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Everything posted by thelobster

  1. I've been to 7-11s in Denmark, and the ones in Japan are totally different. In Japan they offer a wide range of prepared foods and some of them are fairly good. You can get different types of grilled fish, grilled chicken, Okinawan-style tofu stir-fry, Chinese dumplings, salads, sushi, various bento combinations and much more. There's good turnover, so the food is always fresh, and everything is clearly time-stamped so you can see how many hours old it is.
  2. I thought I was quite clear that I was saying the heat of August makes it miserable to travel around Japan in general, not that Tokyo is somehow exempt from that. But moving around from city to city, from hotel to hotel, with luggage in hand and two young children in tow, is far more difficult than simply taking air-conditioned taxis or subways within one city. The shinkansen doesn't make exploring the whole country in August easy, it makes it doable. The OP didn't ask to get a feel of Japan, he asked us to review his itinerary of restaurants and sights in Tokyo and Kyoto. Judging from their choice of restaurants alone, I think they'll find far more of what they're looking for in Tokyo and Kyoto than in Hiroshima or Kurashiki. (And, no offense, even if OP did ask for advice on how to "get a feel for Japan," those locations would be pretty far down on my own list of suggestions.)
  3. And just a general comment - you might want to look at a map of Tokyo and plot out some of your major destinations. Tokyo is very spread out, so it makes sense to schedule things that are near each other on the same day. For example the day you go to the Sumida River Festival, you might want to make that one of your street-food-appreciation days, or at least schedule a late dinner over on that side of town. There are literally millions of people there that day, and the fireworks are scheduled to last until 8:30pm. Which means you won't be taking a subway at 8:35 out of there because a million other people will have the same idea. Also I'd suggest getting a nice Tokyo-centered guidebook like Time Out or Rough Guide for sightseeing ideas - there's more than enough here to fill up two weeks.
  4. Even if you take taxis (and you'll need two each way for your group), that's really an awfully long trip to go just for novelty ice cream after your dinner at Kozue. And it's cutting it rather close in terms of timing too - a meal at Kozue takes some time, and is rather filling. Ice Cream Village closes at ten I think; I'm not sure when last admission is but it might be 9 or 9:30pm. I would combine Ice Cream Village (and the adjacent Dessert Park) with some of the four or five other things I suggested in Ikebukuro.
  5. I, on the other hand, would strongly suggest skipping Hiroshima, Okayama and Kurashiki. August is incredibly hot - a miserable time to travel in Japan in general - and you're traveling with a large group including kids, and 12 days is barely enough time to really see Tokyo. There's really a lot to see in Tokyo, and you could easily fill the extra days with sights that are much more interesting, fun, educational, rewarding, and memorable.
  6. I was going to suggest Daiba actually. The Decks Tokyo Beach Shopping Mall, besides having a large game center, also has a section called Daiba Itchome Shotengai, which has old-fashioned shops simulating 1950's-era Tokyo, and another section called Little Hong Kong which simulates Hong Kong of the same period. There are also a lot of other family-friendly attractions like a Maritime Museum and Fuji TV studios.
  7. After extensive research, I have found that the best brunch in Tokyo is at Beacon, about a twenty-minute walk from Meiji-Jingu. They have a nice outdoor terrace, although in late August you might be more comfortable inside. I would recommend Namja Town in Ikebukuro. It's a strange two-story game arcade that includes Gyoza Stadium, where you can satisfy your cravings for street food by trying twelve shops serving different kinds of gyoza dumplings. When you're ready for dessert, head upstairs to Ice Cream Village, where they serve over a hundred flavors of ice cream, including odd flavors like wasabi and octopus. While you're in the Ikebukuro neighborhood you can also check out the Sunshine City Aquarium, the cat cafe inside Tokyu Hands (Nekobukuro), Amlux (the theme-park-like Toyota showroom), two very large department stores with good food floors (Seibu and Tobu), and the Japan Traditional Crafts Center. The neighborhood also has a couple of very large electronics stores that rival those in Akihabara.
  8. I think you're confusing the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku with the Shitamachi museum in Ueno, which is where the huge park and other museums are located. Both are pretty interesting.
