Rediscovering Nikko (Part 1 of 2)

Kegon Falls in Nikko National Park

Kegon Falls in Nikko National Park

For me, there is almost nothing better than going to a part of Japan that I have never been to before and seeing yet another facet of this wonderful country. But I am always amazed at how much there is to be discovered even in destinations that I have been to multiples times before. As the title might imply, the place in question this time is Nikko. Less than two hours from Tokyo, the main draw for most visitors are Nikko’s spectacular shrines and temples, rightly deserving of their World Heritage status. But there is far more here than what most visitors ever get to see. This is partly because the ease of making a day trip from Tokyo is often preferred over the more rewarding but slightly more difficult option of staying overnight and getting out into the countryside to see a completely different side of Japan. This multiple part blog post is about some of the places worth visiting in Nikko National Park.

Serving up freshly cooked fish with style at the Ryuo Gorge

Serving up freshly cooked fish with style at the Ryuo Gorge

The Ryuo Gorge is not only beautiful, it’s also one of the easiest places in Nikko National Park to access by train. From the hot spring resort of Kinugawa Onsen, a jumbling little train whisks you through dense forests to a quiet little station near the entrance of a walking path that takes in lush scenery and will have you wondering if the bright neon of Tokyo was just a dream. But as the picture above can attest to, it’s not just the escape from concrete that makes this a deserved stop on your itinerary. The colorful locals and delicious freshly caught river fish make this an all-around cultural experience. Throw in a couple cups of sake and a dip in the hot spring at the end of a long walk and you can have a quintessentially Japanese experience all in an afternoon.

Just a taste of the wonderful scenery that can be enjoyed along the Ryuo Gorge.

Just a taste of the wonderful scenery that can be enjoyed along the Ryuo Gorge.

Speaking of sake, if you’re thinking of visiting a sake brewery, you’d be smart to be picky about the one who visit for, alas, not all sake breweries are created equal. But fear not, for Nikko has a sake brewery of unparalleled greatness. Not only are the brews here about as tasty as you’ll find, the owner is as nice a man as you’ll meet anywhere and will be happy to show in to parts of his brewery that most sake makers wouldn’t dream of letting tourists see. Although, if it’s busy you may well be asked to lend a hand! ;)

Katayama-san showing me and a few other visitors around his brewery

Katayama-san showing me and a few other visitors around his brewery

Katayama Brewery is named after it’s owner and is located not far from Shimoimaichi Train Station (a short taxi ride or a slightly long walk away). Here you can not only do tours of the brewery but you can enjoy free tastings of the sake that will have you seeing the brew more like fine wine than the rocket fuel like stuff that is often served overseas. If you are feeling like splashing out, try the specially made version of his best and most popular sake that has platinum and gold flakes in it. Though if you set off the metal detector at the airport upon your departure don’t blame me!

Slip into a yukata and enjoy some 'omotenashi' at one of Kinugawa's Hot Spring Resorts

Slip into a yukata and enjoy some ‘omotenashi’ at one of Kinugawa’s Hot Spring Resorts

At the end of a day of walking and sake tasting, I can think of few better things to do than relaxing in a hot spring and tucking into some Japanese fine cuisine. Luckily, there is no shortage of places to do this in Nikko’s National Park. The Kinugawa Grand Hotel (picture above and below) is just such a place. For a fraction of what a similar type of place would cost in Tokyo, you can be spoiled to your heart’s content. Though you aren’t likely to encounter many English speakers here, you can be sure that you will be welcomed with open arms and a deep bow upon your arrival. Enjoy some of Nikko’s craft beer and a big plate of sashimi and take in the beautiful surroundings in your Japanese style room.

Just one among many hot springs at the Kinugawa Grand Hotel in Nikko National Park.

Just one among many hot springs at the Kinugawa Grand Hotel in Nikko National Park.

 

Wacky Dining: Tokyo’s Top Ten Weirdest Restaurants

Strange fads, outrageous fashions, incomprehensible crazes… Japan has achieved worldwide fame for being “weird.”

