My Food Adventures in Japan – Tokyo

After three continuous posts about food in the States, I think maybe I should talk about something else… but not today. Today I am going to talk about food, again 😀 . But I’m not going to talk about food in the States anymore. Today I’m going to talk my food adventures in Japan.

Actually, it was not much of an adventure. I went to Japan (specifically Tokyo and Fukushima) early 2014 for a week. I was traveling for work, so I did not really have much time to discover very many interesting Japanese food. Nevertheless, I shall try my best to be as entertaining as possible.

Tokyo 東京

Breakfast is called asagohan 朝ご飯 in Japanese, literally translated as morning’s meal. I spent 2 nights in Tokyo and 2 nights in Fukushima. The hotel that I stayed in when in Tokyo does not provide free asagohan, so for the two mornings that I was there, I had to look for my own breakfast.

The problem was, the hotel that I was staying in was surrounded by shopping malls, and none of the restaurants open for businesses before 10AM. The only places that I could find open were Starbucks. So I went to Starbucks on both mornings. Once at the one outside Shinjuku 新宿 train station, and once at Gotanda 五反田, near the office that I was visiting for work. Gotanda is one of the places in Tokyo where the electronics companies are located in abundance.

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Actually, going to Starbucks is a very good experience for guys. You get cute bariste serving you, you get to observe cute OLs coming in for their daily dose of caffeine, and you get to watch even more kawaii OLs and student girls rushing along the streets outside. When I say cute I mean girls that wrap their upper bodies up completely with thick jackets, scarves, gloves and whatnot, but leave their sexy legs exposed by wearing ultra short mini skirts.

Ok sorry, this is supposed to be a post about the food. Let’s move on to beverages. I had the chance to get my hands on a few Japan specialty drinks. Pocari Sweat, I bought because of the anime Slam Dunk. It was alright, although I still prefer 100 Plus. Kirin Cola and Mitsuya Cider, I bought because they are manufactured by Asahi. I realized that over here, Asahi does not only produce beer, they also produce a wide range of non alcoholic beverages and snacks.

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I spent the best part of my first evening wandering around and getting lost in Shinjuku, more on that in a later post, so much so that by the time I was ready for dinner, all the restaurants and ramen shops on the streets were fully packed with long queues out on the streets. Then I spotted a familiar yellow signboard. It was the signboard of Denny’s, which is actually an American 24 hours food chain, sort of. And there was no queue, so I went in.

It was great that even though it is Denny’s, but here the menu is Japanese fusion style. What’s not so great was that even though this is an American joint, the menu has no English translations, and the kawaii waitresses are Eigo wa hanasu dekinai.

In fact, I think, even in Tokyo, if you venture beyond the malls, it really is not very English speaking-friendly place. And if you go to other parts of Japan, the chances for you to find an English speaking person is almost non-existent.

I do know bits of Japanese words, mostly thanks to watching anime with subs rather than the dubbed versions. With my limited Japanese speaking capabilities, this was how I placed my orders with the waitress who served me:

Me: (pointed to the pictures) kore, kore, kore.
Waitress: Hai! @#$%^& desu ka?
Me: (stares at the waitress and gives her a confused look)
Waitress: (stares back at me and gives me an embarrassed look)
Waitress: Kore dake desu ka?
Me: Hai!
Waitress: Wakarimashita, @#$%^&
 arigato gozaimasu! Sukoshi matte kudasai!

That went well… and 10 minutes later, my food was served: A plate of wagyu strips on top of a pile of beansprouts and onions with chips, vege and some special Japanese sauce.

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We then spent 2 days in Fukushima spending nothing on meals as our host paid for all our meals. I’ll talk about my meals in Fukushima in my next post. For now, let’s focus on Tokyo.

So once we made it back to Tokyo, we decided to splurge a little. We went to some sort of a western style seafood restaurant located on the 13th floor of Takashimaya Time Square in Shinjuku. I think the restaurant’s name is Tokyo Ocean Grill, or something like that.

