Trip Recap Pt 2

March 7The weather continued to be overcast with light or full-on rain so we'd been pretty limited in our ability to walk around and sightsee. Today my friends went to Akihabara while I had lunch with Akai Koen/MOTFD's manager (Kubota) and his fiance (Midori). After lunch Midori and I joined up with Larry, K, Han and B at Yodobashi-Akiba. Yodobashi is a MASSIVE fortress of 9 football field sized floors of electronics, computers, cameras, and toys. Larry, B and the girls had eaten lunch at Jangara Ramen. Even after the end of the trip they still consider Jangara to have the tastiest ramen ..... you gotta be kidding me!!!! For Larry, it's all about Hakata style ramen. My parents are Fukuoka so I used to be the same way but for Larry (who's Taiwanese-Canadian) perfection is super-kotteri & fatty pork bone broth with thin home-made el dente noodles, melt-in-your-mouth chashu and 1-2 onsen aji-tamagos (seasoned eggs with a moist,gooey center) and anything else deviates below from that. Hakata-style ramen is fantastic and used to be my favorite but I've grown to appreciate alternate styles of ramen and ramen-ya's that up the ante in terms of creativity, attention to detail and sophistication. Nagi in Golden Gai for example.

From Akihabara we travelled 2 stops counter-clockwise on the Yamanote line to Ueno. Ueno is known for it's zoo and museums, but I mainly took the group there because Han was interested in eating street foods and buying affordable clothing. Ueno has a street market along the Yamanote train tracks called Ameyoko. It's a busy, bustling area with both a flea market and boutique store vibe. I had to leave my friends and meet up with my brother and dad in Nishi-Kasai since my dad was going back home to Vancouver the next day. Midori took my friends to an izakaya in Shimbashi with a floor covered in white sand and stepping stones. My brother took me and my dad to an awesome Hakata-style izakaya called Chikuzen'ya. It's standard izakaya/yakitori fare but with some really creative, interesting twists and at super-affordable prices.


March 8

If you haven't noticed my friends and I really like to eat. Larry, Keleng and Han love Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations; thus there were a few places featured on Bourdain's spotlight on Tokyo that we had on our itinerary.

One of them was Sarashina-Horii in Azabu-juban. They're known for their hand-made white soba noodles.

The food was excellent although admittedly I'm much more inclined to get excited by ramen than cold soba. They even served soba-cha, tea made from buckwheat seeds. When we got there we were seated right away. But about 30 min later, the place was completely RAMMED. There was a celebrity in the VIP room whom I didn't recognize but apparently he's a well known comedian. Thanks to Mr Anthony Bourdain, the place is turning into a bit of a tourist trap but the food is of unequivocally high quality as at most places recommended by him.

Since we were in Azubu-Juban, we walked around Roppongi Hills and then towards Midtown. Since Larry has to eat one bowl of ramen each day on the trip, today he tried Hakata-style ramen (again!) at Ichiran. Here are some pics from Roppongi.


March 9 Today we made our way to Osaka by bullet train. Before embarking on our trip, Larry and I woke up early and had curry rice at Yoshinoya.

The best part of taking a long train ride is picking out an ekiben (train station bento box) for eating on the way to your destination. Even better is when there's a department store at the train station with a food market in the basement (deapchika). Tokyo Station has a Daimuru with a great assortment of mouth watering foods that it makes picking out lunch items for your train trip a long and difficult process. we almost missed our train!

So we left Tokyo hoping to escape the rain and guess what? It was cloudy and rainy in Osaka and bright and sunny in Tokyo. Maybe it has something to do with me being born in Vancouver. Waitaminute, the weather's usually good when I travel to Japan alone. So I blame it Larry et al.

Since it was raining we walked around one of Osaka's many covered outdoor shopping arcades near Shinsaibashi and Amemura.

We thought the depachika in Daimaru was the shiznit but Isetan's blows it out of the water. We met up with my friend Haruna, picket out some foods from the depachika and ate the stuff at our hotel. Haruna actually organizes shows in Osaka. She just started doing this last year after being inspired by me doing Next Music from Tokyo. It's awesome to see NMFT have an impact on the scene in Japan. Actually my friend Remi who shoots photographs for a lot of Tokyo's indie bands decided to try her hand at organzing a show as well. You don't have to be in a band to be part of the scene!! Go to shows, put on shows, write a blog or a zine!! Music is so much more fun when you take an active role. There's more to enjoying music than mp3's and youtube videos!!

Larry and Keleng had gone to the aquarium in Osaka, apparently the largest in the world. When they got back, we all went izakaya hopping with Haruna, her friends and Hiro, my friend from JCSA who now lives in Osaka. Larry almost forgot his daily bowl of ramen so we hit up Kinryu at 3am. hahaha.


March 10

Not too long after having ramen at 3am, Larry and the rest of us had ramen for brunch at Kamakura. We saw that there was a massive line-up at 3am on our walk home to the hotel so we presumed it must be good. verdict: meh. It had a shoyu-vegetable base and tasted like the cabbage soup my mom makes at home. The girls liked it a lot. Keleng ranks it as one of the best bowls of ramen she's ever had. It's really mild compared to the fatty, salty flavor of tonkotsu ramen. To me it was incredibly bland.

We walked around Shinsaibashi and Dotombori and of course Bernard had to check out the Don Quijote. Afterwards we took a short train ride to Osaka Castle park.

Keleng and Han wanted to see the sakura trees by Osaka Castle but I had plans to watch チーナ and other great bands at Onnari Festival 2012 in Kyoto.

Here are clips of チーナ, 太平洋不知火楽団 and 激鉄

Holy sh*t, my first show and it's already been 5 days in Japan. Normally I would have been to about 8 in that same time span. :)

My friends were too tired to come over to Kyoto but Hiro did. Hiro, チーナ and I walked around the Pontocho area of Kyoto and found a great izkaya to have a mini-uchiage. Lots of great food including Kyo-yasai (best veggies on the planet?).