  9. And following up, Hibikiin Roppongi might be a good substitute for Inakaya - they have very good charcoal-grilled meats, and it's not as tourist-oriented as Inakaya. (Robatayaki in general are very 1980s - they've been replaced by modern charcoal-grill specialists.) Another favorite of mine in the Roppongi area is called Honmura An, an upscale soba shop that also has a full seasonal Japanese menu. If you ask your hotel to arrange things in advance, I think you can get a special tasting menu starting at around Y5000 per person; otherwise just order a la carte. The owner used to run a very good restaurant in New York City. For Day 6, En in Shiodome might be a good choice for after (or instead of) the World Trade Center Building - it's a very nice upscale modern izakaya with excellent food and a nice 40th-floor view. It's one stop away from Hamamatsucho (WTC Building) and one the same subway line that will take you back to Roppongi.
  10. Here's my essential-restaurants list, with an emphasis on new and interesting trends. Tapas Molecular Bar in Nihonbashi for experimental deconstructions of Japanese cuisine. Agaru Sagaru in Harajuku for fantastic Kyoto-style cuisine. Souten in Otsuka for yakitori, game birds and sake. Torimikura Chaya in Omotesando for charcoal-grilled chicken and game birds. Nagamine in Ginza for vegetable kaiseki. Ivan Plus Ramen in Kyodo for the four-cheese ramen. Bakuro in Ebisu for horsemeat. Butagumi in Nishi-Azabu for tonkatsu. Potager in Roppongi for vegetable sushi. Ryugin in Roppongi for modern kaiseki. Craftheads in Shibuya for Japanese microbrews.
  11. Just a few comments, mostly on restaurant choices. Day 1 - You might want to put off Meiji Jingu until later in your trip - I think the actual shrine area closes rather early. If you go on Sunday there's a lot more activity around the shrine, including lots of people who dress up in cosplay outfits. You can combine your trip to Meiji Jingu with a walking tour from Harajuku station up Omotesando to Aoyama-dori, then down to Shibuya. As for dinner at Inakaya - in my experience, let's just say that I think you can find better value for money at almost any other restaurant in Tokyo. Day 3 - "basements of department stores are known for good fast food" - not really. They're good for take-away prepared food that you can eat at home (or in your hotel), but not so much for eating on-premises. They're certainly fun to browse around though, and you can probably find some interesting-looking crafts in the department stores also. For Japanese crafts I really like the Japanese Traditional Crafts Center that's in a department store right next to Ikebukuro Station. I haven't been to Chikuyotei, but it's rated very highly. Kozue is a good choice I think. Day 4 - if you're staying at the Grand Hyatt, lunch at the Park Hyatt is quite out of the way if you're taking the shinkansen afterwards. New York Grill is okay, but if you've already been to the hotel the night before I'd say skip it. (Ignore these comments if you're actually staying at the Park Hyatt.) There are thousands of places to eat either near Roppongi or Tokyo station. Maybe Ekki in the Four Seasons next to Tokyo station might be a nice choice that's also more convenient. Or someplace at the top of the Marunouchi Building next to Tokyo Station if you want lunch with a skyscraper view. (Ekki is on a skyscraper too, but I think it's only on the seventh floor.) Day 5 - Himeji and Kyoto and then Tokyo all in one day is very ambitious - maybe check out Nijo castle in Kyoto instead of Himeji. Day 7 - As someone posted upthread, Tsukiji isn't very tourist friendly. Also the kids (and probably you) are going to be very bored waiting on line for sushi for two hours. If you do insist on seeing Tsukiji Market, go earlier in your trip when you're still jet-lagged and waking up early, and eat someplace in the outer market where you don't have to wait two hours. The branch of Zanmai with the conveyor belt is a reasonably good choice, and might be fun for the kids. The Outer Market is also fun to visit on its own, and much more visitor-friendly. Yabusame - mounted archery - I'm no expert, but I've only seen this take place one day a year in Tokyo (I think October 10), up in Waseda. This isn't something you're going to just run into at some random time of year. Re the Ghibli Museum - as far as I know, you need to get tickets well in advance - it might be something that your hotel concierge can help with if you ask ahead of time. Edo Museum is a nice choice, and convenient to your Ryogoku stop.
  12. And yes, as Blether suggested I'd recommend going one stop up to Kagurazaka, which has lots of interesting venues. My old standby is a place called Seigetsu, but if you're hunting down new-style trends you might check out Sakurasaku, which does charcoal-grilled fish and vegetables on skewers.
