Monday, September 1, 2008

My Ode to Motsuni

Every so often in life you come across something that really makes you happy. Something that gives you a warm feeling inside and puts a goofy smile on your face the moment you think about it. Say it's name out loud and suddenly the sun comes out, the clouds go away and little blue birds appear and start singing the song Zippedydoodah! For some people this happy thought might be a place, a thing or even a person. In my case it's a Japanese dish made out of pig intestines and other internal organs stewed together. Yes my friends, this is my Ode to Motsuni!

Now, I can't really say I'm an expert on Motsuni since I've only had it a few times. Several times at Akitaya, once at Masuya and once at the Kawagoe Matsuri. Masuya's Motsuni was not the greatest (Sorry Kenjisan). At the Kawagoe Matsuri I ate Motsuni at an outdoor beer garden. This Motsuni had more vegetables than the others I tried. It was also filled with black tripe and other unidentifiable bits of pig innard goodies. I would call this Motsuni a close second to Akitaya's. I didn't take a picture of the Motsuni we had at Kawagoe, but I found the above picture and it looks pretty close, including the styrofoam bowl it came in.

My friend Timmy has a love/hate relationship with Motsuni. He agrees with me wholeheartedly that it is a very tasty dish that goes well with beer and shochu, but it's obvious that this is no fat free dish! Some may even argue that eating stewed pig innards could be bad for you!? The last time we had it at Akitaya, I encouraged Timmy to "drink" all of the leftover oily broth and bits of fat that had collected at the bottom of his bowl. Timmy obliged at the time without hesitation, but now claims I coerced him into doing it. He further claims that this was an attempt to slowly kill him by clogging his arteries with pork fat. No comment.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sensoji Temple

I forgot about this video I took at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. The picture is not that great because I used my regular camera as opposed to a video camera. On our 2007 trip we stopped off at Sensoji to do some shopping at Nakamise Dori and visit the temple.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Harajuku Boy

I'm sure many of you have heard of Gwen Stefani's song "Harajuku Girls". Well, meet my friend Richard, the real "Harajuku Boy"! Part of our mission to Japan this year was to find a store called Bape in Harajuku Tokyo. For the uninitiated, Harajuku is the fashion mecca of Japan, and my friend Rich was determined to experience it by shopping at a really cool store called Bape! I am told that Bape stands for Bathing Ape but have no clue as to why it is so named. Prior to visiting, all I knew was that Bape was going to have really cool hip-hop and urban street clothes for sale, and that my friend Rich really wanted to go visit.

So you would think that a popular store like Bape would be very easy to find, right? WRONG! They had this place hidden better than Jimmy Hoffa! We walked past this place over and over before Rich finally peeked over the railing and spotted it downstairs. Take a look at this picture and tell me if you could tell that Bape is located down the flight of stairs with the white hand railing. Bape is not the store you see on the street level when you walk by, it is literally hidden downstairs. Now in hindsight this actually makes some sense since the directions we were getting from nearby shop owners always had something to do with "going down". At the time we assumed "going down" meant going down the street, not going down some stairs.

The street level store that was above Bape was the Billionaire Boys Club. According to Rich this is another "hip" store that actually has a connection to Bape. I was really glad that Rich was able to shop at Bape. I myself am actually much too un-hip to truly appreciate what they sell there. Any place that sells camouflaged boxer shorts for $50 bucks a piece is definitely not the kind of place that I usually shop at. If you were to ask me my impression of Bape I would tell you I remember an Ape face, a lot of camouflaged items and everything priced with way too many zeros after it. I guess I'll stick to Sears and Macy's.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Dog Bar - Masuya

During our 2006 trip to Tokyo, we would often walk by this Izakaya on our way home from the train station. During the day, a dog would always be sleeping out front of the shop when we passed by. Because we didn't know the actual name of the place, a few of us started referring to it as the "Dog Bar" because of the ever present sleeping dog. Turns out the place is actually called Masuya which has nothing to do with dogs, go figure? Well, for one reason or another we were never able to stop off for food and drinks here, but vowed to visit during our next trip to Japan. In 2007 we kept our promise and finally went for a visit. If you look real good you can see Timmy standing off to the far right of the picture with a beer in hand as usual.

