Posts Tagged With: Food

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 (



Categories: history of Japan, Japanese customs, Must see, Stories about Japan, Things to do, Where to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to drink… Shochu (Japanese gin or vodka)



While sake is familiar to millions outside of Asia, shochu is the drink of choice amongst the Japanese. Since 2003, shipments of shochu within Japan have outstripped sake and the trend shows no sign of reversing.

Shochu can be made from barley, sweet potatoes or rice and is distilled like whisky, unlike sake, which is brewed similarly to beer. The shochu is then aged in oak barrels giving the drink more kick (it averages around 25 percent alcohol, rising to 40 percent for some barley shochus) and a deeper flavour.

The famed Shinozaki brewery has been producing sake and shochu for over 200 years. Here Hiroyuki Shinozaki, CEO offers his tips for how to enjoy shochu:

‘The difference between different types of shochu is huge, be it rice, barley or sweet potatoes it is a case of finding what suits you. For me though, the best shochu is made from rice.’

‘If you are new to shochu, look for a bottle that is around 13 percent alcohol, the stronger shochus are more of an acquired taste. ’

‘Although you can drink shochu neat I’d always recommend diluting it with water to bring out the taste.’

‘Rather than just throwing the water in, as you would with whisky, you should dilute the shochu the night before you plan on drinking it. That way it blends overnight allowing the water and shochu to fuse. Don’t be impatient – a good shochu is aged for four years, it deserves one more day.’

‘Once you are ready to drink the shochu heat it gently in a pot of hot water – never, ever, use a microwave. The drink is best served at about 38 degrees Celsius, body temperature. It’s not a cup of tea after all.’


SHINOZAKI Co., Ltd, 185 Hiramatsu Asakura-shi, Fukuoka 838-1303
Telephone +81 946 52 0005


Categories: history of Japan, Japanese customs, Japanese technology, Must see, Things to do, What to buy, Where to drink | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surfing in Tokyo

The perfect wave is closer than you think

Hitting that "sweet spot" is easier than you think. Great surf spots in Chiba are only a train ride away from Tokyo.

Hitting that “sweet spot” is easier than you think. Great surf spots in Chiba are only a train ride away from Tokyo.


For many Tokyoites, surfing is synonymous with just one place: Shonan. The coastal area in Kanagawa Prefecture is generally regarded as the birthplace of Japanese surf culture, and it teems with boarders during the summer months – never mind that the swell is often pretty pathetic. Local schools include Easy Surf in Shichirigahama (beginner classes ¥5,000; private lessons ¥15,000), and Shonan Surfin School, which has shops in Chigasaki, Tsujido and Kugenuma (beginner classes ¥5,000; stand up paddle surfing ¥8,500; private lessons ¥18,000).

If you’re looking for some serious waves, though, the east coast of Chiba is a better bet, where there’s no shelter from the full force of the Pacific OceanEugene Teal in Onjuku offers English-language lessons by a Japan longboard champion, and there’s also the option of staying overnight in the clubhouse (2-hour lesson ¥8,000; overnight stay ¥2,000). A little further up the coast, Oasis Surf School in Ichinomiya also does English lessons (beginner classes ¥5,250; intermediate shortboard/longboard classes ¥10,000; English surfing classes ¥6,300).

You can find sweet waves within Tokyo itself, of course, though only on a technicality. Hachijojima, Niijima and Oshima – part of a chain of islands that stretches from the tip of the Izu peninsula, and which is administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government – are popular destinations for intrepid surfers. The breaks off the southern tip of Hachijojima have some particularly good and consistent swells, although they’re not for timorous types, and you’ll need to bring your own gear with you.


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Things to do: Like the beach? Check out the Morito no Hama Bon dance festival on August 15th

Let the Festival begin

Do you like the beach? Do you like or want to experience Japanese summer festivals? Then the Morito no hama, bon dance competition/Festival is the best place to be this summer.


The festival will be held this year on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 between 7pm and 9pm and takes place on the shores of the Morito beach in Hayama located in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture. It’s just thirty minutes from Zushi or forty minutes from Yokohama city. To get there, take the JR Yokosuka line train from Yokohama station to JR Zushi station. After that, there are buses that will bring you into Hayama. From the bus stop, it is just a short walk to the beach.

Hayama is a town know for its summer hideaways, beautiful beaches, a very nice marina, and lovely homes. If fact, many of Japan’s rich and famous live here.

The Experience

You can enjoy great grilled and barbecue dishes on the beach side as well as participate in the festival events.  Definitely a fun filled experience with great food, great people and great dancing. If you are not the dancing type, then you can simply relax near one of the food stalls, enjoy the music and the ambiance.

 Anyone can go join the dancing and not feel foolish. That’s because many of the foreigners who are dancing don’t seem to have a clue about the next move. But after doing it a few times, it becomes really fun. 


There are a variety of food stalls for your convenience, so you can pick and choose at will. Be it chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, it’s all there. This is certainly a festival worth checking out and best of all it’s FREE!

I guarantee that this event is one you will look forward to going to again. The only part of this festival you won’t enjoy, is when it’s over. Check it out with your friends-the Morito no hama bon dance competition/festival. It will be one that will live in your memories.

