Where to eat

Things to do this weekend in Tokyo Friday February 7th – Sunday February 11th

Abracadabra

Fri Feb 7, 2014 Saloon

Abracadabra

Daikanyama’s Saloon welcomes Tokyo resident Englishman Max Essa for this intimate Friday-night bash, where he will be joined by house veteran Toshiyuki Goto.

Details

Open Fri Feb 7

Time doors 11pm

Admission ¥1,500 (¥1,000 with flyer)

Venue Saloon

Address ZaHouse Bldg. B3F, 1-34-17 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama Station (Tokyu Toyoko line); Nakameguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko line, Hibiya line); Ebisu Station

 

Tokyo Grand Shopping Week

Thu Jan 23 – Wed Feb 5, 2014 Laforet Harajuku , Omotesando Hills, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, and other area shops and restaurants
Tokyo grand shopping week
Now this is a sales bash that no tourist can miss! Around 260 shops and restaurants in the Harajuku-Omotesando area will be participating with bargains and much more during Grand Shopping Week, a massive sales event that sees a total of 183 stores in the shopping centres Laforet HarajukuOmotesando Hills, and Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku holding sales with discounts of up to 90%. In addition, 79 area shops will advertise specially recommended souvenirs for foreign tourists, while 23 restaurants, including ’takoyaki’, ‘okonomiyaki’, and crepe shops popular with tourists, participate in Restaurant Week with special offers such as free drinks, 10% off the final bill, and free sweets.

Pick up the official Time Out Tokyo-produced leaflet and map for full information on all discounts, souvenir recommendations, and Restaurant Week offers. During the event, foreign tourists who spend ¥1,000 or more at any of the participating shops receive a scratch card, thus participating in a lottery with prices including gift vouchers and gift items. Shoppers who pay with an overseas-issued Visa card also receive an additional scratch card at the time of purchase.

On February 1 and 2, visitors can experience Japanese culture at workshops, with alternatives including trying on anime and manga character costumes or kimonos, traditional ink marbling, origami paper folding, ‘kendama’ (a Japanese ring-and-pin game), and handkerchief decoration. Guided tours of the Harajuku-Omotesando area will also be available.

Details

Open Jan 23-Feb 5

Time Varies by store

Venue Laforet Harajuku , Omotesando Hills, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, and other area shops and restaurants

Address 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku station (JR Yamanote Line), Takeshita Exit, Meiji-Jingumae station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda, Fukutochin Lines), exit 5.

 

The 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition

Until Wed Feb 12, 2014 Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Kokufu bonsai exhibition
 Hobbyists battle it out for years just to get their trees accepted for judging at Japan’s (and the world’s) premier bonsai exhibition, first held in 1934. If you attend both parts, you’ll see over 500 of these fascinating little masterpieces.

 

Details

Open Part 1: Feb 4-7, Part 2: Feb 9-12

Time 9:30am-5:30pm

Admission ¥1,000 (students ¥500)

Venue Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Address 8-36 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Transport Ueno Station (Yamanote line), park exit; (Ginza, Hibiya lines), Shinobazu exit

 

High Street feat. DJ Craze

Fri Feb 7, 2014 Sound Museum Vision

High street DJ Craze

High Street, a ‘street-style party for adults’, returns from a 10-month slumber with a bang. Master turntablist DJ Craze and former DMC world champion Kentaro bring the heat to Shibuya’s Vision with their unrivalled scratch skills – a can’t-miss opportunity for any and all aspiring DJs and friends of technical electronic music.

Details

Open Fri Feb 7

Time doors 10pm

Admission Adv ¥3,000; same-day women ¥3,000, men ¥3,500

Venue Sound Museum Vision

Address 2-10-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Tokyu Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines)

 

Sterne

Fri Feb 7, 2014 Womb

Sterne

The stars will truly be out tonight at Tokyo techno emperor Takkyu Ishino’s regular party, as Germany’s mysterious and masked house maniacs Snuff Crew take over Womb. Minimal techno master A. Mochi will be responsible for keeping the party going in the lounge area.

Details

Open Fri Feb 7

Time doors 11pm

Admission ¥3,500 (¥3,000 with flyer)

Venue Womb

Address 2-16 Maruyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Ginza lines), Hachiko exit; (Hanzomon line), exit 3A.

 

The Mastery of Time

Fri Feb 7 – Wed Feb 12, 2014 Roppongi Hills

clock

2014 marks the 150th anniversary of Swiss-Japanese diplomatic relations, which is the perfect excuse to celebrate something both countries do extremely well: keep time. This exhibition traces the evolution of timepieces from ornate table clocks to modern-day smartwatches, and also displays traditional Japanese-style clocks.

Details

Open Feb 7-12 2014

Time 11am-6pm

Admission Free

Venue Roppongi Hills

Address 6-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Roppongi station (Hibiya line), exit 1C; (Oedo line), exit 3.

