November 12, 2005

A word about chronology

It seems that I'm making two types of entries - brief ones that are entered on the fly, and longer ones that are created later, with pictures and descriptions. What I think makes sense is to insert the entries where they belong in time, instead of when I got around to creating the entry. So the quick entries will have their real timestamp, like 8:17am, and the inserted ones will be an arbitrary timestamp, like 9:00pm - whatever it takes to put the entries in order. Forgive me if I jump back and forth between the present and past tense.

Unfortunately, this means that until I catch up, new entries may occur further down on the page, or even directly to an archive page. I'll put in links in to make it easier to find entries as I create them.

For example, I just posted Day 2 from the Tsukiji Fish Market. Warning: lots of photos. Also, I added some linkage to discussion of my monjyayaki dinner on November 5th.

As you were.

November 10, 2005


Currently 1:18am in Tokyo.

I'm packing up and headed for Bangkok early tomorrow morning. I accomplished a lot while I've been here, despite floundering around with a toddler's level of spoken Japanese and having no reading ability at all. I didn't get to eat around as much as I had wanted. But even so, Japan has been revelation after revelation, and I've only seen a tiny bit of it. I hope to return soon.

By the way, in my limited anecdotal experience, the Japanese seem to have a much higher incidence of facial moles than what I'm used to. Moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley.

November 09, 2005

Make it a good one

Currently 8am in Tokyo.

It's my last full day in Japan today. I'm going back to Kappabashi to buy more gear, then also to Matsuzakaya department store for the depachika (food basement - usually very boutique-y) and a blow out dinner tonight.

November 08, 2005

Back in Kanto

Currently 11:23pm in Tokyo.

After spending the day in Kyoto, I took the bullet train back into Tokyo. Really dog tired - I did a lot of walking and rushing around today. BTW, Kanto is the region including Tokyo to the North, and Kansai is the term for the area in the South including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, etc. The way I understand it, beyond geography, the terms are sometimes used to imply various things about food, lifestyle, etc, but I don't pretend to know what all they are.

Daytripping Kyoto

Another day, another three onigiri from the free breakfast buffet.


Omiyage is a cultural practice of bringing the specialties of an area back as a gift or souvenir. Of course, the Japanese have elevated it to a level of ingrained social obligation - meaning it's big business. I forgot to take a shot of the Osaka and Kyoto stations, which both had elaborate areas of prepared foods, all nicely packaged, and suitable for omiyage giving. This one is mochi, azuki beans, and candied chestnut.


Continue reading "Daytripping Kyoto" »

And the Winner is...

Currently around 8am in Osaka.

After months of learning about knives and looking around Tokyo for 5 days, I finally decided on this knife, which I purchased in Osaka yesterday:


For the curious, it's made by Ichimonji Chuki which only sells out of this shop in Doguya-suji and on the web in Japanese. It's a yanagiba for sashimi, 300mm (11.7 inches, or 10 sun by Japanese measurements). It's made out of blue steel #1 (aoko), in the honkasumi method. The handle is octagonal rather than the traditional asymetric shape, and made out of kokutan wood (ebony). I decided to get a plain saya (scabbard) and stain it to match later. I thought about getting the mirror polished finish, but decided against it because this knife will discolor over time, and it's not a showpiece - it'll be my workhorse knife for fish. The next step up would have been for sumingashi, or ink pattern (damascus), which is pretty, but not any improvement in performance. Yen for yen, it wasn't the deal of the century, but more than fair for a manufacturer of this level. I've looked at a lot of knives over the last few days, and this one had all the specs I wanted and just felt right.

Now I just have to work to be worthy of it.

I had intended to go to Gifu/Seki today to see a cutlery museum, but after several people talked about Kyoto, I'm going there for most of the day instead. It won't be enough to do it any justice, but I definitely like the Kansai area a lot (Osaka, Kyoto and Nara) so it will be like scouting for next time.

November 07, 2005

Gyoza Stadium

I met up with prasantrin from eG for dinner. She suggested the Gyoza Stadium, which is a gyoza themed food court - all gyoza, all the time. The Japanese, being very hierarchially minded, have compiled and categorized all the many variations of the gyoza, and put them head to head in a gyoza deathmatch. Or something.

We agreed that a sampling from as many vendors as possible was the best route, so she took one side and I took the other. Here's what we came up with, clockwise from upper left: sudachi citrus, sea salt and pepper with gyoza, pizza gyoza with tomato sauce and cheese, panfried gyoza with two sauces, miso and yakisoba (?), crispy gyoza with yuzu-koshou, gyoza with crusty crepe effect and chili sauce, and SE Asian style gyoza with lettuce leaf wrap.

I think the sudachi and yuzu-koshou versions were our favorites. The others were quite serviceable, however, the pizza gyoza almost made prasantrin rethink her "Cheese makes anything better rule." Almost.


Continue reading "Gyoza Stadium" »

Doguya-suji in Osaka

I didn't take many pictures today because I spent several hours working out the knife purchase at Ichimonji Chuki. But here are a few:

From the Takashimaya depachika (gourmet basement). Some pastries from Chef Wada, whose picture looked familiar to me, probably from Iron Chef or Dotchi Cooking Show. This is a roll made from french bread, with an almond paste filling. Note the spike details, some of which had broken off by the time I ate it. But every piece in the store is picture perfect - quality control in the extreme.