Say this to some people and they will roll their eyes and assure you that Japan is not as strange as you think. And many ways they are right: the famously crazy fashion trends of Harajuku have long passed their zenith and the notorious knicker-vending machines are (thankfully) now nowhere to be seen. Japan is a place of abundant culture and fascinating heritage – perhaps focusing too much on the “weird” is reductive. What with the boom years long behind it, is Japan no weirder than any other country?

If such is the case, then somebody evidently forgot to tell Japan’s restaurant scene. Tokyo has a dazzling array of fine dining options and holds more Michelin stars than Paris – but it is the city’s themed restaurants that really take the biscuit. Starting with the prison-hospital-themed Alcatraz E.R. about fifteen years ago, Tokyo’s madcap diners have gone from strength to strength, running the gamut from Thunderbirds-themed diners to restaurants where you catch your own dinner, to eateries where you nibble at pieces of sushi plucked delicately from gashes in the side of a papier maché corpse.* Now tell me that’s not weird.

This extraordinary culinary eccentricity is unmatched worldwide, and shows no sign of abating. The following is my personal pick of the ten weirdest, funniest and most downright nauseating out of some quite surprisingly stiff competition:

Sakuragaoka

Ever since the first branch opened in London in 2013, cat cafés are decidedly old hat. Dog cafés and rabbit cafés – been there, done that. For those seeking a more unusual furry companion with whom to share some lettuce and maybe a cup of coffee, why not visit Sakuragaoka – a goat café in the heart of Shibuya?

Feeding on of the goats (named Chocolat and Sakura) at Sakurgaoka

Feeding on of the goats (named Chocolat and Sakura) at Sakurgaoka

Modern Toilet 

OK, so this restaurant chain didn’t originate in Japan – it actually started in Taiwan (itself a frontrunner in the utterly bizarre dining experience stakes). Nonetheless, Modern Toilet has spread to Japan and is apparently a roaring success in Tokyo, though I for one am at a loss to understand why. As part of this frankly rather repugnant culinary experience, customers eat their food seated on actual (non-working) loos and eat their food (which, naturally, all resembles poo or vomit) out of a variety of loo-shaped receptacles. I can’t say that eating faecal matter is at the top of my to-do list, so maybe some other time…

Yummy...

Toilet humour

The Lockup

Along the same lines as the venerable Alcatraz E. R., the Lockup is Tokyo’s prison-themed restaurant du jour. If being dragged screaming and handcuffed through a genuinely terrifying house-of-horrors-style corridor, locked in a cell and fed plates of food shaped like eyeballs with cocktails served in syringes, this is the dining experience for you. And if you really like eating body parts, why not head to Tachibana Shinsatsushitsu (that’s “Examination Room” to you and me) in the Golden Gai area of Shinjuku for a medical-themed drink and some tasty sides served up in kidney dishes?

 

Robot Restaurant 

Reportedly kitted out to the tune of 10 billion yen, the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku is the all-flashing, breast-wielding, epilepsy-inducing dining experience that everyone is talking about. In terms of food you’re decidedly not in for a treat (you’ll find better fare at your local convenience store for a fraction of the price), but boy is the show worth it. Scantily-clad women, scantily-clad robots, tanks, sharks… you name it, the Robot Restaurant has it wearing a bikini and covered in lights. This is Japan as it was in the boom years, and we love it.

robot

Christon Café

Nothing says a great night out like the Catholic Church, so why not pull up a pew or sequester yourself in a confessional at Christon Café? Here you’ll find fancy Asian-European fusion cuisine, a variety of religious iconography, the occasional all-night fetish party and, if you were raised a Catholic, possibly a sensation of mild dread. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then you obviously don’t know how to have a good time.

christon

Vowz 

Sticking with the religious theme, Vowz is a Tokyo bar serving a heady mixture of booze and Buddhism with blue neon backlighting. Run by real robe-wearing, shaven-headed monks, this is a place where Tokyoites can come to drink cocktails and listen to some good old-fashioned chanting and sermons instead of that rubbish music that everyone else seems to be so keen on. Different strokes, different folks.

