Thursday, 20 July 2017

Japan: Tokyo in Pictures 2017

Ah, Japan.
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One of the must-trys in Japan: silky ice cream Cremia!

A country that had been on my to-go list for so long and it's finally been ticked of the list.

David and I spent three weeks in Japan, exploring the four cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. We spent the most time in Tokyo, 9 days to be exact, and so my post will be divided to Tokyo and everything else.

No, I didn't get to tick off all the food places I wanted to try, mostly because David isn't food-centred like I am. We did try some of the best food we've tried in our lives, and I realized that just because one restaurant isn't listed on the recommended list, it does not mean that it's not good. We've had so many good random restaurants that we actually remember more than the fancy ones.

So, Tokyo. The capital city of Nihon. The big, bustling city with vigorous night life. The city whose people are more than happy to help, and even retrieve your lost wallet in the train (this actually happened).

The 9 days we spent there were more than amazing, and very enjoyable. I'm gonna let the pictures do most of the talking.


Tokyo


Tsukiji Fish Market (Tsukiji)

It is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo, and it only opens early in the morning until about 9 a.m. The tuna auction is only available if you have to will to wake up at 4 a.m., if not earlier.

We were at the market pretty early, as e arrived in Tokyo at 6 a.m. It is a massive market, lots of fresh seafood, slices of sashimi, and restaurants. Even then the shops seemed to be getting ready to finish the day already. So top tip here: go early.

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Prawns and shellfish for sale at Tsukiji Market.

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Tuna head on display.

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Those massive crab legs!

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Rolled omelette, served with grated radish on top. Warm, sweet, and savoury at the same time.

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Pickles stall at Tsukiji Market.

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Really tasty yakitori or chicken skewers. Freshly made on the spot!

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Grilling uni (sea urchin) and oyster with butter.

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Neither of us like sashimi and raw seafood, so we had to order something that involved cooked seafood. We even struggled to finish this grilled kaisendon, although it had fresh thinly sliced seafood on top.

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Strawberry stall. So many packaged strawberries.

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The strawberries are much bigger than we usually have here, but unfortunately not as amazing or sweet as I thought they would be.

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Strawberries on sticks, melon slices. The melon is much better than the strawberries!


Roukurinsha (Tokyo Station and Marounuchi)

45 mins for a bowl of ramen? Sure why not.

Roukurinsha is always the bowl of tsukemen I've always dreamt of trying, and so I did. Fast forward the queue, the bowl was delicious to say the least. The noodles fat and chewy, the dipping sauce warm, full of punching flavours, and the egg runny and creamy. Plus the super tender chashu slices.

*insert 100 emoji*

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Tsukemen at Roukurinsha, with extra soft boiled egg.

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ROUKURINSHA
Tokyo Station Ramen Street
1-9-1 Marunochi, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 3286 0166


Mount Fuji and Kawaguchiko

Mount Fuji was like something that comes straight from a screensaver. Everything else looked green and fresh while the mountain stood majestic with its snowy blanket. I could've sworn it was photoshopped to the background.

We explored Aokigahara, the infamous suicide forest, and ended up getting lost in Kawaguchiko which turned out to be so much fun. Some random udon bowl and fried chicken were enjoyed, as well as the super milky Cremia.

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Mt. Fuji. How majestic.

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Bowls of udon with kakiage (vegetable fritter) and prawn tempura from a random street food truck in Kawaguchiko.

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Cremia! Very milky, creamy, delicious, but slightly too milky for me. I was never a fan of milk anyway. But definitely a must try.


Maid Cafe (@Home Cafe) (Akihabara)

Akihabara is weird - in so many ways. Or maybe it's just weird for us, the foreigners. It's such a geek centre, with the anime, the figurines, the claw machines, as well as random sex shops easily accessible. It is also home of some of the most popular maid cafes around town.

We went to @Home Cafe, which I found slightly creepy. The cafe itself was lovely, don't get me wrong, and the girls dressed up like maids were pretty and kawaii (cute). It's their loyal customers - which are mostly 30+++ years old who own personalised keychains with the girls' photos on that I found creepy.

It's a one-off kinda experience for me. The prices are expensive for what we actually get, but it's the experience that counts. And oh, we cannot take photo of the maids, but we do get a polaroid taken by them.

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Everyone has to order at least a drink here. We also had a parfait, which had chocolate ice cream, jellies, brownie, cream, wafer, and all the usual parfait stuff. Nothing special.

