Tuesday, May 20, 2014


The dryly-named "Tokyo Central Wholesale Market", better known as Tsukiji, is said to be the world's largest and busiest fish market. Located in Central Tokyo, it is readily accessible by the metro. 

The first thing that any visitor should be aware of is that Tsukiji market is NOT intended for sight-seeing. It is an actual working market; so watch out where you are going, get out of the way of moving vehicles, and (most important of all) DO NOT TOUCH THE FISH!!!

Check out this sign below, which is actually the first of a series of murals stating (more like sermonizing :D) on the proper decorum for visitors when inside the market.

The main attraction for tourists is the tuna auction, where one can see buyers bidding for the best tuna. To view this, one has to line up early in the morning, as there are only a limited number of tickets available. Obviously, we were not the sort of folks who wake up at 2 AM to do such tomfoolery (that would be the area of interest of my cousin, Grumpy Urban Fish Fanatic or "GUFF", but he's out right now fishing for trout in Alaska), so i'll leave you this first-hand account of Sanju of the much-admired food blog Table for Three, Please. 

Instead, we decided to go later in the morning and have a sushi breakfast in one of the restaurants along the periphery of the market.

Many of the restos were clustered in one alley. Our chosen resto was SUSHI BUN, which serves the traditional style of sushi (i suppose they all do, right? )

There are other more well-known restaurants, such as SUSHI DAI (which my friend Megsky swears to high heavens is totally fantastic) and DAIWA SUSHI. However, the lines outside these establishments are also much longer.

After all, we reasoned that all the restos get their supply of fresh fish and seafood from the inner market, so one can hardly go wrong eating at any of the establishments, right? 

As you can see from the photo above, SUSHI BUN offers three standard sets: 

B set costing 2,800 Yen ("regular quality" 8 different pieces of sushi + 3 pieces of roll with today's soup); 
C set costing 3,850 Yen ("extra special quality" 10 different pieces of sushi + 3 pieces of roll and house-made omelet with today's soup); 
Sashimi set costing 3,450 Yen (platter of assorted raw fish).

We were led in by the lady at the door, and from this point onwards, no photos were allowed. Suffice to say, the restaurant was quite small (seating probably 15 persons max). The sushi chefs worked deftly, without much fanfare; and before you could say 'Konnichiwa', your order was being presented already to you.

The miso soup, with lots of tiny clams, proved to be quite flavorful. We had ordered one each of the three sets, and all came beautifully and artfully presented -- almost a bit too pretty to eat, in fact! 

Upon first bite, freshness was indeed the order of the day. Firm texture, sweetish taste. Yum! [smacking lips]

Tsukiji market is also a good place for cooks and food lovers to shop for assorted stuff, from ceramic tableware to spices to utensils, and the like. I bought some stuff from a shop specializing in green tea, while my friends R.T. and W.T. were taken by bamboo whisks.

Here's some spicy curry powder in huge tin cans that made me think of paint thinner (he he :D):

And i suppose this is the mother of all hot sauces. "After Death" Sauce, anyone? ;-D

Verdict: Whilst pricey, the sushi breakfast is well worth the experience. And i'd gladly go back during our next future trip to Tokyo.

Friday, May 16, 2014


One afternoon in Osaka was spent doing some shopping in the Umeda district. And we came upon this old Volkswagen van right smack dab on the street (on a mini-island). 

Nice pale green color, eh? :D The van had been remodeled / refurbished to become a cafe, and quite a cute one at that:

Here's how it looks from the front:
And from slightly off-side:

The menu was quite limited, consisting of the standard coffees (Americano, latte, cappuccino, etc.) and some sandwiches. And all in Nihongo, too! Fortunately, the affable, rather goofy-looking guy running the place was very helpful, despite his limited English. All we understood was '350 Yen'!

The coffee came in plain paperboard cups (no logos here!), and proved to be pretty good. Coupled with the cool, breezy weather, and the cheesecake we had bought from Pablo, we all had a relaxing time.

 Here's the affable guy i was telling you about.

Here's the board with their cute frog mascot and website (alas, it's all in Nihongo).

Verdict: Must-try if you're in the area. Definitely a different experience from Starbucks (which, incidentally, has a branch just two blocks away)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

HAJIMEMASHITE, NIHON: KitKat Chocolatory (Tokyo)

(This is the start of a series on a recent trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. It was literally a trip ten years in the making, and a jolly good time was had by all)

Japan is known to be crazy for KitKat chocolate, and has the most variety of flavors sold anywhere in the world. According to Daily Mail, the reason for this popularity was due to how the name was pronounced - in Nihongo, it sounds like "kitto katsu", which translates to 'you will surely win'.

Nestle, the brand owner, has upped the ante, with what is billed as the the first KitKat boutique store aimed for an adult audience.  This small kiosk is located inside Seibu Department Store in Ikebukuro district. 

Somehow, i had it in my mind that this store would carry a bevy of KitKat flavors unavailable for sale elsewhere. Alas, instead of the twenty or so flavors i was expecting to gawk at, there were only three flavors on display, namely: Green Tea, Cheesecake and Chili.  Packed in small gift-sized carton boxes, with four individually-wrapped pieces inside, it is not your usual KitKat packaging form. 

Also, as we had arrived early evening, they had run out of the exclusive "Sublime Bitter" flavor, which was sold out (only 300 bars are handcrafted per day). Boo!

Verdict: Disappointing. No need to make a special trip just for this.

By contrast, you will have much better luck shopping for KitKats at Narita airport!  Take a look at the store shelves below.

Here, you can choose to your stomach's content amongst the ff. flavors: Green Tea, Chocolate, Cherry Blossom (seasonal), Strawberry Cheesecake, Rum Raisin, Wasabi (!!!), Hokkaido Red Bean paste, and probably a few more that i failed to recall. 

In short, save your money and shop at Narita airport before your flight back!

Getting There:  Take the Japan Rail (JR) Yamanote Line (i.e. the 'Green' loop), and get down at Ikebukuro station. Seibu Department Store is linked to the station exit.