Buddha Bar

Maid Cafés 

The archetypal Japanese themed dining experience, Maid Cafés have long moved past the realm of faddishness and into permanent fixture territory. You only have to take a few steps through nerdtastic Akihabara to stumble across a maid enticing you to her establishment, and the offerings range from the cutesy and innocent to the very odd indeed. Be treated like the master of the house, say some magic words over your smiling ketchup-decorated food, play board games, pose for a photo – the maids at some Maid Cafés will blow on your food and feed it to you, or even ask you maths questions and give you a slap round the face when you get them wrong. (This, apparently, does float some people’s boats, and who am I to judge them?)

mad
 cutefood

Mr. Kanso

Mr. Kanso started in Osaka in 2002 and became so inexplicably successful that it now boasts seventeen outlets across Japan – including, of course, Tokyo. Mr. Kanso has no menus, only shelves stacked with hundreds of different types of canned food from across the globe. Customers choose from such delicacies as “Todo niku kare” (sealion curry), canned cocktail sausages, French salad, and whale meat (tut tut, Mr. Kanso) – all served cold in a can and gobbled up with plastic cutlery. Apparently it’s the variety that keeps customers coming back for more… Well it must be something.

Mr Kanso

Zauo

At Zauo, customers are seated in a giant, fake wooden boat and have to reel in their own meal from the surrounding “ocean” using fishing rods. After you’ve landed your catch, you can choose how to have it cooked! It may be gimmicky, but it’s definitely fantastic fun, and can be found in several cities across Japan.

zauo

Ninja Akasaka

Ninja Akasaka combines top-notch Japanese cuisine with (you guessed it) a ninja theme. Waiters and waitresses dressed as assassins sneak up on you with menus and the wood-panelled restaurant is kitted out to resemble the inside of a Japanese castle. The in-house magician will keep you entertained with a repertoire of tricks whilst you wait – the whole enterprise is just extremely enjoyable and very well geared for tourists. Not the cheapest of themed restaurants in Tokyo, but a great one for families!

 

Some of the restaurants and bars that didn’t make it on to this top ten include the video game-themed Capcom Bar and a Gundam Café, the train-themed Little TGV, the Vampire Café, an Alice in Wonderland restaurant, sumo and samurai restaurants, Yurei Izakaya with its ghostly waiters, a school lunch-themed eatery, Biohazard Café and Grill, Arabian Rock (from the loons who brought you Alcatraz E. R.), The Wizard of the Opera, Princess Heart (the names speak for themselves really) – not to mention the themed diners across the rest of Japan.

Try some out next time you’re in Japan!

 

* OK, so the corpse sushi turned out to be a hoax. But in the context of the above it wouldn’t be entirely surprising!

The Joy of Sake

Richard Pearce is one of InsideJapan Tour’s knowledgeable tour leaders. When Richard is not taking people around Japan, he hides away in the mountains of deepest darkest rural Japan with his fingers in many cultural pies….

Living in rural Japan has many, many benefits, as I’ve touched on in previous posts. Clean air, cheaper housing, low-level celebrity status etc etc. However, parties, events and socializing opportunities in general are of course somewhat limited. I’ve found the best way to deal with this issue is to simply make the events yourself!

Want to go to a craft beer festival? Create a beer festival! Want to play football? Start a team!

The Daisenji beer festival is now in its third year and attracted 3500-4000 people in June. The football team, “Tottori Tigers”, were crowned West Japan Champions (all teams a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese) in 2013. In this spirit, whilst talking about the famous and huge Saijo Sake Festival near Hiroshima, the “Kurayoshi Sake Festival” was born.