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Again, we were useless with the menu. And again, the waiter here speaku no Engurishu desu, so we used the tried and tested method of pointing at the most expensive item that they had in their menu. Moments later, this came.

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I reckon the dish is actually called Mixed Seafood Platter, except it is in Japanese. I might be wrong, but it should be close. There’s a lobster, a couple of oysters, a bit of squid, a bit of shrimps, and I remember there’s a piece of fish, chicken and beef each. What I do remember is that the price was ¥ 5 700 (approx RM 190 or US$ 57). It was bloody expensive, but it was bloody delicious, so it was bloody worth it. Actually, I was traveling for work, so the company was paying, making it doubly worth it! 😀

The following evening was our last evening in Japan. We decided to have a proper Japanese meal before we leave, so we went back to the top floor of Takashimaya, this time to a sushi place called 築地玉寿司 Tsukiji Tamazushi. Tsukiji is actually that seaside place where they do all those exciting tuna bidding. I suppose this restaurant is probably headquartered at Tsukiji, or that it gets its fish supply from Tsukiji or something.

I got myself a mixed sushi platter for ¥ 2 000 (RM 60/US$ 20)..

Fresh sushi

It was an interesting experience. You know in Malaysia, when we go for a sushi meal, the wasabi is always on the side and we get to choose how much/how little we want. Here, we do not get a wasabi side. I was perplexed. I thought wasabi is a Japanese thing so to NOT get served with wasabi in Japan is kind of strange.

The mystery was resolved when I had a bite of my first sushi and got the shock of my life (coupled with lots of tears)! The sushi was loaded with wasabi!

Wary, I began to closely scrutinize each and every piece of my sushi and discovered that each piece had differing blobs of wasabi in it, some bigger than the other. At that time I thought that maybe having sushi in Japan is actually a game between the chef and the customers, or that maybe the chef was playing a prank on us seeing that we looked like tourists. But I later learned that in a proper sushi restaurant in Japan, the sushi chef will decide how much wasabi goes into each piece of sushi. Apparently sushi with different topping warrants different quantity of wasabi, that knowledge is beyond a clueless customer so the chef decides on behalf.

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It was also in this sushi place that I had my very first 茶碗蒸し chawanmushi that has gravy on top of the egg. In Malaysia, the chawanmushi that I have always had are just steamed egg in a cup. This came complimentary with each sushi platter ordered.

I thought that would be my last meal in Japan. Apparently not. When we were at Haneda Airport waiting for our flight back to Penang, we had time to squeeze in a very special last minute supper. Two hours before I left, I was finally able to try ordering ramen from a vending machine. Yay!

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This 豚骨拉面 Tonkotsu Ramen (¥ 1 000/RM 30/US$ 10) would be my last meal in Japan. The broth is rich and flavorful, perfect ending to my Japan trip..

(Tomorrow: my meals in Fukushima)


Half-assed translation:

  1. kawaii – cute
  2. Eigo wa hanasu dekinai – Cannot speak English
  3. Kore – This, Kore dake desu ka? – Only this (these)? [by the way, you pronounce Kore as Ko-Ray and Dake as Daa-Kay, if you apply American vowels to Japanese spellings, you would embarrass yourself]
  4. Hai – Yes
  5. Wakarimashita – I understand
  6. Arigato gozaimasu – Thank you very much
  7. Sukoshi matte kudasai – Please wait for a little

I am probably 90% accurate here…

28 Comments

    • I think Starbucks is expensive too. The only reason I went there for breakfast was because the company was paying! If I were to use my own money, I’d probably grab a 100 yen sandwich from 7-11 or skip breakfast altogether! 😀

  1. All Japanese food! You are missing them? My girl loves japanese food anytime anywhere..but on the contrary, I just eat to accompany her not so much on the taste… Maybe when I was younger, no such delicacies then.. so not so used to eating Japanese food.. 🙂

    • Yeah, I think I kind of miss them… I think it’s not just you, it is the same for many. My mom likes Japanese food, but only a select few. Things like sashimi, she will run away when she sees it. 😀

  2. nice experience u had in Japan….I just have ramen @ Goku Raku few days ago and sushi feast in office last week!
    Japanese-made sushi must be very fresh and top class!

