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4 minutes | 4 days ago
TS0012: Historical Account of Edo Period Noodles and Japan’s First Floating Hotel
⭐️ https://tokyospark.com/issue/november-21-2020/In this issue, we bring you a historical account of what Japanese noodles were like in the 17th century Tokyo (then called Edo), Japan’s first floating hotel, Toranomon activities, excellent craft beer, and a bakery built for a 13-year old kid with special needs.1. Noodles Have Been Popular Since At Least The Edo PeriodImagine it. It’s 17th century Tokyo (then called Edo). Little wooden food stalls popping up all over (called yatai) serving sushi, tempura, and a variety of Japanese noodles (soba and udon primarily).Called nihachi back then, these noodles dishes were a staple food for many — especially single men. Much like one would visit a convenience store today — yatai offered a vital service for those who could not cook for themselves (or perhaps didn’t have time).“Ni-hachi soba: soba containing 20% wheat and 80% buckwheat;” (en.wikipedia.org)This article by Nippon.com is an interesting trek through history as it recounts the early recordings of a Japanese historian — who’s drawings and writings explain the noodle culture a few hundred years ago.Soba noodles (buckwheat flour) — and the huge variety of ways it is used: toshi koshi soba, kitsune soba, shina soba, tsukimi soba, shinshu soba, and more. The soba yatai (aka soba ya) brought this versatile dish into Edo — setting the stage for modern soba shops of today’s Tokyo.2. Now There is a Floating Hotel in TokyoIf you didn’t know, in downtown Tokyo there are waterway-like canals somewhat similar to what you can find in Italy. Of course, not that level — but they do exist. And you can go for a nice float around Tokyo if you so desired.And now there is a new hotel — Japan’s first floating hotel actually — in the Tennozu warehouse district of Shinagawa. The area is rich with history and art. A fantastic place to stay to take in the surroundings.The hotel is called Petals — apparently inspired by the the look of lotus petals floating on water. Okay, I’ll bite… that does sound like a lofty goal for a hotel to mimic. If you squint just right I guess you could say they achieved it.Quick HitsThese are a quick list of more things we think you'll find interesting.Looking for something to do in the Toranomon area? TokyoCheapo has a nice guide to their pick of five things to do. The Okura Museum of Art is on their list and I highly recommend it (even if it does cost ¥1,000 to get in).Find a warm, relaxing atmosphere and some of the best craft beer at Craft Beer Tap Fam333 in Sendagaya Tokyo.Okay, this is not in Tokyo — but too good to not share. There is this new, teeeeeny-tiny bakery in the Shiga prefecture (near Nagoya) that was built for a 13-year old kid with a psychiatric disorder. For real, and the story is worth reading.
3 minutes | 10 days ago
TS0010: 3 Hot New Restaurants in Shibuya & a Tohoku Earthquake Museum
⭐ https://tokyospark.com/issue/november-15-2020/1. Three Hot New Restaurants Open in ShibuyaTokyo has so many restaurants it’s crazy… and yet, when a new restaurant opens it should be on your “to check out” list. Especially if they are inside the Gems Aoyama Cross — a hip, stylish new venue that opened just a few short months ago.Surprising I know… given the current state of COVID and the difficulty, many restaurants are facing with customers staying home. While grocery stores thrive, restaurants suffer.But that didn’t stop these three new restaurants from opening. One really stands out to me. The French-Japanese skewer shop, Denkushiflori. Maybe the most interesting is that it was created by two Michelin star chefs. How cool is that?Kushi 串 means skewered in Japanese (check our guide about kushiyaki). Most kushiyaki restaurants you’ll find are typical izakaya fare. But here you’ll find the French cuisine influence on this Japanese staple.2. Learn About the Tohoku Earthquake and RecoveryOne of the biggest earthquakes to ever hit Japan, the Great East Japan Earthquake on 3.11.2011, was massive. Even from “way down here” in Tokyo, we felt it.The aftershocks continued for days. I can only imagine what life was like for our friends in Fukushima and the Tohoku region up north. The destruction was unfathomable.And now there is a new memorial museum working to keep the memory of the event alive. To share what happened, what was learned, and never to forget the catastrophe.Inside the huge facility, you’ll find photos, videos, simulators, and scale models depicting the area and the destruction caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami.Quick HitsThese are a quick list of more things we think you'll find interesting.It’s not every day you’ll find Michelin-starred yakitori — but then you bump into Toriki. A teeny-tiny yakitori shop that packs a punch.I don’t enjoy eating flowers, but maybe you will? Apparently, it’s become a trend in Tokyo.While its name sounds like someone is laughing at you, Wuhaha Fugetsu is an incredible okonomiyaki shop from Osaka — now in Tokyo too.
