Kamakura, former capital of Japan is about one hour train ride from Tokyo. It is a historical place with winding streets, temples, shrines, shops and markets. The farmers market, Rensokubaijo is opened throughout the week. The products in the market are from local farmers. I did not see any tourists on the day I went. However, the place was lively with customers chatting with the farmers who were there to sell their vegetables, fruits and pickles. I also had time to enjoy coffee and a piece of seed cake from a hippy coffee joint located within the market.Read more
I found Tokyo almost spotlessly clean. Surprisingly, I did not come across any signage exhorting the residents to keep the city clean. I hardly found any graffiti anywhere. There was no rubbish nor dustbins overflowing with garbage along pathways. Though I saw a number of people walking their dogs, there was no dog poop anywhere. After meals, the people clean their tables at most eating outlets.
Hardly anyone eats on the go. Some well-dressed staff, probably at management levels, were seen cleaning signboards and glass doors in and outside their offices. Shop owners swept the sidewalks and streets outside their shops.
I like Tokyo or rather Japan so much. If I get a chance, I hope to tour the whole of Japan soon.Read more
If you are in for “cool” and “cute” Japanese culture, head for Harajuku. This is north of Shibuya and a very fashionable, faddish and really crazy place for chilling out. On weekends, the place is so crowded – almost shoulder to shoulder with mostly youngsters. The most popular streets here are Takshita Street, Meiji Dori Avenue and Omotesando Dori Avenue. The shops sell a mix of American and English clothings and from Hello Kitty stuffs to hip hop. You get to see youngsters dressed in strange clothes with unique make-ups and many street performers. Some really high end restaurants and expensive restaurants line the Aoyama area.
All the spirits and mind of “Samurai” were born from this ancient city of Kamakura. Samurai spirits have always be associated with temples and Buddhism in Japan. Though there are temples all over Japan, it is believed that the real Samurai spirits exists only in the temples in Kamakura! Some of the temples you should visit are Meigetsu-in, Zeniarai Benten, Kotoku-in（Kamakura’s Great Buddha) and Hase-dera. Read more
Soba (buckwheat based) is the preferred noodle in the Kanto region in Japan, whereas, in the Osaka region, udon (wheat based) noodle is eaten widely. I had the freshest hand-made soba ever in my life in a restaurant in Kamakura. I watched the chef making it from scratch and ate it hot in a soy based broth. I was told that to enjoy a bowl of soba, you should not chew the soba noodles too much and you should feel comfortable to make noise when slurping the noodles.
A visit to Kappabashi Street, the heart of Kitchenware Town is a must for all those in the food and hotel industry. This is the street to find bargains on kitchen utensils, Japanese porcelains, lacquerware, bento boxes, trays, baskets and knives! There are so many knife shops in this street and the craftsmen making the knives are usually there to explain the knives. They will even engrave your names in Katakana (Japanese alphabets for foreign words) while you wait. In this street and the neighbouring side streets you will also find shops taking orders to make plastic dummy pieces of your original food. You need to give them photographs of your food and they will craft mouth watering plastic pieces of it!! You will also come across many small shops selling paper lanterns, wooden Japanese toys, painted silk panels, aprons, chefs uniforms and so many other things.Read more
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a must visit place when in Tokyo. To watch the Tuna Auction at the market, I had to leave the hotel at 2 am. There are no trains at night and, therefore, if you plan to visit this market, stay at a nearby hotel within walkable distance. No one is allowed into the fish market wearing flip flops or high heels as this could be dangerous since the floor in the auction hall is wet and slippery. At the market place, be prepared to dodge the numerous cars, motorized three wheelers, forklifts, vans, wooden hand carts, trucks and trolleys – all on the move. Though very chaotic, the situation is still under control. The Tsukiji Market is also known as the world’s largest fish market where transactions over 2000 tons of seafood take place every day. Frozen tuna fish is all over the floor. Men are seen cutting the fish, oops, I mean hacking or even sawing. Ice crushing machines are located at strategic spots where men feed them with huge blocks of ice to be crushed and used to preserve the fish. Guts and blood are seen almost everywhere, but, ironically, the market did not stink as awful as some of the wet markets in South East Asia.
It is certainly love at first sight with a fellow foodie when I met Ayuko who runs Buddha Bellies Cooking School in Tokyo!! The table was laid with some of the ingredients needed to make Edomae Sushi. Edomae sushi essentially means Tokyo-style sushi. In the 18th century, Tokyo was known as Edo and sushi was food specially invented for travellers who wanted bite size food on the go. Therefore, ingredients like vinegar, soy sauce, kelp and other ingredients were added to the rice to prevent spoilage or to make the rice lasts longer. Ayuko explained the brief history of sushi and types of sushi. Occasionally, she would take a book or two from the shelves and show us pictures of ingredients or sushi so that we understood betterRead more
If the Tsukiji fish market is too intimidating for you, take a walk in the narrow streets just outside the market. You will find a wealth of seafood, fresh vegetables including the wasabi roots, dried seafood like bonito flakes and dried squids and many varieties of dried seaweed or kelp. There are also shops selling handcrafted sashimi knives and Japanese porcelain ware. The best quality sashimi restaurants are also located in this outer market.