 

Sarabeth’s Daikanyama Special Valentine’s Day Menu

Until Fri Feb 14, 2014 Sarabeth’s Daikanyama
Chocolate explosion

Owing to its heavenly french toast and pancakes, Sarabeth’s morning offering is known as the ‘Queen of breakfasts’. This special Valentine’s menu – ‘Chocolate Explosion’ – is only available at the Daikanyama location, and features a harmonious mixture of fluffy pancakes topped with chocolate sauce and marshmallows, finished off with a small explosion of chocolate sauce.

Details

Open Feb 3-14

Time 9am-10pm
(Last order for food 9pm, for drinks 9:30pm)

Venue Sarabeth’s Daikanyama

Address 1-35-17 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama Station (Tokyu-Toyoko line)

 

Chinese Spring Festival 2014

Until Fri Feb 14, 2014 Yokohama Chinatown
lanterns

While it’s fun to visit whatever the season, Yokohama’s Chinatown district is never livelier than during its New Year festival. The two weeks of festivities include traditional lion dance performances and music on February 1, 2, 8, 9 and 11 (at Yamashitacho Park), as well as a parade of traditional costumes on the afternoon of February 8.

Details

Open Jan 31-Feb 14

Time Various times

Venue Yokohama Chinatown

Address Yamashitacho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture

Transport Motomachi Chukagai Station (Minatomirai line), Ishikawacho Station (Keihin-Tohoku, Negishi lines)

 

The Lumineers

Sat Feb 8, 2014 Shibuya AX
The lumineers
Ever since ‘Ho Hey’ became our resident earworm, we’ve been waiting for this folk-pop outfit to make their way to Japan. Nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2013 and familiar faces at Coachella and Glastonbury, The Lumineers are easy on the ears (and eyes). Don’t miss them at Shibuya AX.

Details

Open Sat Feb 8 2014

Time Show starts 6pm (venue opens from 5pm)

Admission 1/F Standing: ¥6,000 (advance tickets) 2/F Reserved seats: ¥6,000 (advance tickets)

Telephone 03-3444-6751

Venue Shibuya AX

Address 2-1-1 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku station (Yamanote line), Omotesando exit or Meiji-Jingumae station (Chiyoda line), exit 1.

 

Acid City

Sat Feb 8, 2014 Air
Acid city
 As last year’s ‘Acid City’ album proved to be a success, veteran producer DJ Emma decided that a regular acid house-themed party was in order in Tokyo. His plan has now been realised, and this first date at Air will feature Hokkaido’s deep house star Kuniyuki.

Details

Open Sat Feb 8

Time doors 10pm

Admission ¥3,000 (¥2,500 with flyer, under-23s ¥2,000)

Venue Air

Address Hikawa Bldg B1F-B2F, 2-11 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama station (Tokyu Toyoko line).

 

Off The Rocker & Verbal present Rad

Sat Feb 8, 2014 Sound Museum Vision
Off the rocker
Shinichi Osawa’s and Masatoshi Uemura’s DJ unit Off The Rocker teams up with big-time rapper and producer Verbal to bring you Rad, an ‘exciting and chaotic’ party, where they’ll be joined by 80Kidz and DJ Kyoko. Join the madness at Shibuya’s Vision.

Details

Open Sat Feb 8

Time doors 11pm

Admission Women ¥3,000, men ¥3,500

Venue Sound Museum Vision

Address 2-10-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Tokyu Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines)

 

Little Nap Music Stand

Sun Feb 9, 2014 Vacant
Little Nap Music Stand
 Yoyogi Park’s Little Nap Coffee Stand celebrates its third anniversary with an evening of music, with performances by artists Tica and Kyo Sakurai, as well as DJs Shunji Mori, Michiharu Shimoda, and Pepe California. Jinnan bistro Rojiura provides the food, and interestingly-named pastry makers Mad Donuts Riot serve their signature delicacy. Special t-shirts and prints are also available for purchase. Reservations are required – send an email titled ‘Little Nap Music Stand’ to the address below, and write down your names and contact details.

Details

Open Sun Feb 9

Time doors 4pm

Admission ¥3,000 (includes a cup of coffee) ※Reservation required – email booking@n0idea.com

Venue Vacant

Address 3-20-13 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku station (JR Yamanote Line) or Meiji-jingumae station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)

 

Zoushigaya Handicraft Market

Sun Feb 9, 2014 Kishimojindo , Otori Shrine
Zoushigaya handicraft market
 This handicraft market runs once a month at Kishimojindo shrine, selling everything from pottery and woodcrafts to bags and accessories. Browse the stalls while chatting to the artists over a slice of delicious cake and home-roasted coffee.

Details

Open Sun Feb 9

Time 9am-4pm

Venue Kishimojindo , Otori Shrine

Address 3-15-20 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Transport Kishibojin-mae Station (Toden Arakawa line) or Zoushigaya Station (Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line)

 

Chocolate Making at Lindt Jiyugaoka

Sat Feb 8 – Sun Feb 9, 2014 Lindt Chocolat Café Jiyugaoka
 Lindt jiyugaoka
 Everyone knows Lindt, and everyone wants some of their goodies for Valentine’s Day. Not only can you get the classic heart-shaped gift box for your beloved one, you can also drop by the café in Jiyugaoka to try making your own matcha or raspberry chocolate. Events are held twice on both Saturday and Sunday, and up to eight people can participate in each event (a minimum of four people are required). Reservations are essential.