    • It depends also. There’s a lot of sushi chains in Tokyo that does okay sushi only. But the really top ones here are really good! 😉

    • I’ve heard about Yayoi-ken too, but I could not find it anywhere near where I was staying. Would’ve tried that if I had seen it!

  3. hah..hah…so funny! Kore, kore, kore and out comes your nice platter of wagyu strips 😀 I guess it is very useful they have pictures that you can point to. I must remember these simple phrases in case I need them in future. I am rather curious about the ramen vending machine. It’s amazing the ramen comes out like that. By the way what is OLs? I know it’s definitely not Old Ladies 😀

    • Ah, that bit about wasabi hidden in the sushi – not so good if you don’t like wasabi. I would prefer to mix it up with soya sauce first. Is that the common way in Japan? Perhaps it is not so wasteful that way because I noticed that here, some people just touch a bit of the wasabi and some don’t touch it at all. And I do wonder if our restaurants here recycle the untouched wasabi.

      • I don’t really know, because I have only been to one sushi place. You do get the soy sauce on the side. Apparently, the newer sushi belt chains do what we do in Malaysia where you get wasabi on the side together with the soy sauce. It is the more reputable real sushi places that does it like how I got it.

    • Hahaha no lah! You order through vending machine, then the kitchen prepare and you get served like normal. They don’t serve the noodles through the vending machine hahaha! The vending machine just eliminates the cashier.

      OL = Office Ladies, you are 50% correct hahaha!

  4. Been to Tokyo once a long time ago. Now I know not to order sushi in Japan coz I hate wasabi!!! 🙁 I was wondering why you ordered a western seafood platter in Japan (ah…company tab)! Didn’t understand a word of Japanese you uttered except maybe for the “symbols”…wakakaka! 😀

    • I think maybe you can request not to have wasabi infused. According to my Japanese work counterpart, only the real sushi places with real sushi chefs will do this. The more commonly available sushi chains will have wasabi on the side.

  5. awwww, nice food you had there.. it would be convenient if breakfast is served in hotel, else i won’t mind to go out hunting for asagohan too.. and one thing i would do in Japan, try as many varieties of can or bottled drinks i could from the vending machines, that’s fun~~ :p

    • Strangely, I have not seen as many vending machines as I expected. Most of my drinks came from 7-11 and Lawson’s..

  6. Went long ago. All I could remember was everything was so expensive I could not afford to eat. Pay those days so miserable. Had to stick to the regular meals provided in the package tour. Sobsssss!!!!

    • Actually, if we compare spending power, pay today is more miserable compared to those days. The difference is the current generation (me) has our priorities set differently. We would be willing to part with money more easily when it comes to traveling and getting the full experience of travels. Of course the downside is, we hardly have any savings. 😐

  7. Aaah another yummy post.. Yep I like to read food post, makes me hungry at 6am, hehe.. Been to Tokyo once during a company trip many years ago.. We had beef, beef and more beef, with the sesame sauce dipping, and lots of Japanese rice with grilled salmon.. But what I love most is your bowl of ramen in your last picture.. I can slurp 3 bowls !!

    • Everything you can slurp a lot one! 😀

      Good that you’ve been to Tokyo before, it should be a wonderful experience for you too! 😉

  8. Wow, now I am lagi super jeles. Not only you get to go to USA many times for work, you get to go to Tokyo for work too!! So good your client paid for most of your meals. Must be a very memorable trip for you. Why didn’t you extend your days there and visit on your own longer since you get free flight there already?

    I tagged along with my spouse (then boyfriend) to Tokyo on his work trip there. I only learn one word that is Wakaranai so whenever they speak japanese to me, I just answer that one word.

    I go into tempura fast food chain, and just point at the pictures in the menu to order what I want to eat, no need to speak at all, hehehe. Very nice food, tempura don – bowl. I wish there are tempura don fast food chain here.

    • If they open a tempura fast food chain here, I think it will be priced at a premium like those Japanese restaurants. Then it would be pointless. 🙁

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