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Where to drink: For the ultimate bubble tea experience go to Chun Shui Tang

Taiwan‘s bubble tea experts make their Japan debut on July 27 with the opening of this branch in Dainkanyama. There’ll be a full 17 different drinks on the menu at Chun Shui Tang, all prepared by a qualified ‘tea master’ and flavoured with the chain’s in-house, no-additive syrup. Grab a straw and cool off this summer.




20-9 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama Station (Tokyu-Toyoko line)

Telephone 03 6809 0234

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What not to eat: gasshokukin; bad food combinations

Makiko Itoh’ll never forget that day during the summer when she was 14.She’d been away in the Yatsugatake Mountains of Honshu with my schoolmates for a rinkan gakkō (a multi-day school trip to the countryside), and on the way back we’d stopped for lunch at a large roadside diner. On the menu was tempura, followed by slices of watermelon. The breakfast at the inn we were staying at was pretty awful, so she dug into her one shrimp and mound of fried vegetables, as well as the sweet, chilled watermelon. But that evening, her body started to complain very emphatically. Her stomach felt like it was being twisted around inside. She rolled around on the floor, groaning in pain, for what felt like hours. By the morning the pain was finally gone, but she was weak and worn out for days.

As it turns out, She’d indulged in a classic bad food combination, or tabeawase. Called gasshokukin or shokugōkin, these are foods that are not supposed to be eaten with each other for health reasons, especially during the summer when the grueling heat and humidity take a toll on our bodies. It’s a way of thinking about food with roots in traditional Chinese medicine combined with old-school common sense.

The best-known bad food pairing is unagi (grilled eel) with umeboshi (salt-cured ume plums), both of which are classic summertime foods. Oil-rich unagi give you lots of energy, and the sourness and saltiness of umeboshi help to awaken a lagging appetite. But we’re warned never to eat them together, since the sourness of the umeboshi will clash with the oiliness of the unagi, causing digestive problems.

According to current medical knowledge, however, there’s no scientific basis for this belief. On the contrary, the sourness of the umeboshi should actually help our bodies deal better with the fatty unagi. One reason this pairing may have become a “no-no” is as a warning against gluttony: Unagi has always been a luxury food, and if you have it with salty-sour umeboshi you might be inclined to eat more than you should.

Most of the other bad food pairings that we’re encouraged to avoid are combinations of not so easily digested foods with something that’s cold and watery. The combination that caused me so much grief as a teenager is a classic example. Deep fried food such as tempura puts a burden on the stomach, so topping it with ice water and cold watermelon is not the best idea. Other bad combinations involve foods that aren’t that easy to digest on their own, such as tokoroten (agar-agar noodles) with raw eggs, or crabmeat and persimmons.

What you should try very hard to avoid as the weather gets really hot and humid, however, is relying on too much cold or cooling food. If you are only eating salads, hiyayakko (chilled tofu), cold somen noodles and ice cream every day, then downing iced drinks and cold beer — you may think you’re keeping cool. But, paradoxically, too much cold and watery food prevents your body from activating its best cooling system: perspiration.

Have some hot food or a spicy dish every once in a while. That will get your system revved up. And enjoy some grilled unagi for a classic Japanese energy boost at least once this summer — with or without umeboshi.

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Where to eat: Asian fusion dining at Hibiki

Hibiki restaurant at Marunouchi

Hibiki restaurant at Marunouchi


A sample of some dishes at Hibiki

A sample of some dishes at Hibiki



Long gone are the days, it seems, when the taste of Japan was confined to tiny eateries crammed underneath railway lines. True, these outlets are still thriving among the salary-man community, as Yurakucho will testify, but heavy competition is arriving from grander restaurants in the vast modern station and shopping complexes springing up throughout Japan. Hibiki, located in the glitzy Yurakucho Itocia tower, is one such locale.

Long-established Ginza has forever carried more bling than its Yurakucho neighbor. Now, in the shape of restaurants like Hibiki, Yurakucho is itself becoming more Ginza-like, transferring the dishes of cheap izakaya to large, highly plush interiors with expensive furniture, dim romantic lighting and earnest service staff.

Hibiki Yurakucho is the classic fusion of Western-style service and Japanese food, the background music straight out of a top-floor London restaurant. Tables are well spread-out, providing extra privacy when talking, while the counter seats are comprised not of bar stools, but of shiny, lacquered high-back chairs.

Rarely for Japan, Hibiki has borrowed the entre-plat principle of expensive European restaurants, offering customers surprise items between the earlier plates. Special entre-plats are also offered exclusively to counter-seat customers, including refreshing tofu and vegetable nimono. This food is prepared by a highly-dedicated team of white-coverall chefs, stationed in full view of the customers behind the giant counter, working with state of the art equipment.

An attractive raw fish dish comes in the shape of Nihon sashimi (¥1,300), juicy in the extreme, the rich taste more than a match for most izakaya.