Details

Open Feb 8-9

Time 10am-noon, 2-4pm on both days

Admission ¥5,000 (includes ingredients and box)

Telephone 03 5726 8921

Venue Lindt Chocolat Café Jiyugaoka

Address 2-9-2 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Transport Jiyugaoka Station (Tokyu Toyoko line)

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Where to eat: Best yakitori in town

Where to get your tasty skewered chicken fix in Tokyo

Best known as every Japanese oyaji‘s favourite beer snack, the humble yakitori (grilled, skewered chicken) is most commonly consumed in noisy pubs, at simple roadside stalls, or at various open-air festivals taking place year-round all over the country. However, the gourmet value of this simple delicacy is also widely recognised, best evidenced by the existence of Michelin-starred yakitori restaurants in Tokyo. Below, we have selected 10 of the best places in the city for getting your mouthwatering chicken-on-a-stick fix, ranging from friendly neighbourhood izakayas to splendidly sophisticated bird bars.

imai

Located close to Sendagi Station, this tiny yakitori eatery caters to all friends of wine and/or nihonshu. Go for the standard menu (¥5,400, includes appetiser, skewers, and a main dish) or pick your favourites off the blackboard – menus change daily, with the birds being grilled ranging from duck to shamo chicken, and vegetable plates rotating seasonally. Choose your drinks from a wide selection of organic wines from France, Italy, and Japan, or make your pick from the equally impressive nihonshu lineup. The friendly owner is always ready to make recommendations and answer any questions about ingredients and preparation methods. Reservations required.

Details

Address 

2-29-4 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), exit 1

Telephone 03 3821 2989

Open 6pm-10pm / closed Mon

Isehiro Kyobashi

Isehiro

Be it at lunch or at dinner, Kyobashi’s Isehiro will never let a yakitori lover down. The lunch bowl (yakitori-don) maintains the same high quality as the dinner courses (from ¥4,725), which allow visitors to taste a variety of chicken parts, all not only flavoured differently but also featuring different textures. We recommend the five-skewer bowl (¥1,800), which contains delicacies like liver and lean sasami breast.

Details

Address 

1-5-4 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Kyobashi Station (Ginza line), exit 6

Telephone 03 3281 5864

Open 11.30am-2pm, 4pm-9pm / closed Sun, holidays

URL www.isehiro.co.jp

 

Uchida

Uchida

This tiny yakitori eatery in Musashi-Koyama often fills up right away after opening, making reservations highly recommended. The very reasonably priced yakitori (from ¥150) are outstanding, particularly the perfectly cooked livers and tsukune meatballs, which can be combined with a nice bottle from the shop’s expansive sake collection. If you’re ever strolling the area, do take a peek in to see if there are any seats available.

Details

Address 

3-14-7 Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Transport Musashi-Koyama Station (Tokyu Meguro line)

Telephone 03-5749-3455

Open 5pm-2am / closed Thu

Edomasa

Edomasa

Located along the row of one-man shops and wholesalers near the foot of Ryogokubashi bridge, Edomasa is a chicken-and-drinks bar that’s been a fixture in the neighbourhood for decades. Slip in through the curtain and find the counter right there – the tiny space fits only 12 patrons. Items from the shop’s early days are still in use, while the wall is decorated with hand-written notes from old-timer Sumo wrestlers. Nothing beats the ambience here.

 Details

Address 

2-21-5 Higashi-Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Higashi-Nihonbashi Station

Telephone 03-3851-2948

Open Mon-Fri 5pm-8pm, Sat 5pm-6.30pm / closed Sun, holidays

 

Toriki

Toriki

 Boasting one Michelin star and located a quick walk from Kinshicho station, this yakitori restaurant is a true rarity. Using only the freshest chicken liver, Toriki’s giblets are absolutely the main attraction here, while those uncomfortable with intestines will be relieved to hear that the rest of the menu maintains a similarly high quality. Reservations for weekends can be difficult to come by, but your luck might be better if you aim for a weekday after 9pm.

Details

Address 

Kosaka Bldg. 1F, 1-8-13 Kinshi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Transport Kinshicho Station (Hanzomon, Sobu lines), north exit

Telephone 03 3622 6202

Open 5.30pm-10.45pm (Sat from 5pm) / closed Sun, holidays

URL r.gnavi.co.jp/gaez800/

 

Ginza Torishige

Ginza Torishige

This upscale joint in Ginza has been in business for over 80 years, and the experience shines through in their tsukunemeatballs, light-tasting quail skewers, and chewy duck dishes. Don’t forget to end your meal with a bowl of Torishige’s famous ‘dry curry’.‘Would you like dorai kare [curried rice] with that?’ the staff invariably ask customers when they place their first order at this upscale yakitori restaurant in Ginza. Trust us: just say yes.

