Japan, Part 1

  12 May 2014


I’m baaaaack! Oh you didn’t know I left? You should totes follow me on Instagram! Anywhos, a coupla weeks ago the boy and I left Oz for Japan and we had the best time. Like seriously, we wanted to go back as soon as we had left! It started when we checked in at JAL and got upgraded from cattle class economy to premium with glorious seats that reclined to an almost complete flatness and made the next 10 hours flight time fly by.


But then how to get from the airport to our hotel? We were staying at Hotel Sunroute Higashi-Shinjuku (7-27-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo) which was pretty good, decent price per night with free wifi, super close to a station, clean rooms and staff who spoke perfect english. The only negative was that unfortunately the hotel was not part of the Airport Limousine Bus route so we had to navigate the trains but luckily we had picked up a wifi router (we used JCR $180 for 300MB/day) so Google Maps was a massive help. The thing to remember is that Japan has 3 wacky train lines- the subway, the tram/monorail and the normal trains so if you ever need to switch lines to get somewhere and can’t find the platform it’s prolly cos you gotta go outside and enter another station. Anyways! We took the Narita Express, cost about $30 and took about an hour to get to Shinjuku.


We dropped our bags off at our hotel and even though I was super zombified after the flight, Noods wanted to go exploring immediately so we walked into the nearest ramen shop.


Zomg what is this madness?! Noods taking photos of his food??? According to Noods the ramen was tasty with a flavourful broth and firm noodles but he wasn’t fond of the amount of shallots piled mile high lol


My hunger awakened when we walked by Kizuna Sushi (Building B1, 1F, 1-18-8, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo). We’d spied a large group milling around the entrance and originally we were stopping just for a drink but I was glad we did in the end because woo! Fatty tuna time (880yen/$9)! Toro, Chu-Toro and my absolute fav: the O-Toro! I’ve always hated tuna in Aus because there was something about the texture that creeped me out but the tuna in Japan? SWOON. Melt in the mouth, tender and such clean flavours!


The Sushi Mix (2480yen/$26) gave us a pretty good selection, Noods loved the scallop sushi in particular while I dove headfirst into the uni (sea urchin) sushi. The miso soup was complimentary which we appreciated because it was so damn cold and we hadn’t packed any winter thermals for the trip ๐Ÿ™


The next day we set off to hit all the (depachika) department stores, in particular the famed food halls on the basement level. On the way to Takashimaya, we passed this gyoza store and vowed to return but sadly forgot all about it and ended up not eating any gyozas on the entire trip!


The food levels are amazing. Sure, there’s a crapload of packaging but the attention to detail of each and every product is just mind blowing! The Japanese cherish seasonal local produce and it’s a pretty important role in their culture. When we enter on the lower level (B2) where the fresh produce are sold, we literally just stopped dead in our tracks and stared at how perfect everything was. I mean, look at them strawberries! Not jumbled haphazardly into a carton but placed super carefully and everything!


Even the meat is perfect!


I’ve never seen fresh seafood so meticulously arranged!


I was obsessed with the mini watermelons I kept seeing everywhere, even on the street at fruit kiosks! They weren’t cheap either, averaging at 4000yen/$42 each o_0


And when we saw these melons we immediately backed away at their price- 11000yen/$115 each!!!


Packaged sushi all ready for an easy takeaway meal.


Crazy sandwiches aplenty with flavours like rum & raisin with whipped cream; mandarin, orange & pineapple; shrimp & egg salad.


Ridiculously tall and fluffy chiffon cakes! We got lured in with free samples of the maple chiffon and couldn’t resist buying one.


At the Isetan food hall we found Imagawayaki aka fluffy fat pancake with fillings like red bean, chocolate or vanilla custard. These babies were only 100yen/$1 each!


Mmm super generous with the fillings = happiness


And also lined up for fresh Taiyaki, a fish shaped pancake with a crispy waffle outer, fluffy innards and a filling of red bean, chocolate or vanilla custard.


So tasty!


So my only gripe with the food halls is that there’s nowhere to eat. Like, people buy stuff to take away but because it’s considered rude to walk around and eat at the same time we decided to do the one touristy thing we had never wanted to do: visit the cherry blossoms. We’d actually spied signs to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on our way to the department stores and it was just a 10min walk and 200yen/$2 entry to get in. So yeah. Here’s the cherry blossoms yo!


So we had our own little picnic in the garden! The green tea mochi was for Noods because he’s crazy about their texture, then there was a random koi pancake filled with mung bean, a couplea slices of the famous Castella cake with its super fine texture, a red bean Dorayaki pancake aaaand my fave, strawberry shortcake which was as light as a cloud!


Noods wanted something savoury so it was off to find ramen. No idea on the name of this ramen shop but it had a sign saying: no ramen, no life lol


About 50% of ramen shops have a ticket machine system out front. The first time we used one we had nfi how it worked and only found out after watching other ppl that you had to put your money in before making your selection. Some places have photos but others don’t so I guess be prepared for random foods?


Luckily I can recognise hiragana and katakana characters thanks to Japanese classes back in high school and I can sound out most stuff so tadah one tonkotsu ramen with tamago (egg). While the egg was a tad overcooked we loved the fatty chashu pork and it was just pretty damn awesome with the rich and umami filled broth.


We wandered around and oggled all the lights in Shinjuku and ended up at Memory Lane aka Piss Alley.


There’s rows of itty bitty restaurants that could only fit max 6 customers, serving yakitori and giant mugs of beer.


We went into a random one and ordered pork belly and chicken skin skewers.


Oh and karaage because fried chicken yo


So many lights! So bright, so vivid…


And so many pachinko parlours! The sound inside is deafening as hundreds of tiny metallic balls go a-clanking.


Everything closes pretty late in Japan which was awesome for us because we just kept getting peckish. Helloooo takoyaki balls from Gindaco!


The octopus takoyaki balls (310yen/$3.25) were piping hot and perfect for the crazy cold weather.


Aaaand then I couldn’t help stopping in at Cafe Gre (3-21-3 | Shinjuku Towa Bldg. 2.3 F, Shinjuku) for their super light strawberry chiffon cake (700yen/$7). So many eats, so little time! Stay tuned for part 2 ๐Ÿ˜›

Click here for Japan Part 2
Click here for Japan Part 3
Click here for Japan Part 4

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