During the December vacation, Gay Hsiu Ping travelled to Tokyo to see the sights and sample the culinary delights that the capital of Japan had to offer. Here, she summarises her experiences through snapshots.
Tsukamoto Sogyo Building, Basement 1st Floor,2-15, Ginza 4-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is home to one of the best and most traditionally-made sushi in Japan: Sukiyabashi Jiro is helmed by 84-year-old Jiro Ono, the star of documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The sushi was superb, using only the freshest of ingredients that taste of the ocean itself. The pace that he served his creations, however, were a tad too fast for me. Having accustomed to my mother’s years of advice on chewing slowly made eating seem like a race at the restaurant.
Side Roppongi Building, 1st Floor
1-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032
To ensure that I fully appreciate the third Michelin star that Ryu-gin earned just one week before our visit, I barely ate during the day. And my appetite was not disappointed by Chef Yamamoto. He uses the season’s finest produce to prepare 11 tasters: some were simple, unveiling the purest and freshest face of the ingredient; some were complex, with multiple layers of flavours; some were traditional, exhibiting the basic foundations of Japanese cuisine; but some were playful, unexpected and teasing.
On the last night, we chanced upon this narrow alley in Shinjuku lined with yakitori stalls on both sides. Most stalls are cramped and smoky. A row of bar seats, surround the open kitchen with only one chef who doubles as waiter. There is a wide selection of chicken and beef parts: lungs, hearts, intestines, cartilages, kidneys etc… we relied heavily on Google Translate to order the different parts that we wanted, you can also order a mixed platter to sample all of them. Other then yakitori, this is also a good place to see the famous Japanese stereotype: the salaryman.
When wandering around Harajuku, I noticed that not only was there an exceptional number of boldly dressed individuals but also many creperies. Follow the crowds and they will lead you to Marion Crepe. Though the weekend queue may be discouraging, you can always utilise the time to decide which, out of the hundred over varieties, you will have (besides, if you are willing to queue for Korean/Thai/steak night, this is hands down more worthwhile). The crepe skin is hot, crispier towards the top and complements very well with the sweet/savoury filling.
106-0032 3-14-10 Roppongi Minato-ku Tokyo
Most department stores close early (around 8.30 pm), but don’t panic if you find yourself craving some late night shopping. There are places other than convenience stores that open 24/7, one of them being Don Quijote. Don Quijote houses 6-stories full of random goods; from pierce-your-own-earhole kit to 40-litre bottled sake to a tool-kit for canine teeth. You’ll be surprised at what you end up buying here, so guard your wallets.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari
2-57 Aomi, Koto, Tokyo Prefecture 135-0064, Japan
If you ever run out of things to do in Tokyo at night, head down to Oedo Onsen Monogatari which is open 24 hours and charges 1380 to 1980 yen (S$20-29) depending on when you go. Not only can you immerse in outdoor and indoor tubs, there are also restaurants and Neoprint machines to keep yourself occupied in between baths. As with most onsens and spas in Japan, you will see ominous signs warning you that you’ll be asked to leave (read: kicked out) if you sport a tattoo but they are not as strict as they sound. I went with my illustrated cousin and no one approached us. I think the trick is to be an overt tourist so that they can’t fault you. The whole compound attempts to re-stage Edo Japan, which may come across as gimmicky; but we are tourists after all.
Adam & Eve
3-5-5 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan
After a day of exploring (and getting lost) in the city, we arrived at this 24-hour ‘spa’ to rest our bones. Though it calls itself a ‘spa’, Adam & Eve has no dim lights, no scented candle, no background music. We roamed about the hot tubs and saunas to get our body temperatures up while waiting for our scrub. A round middle-aged lady then gestured us to proceed to the rows of white plastic beds on the other end. The scrub was rough, thorough and very cleansing. 20 minutes into the process and I could feel layers of eraser-dust-like debris building up beside me, yuck. Then follows a massage, a head-to-toe wash down by the masseuse (who gave off motherly vibes), and finally, a douche of warm milk over your body. Hello baby soft skin!
With her overtly polite people and her many surprises hidden behind the plain concrete facades, Tokyo is truly a charmer.