Details

Address 

6-9-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Ginza Station (Ginza, Hibiya, Marunouchi lines), exit A2

Telephone 03 3571 8372

Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm, 5pm-10pm, Sat 4pm-9pm / Closed Sun & hols

URL ginza-torishige.co.jp

 

Iguchi

Iguchi

The standard course (¥4,800) is the only way to go at this Nakameguro bar, but it’s also most certainly the right way; starting with artistic appetisers and stretching all the way from small veggie bites to excellent chicken skewers, Iguchi takes yakitori to another level.

The black-and-white interior, topped off with a bonsai tree, is only part of the attraction at this Nakameguro yakitori bar. The standard course (¥4,800) is the only way to go here, but it’s also most certainly the right way; starting with appetisers ranging from foie gras and liver pâté to caciocavallo cheese and stretching all the way to small veggie bites and excellent chicken skewers, it’s hard to find anything wrong with this presentation taste-wise. Big eaters may leave slightly unsatisfied, but yakitori beginners will love the variety on offer. Reservations required.

Details

Address 

Highness Nakameguro 109, 1-2-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Transport Nakameguro Station

Telephone 03-6451-0575

Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight, Sun 4.30pm-midnight

 

Souten Minamiguchi

Souten Minamiguchi

The can’t-miss dish at Otsuka’s famed Souten is the shiitake-flavouredtsukune meatball, a juicy and powerful creation that rises high above the standard. Adventurous diners might want to take a shot at the chicken sashimi plate with its symphony of textures.

Pick and choose off the massive menu at Otsuka’s famed Souten, an upscale yakitori eatery that lives up to its fancy reputation. One can’t-miss dish is the shiitake-flavoured tsukune meatball, a juicy and powerful creation that rises above the standard. The adventurous among us might want to order the chicken sashimi plate, which includes some truly mind-boggling offerings. Don’t forget to hang around and order a cup of nihonshu orshochu from the impressive drink selection.

 Details

Address 

Saga Kato Bldg. 1F, 3-39-13 Minami-Otsuka, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Transport Otsuka Station (JR lines), south exit; Mukohara Station (Toden Arakawa line)

Telephone 03 5944 8105

Open 5.30pm-11pm / closed Mon

URL www.kaze-w.jp/souten/

 

Ogawa

Opened in summer 2013 in Yotsuya’s Arakicho, this small yakitori place has attracted quite a following in the past few months. The ‘tasting course’ (¥2,000) is great for first-timers, and features an impressive variety of juicy skewers that go perfectly with wine.

Among the many small bars and eateries in Yotsuya’s Arakicho, this small yakitori place has attracted quite a following in the past few months. Full courses are recommended, particularly the impressive 10-course ‘Yakitori menu’ (¥5,000). The ‘tasting course’ (¥2,000) is great for first-timers, and features an impressive variety of juicy skewers. Wine-drinkers might want to combine a crisp white with the liver pâté (¥700), another silky smooth creation.

Details

Address 

Wind Arakicho 1F, 9-1 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Transport Yotsuya-sanchome Station (Marunouchi line); Akebonobashi Station (Shinjuku line)

Telephone 03 5315 4630

Open 5pm-midnight

Onitei

Onitei
Carnivores in the know might have heard of this Shibuya eatery, which lets customers grill every chicken part imaginable, yakiniku-style, in a homely atmosphere. The proprietress explains preparation methods and ingredients carefully, so even first-timers needn’t worry. Book in advance for the samgyetang soup (¥4,800), a dish best enjoyed in good company.

Details

Address 

1-9-4 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station

Telephone 03-3797-1002

Open 6pm-11.30pm / closed Sun, holidays

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Things to do: Have birds eye view dinner in the Tokyo Skytree

Taste of sky: Shokkan Solamachi-ten is located on the 30th floor of Solamachi's East Tower, and serves family-friendly Japanese cuisine.

Taste of sky: Shokkan Solamachi-ten is located on the 30th floor of Solamachi’s East Tower, and serves family-friendly Japanese cuisine.

Timing is everything at Tokyo Skytree. in daylight the urban sprawl below just looks banal; at night, the city lights gleam with romance, but you can’t see to the far horizons. get there for sunset, though, and if conditions are right, the view can be little short of magical.

The same applies when you pick a place to eat at the city’s most popular tourist attraction. At peak meal times there are waits of up to an hour. But arrive early or as the crowds are thinning, and there’s every chance you will waltz straight in.

That’s definitely the way to do it at Shokkan Solamachi-ten. Dinner service opens from 5 p.m., which at this time of year is right around sunset. While most other visitors are taking in the view as the city lights up for the evening, you can claim pole position right outside the restaurant’s front entrance.

Almost invariably there will be a few places unreserved, if not at the most coveted tables right by the floor-to-ceiling picture windows, then at the counter, where you sit right in front of the busy open kitchen watching your meal being prepared. If, like me, you enjoy the theater of a Japanese kitchen, those are the best seats in the house.

