May 28, 2014

Sushi Daiwa (Tokyo, Japan)

Raisin Bread and I woke up at 3:30 am one morning to make the journey to Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. Alas, despite arriving at 4:45 am, we were too late to gain entrance into that morning's tuna auction.

Not matter, we would enjoy an unbelievable sushi breakfast instead. During my research, I picked out three different sushi spots in case one or two had extremely long waits. It was my understanding that the food that each restaurant serves is virtually the same. We walked quickly towards the row of restaurants and discovered Sushi Dai's line to be about two hours long. On the other hand, there was just one couple waiting at Sushi Daiwa, so we immediately settled into our places in this line. We still had about 45 minutes to kill since Sushi Daiwa does not open until 5:30 am. That gave us a chance to observe some of the goings on of the market.

Tsukiji Market is a real working fish market that has not quite found the balance between serving as a tourist destination and as a place of business. Near misses between tourists and racing trucks are a regular occurrence, which is why there are plans to move Tsukiji to a new location in the future.

One funny thing about waiting in line in front of Sushi Daiwa was that other foreigners would come up to us and ask why people were standing in line for Sushi Dai. Clearly, they did not do any research and without question, they would decide to join the line for Sushi Dai. It made me laugh a lot. Silly wabbits.

5:30 finally rolled around and we were seated elbow to elbow around a tiny sushi bar. Sushi is served by set menu, but one can order additional pieces at the end. Our chef was responsible for us and the couple in front of us. He placed our sushi pieces before us faster than we could consume them the previous piece. All told, the entire meal took probably 20 minutes at most. There wasn't much time to savor our food, but the sushi was so delicious that we didn't mind.

Chutoro (medium fatty tuna)
This singular piece of tuna is probably the best piece of tuna I have ever had in my life. To die for.

Ika (squid)
I rarely order squid. I find the texture to be off-putting. This piece was no different.

Odori Ebi (live shrimp)
I bit the inside of my mouth while eating my last piece of sushi, so I was a little out of it for the next couple of pieces. I didn't notice the shrimp still moving, but Raisin Bread did!

Kanpachi (amberjack)
Amberjack became one of my go to fish during our trip to Japan. So yummy.

Uni (sea urchin)

Miso Soup with Fish

Otoro (fatty tuna)

Tamago (egg)

Tuna and Ikura (salmon roe) Cut Rolls


Shrimp head
This was an interesting part of our meal. I must say that I very much enjoyed the shrimp head and was intrigued by how they used up most of the shrimp.

Katsuo (bonito)
This piece was not part of the set menu and was the finale to our meal at Sushi Daiwa. Look at that color.

After breakfast, we walked around the outer market area, which sells restaurant supplies and vegetables. We tried to see if we could sneak into the inner wholesale fish market, but that clearly wasn't going to happen. There was security turning all of the foreigners away.

Tsukiji Market is a fascinating place, and there is nothing like eating the freshest sushi of your life at 5:30 in the morning.

Sushi Daiwa
5-2-1 Tsukiji
Chuo, Tokyo

May 22, 2014

Nagi Ramen (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)

If you have been paying attention, you know that I love noodles of all shapes and sizes. Eating ridiculous amounts of noodles was a definite "to do" during my trip to Japan. One evening, we set out on a long, soggy walk to Nagi Ramen in Golden Gai. By the time we arrived, my jeans and shoes were soaked through, so a piping hot bowl of ramen seemed appropriate.

Golden Gai is a small area of Shinjuku that is made up of hide-and-seek alleys that are lined with over 200 bars, clubs and restaurants. Each one is a tiny closet-sized establishment. Nagi is no different. It is a minuscule space, located on the second floor.

The place is so tiny that we had to stand in the stairwell to wait. We finally made it to the vending machine where we placed our orders and paid for our meals before we were seated at a counter with no more than 12 seats. 

Nagi is known for using dried sardines in its broth. I ordered the "Special Ramen," which is their most popular dish. My bowl of ramen came with nori, bamboo shoots, scallions, a soft-boiled egg and huge slices of pork. The broth was so deep and rich, but it was the firm, springy noodles that made me the happiest! Yum!

After enjoying our ramen, we headed back through Golden Gai in the rain.

Nagi Ramen
1-1-10 Kabukicho
Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture
160-0021 Japan

May 20, 2014

Monkey Park Iwatayama (Kyoto, Japan)

High above the Arashiyama district of Kyoto lies a mountaintop which is home to a little band of monkeys - Japanese macaque monkeys, to be exact.

It was late morning, so I figured a leisurely hike would be fitting before we grabbed some lunch. We found the entrance to the Monkey Park and paid our admission. 

The entrance happened to be across from a shrine! 