The perceived benefits were four fold: to support local brewers, to network, to learn more about sake and, well, an excuse for a party! A great two days were had and 37 different types of sake consumed and, in the most part, enjoyed!

Sake Festival Japan

Generally speaking, premium sake can be put into two categories with three grades of quality. The two categories are those with no added alcohol (alcohol occurs naturally in the brewing process) and those with some added alcohol (known as “brewers alcohol”). Premium sake makes up about 20 percent of all sake made. The other 80 percent, “normal” sake if you like, is known in Japanese as “Futsuu” and is cheaper than the premium ones. Lots of distilled alcohol is added to futsuu to increase yields. Although cheaper and generally speaking of a lower quality, there are many delicious futsuu sakes on the market. The types and grades of premium sake are listed below.

What's your poison?

No Added Alcohol Type

Junmai Daiginjo-shu

Brewed with very highly polished rice (at least 50%) with labour intensive and precise methods. Considered to be “the pinnacle of the brewers’ art”. Generally light, complex and fragrant.

Junmai Ginjo-shu

Brewed using more traditional, labour intensive methods rather than machinery with highly polished rice (at least 60%). The fermentation period is relatively long and done at colder temperatures. Light and fruity.

Junmai-shu

Made using rice that is polished to at least 70%. Made with only rice, water and koji mold (Koji mold is a very special part of the sake brewing process, converting sake rice into sugar that can be fermented). Often crisp and full taste.

Sake wonderland
Some Added Alcohol Type

Daiginjo-shu

Brewed with very highly polished rice (at least 50%) with labour intensive and precise methods. Considered to be “the pinnacle of the brewers’ art”. Generally light, complex and quite fragrant.

Ginjo-shu

Brewed using more traditional, labour intensive methods rather than machinery with highly polished rice (at least 60%). The fermentation period is relatively long and done at colder temperatures. Light,
aromatic, fruity and refined.

Honjozo-shu

Made with rice, water, koji and a very small amount of pure distilled
alcohol, which helps to extract flavour and aroma. Light, mildly fragrant and easy to drink.

There are all sorts of sake or ‘Nihon shu’ and something for all palates. When in Japan, give it a go. Kanpai!!!

Sake Festival Japan

 

Japanese chocolate

With less than 1% of Japan being Christian, the Japanese people generally, do not tend celebrate Easter, they do however love chocolate – so we thought we’d take this opportunity to take a look at a few of the countries most popular chocy treats!

Although not a Japanese brand, the country is famed for its multitude of “interesting” KitKat flavourings. “Red Bean Sandwich, Green Tea, Purple Sweet Potato and Cherry Blossom flavours are all available….

KitKat Japan KitKat Japan

You can now even cook KitKat and there has even bee a KitKat Pizza developed…

Another favourite is Crunky, (surely they could have called it Crunchy!), which, amongst many others comes in Green Tea, Chestnut and Roasted Potato flavours!

Crunky Chocolate

Crunky Chocolate

 Royce Chocolate World can be found in Sapporo, where visitors are free to visit the factory and watch the famed chocolate crisp take form.

Royce Chocolate

There is even a hotel in Tokyo (The Lotte City Hotel) that has a whole room dedicated to Koala’s Marches -  a bite-size cookie with a chocolate filling.

Koalas Marches

Koalas Marches

If staying in a chocolate hotel is not enough for you, how about taking a bath in it?

As well as green tea baths and red wine hot springs, Hakone’s Yunessun ‘onsen theme park’ has a bath full of hot chocolate! You literally wallow in chocolate.

Japanese chocolate is a lot more imaginative when it comes to shapes – one of the most popular snacks are Mushroom Mountains, followed by Every Burger, Pucca (fish shaped chocolate snacks) and even chocolate monkey poo drops..

Mushroom Mountains

Every Burger

Pucca Chocolate

Monkey Poo Chocolate Drops

So Japan is not just about sushi and umami falvours.. if Easter was celebrated I wonder what they’d come up with?!