As at the original branch in Shibuya Shokkan serves Japanese cuisine with a casual, contemporary inflection. Stylish, relaxed and affordable, it offers enough creativity in the kitchen to draw in a youngish crowd but without alienating those with more dyed-in-the-wool tastes.

The menu may be nigh-on identical, but the demographic is anything but. Skytree is a magnet for visitors of every age, and Shokkan, which is located on the 30th floor of a building adjacent to the tower, serves them all: dating couples, groups of old codgers, parents with adult children, and extended families with kids of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. It also has a comprehensive, well translated English menu to ensure everyone’s taken care of.

And for that reason, there are different strategies for approaching the menu. Those with children in tow mostly pick out a couple of dishes to share, followed by a more filling rice or noodle dish, and close with a dessert. Then there are omakase (chef’s choice) set meals (¥5,000 or ¥7,000) for those who want a little taste of all the trademark Shokkan dishes.

But there is also a third approach, and this can be the most rewarding. You can treat Shokkan as an izakaya (tavern), ordering a couple of dishes at a time in tapas style, to go with your sake or shōchū (or beer or wine).

Where to start? Well, just about everyone goes for the house-specialty appetizer, slices of raw vegetables served with a dip of tomato-miso. The thick paste of vivid red is one of the original ideas that helped put owner-chef Kan Sato on the map, and its intriguing savory-sweet flavor is a surprising hit.

Alternatively, try the rolls of crab and wakame (seaweed) wrapped in yuba(soy-milk skin) and topped with a tart, refreshing gelee of ponzu (rice vinegar mixed with soy sauce and dashi stock). Other options as nibbles include deep-fried ginkgo nuts or slices of lightly smoked duck breast.

There is also a list of seasonal specials (in Japanese only). Current offerings range from plump oysters on the half shell, freshly flown down from Hokkaido, to lightly seared anago (conger eel), in bite-sized morsels served with small dabs of aromatic sanshō pepper paste.

These are all ideally suited to the extensive sake selection. Some 17 regional brews are kept in the refrigerated cabinet by the entrance — recommendations here would include Kikuyoi, Tengummai Gorin and Kokuryu — which are available in either one- or two-person servings.

At this point, food with a bit more heft is called for. The “Grilled” section of the menu obliges with miso-marinated chicken, Platinum pork (it’s a breed from northern Japan) and steaks of tender, well-marbled premium Kuroge wagyūbeef. A small steak is included in the more substantial ¥7,000 course, though if you don’t like yours rare, you will need to specify otherwise.

The other signature dish comes toward the end of the meal: kamameshi rice, prepared in small individual pots together with seafood or vegetables. Salmon and ikura (salted salmon roe) is a great combination, and so is zuwai crab cooked with mushrooms and butter.

The top-of-the-line item is Shokkan’s self-described “famous seafood paella.” This is cooked in a wide earthenware donabe casserole, and comes laden with generous amounts of salmon and its roe, clams, mussels and small, pinksakura-ebi shrimps. Just as you’d get in Spain, the rice is cooked with a nice crisp brown crust at the bottom.

By this time, night will have fallen, and the glitter of the low-lying city below will be matched by the lights reflected in window glass from the open kitchen. With the effects of the sake kicking in, everything takes on a cheerful glow.

The wait staff make up for their hesitations with a genuine desire to please. The food is not premium high-end fare — in fact, at times it seems a bit soulless — but it’s perfectly suited to the easygoing atmosphere.

Best of all, though, Shokkan is child-friendly, no-smoking, wheelchair-accessible and open year-round without any holidays (not even New Year’s Day). There are few restaurants in the city that can match that.

SHOKKAN SOLAMACHI-TEN
 Address
Tokyo Solamachi East Tower 30F, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo;
 Website View URL
 Phone 03-5809-7251
 Nearest Station Oshiage Skytree (Hanzomon, Toei Asakusa and Keisei-Oshiage lines); Tokyo Skytree (Tobu Skytree Line).
 Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (L.O.) and 5-9 p.m. (food L.O.).
 What Works Casual, creative, family-friendly Japanese fare with a stupendous view.
 What Doesn’t The specials of the day are only written in Japanese.
 Smoking Not permitted
 Price per head Set lunch from ¥1,200 (kid’s plate ¥800); dinner menus from ¥5,000, also a la carte.
 Credit Cards Major cards accepted.
 Language English menu available; a little English spoken.
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Things to do: Have your dinner blessed by a Koyasan monk

jingumae_koyakun-640Monks have taken over the menus at restaurants in the posh Shin-Marunouchi building in Tokyo to offer real soul food.

Throughout the weeklong Koyasan Cafe event, diners can fill their stomachs and their spirits with Buddhist-inspired dishes.

Koyasan Cafe takes its name from the spiritual center of Japanese Buddhism, Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture. Also known as Mount Koya, it is the last resting place of the eighth-century monk Kukai, the headquarters of the Shingon sect he founded and, as of 2004, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Nankai Railway brought the event to Tokyo six years ago, aiming to attract visitors and pilgrims to Koyasan.

The participating monks also hope to deliver some of the values from their holy mountain to busy urban dwellers who have come to take the dining experience for granted.