And so we began our hike up to see the monkeys. Only, the easy 10 to 15 minute hike that had been sold to me turned out to be grossly underestimated. We, first, started up a set of stairs, which seemed easy enough. 

We came upon a list of warnings about the monkeys, but alas, we had not reached the monkeys!

In total, the hike took roughly 30 minutes. In addition to the stairs, we climbed up a steep set of switchbacks before reaching the top of the mountain. It was sunny and hot, but it was worth it. Not only were there monkeys galore, but we had a wonderful view of the city. 


These two cannot get enough cuddles. 

At the top, there is also a building within the monkey park, from where you can feed the monkeys. Humans are inside the cage and monkeys are outside. We did not stay in there long and did not feed the monkeys either. 

A beautiful cherry blossom tree also made the trek worthwhile. 

Animal lovers, like me, will find the Monkey Park a fun and unique thing to do while in Japan.

Monkey Park Iwatayama
8 Genrokuyamacho
Kyoto 616-0022

May 15, 2014

@ Home Cafe (Tokyo, Japan)

On a Saturday afternoon, Raisin Bread and I went to the Akihabara district of Tokyo to do something uniquely Japanese - visit a maid cafe. We were expecting this experience to be completely unlike anything we have ever done and we were not disappointed in the least.

Maid cafes are a relatively new concept. Generally, the waitresses at these cafes dress in maid costumes and serve their master/mistress (the customer) as if they were at their home. Yes, I know it sounds weird. We chose @ Home Cafe because it is the only place that I had read a lot about.  

If you don't have a maid cafe in mind though, you will see plenty of maids standing on the street, handing out flyers and trying to lure customers...I mean to their cafes. 

I was surprised to find only two other people in line at the time we arrived. Here, one of the maids is yelling at me because I am taking a picture. Oops. I did not the see the no camera sign that you can clearly see in the photo.

The maids' costumes consist of a dress, petticoat, pinafore, stockings or high socks and a hair accessory. Each maid may add their own flair including plush backpacks and stuffed animals hanging from their bags or clothing.

@ Home Cafe charges an entrance fee of ¥600. I also read that the food here is pretty horrible so we decided to get the dessert set for ¥1600, which includes a drink, dessert and a photo with a maid.

As we figured out, you aren't allowed to take any photos inside, except of your food. The clientele was mostly made up of individual males, but there were also a few tables of couples and pairs of females. Our hostess maid led us to our seats, gave us menus and then proceeded to stand there and ask us to order. I did not like this ordering method and wished I had a few minutes to decide on what to have. 

The hostess maid also brought a magnet board showing pictures of all the maids who were working at that time for us to choose who we would like to take our picture with. That was a slightly awkward thing to do as well.

Raisin Bread ordered the Magic Sketch hot green tea latte for his drink. When our server brought his drink over, she asked what animal he wanted to be drawn on his drink and he chose a cat. I was quite impressed by the results! 

I went with a boring but quite tasty pot of earl grey tea. Before we could enjoy our drinks though, we had to cast a love spell on them. Our server taught us the love spell, which we repeated. Our drinks were then ready to be consumed!

While we waited for our desserts, we had a chance to observe the goings on. One older gentleman was seated next to Raisin Bread, and he was playing a dice game with a maid. We were seated in front of a stage where patrons were taking their photos with the maids, and we were eventually brought up for our turn. 

I based my dessert ordering decision on whichever was the most colorful. The Fruit Cocktail Mini Parfait seemed to fit the bill. It was awful tasting though. Yikes. It consisted of canned fruit cocktail, a scoop of strawberry ice cream, marshmallow sticks, a white chocolate heart and loads of whipped cream. 

Raisin Bread picked the Cutie Bunny Cheesecake. From the amount of cake left on his plate, this one was not a hit either. 

Before we left, the maid who took our pictures with came back with our snapshot, which came in a handy dandy paper frame.

There was a basket of props on the stage that we could pick from to add a little character to our photos. They looked a little worse for wear, but I still grabbed the cat ears. When we were taking our picture, the maid would suggest hand gestures to do. I don't think I'm doing mine correctly and I'm also not sure what it means.

The maid also decorated the polaroids with the date, place and some words that I can't read.

Raisin Bread chose the bunny ears and the heart sign.

When we got our bill, we were given a loyalty card. I couldn't bring myself to tell the maid that we would most likely never get the chance to come back though. I saw a fellow walk in later who had a black card. He must be a regular!

Our visit to @ Home Cafe was a lot of fun and slightly strange at the same time. It is definitely a unique experience that I highly recommend. Just don't go for the food!

@ Home Cafe
Don Quijote Akihabara
5th Floor
4-3-3 Sotokanda 
Chiyoda Tokyo 101-0021