If you haven't already noticed from my previous postings, we like to drink outside. Here we are standing outside Masuya in the crisp night air, good friends enjoying a tasty beverage together while watching the world walk by. Sightseeing and culture aside, this is the reason we enjoy traveling to Japan! In a previous 2006 posting about Akitaya, I mentioned how they stacked table tops on beer crates outside for us. At Masuya, they used these cool blue 55-gallon drums instead.

The food was pretty good, and the sake was even better. Timmy in his usual fashion had quickly made friends with our bald headed waiter named Kenji. Kenji-san took very good care of us, which was probably due to Timmy's good looks and "boyish" charm. We ordered some sake from Kenji and he poured for us like it was free! Now it is pretty common for Japanese restaurants to place your sake glass into a wooden masu and purposely over pour the sake until it overflows from the glass into the masu. It's a sign of hospitality, and that little bit of over pour makes you feel that you are getting your money's worth. Well Kenji-san not only overflowed our glasses, he also overflowed our masu onto the table. Using some quick "bar math" we came to the conclusion that each of us had received the equivalent of three glasses of sake each. If you don't believe me, take a look at the picture above.

Masuya's location afforded us a beautiful view of Tokyo Tower which you can see in the background of this picture. Oh and that shady looking character in the background is Timmy. When I first took this picture I was pretty pleased with myself, having positioned my mug of beer against the night sky with a beautiful full moon and Tokyo Tower behind it. It was only when I looked at this picture the next day that I realized that my beautiful full moon was actually the glowing sign of the Chinese restaurant next door. I guess Kenji-san really did pour us a lot of sake that night!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Yoshinoya - Breakfast of Champions

I've been wanting to do this post since our 2006 trip to Tokyo and finally got around to it. Welcome to my "ode" to Yoshinoya!

My younger sister once teased me because I liked eating at Yoshinoya when we visited Japan in 2006. "Why would you want to eat there?" she asked when I mentioned having breakfast there a few times. Established in 1899, Yoshinoya is the name of the largest "gyudon" or beef bowl restaurant chain in Japan. Considered "fast food" in Japan, a beef bowl or gyudon is basically a bowl of rice covered with pieces of thinly sliced beef and sometimes onion. The beef and onions are usually kept simmering in their own sauce which allows them to be served quickly when an order is placed, hence the reference to fast food.

There was a Yoshinoya located about a block from our hotel, and we ate there a few times for breakfast. (I understand there are over 1,000 locations alone in Japan.) While they definitely don't serve the same kind of food, I guess my sister puts Yoshinoya in the same category as a McDonalds, which is why she was amused that I would fly all the way to Japan to basically eat at a fast food joint.

In the United Staes you can even buy gyudon in your frozen food section (well, in Hawaii at least). Just pop it in the microwave and you're good to go.

I truly enjoyed having breakfast as Yoshinoya during our trip. I've always been a breakfast guy who prefers something savory as opposed to sweet. No pancakes or fruits for me, give me a plate of salty breakfast meats, eggs and rice and I'm a happy camper! Throw in some miso soup and some pickled vegetables and I'm in heaven! (As a side note, ironically all of us had some type of "pork bowl" as opposed to a beef bowl at the time of our trip. It turns out that Yoshinoya was not serving any beef while we were up there. Apparantly Yoshinoya buys the majority of it's beef from the United States. When Japan banned the import of American beef in 2003 due to mad cow disease, Yoshinoya was forced to stop selling beef bowls. I understand that the ban was lifted in 2005 or 2006, and that Yoshinoya has resumed selling beef bowls but on a very limted basis. Go figure?)