@HOME CAFE (Akihabara Main Branch)
Mitsuwa Bld. 4F - 7F
Sotokanda 1-11-4, Chiyoda, Tokyo
101-0021, Japan

Phone: +813 3255 2808


Shinjuku

Golden Gai, Kabukicho, Robot Restaurant - there are so many great things in Shinjuku. Definitely a place if you love night life, Shinjuku has everything that will entertain you for hours. The show at Robot Restaurant is weird but very hard to turn your head away from, the Kabukicho is full of weird people offering even weirder stuff, but there are always something for you. Batting cages, photo-booths, and game centres are abundant, as well as restaurants and bars. It's more about entertainment rather than shopping, which can be found more in Shibuya.

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Kabukicho gate, Shinjuku.

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Kabukicho in Shinjuku.

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Show at Robot Restaurant.


Kushikatsu Tanaka (Shinjuku)

It's a noisy little restaurant serving yakitori (grilled skewers) and kushiyaki (deep fried skewers). Their dried chicken are great too, especially with ice cold grape sour.

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Kushiyaki & fried chicken.

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Fried stuff & beer, what's better?

KUSHIKATSU TANAKA
3-12-4 Shinjuku 
Kumasan Bldg. 1F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 6274 8594


Kakekomi Gyoza (Shinjuku)

We wanted something nice and easy with more alcohol after watching the show at Robot Restaurant, so we asked the locals with our very limited Japanese, and ended up at Kakekomi Gyoza. It is a warm and cozy little restaurant with pretty lanterns as decorations.

They have katsu gyoza, deep fried gyoza, and steamed gyoza, but the pan fried gyoza is the best.

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Pretty lanterns at Kakekomi Gyoza.

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Fried gyoza, katsu gyoza, pan fried gyoza.

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Pan fried gyoza.

KAKEKOMI GYOZA
1-12-2 Kabukicho 
1-2F 58th Tokyo Bldg., Shinjuku 160-0021, Tokyo Prefecture
 Phone: +813 6233 7099


Kushiya Monogatari (Shinjuku)

This place is probably (one of) the reason of how I gained so much holiday weight.

It's actually magical. All you can eat kushiyaki (deep fried skewers) place, where you collect all the skewers you heart fancy (veggies, meat, prawns, potato, etc), bring it to your table with a bowl of their special batter and breadcrumbs, and you deep fry them all in the mini deep fryer in your table. All tables have their own mini deep fryer, how awesome is this idea?

We ended up spending about $80 for two, with all you can drink alcohol and soft drink. We finished about 70 skewers between the two of us. No regrets.

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Check out the deep fryer in the table! They also have various side dishes and at least 5 types of dipping sauce.

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The fyring itself only took a couple of minutes. Such a great eating experience.

KUSHIYA MONOGATARI (Shinkuju Building)
1-19-1 Kabukicho 
1F Shinjuku Toho Bldg., Shinjuku 160-0021, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 5285 1008


Bankara Ramen (Shinjuku)

The broth is made form pork fat, and it results in slightly fattier and heavy ramen soup. The noodles and pork slices are perfect, but the soup does get slightly too intense in the end. Extra minced garlic really alleviated the flavours even more.

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Bankara ramen in its glory.

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Pork slices with ginger. Refreshing.

RAMEN BANKARA
1-17-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku 160-0021, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 6505 5215


Ramen Ichiran (Shinjuku)

Another bowl of ramen worthy of a crown.

It is not a place that is big in promoting socializing or chit chats, as it clearly is about privacy, personal, intimate time between you and your bowl of ramen. The queue wasn't bad when we were there, and the menu is simple and easy to pick. It's either the regular bowl or the special one with extra toppings. You can also customize your preferences on the noodles, amount of garlic, thickness of the broth, etc.

My tonkotsu ramen was warm, the broth slightly on the lighter side of the spectrum (even after ticking 'thicker' on the personalized order), but nonetheless very flavorsome. The soft boiled egg is a must order.

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Ramen Ichiran in its private booth.

RAMEN ICHIRAN
3-34-11 Shinjuku 
Peace Bldg B1F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 3225 5518


Shibuya

Who doesn't know Shibuya crossing and its hectic shopping and night life? With the biggest and busiest crossing in the country, Shibuya is the place to be if you ever visit Japan. Taking photos and looking at hundreds of people crossing from four different directions are mesmerising, but being in it is another level of experience.


Shopping around Shibuya Center-gai (Tokyu Hands is amazing), visiting Hachiko statue, and exploring culinary spots here are just a few things you can do in Shibuya.

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Shibuya crossing.

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Shibuya Center-gai at night.


Dominique Ansel Patisserie (Shibuya)

Ever since the cronut craze, I've been longing to try the cookie shot and frozen s'more, and many other things Mr Ansel has invented. We only had lunch and thus I was limited to one choice. It was not an easy task to choose.

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Yasssssss.

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How cute are the Daruma mini cakes?? Only available in Japan, tho.

