Can’t beat scrambled eggs for breakfast

Not very traditionally Japanese, but lets face it who really wants grilled fish and rice for breakfast. This was courtesy of Shinshindo, a place tucked down a side street off the main Shijō street thoroughfare and dating back to 1913!

The buttered bread in particular was so soft, and they gave us a pot of jam to spread on it. I want another one now just thinking about it.


Tonight on the way back to our hotel after our evening meal, we passed Ippudo (一風堂) again and this time I couldn't resist. So I rather meanly sent my brother into Starbucks with his laptop to wait (as he very sensibly didn't want more food) while I popped in for a ramen fix. I went for the つけ麺 (cold noodles served separately from the hot soup). I really loved it, as the soup was so meaty and delicious. Afterwards the staff topped my soup up with thinner bonito soup (to water it down) so I could then drink the remainder of it.

I had the chance to order 1.5x more noodles for the same price (850 yen; about £5.50) but I couldn't manage that this time, having already eaten a meal; next time I will for sure. I've been told there are other branches of Ippudo in among other places Osaka and Kobe, both of which we're due to go in the next couple of days, so it could be sooner rather than later.


I took my brother to the Kyoto branch of one of our regularly-visited chain restaurants, Din Tai Fong, this evening to let him try some of the delicious Taiwanese soup dumplings (小龍包). Shown here are the steamed prawn gyoza (海老蒸し餃子 ) and a couple of the larger pork meat buns (肉まん) which we also ordered.

Hikone Castle (彦根城) seen from the castle gardens

Extended lunch trip to Sakudaira for some ramen

At 10am this morning we met up with the owner of our favourite local eaterie Ichibun - which I've written about several times before. He and his wife had suggested that on their one day off (Tuesday) we go with them on a trip to eat a ramen or two out of town. Because their car is quite a small one, we took two cars, which meant we could play our own music on the iPod (with iTrip) and perhaps come back separately. They had first invited us last Tuesday, as they were going to Omachi (大町) for ramen, but unfortunately we couldn't make it due to prior commitments. 

The owner (whom we call 'Master', out of respect for him being the owner of the restaurant) uses a blog called ラーメン夫婦坂 as a guide to which ramen restaurants are popular and tasty in Nagano prefecture. It's written by a married Japanese couple who love ramen.

So anyway off we went to Sakudaira (佐久平), located about 70km south-east of Nagano city.

Here are links to the later posts about the ramen restaurants we visited:

- Ramen one (Sakudaira)
- Ramen two (Sakudaira)
- Ramen three (Togura)

Tepito for the best Mexican food in Tokyo

That's according to my Mexican friend Esdras, with whom Yuzo and I went tonight. Tepito is located in the Shimokitazawa (下北沢) area of Tokyo, just one train stop on the express train from either Shibuya or Shinjuku. It is run by a Mexican guy and his Japanese wife (who speaks fluent Spanish) and the chef Gabriel is also Mexican.

The three of us arrived before the live music started, and what we experienced was quite unexpected. The musicians were Japanese who have lived in Nepal for 15 years, and throughout the 2-3 hours that we were there they performed a variety of music and dance from Nepal accompanied by a few different instruments and a sound system. The guy also demonstrated (with explanations in Japanese) the different sounds that could be made with his drums. There are a couple of short videos at the bottom, but they can't really do it justice.

Some of the food we enjoyed was Tacos de Carnitas containing pork (photo 2), Tacos al Pastor also containing pork but with pineapple for added sweetness, delicious chorizo sausage with tortillas (photo 3), guacamole with nacho chips, and Pancita soup which is made from part of the stomach of a cow. Unfortunately neither Yuzo or I liked the soup very much; we found it a little bitter. But Esdras nearly cried he was so happy to eat it again after four years (the last time he was in Mexico).

For drinks Yuzo and I had Bohemia beer which tasted similar to Belgian white beer to me, while Esdras enjoyed not one but two drinks. The one on the right is wonderfully sweet Agua de Tuna, which comes from a fruit (called Tuna) that grows on a type of cactus, while the left-hand one is a sweet milk drink called Horchata which is made from milk and rice, and then sweetened with vanilla, sugar and cinnamon.

We finished off with flan (Mexican-style creme caramel pudding) and of course the mandatory round of Sauza Gold tequilas, drunk straight of course without the pictured salt and lemon.

Overlooking Tokyo Tower

Staying in the brand new (built this year) My Stays (マイステイズ) Hotel in Hamamatsucho (浜松町), which is very close to the Tokyo Tower - less than 1km I would guess. The room is on the 14th floor so I have a great view of the tower. Of course being Tokyo it's certainly not an unobstructed view, but it's good enough for me!

 Despite having been to Tokyo more times than I can count on my hands, I've never visited Tokyo Tower. (Well it's just a smaller and less impressive Eiffel Tower isn't it, and I've been to the top of that.) Anyway I very much doubt I will make the trip up the tower tomorrow, but will instead just spend some time walking around Shiba Park as it looks to have some very beautiful old buildings and structures inside and out.

 Here are a few photos of the view from our hotel room window.

Tokyo redux

Off to Tokyo today for a couple of nights, so I've created this album to share any interesting photos I come across during the trip.

Photo Key:

1-3) On the journey to Tokyo the bus always stops at the Yokokawa (横川) service area. (Props to the BMW GS1200 motorbike parked up, very envious.)

4) The queue outside きじ when we arrived for lunch on Sunday. More photos and a write-up here.

5) No accounting for taste! Hato Bus is a company in Tokyo organising bus tours in and around the city. Never been on one myself, but their buses are easy to spot because they're bright yellow. Obviously somebody working there loves Hello Kitty.

6) Something I haven't seen before. It's a price list of train tickets to all available stations, written in braille.

7) Tommy Lee Jones looking up at Tokyo Tower while enjoying a can of Boss coffee. Some of his amusing adverts for Boss coffee are on YouTube.

8-14) These were taken in and around Shiba Park (芝公園). I like the fact that in photo 10 the Tokyo Tower is reflected in the windows of the modern Atago Mori Tower. Photo 11 is the gate at the entrance to the Zojoji (増上寺) temple grounds, and numbers 12-14 combine Zojoji with Tokyo Tower.

15) View from the pedestrian bridge south of Shinjuku station, looking towards the huge Takashimaya Times Square department store complex and NTT Docomo's Yoyogi Tower (which looks a bit like a huge Big Ben).

16) Back at Yokokawa service area on the way home, a drink vending machine like you've never seen before! More than just giving you a huge range of hot and cold drinks to choose from, numerous cameras inside the machine actually show you your drink being made on the screen near the top. My "chocolattino" with Cinnamon topping took a couple of minutes to make, from the Columbian coffee beans dropping down, to the cup with lid making its final journey out of the hole at the bottom. Very impressive! And 200 yen per cup (about £1.30).

Out for a drive today - first stop Hakuba

Now off for lunch and onsen in Shinshushinmachi (信州新町).

Gundam in Odaiba

The life-size (i.e. giant) Gundam (ガンダム) in the middle of Shiokaze Park on the man-made island of Odaiba will only be there until the end of August, so I took the opportunity of taking the train there to have a quick look.

 It's actually my first trip over to Odaiba, and I have to say it was really good to see the sea as well.

 Despite it being a weekday it was still predictably crowded, but I imagine being the last weekend that the next couple of days will be a lot worse! There was also not a cloud in the sky which made the walk from the station seem that much longer. And guess who forgot the sun cream this morning; think I'll be red tomorrow.

The Great (Avocado) Burger

Lunch at The Great Burger: