Japan

Save the Best for Last

Mmmmmmmmmppphhh! That good huh? Mmmhmmmmmphhummmmmmm! These are sounds of our conversation during our last meal in Tokyo at Kaikaya. We’re using the term “conversation” loosely. It was a consistent chorus of expletives and grunts of joy. This was hands down our favorite meal in Japan and possibly one of our best meals of the entire trip. Yes. We said it. Our dinner at Kaikaya was THAT GOOD. So good that we had to save it for our last post about Japan. We checked out of our hotel just before noon and attempted to eat at Kaikaya for lunch. The owner […]

No Translations

We traipsed around Osaka, trying to find a spot worthy to spend our last dinner in Japan. This was challenging because we wanted to stay within a reasonable distance from the station so we can catch the train back to Kobe. With no reliable food recommendation source and grumblings coming from our stomachs, we poised our noses and armed our instincts.  Turning a corner, we heard laughter and clanging plates coming from a packed izakaya and as soon as we questioned to ourselves if this place was the winner, a man (who we later learned was the owner) appeared out […]

Harbor Re(port)

Night after night we were transfixed by the luminescence of the glowing lights at Meriken Park and the Harborland in the Port of Kobe. We had our first glimpse of these attractions during one of our long evening walks. Kobe’s Harborland is made up of the Mosaic, an open air mall with lots of shops and restaurants (an arcade too!), and an outdoor amusement park. Meriken Park is home to the Kobe Port Tower and the Maritime Museum. We visited this area on numerous occasions. Why? Because we moved to a hotel nearby halfway through our stay in Kobe. There’s […]

Chinatown Kobe: Take 2

You got a dozen? Yea, a dozen. Wow. You’ll thank me later. Our tasting of Kobe’s Chinatown treats with Tyler left us wanting more. Our interest was particularly piqued at a spot with a line extending down the street selling pork buns. What’s so special about pork buns? Well, the bun itself is spongy and soft but didn’t stick to our mouths. The pork filling was juicy, just the right amount of salty and it tasted pork.. no mysterious bits of meat in there! A dozen was, in fact, the perfect amount.  In true Raymela fashion, we properly prefaced the […]

Jackpots & Snapshots

Japan has a fascinating pop culture. Even though we’ve seen many a salaryman passed out from too much Asahi on the street, certain establishments cater to people of all ages to pull them away from drinking and other vices. The arcades are one of these places. Located near almost every metro station and city center, heaps of people find their solace here in front of the brightly lit screens. Different from typical American arcades, those in Japan act as a true playground for gamers since there are no prizes — monetary or otherwise. People invest hours of their time battling […]

Rain on Rokko Mountain

We love the rain. Many times on this trip, we’ve embraced rain showers and downpours. The same was true during our visit to Rokko Mountain. Since we’ve stayed in the city during most of our time in Japan (aside from that stupidly fun night of waterfall mountain hiking), Tyler suggested that we take the funicular up to the top of the mountain. A hike would have been an admirable alternative and an effective way to work off some of the yummy and calorie-pumped food we’ve been eating, but the mountain was steep and we started our day rather late. More […]

When in Kobe

So you were in Kobe for two weeks, did you eat Kobe beef?? This was a common question we’ve been asked on a number of occasions. Our answer: DUH… But the big surprise comes when we mention that we only tried Kobe beef once during our entire stay. Why? Because genuine, high grade, Japanese Kobe beef is worth it’s weight in pudge. In otherwords, it’s expensive! We scoured every food forum and blog we could find about where to eat this local delicacy and eventually decided on Mouriya. While doing our restaurant research, we clarified our understandings on Kobe beef, […]

Lost and Found

If we haven’t established before, let us do so now — throughout this trip, in pretty much every stop, we’ve gotten lost…most of the time on purpose. This gives us a chance to see much more of an area and discover little surprises along the way, even though sometimes we end up walking in circles or find ourselves miles from our hotel or apartment. No wrong turns, right? This technique worked to our benefit as we left the Meiji Shrine and went in search of our beloved DIY okonomiyaki. Without a proper map or internet access, we walked down numerous […]