Japanese Fast Food

A great food and travel programme aired last night on the BBC called, “Hairy Bikers Asian Adventure”. The programme delved into the food of traditional Japan looking at sushi, Buddhist Shyojin style food and good ole Okonomiyaki. Great to hear the bikers mention that Japan had exceeded their expectations that had been set over twenty years of wanting to visit Japan. After this great episode which included lots of sights and good food,  our tour leader Steve takes it down another notch and gives us his tips on the cheap Japanese food that is available across to country…

The Famous Yoshinoya
Seaweed burgers? Sushi nuggets? Not quite, but the Japanese fast food experience is, bar the obvious imported, “feeding centres” , quite a different affair from the high streets of the UK/US. Eating at one of these establishments can be a very cheap and reasonably healthy option to anyone living out here or on their travels.

Feast for a (poor) king!
In metropolitan areas, you are sure to come across an ubiquitous fast food joint by the name of Yoshinoya (which delightfully translates to something like “House in Fields of Fortune”). This chain diner could arguably be labeled Japan’s equivalent of McDonalds but with an edible advantage – that is, you can eat the fare on offer and feel reasonably healthy in doing so. Just look out for Yoshinoya’s bright orange and green sign and drop in for a swift bite. Its focus is largely on beef – stewed in onion and sweet soy sauce, which comes with steaming rice and optional extras such as salad and miso soup. For under £3, you can therefore fill up on a relatively balanced meal and dine salaryman style. Need some omega 3? Well they even do a grilled salmon set here so that one is covered, too!

Matsuya

Another favourite and probably number 2 in popularity – let’s say, Japan’s Burger King but again, with edible advantages, is Matsuya (Pine Shop). This popular eatery for the hurried puts a little more effort into pig on plate – for instance, hotplate pork belly with soup and salad weighing in at a (hardly) hefty 700 yen (still under a fiver!). Here, you also have the added fun of purchasing your meal via a ticket vending machine that always works and always has change, for coins and notes. Highly recommended and the array of salad dressings and sauces for your meat is an added bonus!

Let's Play Buy Dinner

There is also Sukiya, with its Japanese name (すきや) emblazoned in white across a red bowl.  This shop, although like Yoshinoya – a specialist stewed beef restaurant, also delves into the world of burgers (minus the bun and served with rice), Japanese curry and even eel, if you are not so big on digging on pig.

So why are these places so popular? Well, given that three quarters of single metropolitanos in urban Japan are likely to be living in single room apartments of 20-square metres or so, cooking space is not really available. You may be lucky to have to one or (gasp!) even 2 gas rings, but with the preparation space of a table mat cooking becomes a jolly rotten encumbrance. Add that to your heavy salaryman/OL (office lady) white-collar work schedule and bone-crushing commutes to and from the office, and time becomes similarly just as tight.

Typical Japanese DinerHence the important role played out by these great establishments of convenience. Between the hours of 6 and 9pm any of the above are guaranteed to be full of slurping workers, refueling directly before or after their harrowing commute home.

Next time you are in Japan, be sure to walk past the infamous golden arches and give one of Japan’s fast food gems a try – you might just get hooked!! Oh and you are likely to get your food quicker than at a Japanese McDonalds too.

Outside the Green Bubble

Shinjuku

The Chuō Line, or central line, cuts through the circular Yamanote Line from Tokyo to Shinjuku, and continues west to the nearby mountains, with some trains even going on as far as Nagoya.  The first few stops, from Nakano to Kichijōji, top many Tokyoites’ list of most desired places to live, and are spaced about a 15-minute walk apart.

Only 4 minutes from Shinjuku on the rapid trains, Nakano can make you feel nostalgic for a time you may or may not have been a part of. Just north of the station is Sun Mall, a covered shopping arcade leading to one of Nakano’s most unique destinations: Nakano Broadway.

