasabi

Yamamoto whiskey on crushed ice and summer pomelo with a few pieces of unsweetened and candied sweet potato.

English Vodka, Black Cow brand made from milk, with green tea

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August 7, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Pierre Hermé’s millefeuille at Isetan

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From Isetan, Shinjuku

Millefeuille in Paris in 2010. Thankfully, a few things don’t change.

Isetan department store in Shinjuku is a delight for food voyeurs. Although the food court has everything,  Japanese and western desserts might be the crème de la crème of the court.  Weather permitting, the Isetan roof garden is a nice spot to enjoy these good eats.

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August 7, 2017 at 9:10 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Deus Ex Machina

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The decor of this coffee shop in Harajuku is modern, pour is perfect and barista more hipster than most.

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August 7, 2017 at 6:21 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Craft of food

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This is an ultra realistic hand made plastic food sample from a Harajuku mall. To learn more about the history and fascinating process, check out youtube Japanology episode of Plastic Food Samples. This food aid is particularly useful in Japan where the Google translate application fails on 99.9% of the words.

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August 7, 2017 at 5:14 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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AFURI ramen in Harajuku

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This ramen shop is located close to Harajuku station. It is a kitchen gleaming in steel. You order via a vending machine.

AFURI signature “Yuzu Shio Ramen” with chicken & dashi based shio (salt) broth, yuzu (a citrus), half nitamago (boiled egg marinated in soy and spices), chashu (marinated and braised pork belly), mizuna (mustard greens), menma (fermented bamboo shoots), nori (toasted seaweed).

AFURI website tells us that the shop is named after Mt. Afuri, located at Tanzawa mountains in Kanagawa prefecture. As per legend, Mt. Afuri is father of Mt Fuji. Afuri is known for its sweet water, and used to be considered the sacred mountain for good harvest. And the philosophy of this ramen shop is to bring the sacred of Mt. Afuri to the food and service.

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August 4, 2017 at 6:02 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Roof garden of Tokyu Plaza

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A couple of adorable little babies running around, falling, crawling, climbing, …

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August 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Street crossing near Tokyu Plaza

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Hall of mirrors at the entrance of  Tokyu Plaza by architect Nakamura Hiroshi

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August 3, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Nature vs nurture

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Curated parks of Tokyo, this one is behind Nezu museum, present a surprising variety of vegetation.  At Yoyogi park, there is effort to bring varieties from all over Japan. And any patch of vegetation you look at, you are presented with a mix of textures and forms. Pines intermixed with broad leaf trees, grasses intermixed with ferns, trees mingling with vines. How very poetic.

Trees that are closer to walking paths are invariably trimmed to present the natural beauty of shapes. Emphasis is on organic fluidity as opposed to uniformity. Simply delightful.

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August 3, 2017 at 9:12 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Dinnerware at Tamawarai

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Tamawarai is one of Harajuku’s best buckwheat noodle spots. With a seating of less than 20, it is quiet dining experience punctuated by sounds of enthusiastic slurping. The otherwise bare space with its small prison like windows was enlivened by eclectic dinnerware.

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August 3, 2017 at 6:04 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Unagi Irokawa in Asakusa

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Irokawa in Asakusa is a two woman operation, one cook and the other for the rest. The restaurant seats five at the bar and eight at the two tables. A backroom with its tatami floor holds waiting patrons. You wait, you eat and you leave. And you thank your stars that you are glad to be alive.

Eel, rice and a BBQ sauce ladled on top. This is an eel restaurant, it serves eel and eel parts. Normal portion has two skewers and large has three. You are served a bowl of broth, some pickled vegetables and hot tea with the meal.

Optional menu items, eel liver and neck, the former was slightly bitter and the later bony. The liver reminded me of a particularly Bengali dish, my father’s favorite, called “Tele bhaja”, translating to fish gizzard fried in oil.

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August 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Japan, Massachusetts, Tokyo

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Pretty woman or Kimono experience at Sensō-ji

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August 2, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Fujimaki, a train station Izakaya

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Fujimaki is located next to Yoyogi station, on the top floor of a little nondescript mall. It would have been hard to find if we did not place ourselves in the hands of Google maps. Ten closely placed bar stools around the counter served by an elderly cook, accompanied by second who prepped the food and a third who did the dishwashing. The table fans whirred away but it was muggy and sweaty. It had just rained and it was cooler outside than inside. Jazz played in the background. Patrons were smoking, drinking large volumes of beer and sake and eating through the menu – mostly all parts of chicken – liver, gizzard, fatty tail and everything else in between. An occasional bacon wrapped okra or cherry tomato was a nod to the vegetables.