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Cannele de bordeaux.

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Cronut. From the original maker himself.

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Of course I chose the Frozen S'more. It is torched to order, and the sight of bubbling and charring marshmallow itself is already an entertainment.

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Everything is edible, except for the wooden stick. Believe me, I tried.

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Frozen S'more - 100% honey marshmallow coating enclosing Tahitian ice cream covered with chocolate feuiletine flakes. The marshmallow was shiny and has this crack-able burnt sugar coating, and the ice cream is very creamy with great crunch of the chocolate wafer.

DOMINIQUE ANSEL (Omotesando Shibuya)
Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 5-7-14
Phone: +813 3486 1329


Maisen Tonkatsu (Shibuya)

Deep fried pork katsu. Actually, the best deep fried pork katsu.

Kurobuta or Japanese black pig is high-end type of meat that has juicy and tender characteristics, and this is what Maisen offers.

The Kurobuta set has tonkatsu, deep fried vegetables, a bowl of perfectly cooked rice, shredded cabbage, and a bowl of miso soup. The tonkatsu batter is absolutely out of this world, and it's the actual definition of crunchy, crispy, and crackling. 0% sogginess, 100% awesomeness. The meat inside is just as promised, if not better: juicy, tender, perfectly cooked.

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Kurobuta set from Maisen.

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The best tonkatsu I've ever had. Hands down.

MAISEN (Shibuya)
4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +811 2042 8485


Sushi Uobei by Genki (Shibuya)

Sushi train in Japan just isn't the same like it is in Sydney. There's something about the loud 'irrashaemashe' (welcome), the efficient service, and the prompt delivery of the food.

Sushi Uobei has all three of the above. There's also minimal interaction to another human being here, which seems to be a trend in Japan. Menu is available on the iPad on every seat, and the plates of sushi are delivered by long, robotic platters. The delivery are divided into three lanes, ensuring no disruptions to each delivery. See the video at @irenesgf Instagram.

The food itself is cheap and cheerful, with the classic sashimi to nigiri, as well as mini chicken katsu skewer and mini bowl of warm ramen. Totally recommended.

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Sushi Uobei booth seating.

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Plates and plates of sushi.

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Pork katsu on a stick.

SUSHI UOBEI BY GENKI
2-29-11 Dogenzaka 
1F, Shibuya 150-0043, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone:  +813 3462 0241


Usagiya (Shibuya)

It was a cool night and the thought of all you can eat shabu-shabu was what lured us in. It wasn't bad for $60 for two, and we made sure we ordered all the meat we could order. It was not the best meal we've had in Japan though.

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Shabu-shabu dinner at Usagiya. Noodles, mushrooms, veggies, and of course, meat.

USAGIYA
1-10-6 Sasazuka 
1F, Shibuya 1510073, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 5454 9003


Harajuku

Harajuku is home to many interesting landmarks. Meiji-jingu Shrine for example, which is such a big yet quiet, serene shrine in a middle of a busy suburb. Omote-sando, a couple of blocks full of branded shopping and beautiful modern architecture.

And of course, the Takeshita-dori, the shopping street with endless retail shops and even more people filling all corners of the street. We got some really cool vintage items here that will make the hipsters in us proud.

And you must not skip having some crepes from either Marion Crepes or Angel's Heart Crepes while window shopping.

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Takeshita-dori. Honestly it got so packed it was almost impossible to even move 1 metre away.

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Marion Crepes, Takeshita-dori.

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Fake crepes on display.

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Chocolate and strawberry crepe with ice cream in it. So good after hours of walking.


Asakusa and Kappabashi Kitchen Street

Everywhere we go in Tokyo, it just seems like every suburb has their own unique appeal. Asakusa has vibrant traditional feel, especially with Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa-jinji Shrine. Nakamise Street, which is the shopping street, is located just before the entry of the shrine and it is such a great place to buy souvernir, snacks, and street food.

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The beautiful and traditional Asakusa.

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Hand-pulled rickshaw.

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Nakamise Street at Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa.

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Fish roe steamed buns.

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Asakusa Menchi Katsu, which was fried ground beef pattie. Delicious to the max. It was crispy, juicy, meaty - perfect with a can of beer.

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Chocolate coated bananas.

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Fried chicken, fried on the spot. Tasty crunchy jacket with juicy meat.

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Grilled seafood, meat, chicken on skewers. Grilled to order.

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Grilled squid legs. All skewers were drenched in sweet/savoury yakitori sauce and sprinkled with chilli powder before serving.

Kappabashi Kitchen Street is on the other exit from Asakusa Subway Station, and you'll know you're at the right place when you see a giant chef head on a building.

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The giant chef head!