Shrine On

Japan is really an astounding country. We’ve rambled on and on about all the incredible food we’ve eaten, the shiny and soaring buildings and peacefulness exuded by the people we encounter. This serenity also manifests itself in the two Shinto shrines we visited — the Meiji Shrine and the Ikuta Shrine. The Meiji Shrine, in the Shibuya neighborhood of area of Tokyo, was constructed between 1915 and 1926 to celebrate Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken who are widely respected for advancing the country on all fronts: politically, socially, and industrially. By the time the Emperor passed in 1915, […]

Street Scenes

We didn’t have to visit a museum or know the local language to really experience Tokyo. Simply taking a walk around the city streets had us stopping in awe of some very eccentric fashion statements, lots (and lots!) of people, and towering, bright buildings.  We didn’t have to visit a toy store to find dolls. Many of the perfectly primped women, donned with detailed accessories and pristine outfits could have been porcelain figurines. On the other hand, the younger ones had more playful take on fashion. We didn’t have to visit a zoo to see some animals. At a popular […]

An Ode to Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese Cheesecake — so good it deserves it’s own haiku. oh lovely cheesecake you fill my belly with joy my life is complete It’s hard to describe this cheesecake. A rational description would be: a combination of a sponge cake and a traditional American cheesecake, but that doesn’t do the Japanese cheesecake justice. Here’s our thought process when trying to describe it: C: Light airy, melts in your month. R: Hmm… it’s pretty much heavenly. C: No, not just heavenly. It’s like a cow who died from getting hit by a car that stopped a caravan of hooligans that just […]

The Day We Were Pickpocketed…

…by a deer! Only in Nara would such a spectacle occur. Deer are considered sacred animals or messengers of the gods that provide protection to both the city and the country. Vendors sell biscuits to those wanting to feed the very sociable deer. We (particularly Carmela) wanted no part of it because one of those creatures started nibbling on her pocket looking for food when she was looking the other way — sneaky! However, it was rather hysterical to watch visitors of every age feeding the overly enthusiastic deer their snacks, thin biscuits called shika sembei.Note that the purpose of […]

Over Cons(yummm)ption
Part Two: Junks

Lawson, Family Mart, Sunkus — these are three of the major Japanese convenience stores that can be found on almost every block (much like the Duane Reades and Rite Aides of NYC), but unlike their international counterparts, this trio of stores manages to be more than a place to buy a roll of toilet paper or pack of gum. No. Each store houses a myriad of “junk” food and ready made actually real food that’s all so yummy and so cheap that we stopped by one nearly every day. It became part of our routine to visit the nearby store […]

Over Cons(yummm)ption
Part One: Japan’s Underbelly

We’ve already established that Japan has some of the best food, well, EVER as evinced by our multitude of food-centric blog posts (we did see some traditional cultural sights too, those posts are to come, promise). Nevertheless, we wanted to stress that all this spectacular saliva stimulating goodness can be found almost anywhere and at any price — one just needs to know where to look. The first of this two part series will highlight one of the best secrets (well, it was a mystery to us) of finding the meal that hits the spot without completely burning the budget. […]

Shop Right

Japanese retailers have mastered the art of selling things that you desparately want when you find them but didn’t know you needed or simply, stuff that looks way cool but you’ll probably never use. Two stores made this point clear and also entertained us for hours. First — Don Quixote. No, we’re not talking about the man of la mancha. Every random gadget and food item can be found at this wondrous store. Think dollar store meets grocery store meets arcade meets Lady Gaga’s brain. They even have a theme song! We stumbled upon the store one night while getting […]

Sushi Wonderland

We’re ruined. Sushi will never be the same. Cue melodramatic music now. We’re exaggerating, but the sushi in Japan pretty much shattered every expectation we had. It is (predictably) the most tender and flavorful we’ve tasted and consuming it is a downright glee inducing experience. The sushi sold at the supermarket is better than most fancy pants places stateside, but we decided to up the ante and visited Tsukiji Tamasushi at Takashimaya Times Square. They source all their seafood from the world renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, and specialize in made to order, all you can eat sushi. A fishlover’s paradise!!! […]