  13. [Ha, sometimes it feels like forever! Thanks for the intro, Comrade Blether.] It's an interesting question you have - there have certainly been a lot of changes in the Tokyo dining scene over the past ten years, and there's a lot of good food here that you won't find in New York. I think the ramen world in particular has gone through major changes, with whole new styles invented and exploding in popularity over the past five years (tsukemen, abura-soba). Also gourmet name-brand pork from heirloom breeds is a relatively new, and exciting, culinary trend. And charcoal-grill-specialty izakaya, and serious sake pubs with limited-edition monthly specials from small kura are all much more popular than they were ten years ago. In terms of specific venues, near Akebonobashi I can recommend Asama for their selection of seasonal sakes and good yakitori and very warm, friendly service. Perhaps not cutting-edge cuisine, but well worth trying out, and their sake selection is very impressive. In Akasaka Butta is very good, and representative of the new trend in gourmet pork restaurants. They serve grilled pork on skewers, including odd parts of the pig that you might not expect to see on a menu. At the other end of the price spectrum is the Kyoto kaiseki restaurant Kikunoi, which wasn't there ten years ago, and which now serves lunch as well as dinner. In Ginza, Nagamine serves a wonderful vegetable kaiseki menu that's quite unique and unlike anything you'll find in New York.
  14. The first photo is from Wako, yes.
  15. I second the recommendation for Ivan Ramen - it's really good, although a bit out of the way. Here are some more ramen recommendations.
  16. Tsunahachi Rin tempura restaurant is one of my favorite places in that part of Shinjuku, and since it's a counter, it's quite comfortable eating there by oneself. And no, Japanese curry dates back many decades before the first American military base in Japan.
  17. It's pretty casual, but there's roast chicken, Belgian beers and darts at Paul's Cafe.
  18. Osaka is a pretty big town, so I'm guessing recommendations would be more helpful tailored to where you live and work. In the meantime, here's a place to start: http://www.bento.com/kansai/index.html For day-to-day dining in Osaka I'd recommend looking for good upscale izakaya rather than specialty cuisines like sushi - you'll still get your daily dose of raw fish, along with much more variety.
  19. Glad to hear you enjoyed Horaitei! And yes, please do post.
  20. The tonkatsu restaurant in the Shin-Maru Buiding is called Katsukichi. (And there's also another pork restaurant called Tonpu.)
  21. Berkshire is the most popular gourmet pork in Japan, and it's raised locally rather than imported. It goes by the name 'kurobuta' (literally 'black pig'). I've been to Maisen and Wako and Horaitei (my former favorite place, in Shibuya), but I think Butagumi raises tonkatsu to a whole different level.
  22. Sammy's Ebisu Plaza in Dotonbori is a 1920's-themed indoor theme park with about fifty different food vendors. Tori No Mai in Namba Parks has good yakitori and seasonal dishes. Does Kuromon have a fugu restaurant along the street? I thought it was just an outdoor market. For tonkatsu in Tokyo, I'd recommend the sampler with five different types of gourmet pork at Butagumi - now that I've eaten there I don't feel like I need to eat tonkatsu anywhere else. For first-rate, affordable seasonal cuisine, En in Marunouchi is a fantastic experience; they also have branches in Suidobashi and Shiodome.
  23. Shunju near Bunkamura is usually reliable (Japanese site and pix). And there's Mikura if you want something with a Kyoto flavor.
  24. Another explanation is that maybe your friend's fluent Japanese wasn't quite as fluent as he thought. I just can't imagine being refused chopsticks on multiple occasions (unless, as someone suggested above, it was for food that wasn't normally eaten with chopsticks). Even in rural Kyushu. It's certainly never happened to me, and I've traveled around small towns quite a bit. Most guidebooks to Japan have a section of useful phrases, and they always cover restaurant ordering. If you're traveling a lot in rural areas you might even want to invest in a mini-dictionary/phrasebook from Berlitz or something like that. Many restaurants (as opposed to drinking spots) have set menus that make it easier to order. For certain types of restaurants (tempura and sushi among them) it's usually easier and cheaper to order a set meal. Walls lined with "wooden paddles" are far from universal - they tend to be found more in old-fashioned, lower-end, and/or rural restaurants. By the way, where in Japan were you planning to travel? What kinds of restaurants have you been researching? People might have more specific advice.
  25. thelobster


    Interesting article. I checked out this place: "The kaiseki at Guilo Guilo, meanwhile, is positively radical. In an old house with timbered ceilings, the place hops as waiters bound up steep steps with dishes on their arms." ...and it turns out they're called Girogiro Hitoshina, not Guilo Guilo, and they don't serve kaiseki. It makes me wonder what else the article got wrong....
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