10 minutes | 16 days ago
TS0009: Hybrid VR Games, a Wolfman Barber, and the World’s Largest Starbucks
⭐Show notes ▶ https://tokyospark.com/issue/november-7-2020/In this issue, we’re bringing you a place where you can find interesting hybrid VR games, a man’s man of a barbershop, a historic temple with a view, and the world’s largest Starbucks!1. Experience Hybrid VR Rides and Games at Sega JoypolisWhat is Tokyo Joypolis? It’s an indoor theme park/arcade where everyone can let their inner kid run free! A Sega arcade, family fun center with three floors of virtual reality attractions, rides, and video games.Run around playing laser tag, eating junk food, race a spaceship, and ride a roller coaster all indoors and out of the weather. There is so much to do here, something for children of all ages and adults alike — here are a few highlights of what they offer:2. Get Your Hair Cut and Beard Trimmed at the Wolfman Barber Shop in ShibuyaJapan may not be on your list of places to visit for a haircut and beard trim, but the Wolfman Barber Shop in Shibuya is famous for its suave style, leather, and beards. It’s a quality barbershop with vintage barber paraphernalia — and a passion for modern, slick hairstyles — depending on your hair type of course.It doesn’t matter if you need a haircut or not, you need to check this place out.3. Learn About the Cheeky Tanuki at Chingo-do Temple in AsakusaIn Tokyo’s heart is a relatively unknown temple, Asakusa’s Chingo-Do temple, which is actually part of Sensoji Temple. Still, it has a separate entrance — so many will miss it. I recommend it because itis a tribute to the tanuki — a fun, merry, raccoon-like Japanese folklore character said to protect against fire and theft (aka the Japanese “raccoon dog”).This is why restaurants and homeowners often put them out in front — as protection and good fortune.Tanuki are famous in Japanese culture, and you’ll find references to them in movies, anime, design, art, and even various restaurants around Tokyo. There is even yokai (Japanese spirit/demon characters) such as Bake Danuki — a supernatural tanuki spirit, some say has the ability to shapeshift (much like the kitsune (fox)).4. Pay Your Respects at the Grand Zojoji Temple in MinatoZojoji Temple is a grand temple in Minato — nearby Tokyo Tower, inside Shiba Park with the incredible 21-meter tall Sangedatsumon gate. And actually, it is this gate which is the only remaining original structure of the temple. It turns out much of it was destroyed by fire, war, and natural disasters (rebuilt).It enshrines the “God of Children” so you’ll find many small statues giving homage.You can get some fantastic photos here of ancient Japanese architecture with Tokyo Tower in the backdrop. While there you can see a statue of Princess Kazunomiya who has a very interesting history with the Tokugawa shogunate. In fact, Ieyasu (the shogun of Japan) select this location as his family temple — and is the Mausoleum of Tokugawa Shoguns, where several of the Tokugawa shogun rest. 5. Caffeinate Yourself at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery TokyoThe Nakameguro area is home to the world’s largest Starbucks — yea, who would have thought Japan would be home to the largest? With floors of interesting things to see and unique collectibles to buy, if you love coffee (and especially Starbuck’s coffee), you’ll love ♥ this place — and check out the unique, Japanese-only Tokyo Roast while you’re here.It’s classy and has a fantastic atmosphere, a great location, tons of space, and incredible architecture (designed by Kengo Kuma). You can see how the coffee is made — and did I mentioned the Nakameguro area is amazing (especially during cherry blossom season)?