Chicken liver

Grated daikon/radish and pickled vegetables

Chicken skin

Cartilage of chicken breast

Eggplant with grated ginger

Okra wrapped in bacon

Chicken with roe and seaweed

Chicken with umeboshi paste and shiso leaves

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August 2, 2017 at 4:33 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Onden Ippo in Harajuku

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Smooth jazz and eclectic “bar meet spa” decor are what you notice when you climb down to this basement restaurant.

Pickled cucumbers, and pickled bamboo shoots as appetizers.

Salad of cabbage, bitter greens, and a pretty little cherry tomato in a tangy mayo sauce.

Grilled mackerel.

Sashimi with sisho buds

The grilled mackerel is where my chopstick skills met its match. The fish was grilled crisp. If I were a cat, I could have just picked it up with my paws and munched it down head, spine and tail! I asked for a fork. To assemble, I picked up some of the grated daikon on my rice bowl and topped with some of the mackerel flakes before adding a dash of soy. Oh, it made me want grilled eel.

The customer next to me had ordered the mackerel as well. He was a dapper looking gentleman, and carried with him at least seventy five years of chopstick wielding experience. I was just a little embarrassed eating mackerel with fork, chopsticks and fingers. But I shouldn’t have been. The demolished  mackerel on our respective plates looked nearly identical. And I noted that both of us used fingers in coordination with our implements.

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July 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Sound of summer at the Yoyogi park

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Trees of Yoyogi park

Ikebana at Meiji Shrine

Jetlag in tokyo – Tsukiji market or Yoyogi park. In the end, the park won. It was closer. We headed out from our temporary home in Harujuku towards Meiji shrine. Tokyo has a delightful gadget called pocket wi-fi. So you can boldly go walkabout through narrow lanes without worrying about not leaving breadcrumb trails for the journey back home.

Tokyo is quiet for a big city. Early mornings should have been delightfully devoid of sound except for  an occasional cat prowling about. Instead, we were immersed in an inorganic buzzing sound.  At first, I wasn’t sure what it was,  the sound was localized around trees. Yet, no number of birds can create that racket. And when the sound got amplified in Yoyogi park, I remembered the cicadas. We were indeed hearing the sound of Japanese summer, the cacophony of cicadas. Early in the summer morning, the park wraps you in a wet warm blanket. You notice your breathing because it takes a tad extra effort in that viscous air.  The lack of sunlight on the wet musty ground lends a sense of  suspense. The wide variety of vegetation brings a wondrous quality to the perambulation. Yoyogi park casts a spell like Hayao Miyazaki’s world aided by the cicadas who drown out all thoughts with their cacophony.

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July 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Tokyo: Shibuya’s love hotels

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Love hotels of Shibuya

Love hotels of Shibuya

Shibuya is the little cousin of Times Square. A cacophony of lights and crowds. It is hard to tell that abutting Shibuya are the side streets of Love Hotel hill, where the cacophony ceases – no restaurants, no pachinko parlors, no bars, no shops, and no soliciting. Just the pink and green blinking lights offering comfortable ‘Rest’ and ‘Stay’. ‘Rest’ is a euphemism for a couple of hours of romantic encounter and ‘Stay’ indicates the entire night’s rates.

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Written by Ankur

September 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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Harajuku Bridge

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Harajuku bridge

Harajuku bridge

We were in Tokyo, it was a Sunday, and we had an appointment to keep with Gothlolis on the Harajuku bridge. Yes, even in the rain.

On Sundays Harajuku bridge becomes a promenade with variously dressed cosplayers arrayed along its length. Cosplayers is a combination of costume and roleplay, and essentially means dressing up as your favorite anime/manga/videogame character. But the facile description of cosplay belies the effort they put into both creating their costumes and playing their chosen roles. At least for the time they are on the bridge they seem to inhabit their roles quite thoroughly. When the metaverse finally arrives, they will be its first avatars.

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Written by Ankur

September 10, 2009 at 11:20 am

Tokyo Cafés: You are being served

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Click for Tokyo cafe slideshow

Click for Tokyo cafe slideshow

Contrary to popular assumption Japan is actually a big coffee drinking nation. Tokyo has many local and international cafés but the more interesting are the ones that offer ‘extra’ service.

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Written by Ankur

September 2, 2009 at 10:40 am

Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market: It’s see-food

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Early morning at the market Waiting for the rush hour to start Octopus on the menu

We were in Tokyo and we couldn’t possibly go back home without making a pilgrimage to Asia’s largest fish market. The only hitch was that the recommended visiting hours are 5am-8am. According to legend and Lonely Planet, the famous Tuna auction happens at 4am, which many websites informed us, is now closed to tourists. We were going to give it a shot anyway. Or not. At 4 am.

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Written by Ankur

August 14, 2009 at 10:19 am