“ ‘Shojin ryori‘ doesn’t simply mean abstaining from meat and fish,” for religious or health reasons, says Hogen Yabu, one of the monks. “Behind it is the concept of striving to bring oneself to higher enlightenment.”

buddhist monks

Nine restaurants and bars in the Shin-Marunouchi Building, located opposite Tokyo Station, are involved in the project. In addition to the food, there are chanting performances, meditation lessons and opportunities to sit down and ask questions directly to the monks.

Among the eateries are Henry Good Seven, So Tired, Tiki Bar Tokyo and Rigoletto Wine and Bar. But don’t be surprised that their names don’t exactly hint at Buddhist ascetic. Each place has gone to town with its own version of Japanese shojin ryori, once simple but now elaborate meals forgoing meat and based around vegetables and tofu. Henry Good Seven for example offers chilled cappellini with yuzu and fruit tomatoes; So Tired offers Chinese-style sweet-and-sour “pork” (made from soybeans); while Tiki Bar Tokyo presents shojin tacos and terrine made from tomatoes, cucumbers and kanten (agar-agar) gelatin. Then there are desserts such as a blancmange of mango, kiwi, kanten and soy milk available at the European-inspired Japanese restaurant Sawamura. Altogether there are 35 original shojin ryori dishes to savor.

It all sounds tempting, but eating the bare minimum is one of the first lessons that the monks hope to teach.

“So much food goes to waste these days,” Yabu says. “We want Japanese to re-examine what it really means when they say ‘itadakimasu’ (‘I receive humbly’) before eating a meal–to show gratitude to the food itself by controlling your passions and taking just enough.”

For details and schedule see the official website at (http://www.nankaikoya.jp/cafe).

 

 

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Former train station renovated, now offers a unique dining experience

Maach Ecute

 

Manseibashi Station (万世橋駅 Manseibashi-eki) can refer to two closed railway stations all in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. One was a railway station on the Japanese Government Railways Chūō Main Line and the other was a subway station in the Tokyo Subway network.

Both stations were closed by 1943, though trains and subway cars still pass through them. The stations took their name from the nearby bridge, Manseibashi. The railway station was located on the south bank of the Kanda River, while the subway station was located on the north bank. The area north of the bridge is known as “Akihabara Electric Town”. Some train enthusiasts have dubbed Manseibashi station “the phantom station”.

 

Redevelopment

Saturday, September 14, 2013, sees the opening of Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi, a commercial facility with 11 outlets including restaurants, cafés, and retailers. Its home is the red brick Manseibashi viaduct, located between Ochanomizu and Kanda stations on the JR Chuo Line, and stretching along the Kanda-gawa River from the Manseibashi area to Sotobori-dori Street. The complex pays tribute to its history as the former Manseibashi Station and later the Transportation Museum. For instance, two sets of stairs will open to the public for the first time in 70 years, since the structure stopped functioning as a station in 1943, and lead to an observation deck fashioned from the old train platform. The new Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi plans to stage events and create a space to liven up the community.

Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi

Address 1-25-4 Kanda Suda-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Hours Retailers 11:00–21:00 (Sundays and holidays –20:00)
Restaurants and cafés (11:00–23:00 (Sundays and holidays –21:00) *Excluding some outlets
Access 4-min. walk from JR Akihabara Station; 6-min. walk from JR Kanda Station / Ochanomizu Station
Contact information tel:03-3257-8910
URL http://www.maach-ecute.jp/

Manseibashi station

 

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Where to eat: Food worth the wait, restaurants and shops that keep Tokyo lining up for more

 

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Qeueing

Once a year, around the time that Michelin publishes its Tokyo guide, headlines roar about this city being the dining capital of the world. And it is. But it’s not just the arm-and-a-leg, mortgage-your-kids dining scene that makes Tokyo great. The fanaticism for detail and dedication to fresh, seasonal ingredients trickles all the way down to the places we actually eat at: the ramen shops, the gyoza dumpling joints, the udon noodle restaurants and the confectionary stores. And these everyday eateries have their own version of the fine dining restaurant’s waiting lists: lines. If a meal is good enough, Tokyoites will stand in sun or rain to get to it. Here are some of the current favourites.

Wating in line in front of Ramen Jiro

Wating in line in front of Ramen Jiro

Ramen, Ramen Jiro Mita Main Branch

It’s a ten-minute walk from one of the Yamanote Line’s dreariest stations. The façade isn’t pretty and the grease-stained interior is grim. Yet people line up around the block every day in every kind of weather for lunch here, because Jiro may well be the city’s best-loved ramen store. It serves a heavy, fatty soy-sauce soup loaded with thick noodles, cabbage and slices of pork. Since it opened in 1968, the shop has spawned thirty sister branches, run by former apprentices of the Mita branch, but each has its own recipe and none come close to the original for the hearts and stomachs of ramen lovers.