9 minutes | 24 days ago
TS0008: Unique Museums, Legendary Cuisine, and Cityscape Sunsets Atop Tokyo
⭐ Show notes ▶ https://tokyospark.com/issue/november-1-2020/1. Explore Some Particularly Unique MuseumsTokyo, and Japan for that matter, is home to museums showcasing a range of art and temporary exhibits. From the Mori Art Museum to the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum to the Tokyo National Museum — there is a lot to choose from.But sometimes you want something extra unique. You could check out the Amuse Museum in Asakusa, but even the “harmony, ethos, and beauty of technology” isn’t quite what you’re looking for.Well, JapanTravel has a few museum picks I think you’ll find interesting. These are stunningly unique structures with fantastic architecture.2. The Japanese Donabe; Cuisine of LegendsThe Japanese donabe is the stuff of legends. An earthenware pot — crafted by banko-ware craftsmanship and pride — with seemingly millions of options in creative nabemono cuisine. Made with a special clay, the donabe is usable on a hot open flame and is said to last decades.It’s far more than cooked rice, soup, and veggies. There is an artform to fantastic donabe dishes. Here, Bon Apetit has put together a simple recipe with a big impact. If you’re looking for a Japanese food experience at home, give it a try.One Japanese Donabe, One Million(ish) Options “At a basic level, a donabe is a pot that just happens to be pretty enough to double as a striking serving piece. High-quality versions have thick walls that effectively retain heat and are especially good for gently cooking the vegetable-heavy meals I want constantly this time of year.” (BonAppetit)3. Ivan Orkin and the Gaijin CookbookIf you’re looking for a unique cookbook to add to your collection, look no further than “The Gaijin Cookbook” where chef Ivan Orkin teams up with Chris Yang to create a magnificent “cook Japanese food at home” cookbook.Stir fry, tonkatsu, ramen, steamed rice, Japanese curry, and more. Many of the reviews are even saying they don’t need to go to Japanese restaurants anymore because they can make better at home now!I don’t believe it — at least, no in Japan anyway. But they are great reviews for the cookbook by a chef I’ve featured many times on TokyoSpark.4. Design Your Own Hand-Made Tenugui MasterpieceThe tenugui cloth has a special place in Japanese culture. You’ll find them used as art and decoration, sports, or even to wipe the sweat from one’s brow during summer festivals. It’s one of those purely Japan objects that conjures unique imagery of this wonderful country — as we’d say here in Japan “sasuga nihon” which means “admirable Japan.“There are stores dedicated to nothing but a massive variety of tenugui designs. A simple cotton fabric with vibrant fabric paint. Tenukuri Studio is one such store, but you can also design your own tenugui here. 5. Watch Amazing Sunsets From the Sunshine 60 Observation Deck in IkebukuroSunshine 60 is a huge mall in Ikebukuro — in downtown Tokyo. The top floors are home to fantastic things to do when in Tokyo, such as a planetarium, sunshine aquarium, and this excellent observation deck.Not only is the main observatory one of the tallest structures in the area, giving you magnificent city views, but during a special time of year, you can witness the sun setting atop Mt Fuji from the angle you get from here — giving you some of the best photo-ops you’ll find in Tokyo — including the landmark Tokyo Tower (second only to the new Tokyo Skytree).Not to mention the other interesting things to check out inside the Sunshine City complex such as Namja Town, VR game center, electronics shopping (at Bic Camera and Yamada Denki), and of course — excellent dining options.See all past issues ▶ https://tokyospark.com/past-issues/
7 minutes | a month ago
TS0007: Instagram-Worthy Cafes, Japanese “Breakfast,” & Dom Perignon Level Sake?
⭐ Show notes >> https://tokyospark.com/issue/october-25-2020/1. 4 Cafés for Interesting Instagram Photo-Ops in TokyoWhen you’re looking for places to check out in Tokyo of course you want something picturesque to add to your Instagram right? SavvyTokyo has a great list of cafes that will give you more than enough photo-ops for your IG feed.The last café on their list, Reissue, in Shibuya, has some really talented baristas creating cool latte artwork. Characters, bunny rabbits, and more. These are a perfect chance to add something unique from Japan to your Instagram.2. Breakfast in Japan Isn’t Like America, But it’s UniqueYou probably know Japan, especially Tokyo, is essentially the food capital of the world. You can’t go a block without tripping over a Michelin-star. 🙂But “breakfast” is… a bit weird compared to western breakfast. While they have eggs, it’s not (typically) eggs and bacon. And you will find the breakfast is whatever they can get on their way to work (usually rice balls 🍙).You’ll find things such as:Rice balls (onigiri)Miso soupSalmon3. Go for a Night Walk in AkihabaraA fantastic video night stroll through Akihabara, the electronics capital of Japan, in downtown Tokyo — and also the nerd/anime/manga/maid cafe mecca. 🙂A nice high-resolution camera makes for a nice view — maybe turn down the volume a little.4. Motsuzen; Fabulously Priced Izakaya With a Big Menu in AkasakaWhile Motsuzen isn’t a unique mom and pop izakaya (it’s a chain), it does have some incredible prices for the amount of food and drinks you get.It has a digital tablet menu to order — and the menu has a wide selection. A bit crazy actually — you could probably come here twice and not try everything.TokyoBelly did a great write-up on this shop and has a lot of pictures you can check out.5. Dom Perignon Level Sake?Now, this is interesting. The former chief winemaker of Dom Perignon — yea, the insanely expensive, globally recognized brand — is now producing a Japanese sake.The “new brew” is called IWA 5 and is a rare bottle of sake because it’s crafted by a foreigner — and uses a unique blending technique.