Nakano Broadway

If you walk through the first floor, you’ll find yourself back outside wondering what all the fuss is about. The second floor and up are an otaku’s paradise, and certainly worth a visit even if you aren’t a manga or anime fanatic. Mandarake, a world-famous vendor of rare memorabilia, has its headquarters here; with about a dozen different stores spread over three floors.

Nakano Broadway 2

Nakano Broadway 3

Nakano Broadway 4

Nakano Broadway 5

There is an eclectic assortment of other shops as well; such as a chic art café, a small gallery selling large prints of celebrated contemporary artwork, a maid café, a massage parlor, used camera and video shops, and a few army surplus-themed tactical gear and airsoft stores, such as Warriors, which has some pretty serious-looking equipment.

Nakano Broadway 6

Nakano Broadway 7

Nakano Broadway 8

Just a short walk north of Nakano Broadway, is the quiet neighborhood of Arai, where you can find a charming little restaurant called ChoiChoi (焼や ちょいちょい〒165-0026東京都中野区新井1-31-9).

ChoiChoi

They serve many unique and delicious vegetable dishes and have a selection of savory grilled fish. It’s tight seating on the first floor, but if you don’t mind, you can sit at the bar and watch the master at work in front of you. Up a steep set of stairs, there are more seating options with a cozy atmosphere and a ladder leading up to the living quarters.

ChoiChoi 2

You have a choice between an old-fashioned bulb horn and a dinner bell to signal for attention on the second floor, of course the classic “sumimase~n” works as well, but just knowing these options exist adds a curious quality to the meal.

ChoiChoi 3

If you prefer a more lively scene, the alleyways of Sanbangai (三番街), adjacent to Sun Mall, are packed with bars and restaurants, each with their own style.

Sanbangai

If you like unagi, or grilled eel, Miharu (味治) has been around for a while and featured in “Oishinbo”, a long-running manga about culinary adventures.

Miharu

One stop west of Nakano is Kōenji, a hip and trendy neighborhood known for its used clothing stores and live music scene. Central Road, just to the north and west of the tracks, has an abundance of izakaya, or Japanese-style pubs. Although it’s a chain, I liked the friendly staff, offerings, and décor of Himonoya (ひもの屋). If you walk under the tracks from the entrance of Central Road, you’ll find Look Street (ルック商店街), which is a good place to find inexpensive threads.

Koenji

Covered shopping arcades, or shōtengai, are ubiquitous in Japan, but Asagaya’s has more of a lived-in, community feel to it than most. One stop west of Kōenji, the town is renowned for its theater and jazz, and Star Road (スターロード), just northwest of the station, offers ample eating and drinking options.

Asagaya

Star Road

Yorunohirune (よるのひるね〒166-0001杉並区阿佐ヶ谷北2-13-4) is an interesting, and relatively famous café you might miss across from a local market.

Yorunohirune

Even when you’re inside, you’re still unsure if you’ve just walked into a stranger’s house uninvited, which temporarily sapped some of the confidence out of my ordering voice, but it’s also part of the experience. The proprietor, Kadota-san, is originally from Shikoku. He’s very friendly and makes you feel right at home. You’re welcome to peruse his huge library of books, while you sip or nibble from the menu, and he plays host and DJ.

Yorunohirune 2

He also has an interesting manga for sale about his relationship with his wife, which she illustrated.

Manga

Just off of Star Road is Laputa, which is a theater well known among cinephiles for showing independent and experimental films (Japanese language). Asagaya Anime Street is due to open sometime in the middle of this month, stretching for a hundred meters or so under the Chuō line tracks between Asagaya and Kōenji train stations.

Ramen lovers owe themselves a visit to Ogikubo, one stop west of Asagaya, where Tokyo style ramen originated.  Perhaps the most famous shop is Harukiya (春木屋), which has a fish bone-based ramen recipe that has remained a guarded secret for over half a century. Unless you don’t mind a line putting an hour or more between your empty stomach and prize, try to time your visit between the lunch and dinner rushes.