Wait: 30 mins for lunch, but can be up to 1 hr
Address: 2-16-4 Mita, Minato, Tokyo
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-4pm

Sushi no Midori

Sushi, Sushi no Midori Ginza store

There are six main branches of Midori sushi, and they all come with queues. The original branch opened in Umegaoka in 1963, but these days the Ginza branch usually has the longest lines. Courses start from as little as ¥840 for the ten-piece umenigiri plate, which is about as cheap as it gets for sushi in Ginza, but the biggest draws are the anago ipponzuke, a ball of rice with a whole eel draped over it (¥630), and the daimyo midorimaki, an oversized maki roll stuffed with cucumber, egg, and mashed, seasoned whitefish (¥1,890). In the winter months, the store hands out hot pads to customers in the queue.

Wait: up to 1 hr
Address: Corridor Dori 1F, 7-108 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5568 1212
Open: Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, 4:30pm-10pm (LO 9:30pm)
Sat 11am-10pm (LO 9:30pm) Sun 11am-9pm (LO 8:30pm)

Setagaya main store (Full details & map)

Niku no Sato

Beef cutlets, Meat Shop Sato

It’s a ball of beef, onions and lard, and it creates lines of up to 200 people in the middle of Kichijoji. To be fair, it’s juicy Matsuzaka beef and it’s cooked so perfectly that you need to wait a few minutes after purchasing the cutlet to let the heat reach the middle. So popular are Sato’s cutlets that customers are limited to 20 pieces each on a weekday, and 10 each on a weekend or holiday. They often sell out by mid-afternoon.

Wait: around 30 mins
Address: 1-1-8 Kichijoji-honcho, Musashino, Tokyo
Telephone: (042)222 3130
Open: Mon-Sun 9am-8pm

Youkan_mizuyoukan

Youkan, Ozasa

They call it maboroshi youkan, which roughly translates as “bloody-hard-to-get-hold-of bean paste jelly”. Ozasa makes just 150 blocks per day, and if you’d like to try one, you’re advised to start queuing from around 5am on a clement day, or around 7am if it’s pouring with rain. At 8:30am, staff distribute tickets for the ¥580-a-piece jellies, up to five per person, and ask you to return between 10am and 6pm to pick up your purchase. Is it worth the effort? We’ve never been tempted to devote half a day to buying jelly, but we hear that they taste much like any other youkan.

Wait: 3-4 hours
Address: 1-1-8 Kichijoji-honcho, Musashino, Tokyo
Telephone: (042)222 7230
Open: Mon, Wed-Sun 10am-7:30, closed Tue
Website: www.ozasa.co.jp/

minatoya

Soba, Minatoya

In a piece of angular, modern minimalist architecture, with Chopin playing in the background and an interior that wouldn’t look out of place in a bar, customers stand to slurp soba. The setting is unique, as is the soba. The hot chicken bowl is the biggest draw, with lines around the block at lunchtime. Luckily it’s a fast moving place where customer slurp and leave, but if you really don’t want to wait, come for dinner, when it’s much easier to get in. Be warned though: the shop closes whenever they run out of noodles. (Full details & map)

Wait: around 30 mins

Yanagiya

Taiyaki, Yanagiya

Back in 1916, Yanagiya began making taiyaki (fish-shaped griddle baked pastries with fillings), and with over 90 years of practice, they’ve gotten pretty good at it. The batter is made fresh daily and is used sparingly, which gives the snack an unusually thin and crispy shell (so eat them fast, before they go soft). Inside, there’s koshian (skinless azuki bean paste): sweet but not cloying. Yanagiya is one of the Big Three taiyaki outlets in Tokyo (along with Wakaba in Yotsuya and Naniwaya Souhonten in Azabu Juban) and uses moulds that pre-date WWII.

Wait: about 45 mins
Address: 2-11-3 Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3666 9901
Open: Mon-Sat 12:30pm-6pm, closed Sun

Tamahide

Oyakodon, Tamahide

This is the birthplace of oyakodon, the chicken-and-egg rice bowl. It was founded in 1760 as a chicken hotpot specialist, but the wife of the fifth generation chef created a dish that became a Japanese classic and came to define the restaurant. If you’re seated for dinner at Tamahide, you’ll need to wait until the end of the meal for the famous dish, when it stands in for the traditional miso and pickles as a finale. At lunch, though, you can dive straight into the oyakodon as long as you don’t mind the wait. If you don’t start queuing by noon, you won’t be getting in.

Wait: up to an hour
Address: 1-17-10 Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3668 7651
Open: Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30am-2pm (LO 1pm)
Dinner Mon-Fri 5pm-10pm (LO 9pm), Sat 4pm-9pm (LO 8pm)
Website: www.tamahide.co.jp/

Baumuchen

Cakes, Ginza Department Stores

Matsuzakaya

Each of the three big department stores on Ginza’s Chuo Dori has a confectionary stand that draws big queues. Matsuzakaya has Nenrinya baum cake, which debuted in September 2008 and still draws lines of up to an hour. Last New Year the line stretched up to the fourth floor of the department store.

