While in Tokyo we went down Takeshita Street. This lively street is located by Harajuku JR Station and is home to lots of small independent stores selling cool fashion items. It’s the place to go if you’re looking to experience Japan’s J-pop and kawaii spirit.
It’s also home to many crêpe shops and these make a great snack to have while people-watching. These crêpe shops sell predominantly sweet crêpes and have a wide selection on offer.
In Osaka we went to Kushikatsu at Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma Janjanten. Kushikatsu is deep-fried skewered meat and vegetables, with a dipping sauce on the side.
It’s also very important you know how to eat it – you have to follow the One Dip Rule.
You can only dip the skewer into the dip one time and not go back to re-dip. This is mainly for hygiene reasons as the dip is shared with other people. The dipping sauce was in a large metal container and cabbage leaves were provided in case you wished to scoop up some more sauce and put it on your skewer without re-dipping.
I didn’t find anything that out of the ordinary about this food but the One Dip Rule made it more fun as I had to keep remembering it.
Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)
Also in Osaka, while in the Doutonbori area, we went for Takoyaki or more simply octopus balls. Osaka and Takoyaki go hand-in-hand.
Takoyaki is ball shaped and made of batter with a minced meat or fish inside. These had diced octopus (tako). A popular place to find these is along Doutonbori river. You can’t miss the huge octopus sign.
Just like kushikatsu this tasted a lot like the batter it was cooked in. As I had just had eaten kushikatsu I was pretty full so I didn’t get any sauce on the octopus balls, but I could have had mayo or BBQ sauce.
Cream soda is a favourite drink among children in Japan and for good reason. It’s an ice cream float made of melon soda and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
When I saw people drinking this florescent green drink I was intrigued and had to try it. The melon soda had just the right amount of fizz but didn’t really taste of melon; I think that’s just the name. It was delicious and made me feel like a child again. There is nothing healthy in this drink but it doesn’t matter as it tastes so good.
Kakigōri is a dessert similar to a snow cone. It’s made of fluffy shaved ice and flavoured with syrup and condensed milk. It comes in lots of different flavours, including – cherry, melon, strawberry, green tea and blue Hawaii.
In the summer it’s a great treat for cooling down. I went for green tea flavour topped with red bean paste.
It tasted very very sweet and a little sickly but it was much needed in the heat of Kyoto in August.
While in Tokyo I suggest you go to Tsukishima Moniya Street and try some Monjayaki.
Monjayaki is a type of Japanese pancake that you grill yourself. It consists of a batter mixture with added vegetables, meats and seafood of your choice.
All the extra ingredients were chopped finely in front of us. We spread out the raw monja (the batter) on the grill, moving it around gently with a small spatula. The monja cooked and became crispy.
Also on the grill we fried the chopped vegetables, prawns, egg and pork. We then mixed the monja and other ingredients into a circular formation and watch it bubble as it cooked, before eating it using the small spatulas and chop sticks.
This was my favourite savoury Japanese food. I enjoyed cooking it and liked the large selection of ingredients on offer. As it comes off the grill immediately in front of you it doesn’t have a chance to get cold and you can have it as crispy as you like.
Okonomiyaki can usually be found where monjayaki is served. Not as much water is added to the monjayaki batter mix making okonomiyaki less runny. Cooking it yourself on the grill was exactly the same. This is some okonomiyaki I got in London.
Another delicious savoury dish is yakisoba, which translates to fried buckwheat. It’s basically stir-fried noodles. For lunch we got okonomiyaki and yakisoba set with a fried egg. I had my yakisoba with pork, cabbage and oyster sauce. It’s great when you’re hungry.
In the picture the one on the right is a variation of okonomiyaki called negiyaki which is filled with more scallions and thinner.
Japan is big into their whisky.
Here’s my blog post on my trip to the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
In Japan it’s typical to drink whisky with water or even soda water to make a high ball. Tatsuya and I bought a bottle of Hibiki. It was more oaky than the Irish whiskeys I’m used to. I enjoyed the very slight honey tastes it had.