Continue reading "Doguya-suji in Osaka" »


Currently 10:37am, Monday, November 7th.

On Sunday, I took the shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka. I'm staying at the Toyoko Inn, which is perfect for me. It's a style of hotel called a business hotel - small rooms, quite economical, but targeted toward business customers - there's Internet in the room, a coin laundry in the lobby, and it's located close to subway lines.

Today I'm off to Doguya-suji, the restaurant supply area of Osaka.

I hope to catch up with posting pix tonight.

November 06, 2005

Osaka - Bankrupted by Gluttony

No, I'm not bankrupt yet. Apparently the Japanese refer to Osaka residents as those who would go bankrupt for the love of food - or something like that. The term is kuiadore. I think it can also sometimes mean "all-ru you can eat-u". But the way the lady at the hotel described it, it can also be like a restaurant crawl - going from place to place, sorta like a tapas evening.

Anyway, here's where she sent me - the Namba area of Osaka.


Continue reading "Osaka - Bankrupted by Gluttony" »

November 05, 2005


After years of reading her posts, I had the good fortune to meet up with torakris from eGullet for dinner. We decided on a monjya-yaki place in the trendy Harajuku area of Tokyo. Here's the Monjyayaki thread on eG.

And an additional photo of the entryway of the restaurant, in case anyone wants to try and find it.


Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 2

This is in the group of vendors away from the wholesale part of the market - this is where the public might come to shop since things are packaged more conveniently, they're in a more manageable size, rather than at the wholesale area, which is just the fish in crude form.

Pickles, we got pickles.


Continue reading "Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 2" »

November 04, 2005

Around Ueno, Tokyo

I stayed at the Kinuya Hotel in the Ueno area, sort of by default. Recently, a guy who goes by sizzleteeth on eGullet had come to Tokyo, he's also a cook, and he also went to Kappabashi. So I kinda glommed on since I figured it would be a convenient. It is ridiculously convenient, being literally across the street from the Keisei line Ueno station. That station is in the ground below Ueno Park, a local landmark. This first picture is the monument in the plaza of the park, next to the police substation. It's actually taken Saturday morning at about 6:30am, whereas the rest of these are from the Friday afternoon at about 5:30pm.


Continue reading "Around Ueno, Tokyo" »

Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 1

After getting a late start due to lack of funds due to lack of banking due to lack of workday, I figured out how to get to the fish market off the Hibiya metro line. The building is somewhat curved, and it's so large that it looks like a matte painting shot in the movies, where it goes off into infinity with full detail, but it really is just that big. I'd guess about 400 yards or so just for this building, then the produce and shops are in separate buildings nearby.


Continue reading "Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 1" »

November 03, 2005

You know what happens when you assume...

Currently 7am in Tokyo.

I had planned to take the first train at 5 am to go to the Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market, but I realized that I didn't even have enough cash to buy the ticket, so I slept in 'til 6am. Being a holiday yesterday, I couldn't go to a bank. I haven't had much luck with the ATM's either, none of which seem to take any of my cards. Bank ATM's seem to be closed between 9pm and 6am, so I guess I'll find out.

Continue reading "You know what happens when you assume..." »

November 02, 2005


This is a Buddhist temple, called a hongwanji, tucked into the neighborhood near Kappabashi. It has a presence in the area because it's so large and distinctive that it can be seen through the side streets for quite a large radius. On the way back to the hotel, I decided to walk by it and take a few pictures.


As I was walking closer to get more shots of the compound, this man was letting his son drive in the open lot, and totally spontaneously, he started hamming it up.


Just a great moment of unbridled, uninhibited glee.

It's not everyday you see a halberdier...

At first, I saw these guys in hopi coats unloading a bamboo ladder. But I got that weird feeling like something was about to happen, so I went by to check it out. As I got closer, there were probably about 300 people in full Japanese medieval regalia. For the most part, they were really high quality costumes, close to museum quality. As Rich looked up for me, November 3 is called Culture Day in Japan.

By the way, the pictures look sorta overexposed because I didn't notice that I hadn't changed the settings on the camera from earlier.


Continue reading "It's not everyday you see a halberdier..." »

Scouting Kappabashi

Kappabashi is a shopping district specializing in restaurant equipment and supplies. My purpose there for the first day was to familiarize myself with the area, what's available, start to get a sense for what things cost, especially with regard to knives and specialty cooking gadgets.


Continue reading "Scouting Kappabashi" »

National Holiday?!?

Currently almost 5pm Tokyo time.

I hate showing my ignorant traveler side, but uhhhh, it's some kind of national holiday today. Not knowing this, I headed over to Kappabashi, the restaurant district, which is only two stops over on the Ginza line from where I am.

Continue reading "National Holiday?!?" »


And so it begins. I am on the ground in Tokyo, posting from a terminal in the hotel. Will try to find a Internet connection in the morning. I had a plush flight on Singapore Air (highly recommended!)and smooth transport via train to the Ueno area, and the hotel is literally across the street from the station exit.

Local time is about 8:30pm, 17 hours ahead of PST.

So far, so good!