Friday, March 31, 2006

Friend Harris Salat

We love going to the market. It is favorite way to begin our exploration of a new place. Seeing what strange and delicious-looking food is available locally can tell you so much about a city's culture and personality. In Kyoto, that place is the well known Nishiki Market, a narrow shopping street, lined by many different shops selling everything from pickles, fried foods, and fish, to meat, tofu, and kitchen items. We had read about knife shop, Aritsugu located in the market, and searched for it because we wanted to update our kitchen knife.

It was almost their 6PM closing time, and we hurriedly ran through the market and with luck, found Aritsugu. No sooner had we set foot in the store, than we saw our friend Harris Salat from NY....a completely random coincidence! Of course, we couldn't believe our eyes. He, however, didn't seem the least bit surprised, as he nonchalantly greeted us with "Hi guys."

Harris is a food journalist living in NYC. He is not just talented writer, but he is also an interesting human being. He has no fear! He talks to everyone and he loves learning about everything. He has his website, "He ate well". Please check it out!

The next evening, he took us to his favorite izakaya, Rikyu, a casual, small local place with a counter and 10 seats. When you sit down, you look at what is displayed on the counter, choose what looks good, order, and dig in!

Everything we ate tasted delicious. One unusual item we had was Pig Ear. Yes, that's right, a sliced pig's ear! Needless to say, this was our first time for this part of the pork, so we tried it. It had been boiled and then cooked in soup stock....well, let's just say that if you like something that is somewhere between VERY chewy and cartilagenous, this dish is for you....but not for us!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kyoto Temples

Kyoto was the capital of Japan from 794 until the end of the Edo period in 1867/68 (when it was moved to present day Tokyo). The city has thrived throughout its history, and now reflects both old Japan and new Japan coexisting in harmony. Throughout the city, there are centuries-old temples tucked away between modern buildings.

In fact, there are so many temples, we focused our attention on only a few, since the length of our visit was significantly shorter than the several months it would take to see them all!

Kinkakuji, Golden Temple, was originally build in 1397, serving as a retirement villa for the Shogun. On the day of our visit, the weather was cloudy, but its gold color was so vivid and beautiful even the reflection on the water was golden.

Ginkakuji, the Silver Temple, was built in 1474, also as a retirement villa for the Shogun. After the death of the Shogun, the temple became a Buddhist temple. Although the name implies that the color of the temple would be silver, its intended silver covering was never completed due to the interruption caused by the Onin War which broke out in 1467 and lasted until 1477.

More photos of Kyoto? Click Here!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Hakone is a well known resort area, situated in Fuji Hakone Izu National Park, 100 km west of Tokyo. Famous for spas and onsens (hot spring) and the view of Mt. Fuji, Hakone is one of the popular destination for travelers from all over Japan.

A Ryokan is a Japanese style gueshouse or inn, in which each guest room has tatami-mat floors with a low table. Usually, dinner and breakfast is included and served in the room. The meals are Japanese style and include foods made up of regional specialities. After dinner the room is converted into sleeping quarters by the staff with futons and bedding that are carefully concealed in large closets in the rooms. Ryokans range in price from inexpensive (less than $100) to very expensive (more than $500).

We decided to stay in a so-called boutique ryokan with private onsen in a room. It combined modern conveniences such as a sunken table that was electronically elevated for dining with traditional Japanese design/style. The room includes a separate bathroom with toilet, shower room, and entry to the private onsen (outdoors on a covered deck).

At a ryokan, a yukata is provided for you to wear during your stay. It is worn after bathing in the onsen (for your evening meal). You can walk around the public areas of the ryokan in the yukata.

Meal at the ryokan was a feast consisting of a parade of local delicacies. Our personal room attendant would leave the room and return every tweny minutes or so, each time returning with another seemed endless! One of the early courses of sashimi even included a live lobster on our plate. The lobster was still moving even though the body had been cut into sashimi!

Monday, March 27, 2006


Monja is an unique dish for which Asakusa is famous in Tokyo. It is a little similar to Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese savory pancake. Hiroko has never eaten a real monja, and Rick has never heard of the dish. While we were wondering around Asakusa district, we stumbled upon a small mom-and-pop restaurant, Hosato, which has only 4 tables. Owner is very nice man in 60's, who loves talking to customers and teaching them how to make monja.

Bake the liquidy dough first, and when it is crispy. you scrape it from the cooking surface with your small spatula and eat the thin crepe-like skin. Atfter the rest of Monja by scraping small sections of the pancake bit by bit.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Asakusa is a district that flourished during the Edo period (1603~1868) where you can still enjoy an atomosphere of Edo continues to attract many tourists from all over.

Smoke from the incense has the divine power, so visitors cover their heads with the smoke to keep their good health.

This is Omikuji! Japanese people are somewhat superstitious. Omikuji are fortune telling paper slips found at many shrines and temples. Through a random draw you can find your fortune ranging from Daikichi (great good luck) to Daikyo (great bad luck.) Hiroko's fortune was.... Daikyo! (yet she is still smiling for this picture!) After reading your fortune, you tie the fortune paper around a nearby tree's branch, then presumably good fortune will come true and bad fortune can be avoided.

Tsukiji Wholesale Market

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market is a "must" visit for food lovers. It handles some 450 kinds of fish daily, and it is one of the largest and busiest in the world. We arrived there at about 8AM , and since the fish auction begins at 5AM, some vendors were packing up and leaving the market, their work done for the day. However, there was still no shortage of fish for sale!

Outside of the Fish Market, there is also a bustling general market where people come to Tsukiji to shop for vegetables and fruits, pickles, kitchen items, etc.

At the fish market, sushi is routinely eaten in the morning. After working since before the crack of dawn, workers fill their empty stomach with sushi and beer or sake.

We went to a small place, Sushi Bun, located at #8 building. This family operated sushi shop first opened more than 150 years ago and is now into the 4th generation of operation by the founding family. They are still well respected and regarded as the best sushi place in the market. A narrow space with only a counter and about 10 seats (stools), by 9AM the place was filled and several of the men already sipping sake.

We ordered the Omakase and although it wasn't cheap, the sushi was AMAZING. So early in the day and we were eating sushi after sushi. The fish was so fresh and the rice so perfect, we could not find any words other than "soooo good" to describe what our tastebuds were exulting over!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Hello Everyone!

Welcome to our blog Itadakimasu. Itadakimasu is a Japanese phrase, which means simply "let's eat."

Since we enjoy the pursuit of fascinating flavors and the beverages that go with them so much, our friends suggested that we blog our experiences to share them with others. Our inspiration for finally doing it is our recent two-month trip to let's start there.

Enjoy! Let's eat, Itadakimasu!