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Fake food. They look exactly like the real ones. Their attention to details is amazing.

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Fake food keychain. From sushi to fruits to grilled fish, all look impressively similar.

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Tea cups and bowls shop in Kappabashi Kitchen Street.


Daikokuya Tempura (Asakusa)

We found Daikokuya in Asakusa, and it is recommended from Lonely Planet. They are the only tempura place that uses sesame oil for deep frying, resulting in fragrant tempura. The rice was perfect and doused generously with sweet soy sauce mixture. The prawn tempura came in decent sizes and although they tasted nice, they were very soggy and not crispy at all.

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Daikokuya Tempura, Asakusa. This is their tendon (prawn tempura on rice).

DAIKOKUYA TEMPURA
1-38-10 Asa kusa, Taito 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: +813 3844 2222


Mister Donut

No Krispy Kreme in 7-11 here, but we're more than happy to settle with Mister Donut. Their pon de ring or mochi rings are chewy, sweet, and very moreish.

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Donuts on offer at Mister Donut.

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Chocolate pon de ring, with cinnamon donut holes.


Sumo and Chanko-nabe (Ryogoku)

You just cannot miss sumo. Go around May and September, which are sumo's seasons. I was never big about it before, but after watching a match, I just cannot wait to watch another one. It is such jovial festival, and watching the wrestles enter the stadium with their own fans cheering was unforgettable too.

We went with a tour from Viator, and we had a great guide that explained everything for us. It was great. A chanko-nabe dinner was included in the tour, which involved a mini hot pot with fish, tofu, and veggies, with many side dishes including tempura, sashimi, and a bowl of rice.

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Sumo match in Ryogoku.

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What sumo wrestles eat: chanko-nabe. Usually served with chicken, as it symbolizes winning in sumo wrestling.


Shake Shack (Meiji Jingu Gaien)

There were two burger places we tried in Japan: Maccas and Shake Shack. The former we tried just for novelty of trying Maccas in different country (the ebi burger was more than decent though), and the latter because it is such a big name in the world of burgers.

I went gaga and had the Shake Stack that has dried mushroom patty along with the meaty, juicy meat pattie and melting cheese layer. It was greasy but still very satisfaying. The Smoke Shack that has smoke applewood bacon and shopped cherry pepper sauce wasn't as spicy as we thought it would be.

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Burgers from Shake Shack, along with their famous curly fries.

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Shake Stack.

SHAKE SHACK
Meiji Jingu Gaien
1-1 Kasumigaokamachi, Shinjuku 160-0013, Tokyo Prefecture 
Phone: +813 3379 5511


Random food enjoyed along the way + convenience stores food

Like I said, not all things we ate came from my itinerary. Sometimes, if not most of the times, we just came across a place that looked good and we were hungry. Then these happened.

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Ramen from Ramen Kagetsu, a ramen franchise joint. The spicy ramen was pretty on point.

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Gyudon (beef on rice) with egg from Yoshinoya.

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Spicy tonkotsu ramen from Ramen Zundo-ya (thanks Ramen Raff!). It was 10/10 spicy. Spiciest I've had on this trip.

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Udon from a random udon restaurant in Ameyoko Market, Ueno.

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Cheap and tasty curry rice from a random restaurant in Hamamatsucho Trade Centre Building (connected to the station).

Convenience stores in Japan are absolutely next level. From bread, sandwiches, and rice and noodles dishes ready to be microwaved. Beers and alcoholic drinks are easily accessible from the stores or even the vending machines. Life is great here.

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Bento (lunch box) which is a must for a shinkansen ride. This one wasn't so great, so I'd recommend the tonkatsu on rice.

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Rice dishes in convenience stores. My favourites are from Lawson.

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Potato croquettes, chicken karaage, fried fish cake, etc. You would think that they would be stale, but the chicken karaage was awesome.

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Really awesome fried chicken bites from Lawson. Wasn't expecting that at all.

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Best breakfast: katsu sandwich and egg sandwich from convenience stores. Ate it almost everyday. So good, so cheap.

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More convenience store tidbits. The onigiri (rice triangles) are great too.

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Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima aren't less exciting. See more of the other cities on my next post! Watch this space.


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3 comments:

  1. You covered most of the must eats haha this is awesome. That spicy tonkotsu ramen looks like it's from Zundoya. Bankara is awesome! You should try their tsukemen next time. Rokurinsha is boss and Maisen makes the best tonkatsu ever! Dominique Ansel's frozen smores are the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Raff! Your Japanese is truly 100 100 100.

      Delete
  2. You packed in heaps! I think you could spend a month in Tokyo and still have things you haven't eaten yet. Kappabashidori is my happy place too.

    ReplyDelete

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