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Friday, September 10, 2004

Welcome to Tokyo

Day One in Tokyo and my first impression is one of absolute joy, for everything I have ever known about Japan is true. Neon signs are everywhere and flash and flicker hypnotically, tinny music and Japanese female voices blare onto the streets, and everywhere you look there are vending machines, plastic food displays, pachinko parlours... it is all here just as I imagined it!

Mmm..Why call it Gatorade when you can call it Pocari Sweat.... sounds so... alluring!

They really do give away tissues to everyone

Japanese schoolgirls -- luckily I don't have a mo', aviator sunglasses and a comb-over, otherwise I would've been arrested

Plastic food! Looks so life-like!

Except for those dodgy egg sandwiches

More plastic food

Custard-filled choux puffs are everywhere in Japan. They cost about AU$1.60 and the smell permeates the air with sweet, eggy, intoxicating allure.

Ahhh so that's what Papa Smurf had to do to bring in the dough when Smurfette got 'into trouble'

Our hotel was in Ueno near Ameyayako, or the American Markets. Fertile ground for plenty of food photos!!! And for anyone curious, AU$1 = about 80 yen. My trick was to pretend yen amounts were cents and then add 25%.

Nori anyone?

Salmon roe

I think this is salmon roe as it is laid. It was in these fish-like shapes.

Yes that must have been one helluva giant octopus


Mushrooms - not sure what kinda but they were very expensive!
EDIT: The consensus is these are matsutake mushrooms. Thanks for the tip Fae and PinkCocoa!

Lottery ticket seller

Gorgeous looking street cleaners

Chefs in a tiny kitchen which opened onto an alleyway

Ticket machines at Ueno JR Station

Andersens Bakery at Ueno JR Station. Andersens is a gourmet Danish bakery chain throughout Japan. Mmm...

I had lunch in one of the ubiquitous noodle shops located outside most train stations. Choose your dish/es, pay into the vending machine, receive ticket and hand to efficient friendly noodle woman. In 30 seconds a bowl of noodles is handed to you with a smudge of wasabi on the side. Season with chilli and pepper and consume standing up along with countless other businessmen! The cold noodles were most delicous and the soup was cool providing much need refreshment given the 30C heat outside.

The trick is being able to recognise the Japanese characters for the dish you want to order (no English on these vending machines!). I was aiming for the bottom meal on the bottom of the sign, and yay! I was successful (go the high school Japanese lessons recollection).

It's all so efficient inside with everything pre-made and waiting for assembly. Maybe they should it McUdon, but it tastes soooo much better (and you don't get asked if you want to upsize your udon, or "Would you like a nigiri with that?").

Post-lunch I ventured to Ueno Park, the first public park in Tokyo, as pushed by the Meiji government. A peaceful sprawling oasis of green, the park is packed with families on weekends.

I love the sinister feel of this shot. The big white ducks are pedal boats.

This was the one remaining flower in bloom in the enormous pond.

You just know they're about to break out into YMCA!

Along with towels and facewashers, guests in Japan are always provided with a yukata, or robe (the blue and white patterned fabric). I loved how the robe ties were folded into cute stars.

The bathtub was also very Japanese.

This was the view from my hotel balcony. Very cool. The green "lawn" is actually the fronds on the giant lake (check with the first Ueno Park photo).

Nipped back out to the Ameyayako markets for a quick snack. This is okonomiyaki or Japanese pizza. Batter filled with cabbage, onion, a fresh egg and some herbs--cooked both sides then smothered in a thick sweet hoisin-like sauce and drizzled with plenty of mayo. I found it a little bit doughy but for only 200yen/AU$2.50 who's complaining?

Met up with my tour group (Intrepid Japan Gourmet Traveller) and had our first group meal. We had shabu-shabu which is like Japanese steamboat I guess. Shabu-shabu is the noise the beef is supposed to make when you put it into the bubbling stock.

The staff here were so patient, teaching the ignoramus gaijin (foreigners) how to cook everything properly.

Check out the marbling!!! The beef was oh-so-tender and only required 4 seconds in the stock to cook. Mmm...

Our accompanying veggie platter. Don't you love the stars cut out of the mushrooms? The white squares are mochi, or sticky rice cake. Starchy, gelatinous and highly addictive!

4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 9/10/2004 11:59:00 pm


  • At 10/08/2004 3:30 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    hi AugustusGloop
    welcome back!
    Yup. I agree with Fae, the mushroom looks like matsutake mushroom. The kanji refers to the place where the mushroom is produced.
    the shabu shabu dinner looks so yummy. Cant wait til you post about the rest of your trip. ;-)

  • At 10/08/2004 6:38 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    *blush* i am no expert. :p i saw the matsutake mushroom featured on iron chef just a few weeks ago. did you get to sample any when you were in japan? wonder what it taste like.
    oh i forgot to add earlier: the okonomiyaki looks yummy too. did you get a chance to try it in a okonomiyaki restaurant?
    oops. i think i am asking too much questions here. better be patient and wait til you post about your japan trip!

  • At 12/17/2004 1:11 pm, Blogger Fish Fish said…

    Splendid pictures!! You managed to impose some of the unique points of Japan. ;) Yap, vending machines are everywhere, even in the middle of jungle, nothing else, but will have a vending machine standing there. :P I like the pictures of the Ameyokocho. The picture of the tissue distributing... blah blah blah... Very good job dear. :) Only that, the skirts of the junior high girls not short enough. Kekeke...

  • At 5/02/2007 11:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the mushrooms are indeed matsutake its says there from iwate prefecture up north. they can't be grown comercially and are only found in the wild. japanese people love the smell of these.... go figure. the salmon roe is called sujiko and is taken from inside the fish hence why its still in the sack. its usually sliced up marinated with soy sauce and served on top of rice 'don style' with nori


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