For mains, the Yamagata gyu-niku nabe (¥1,700) is perfectly-placed to warm up – and fill – a stomach in winter, full of tough meat but far from tiring for the teeth. Another appetizing meat dish is the gyu-suji-tamanegi, with added freshness coming courtesy of the seasonal vegetables (¥1,100), light, crispy and healthy. Interestingly, the restaurant encourages diners to ‘start white and end white,’ perhaps beginning with Kawashima Tofu and finishing with Niigata Koshi Hikari rice added to the nabe pot.

Reasons to Visit

1. True Japanese food experience

2. Fresh ingredients from across Japan

3. Perfect for groups and parties


Private Room Available All You Can Drink


JR Tokyo Station – 3min walk
JR Chuo Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line, JR Sobu Line, JR Tokaido Line, JR Yamanote Line, JR Yokosuka Line

Metro Tokyo Station – 3min walk
Metro Marunouchi Line

Metro Otemachi Station – 5min walk
Metro Chiyoda Line, Metro Marunouchi Line, Metro Tozai Line, Metro Hanzomon Line

Toei Otemachi Station
Toei Mita Line

Hibiki Marunouchi Information


1F Tokyo Kaijo Nishido Bldg Shinkan, 1-2-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo




11am – 2:30pm (L.O. 2pm) & 5pm – 11pm (L.O. 10pm) (Mon – Fri), 4pm – 10pm (L.O. 9pm) (Sat)



Credit Cards

All major cards accepted

The Hibiki concept is taking little time to win over fans, so reservations are highly recommended.

Here are some other locations of this wonderful restaurant. The one in Odaiba I can also really recommend for its dazzeling view of Tokyo bay.


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Must see: Manpaku food festival; a paradise for foodies!

The sign at the entrance of the festival grounds

The sign at the entrance of the festival grounds

Sat May 18 – Mon Jun 3, 2013 Showa Kinen Park

Manpaku festival, the place to go if you are a foody!

Manpaku festival, the place to go if you are a foody!

Get an authentic music festival food court experience without the music at this gourmand get-together organised by the folks from Rockin’ On’ magazine. Comparative with the well known ‘Taste of Amsterdam’. Held at the vast Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa, Manpaku features many popular food stalls from the festival circuit, offering tantalising treats ranging from karaage and ramen to a curry made from the recipe used by baseball star Hideo Matsui’s mother.

Details: Open air food festival in its 5th year. Sample dishes from all over the world in one, convenient place.
May 18-June 3, 10:30am-9pm, ¥400-¥2,000.

Venue: Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa-shi. Nearest Station: Tachikawa. Tel: 042-528-1751.
Additional Venues
Details: Big food fair with 80 stalls, imported and craft beer.
May 26-June 3, 11am-9pm. Until 6pm on the last day, ¥500(door), ¥400(adv), free(elementary & under).
Venue: Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa-shi. Nearest Station: Tachikawa. Tel: 042-528-1751.
We went to the Manpaku festival today (Saturday May 25th) and we can really recommend it. It is a lot of fun. See below some of the pictures we took:

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Japanese children becoming a rarety?

Japanese children becoming a rarety?

The number of children aged 14 and under in Japan fell for the 32nd straight year. Child population stands now at a record-low 16.49 million as of April 1, the government said Saturday, reflecting Japan’s crisis when it comes to the continued drop in the country’s birthrate.

The number was down 150,000 from 2012 and the ratio of children in the age group relative to the overall population hit a fresh record-low of 12.9 percent, according to the report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The figures were contained in a ministry report released ahead of the Children’s Day national holiday on Sunday, Kyodo news agency reports.

Recent data show that Japan’s population is aging faster than ever, according to a forecast released by the government on March 27. In 30 years by now, more than a third (36 percent) of the population will be over 65, compared with 23 percent in 2010.

The aging population is a trend reflected also in Japan’s baby-food industry, with predictions not showing a bright future for the local baby-food makers. Some of the leading baby-food companies, such as Kewpie, have changed their target and started to sell special soft food for the elderly who cannot chew now as well as they used to.

Among other baby-food makers that changed their plans and jumped into this market are Morinaga Milk Industry Co., House Foods Corp., and Wakodo (owned by Asahi Group Holdings).

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Things to do this weekend: Keyaki Hiroba Spring Beer Festival

Thu May 16 – Sun May 19, 2013 Saitama Super Arena (Keyaki Hiroba)

Keyaki Hiroba Spring Beer Festival

Keyaki Hiroba Spring Beer Festival

Tokyo‘s seemingly endless parade of Oktoberfests aren’t the only option for beer lovers looking to drink in the great outdoors this spring. Of you are craving the taste of a really fine beer, take a daytrip to Saitama to sample craft beers from a host of Japanese microbreweries at this four-day fest – some for as little as ¥300 a glass. Coedo, Sankt Gallen, Aqula, Oh! La! Ho!, Baird Brewing and Shiga Kogen are just a few of the names lined up for the Spring Beer Festival, held right outside Saitama Super Arena, though there’ll also be a few places selling Sapporo and Yebisu, if that’s more your thing. There’ll also be a selection of imported brews on offer, plus food offerings ranging from Hokkaido seafood to sausages, sausages and more sausages.

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