Posts Tagged With: Shin-Marunouchi Building

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

Where to eat: Igrek does French with flair

Igrek restaurant. French dining in Marunouchi

Igrek restaurant. French dining in Marunouchi


A sample dish at Igrek French restaurant in Marunouchi

A sample dish at Igrek French restaurant in Marunouchi

For years, the Japanese have held the notion that French cooking represents the ultimate romantic cuisine, the perfect choice of nourishment for a special dinner date.  And yet, a common perception also exists that many French restaurants on Japanese shores fail to live up to their billing. This is emphatically not the case for Igrek, the Tokyo branch of which is located on the fifth floor of the sparkling Shin-Marunouchi Building outside Tokyo Central station.

The Igrek franchise is part of the Kobe Kitano Hotel Group, which has long prided itself on a reputation for high standards in service. Thus does Igrek Marunouchi show only too well that its customers expect style to match the impressive setting (for example: the giant, crescent-shaped bay window beautifully illuminated by the capital’s neon-framed nightlife). Waiting staff are clad in dark suits and bow-ties and seem well-versed in the French dining style – only infinitely more polite! Rare is the occasion in Japan on which one finds staff able to explain the composition of dishes as well as Parisien waiters, and also offer the occasional wine suggestion. The comfortably-sized tables, meanwhile, are draped in lavish shining golden cloths, which add subtle brightness and color when the lights are dimmed

The famous foie gras pate, made from exceptionally well-fed geese, also goes down well with a white house wine. Full marks are also conferred upon the bread which, in true French fashion, is light, melts in the mouth, comes in many styles and is replaced throughout the meal at no extra charge.

Among the main courses, the grilled prawns are most eye-catching, their tails rising from a mouthwatering sauce and some elegantly arranged green vegetables.  In typical French fashion, the restaurant serves a sumptuous array of vegetables, with the crunchy roasted carrots and parsnips particularly appetizing. Igrek offers lunch (11:00-14:30) and dinner (17:30-22:00) menus for prices between ¥4,500 and ¥13,000, with a la carte options also available. Diners should note that several of the dishes offered on course meals carry extra surcharges, although the sheer quality of succulent beef and juicy lobster meat is well worth the extra ¥1,000.

The restaurant’s stylish website rightly highlights its potential as an attractive wedding venue, promising to ‘impress guests’ with ‘overflowing hospitality and popular food.’ If the evidence from the evening meals is anything to go by, it certainly will.

Categories: Must see, Things to do, Where to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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