All Dried Up

What’s a bunch of friends to do after a night of sake tasting and waterfall diving? Eat. Preferably food of the greasy variety. Tyler had the perfect spot in mind for our first non-alcoholic meal of the day – Yakisoba. We trudged a couple blocks from our hotel and purchased our food tickets from a standard, but still nifty, machine. The restaurant was packed when we got there but soon one of the staff gestured for us to take a seat at the grill where the chefs were seamlessly and gracefully stirring up one dish after another. Within moments we […]

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls…

…because if you do, this might happen. Alright – let us explain. We planned our stay in Japan strategically so that we’d be in Kobe for Tyler‘s birthday. The celebration was supposed to consist something rather simple. At our first stop, Tyler introduced us to our first taste of Japan’s Ippudo, which was followed by a sake (sake!) tasting at a spot owned by one of Tyler’s students. The clock was slowly turning past midnight and Tyler’s last train was fast approaching. To prolong our merriment much longer, we bought some beers and carried on outside the station. Minutes ticked […]

Old Friends in New Places

We survived almost an entire week in Tokyo – navigating through the elaborate (and inexplicably clean) subway system, mastering the art of charade-like communication, and using our Google skills to satisfy our hunger pangs. However, we found so much comfort in some familiar faces – well, for Carmela at least. Izumi, Mami, and Yuki studied at the College of Saint Elizabeth with Carmela as part of the International Student Program. They now live and work in various areas of Tokyo and all came together for a mini-reunion to welcome us to their hometown. We met in front of the famous […]

So Many Uniqlos – So Little Luggage Space

“OMG there’s a Uniqlo!” one of us exclaims as we pass by it on the train. 5 minutes after walking from train station “OOHH! There’s another one!” Walk a couple more blocks “And ONE more!!” Our devotion to this store is serious and our desire to buy almost everything in sight in every color is intense. These emotions are even more heightened since there are countless items we’ve yet to see in the US, where there are only 2 locations compared to the roughly 700 in Japan. We are rarely this enthused about clothing stores. Uniqlo is the exception because […]

Okonomiyaki

Most people associate Japan with sushi. As did we. But if there was one thing we were dying to try in Japan, it was the Okonomiyaki. We absolutely love this stuff thanks to Otafuku in NYC. We had to work for our first coveted taste of okonomiyaki at Sakuratei, a DIY spot where many local artists work. Bowls of the batter were dished out to us and the detailed illustrations saved us. Between reading the instructions and copying the locals, we were able to make some fine looking okonomiyaki, but there was one bowl that we ordered that didn’t look […]

Eight/Ate Takoyaki

This jawbreaker sized snack was almost always served in a cluster. They were baked balls of battered octopus cooked in a contraption (think cast iron egg crates), which preserves their cylindrical shape. Often, a chopstick was used to magically “flip” them over once the bottom halves have formed. Our ordering process usually went something like this: C&R: Takoyaki (holds up 8 fingers) Cook: (gestures to okonomi sauce) C&R: Hai! (yes) Cook: (gestures to seaweed flakes) C&R: Hai! Cook: (gestures to bonito flakes) C&R: Hai! Futatsu (two orders). Cook: Ehh? (incredulous onomotopoeia) C&R: Hai! 🙂 Our favorite spot was a stand […]

Ippudo: Ramen

We’ve tried the popular, line out the door, Ippudo of New York and unlike everyone else who has eaten there, we have yet to return. Yes, the pork buns were very tasty, but overall, the ramen was much too salty (maybe it was the dish we ordered?). Maybe they/we were having a bad day – we will never know. Whatever the case may have been, our sentiments towards Ippudo of Japan were a complete 180! (Thanks for bringing us there, Tyler!!) The gyoza (pot stickers) was so good!! Perfectly seared on one side with steamy goodness on the other! Of […]

“Japan Town”. The Real One!

It has been a long time coming. Japan has been one of those places so high on our hit list that quite honestly, it was bound to disappoint. Sure, Carmela has been there already, but she fell terribly ill during her previous visit, and this was her chance to make peace. Besides, Raymund took two semesters of Japanese in college, and could sing the Toys ‘R Us song in the native tongue – how could we falter, right? Right! Well, sort of. Yes, unfortunately, Carmela once again got the food bug. But all things considered, with the help of good […]