Website: www.nenrinya.jp/

Mitsukoshi

Mitsukoshi

Mitsukoshi has Mon Chou Chou, which serves a variety of cakes, but it’s the Dojima roll, an ultra-soft fresh-cream-filled Arctic roll, that the ladies line up for. It debuted in August 2007 and there has been a line during opening hours ever since. On peak days, they sell out within two hours of opening.

Website: www.mon-chouchou.com/

 

Gouter de roi

Matsuya

At Matsuya, the big draw is the Gouter de Roi, a sugared rusk from Gateau Festa Harada. For a while, the popular biscuits were also offered online, but sales were suspended when they became overwhelmed with orders.

Website: www.gateaufesta-harada.com/

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Where to eat: Aoyama Flower Market Tea House

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Aoyama Flower Market Tea House

 

Few cafés in Omotesando can rival the atmosphere at this verdant tea shop, which sits inside the Aoyama Flower Market shop on the corner of Aoyama-dori. Flowers and plants crowd the greenhouse-like interior, where customers can sample herbal teas alongside a menu of food including open sandwiches, parfaits and French toast.

Details

Address 

5-1-2 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda lines)

Telephone 03 3400 0887

Open Daily 11am-6.30pm

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Where to eat: Mi Choripan for delicious choripán

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Mi Choripan

Anyone who’s visited Argentina should be familiar with choripán, those gut-busting sandwiches of chorizo sausage topped with chimchurri sauce, vegetables and other condiments. This South American street food staple makes its Tokyo debut at Mi Choripan, a garish decorated new eatery that aims to bring the spirit of Buenos Aires to Yoyogi-Uehara. The shop’s Japanese owner learned the art of sausage-making in Argentina, so expect authentic flavours and hearty portions – just the way it should be. For when you feel like eating something other than Japanese for a change.

Details

Address 

2-4-8 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Yoyogi-Uehara Station (Chiyoda, Odakyu lines)

Telephone 03 5790 9300

Open Daily 11am-6pm / Closed Tue, 2nd & 3rd Mon (except holidays)

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Things to do: This weekend: U-1 Grand Prix; an undon noodle contest in Yoyogi park

Sat Aug 24 – Sun Aug 25, 2013 Yoyogi Park

There are plenty of delicious udon places in Japan, but which is the best? How do you know whether you’re eating the finest bowl out there, or being fobbed off with second or third-rate noodles? The U-1 Grand Prix, held in Yoyogi Park, is a championship to determine Japan’s best udon. Stores from across the country will gather for the two-day fest to prove their worth, including representatives from as far afield as Akita, Fukuoka and the Goto Islands off the coast of Nagasaki. Go along and lend your taste buds to the cause.

Details

Open August 24-25

Time Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-7pm

URL u-1gp.com/

Venue Yoyogi Park

Address 2-1 Yoyogi Kamizounocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku Station (Yamanote line), Yoyogi-Koen Station (Chiyoda line), Yoyogi-Hachiman station (Odakyu line)

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Where to eat: Tempura Buono, finger licking good

A fine spread of tempura and accompaniments

Buono, an Italian-named but authentically Japanese tempura restaurant in the back streets of central Tokyo’s Nishi-Azabu neighborhood, about 10 minutes on foot from both Roppongi Hills to the east and Hiroo Station to the south. Buono’s concept is as appealing as its menu: serve top-quality tempura at accessible prices so that average people can experience what this well known Japanese specialty should taste like.

The chef at Buono claims to have spent his past 39 years in tempura kitchens, starting out at the age of 17. He’d always worked in expensive, upscale restaurants before venturing into Buono’s more reasonably priced bracket. The clientele may be different (including riff-raff like us), but the product is the same.

For the full tempura experience, the best choices are the 3,500-yen and 5,000-yen sets. While not exactly cheap (except in relative terms), you will remember your meal fondly. Go full out, while you’re there.  The first course will probably be okayu—a small, bland portion of boiled rice that prepares your stomach for what’s to come. This will be followed by numerous servings of tempura and complements such as sesame tofu and the finest ika (squid) sashimi. The selection changes according to what is fresh, so don’t be surprised by variations.

If you are only interested in tempura without all the extras, Buono’s 1,800-yen Chef’s Recommendation includes 7 types, highlighted by the ever-popular (and gargantuan) ebi. One lesson I learned during the evening was that aficionados don’t dip their ebi in tempura sauce—they prefer to lightly sprinkle it with salt. Our table was set with three kinds of salt: matcha (green tea), sansho (spicy) and regular.

For smaller budgets and appetites, there is a ten-don (variety of tempura on rice) and a kakiage-don on the menu for around 1,000-yen each. Kakiage is a mixture of tempura ingredients all fried up together. You can find some very uninspiring ones in convenience store bentos, but the kakiage served at Buono is a nice meal in itself.

The refreshment options are plentiful, and the staff are happy to help you make some good choices to match your meals.

A final word of advice, should you find yourself at Buono, is to inquire about the “secret” menu of whatever is fresh and not in the regular rotation. For us it was ayu, a freshwater fish with a light, tasty meat. It is this kind of unique (or unique-seeming) experience that makes my time in Japan memorable.

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