Ogikubo

Many artists, authors and other creative professionals call Kichijōji home, and it has a palpable bohemian atmosphere about it. It’s located just a couple stops to the west of Ogikubo. On the north side of the station, just to the left, you’ll see Harmonica Yokochō (ハーモニカ横丁), which is a collection of narrow winding alleys, and cramped eateries and watering holes with an old town feel. Continuing west, you’ll come across Nakamichi, and its many small craft and antique stores. Beautiful Inokashira Park is south of the tracks, and a popular place to see cherry blossoms in spring, or just stroll any time of year. The streets to the north of the lake lead you back to the station, passing by international restaurants and more modern shops.

Door

So, if you feel like experiencing something a little different from the well-trampled inner loop, why not hop on the Chuō line for a few minutes and discover your new favorite haunt? You’ll feel like you traveled much further in space and time, and I think you’ll like the quick escape.

Chuo Line

Japanese Food Favourites

Japanese food, or ‘Washoku’ is the latest addition to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. Japan is of course a food nation with local specialties everywhere you travel. As anyone who has ever been to Japan will know, Japan is a food lovers must. One recent customer, Andrew Hung ate his way across Japan on the Gastronomic Adventure taking in the local ‘meibutsu’ specialties and produced this fantastic travel blog.

Our tours are full of good affordable and delicious food experiences and our tour leaders know where to sniff out the best dishes. Our Tour leader Andrew, gives us his favourite food tips covering his favourite food destinations and dishes in Japan.

We don’t have a “Gourmet tour” per say, but that’s because all our tours are full of foodie experiences and treats. We are lucky enough to eat an amazing array of food on tour from back street ramen bars to beautiful Kaiseki meals. Although I would love to write about my favourite food and restaurant in each city I visit, I want to focus on some of my personal tour  favourites…Bear in mind that the food I eat on tour and the food I eat when not on tour are very different.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima
I’m gonna start this off right with Hiroshima - Hands down one of my favorite types of food in Japan, is Hiroshimayaki!

Hiroshimayaki

Hiroshimayaki

Hiroshimayaki is Hiroshima style Okonimiyaki, which is kind of like a Japanese pancake. The reason I love Hiroshimayki and not Osaka style Okonomiyaki (which is probably the more famous of the two) is because of the noodles that are added, as well as the way in which it is cooked. Hiroshimayaki has a bottom layer of crust and a top layer of crust and all the meat and noodles and everything are inbetween. Hiroshima is also famous for its oysters, so I like to have oysters on top of my okonomiyaki – it is the definition of perfection!

Matsumoto castle

Matsumoto
Matsumoto is famous for its original castle, the black crow, but they also have spectacular ramen! It’s a miso based ramen, as opposed to Soy sauce (Tokyo), or Tonkotsu (Fukuoka) and it is delicious!

Matsumoto ramen

Matsumoto ramen

My personal favorite place to eat it is at the ramen place Sakura. With the option for extra meat, delicious miso, and bamboo shoots it’s a specialty not to be missed!

Takayama

Takayama
Takayama is famous for its Hida beef, and nowhere does this amazing beef go better than in their amazing Hida beef burgers! It’s a bit on the pricey side, around ¥2000 but most definitely worth it!

Hida Burger

Hida Burger

It comes with fries, but the burger itself is so filling I doubt you’ll need the fries! I say this as a Texan too, famous for its beef and steaks, if you are ever in Takayama do not miss this! The meat is so delicate it melts in your mouth, for an extra treat I recommend adding cheese, you won’t regret it!

Shinjuku, Tokyo

Tokyo
Last but not least is Tokyo. While Tokyo is famous for many things and many famous restaurants, my favorite thing to eat on tour in Tokyo is the Tsukiji fish market sushi!

Tsukiji Sushi

Tsukiji Sushi

While Japan is of course famous for its sushi, and anywhere you go will of course be amazing, the sushi served at Tsukiji is just melt-in-your-mouth, the best. All fresh, on top quality rice, it is a treat for the senses!

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