7 minutes | a month ago
TS0006: Discover Miso, Virtual Old Tokyo, and Coffee + Art
⭐ Show notes >> https://tokyospark.com/issue/october-19-2020/1. Discover Endless Ways to Use Miso (Yes, soybean paste)This isn’t an article about Japanese food in Japan, but a fun read about miso — the soybean paste ingredient found in so many dishes it’s practically in all of them.I’m kidding, but it really is common — almost as common as shoyu (soy sauce) and dashi (fish broth). You will find miso paste used in all sorts of Japanese food, and as a garnish or dip even.Miso is one of those ingredients that really adds quite a lot to the cuisine, and is often said to add “umami” — that elusive 5th flavor.Obviously, miso soup is ultra-common, but there are so many more uses it’s remarkable — and you can find it in pretty much every grocery store in Japan. And don’t be afraid of the many types of miso: white miso, red miso, yellow miso — some barley miso, rice miso, etc.2. Go on an Old Tokyo Virtual TourSometimes the history of a place can be really interesting. You probably already know much of Tokyo was destroyed in WWII, but there is a rich past to the city — a fantastic story.This virtual tour shows you a ton of old black and white photos of Tokyo from almost a century ago. It’s fascinating to read and see what life was like in Tokyo back then.3. Stroll Through Tokyo’s Omotesando and Harajuku AreasHere’s a video of an exploring walk around the Omotesando and Harajuku areas — a live stream with chat.Harajuku is famous for Takeshita Dori (street) with stalls lining the street selling the latest teen fashion trends and the “kawaii” cute culture. You can find some interesting street food and souvenirs here as well.4. Coffee & Art: The Perfect Mix, at WHAT CAFE in ShinagawaCoffee. Art. Together. An awesome combination that is worth the effort to check out if you enjoy art. ‘WHAT CAFE’ is a new cafe in Tennozu, Tokyo — opened by Warehouse TERRADA on October 15, 2020.Espresso, French press, and specialty coffee from a shop that cares from coffee bean to cup — ready for coffee drinkers who also love art.5. Meanwhile, AI is Now Entering the Fish Markets of JapanIf this continues nothing is safe from artificial intelligence. This is an AI app that can grade the quality of yellowfin tuna so it can seek the best prices at auction.It can replace a human fish inspector with 10 years of experience. I suppose we should have seen this coming right? Apparently the app will be expanding to bring AI into the Toyosu fish market for the bluefin tuna soon.In theory, it could lower the price of these fish as the quality can be graded more quickly and accurately — giving the right price for the right fish — buyers, who are often sushi shop owners, can get exactly the fish they want and the right price.
5 minutes | a month ago
TS0004: Camera Lens Drinking Glasses, Made-in-Japan Goods, and “Little Brooklyn” Ramen
⭐ Show notes >> https://tokyospark.com/issue/october-12-2020/1. Intricate Camera Lens Drinking GlassesCanon, the camera company, is teaming up with a local Japanese artisan craftswoman to create some really interesting drinking glasses inspired by camera lenses.These are extremely cool looking and would make for excellent whiskey glasses to show off back home.2. Cool Made-in-Japan Kitchen GoodsTo continue the trend of fashionable kitchen/dinnerware goods in this issue — here are 9 made-in-Japan goods that will make you the star with guests in your home.Items such as superb cutlery, trendy chopsticks, or a minimalist drip coffee stand.3. A New Ryokan in ShimokitazawaA new ryokan is always welcome. This one, named Yuen Bettei Daita, in the hip neighborhood of Shimokitazawa in downtown Tokyo. It brings back a throw-back feel of the past with thatch materials, stone paths, bamboo, and the lighting wraps it all up nicely.All-in-all, a very elegant traditional Japanese experience.4. The Mythical Legends of YokaiJapan, much like you’d find in Greek mythology, has a rich belief in mythical creatures and ideologies. Yokai are one — being various demons and spirits, often based around something — like Aphrodite being the Goddess of Love.It’s extremely interesting and there are so many different yokai stories you could end up reading about them for ages. Movies, anime, and TV shows are often based on yokai, or have yokai in them in some form or another.5. Tokyo’s “Little Brooklyn” RamenKuramae, Tokyo’s “Little Brooklyn,” has seen quite a lot of growth in recent years. Of course, this means delicious food has to move in too. And what’s on everyone’s mind when hungry on the way home from work (or a cold winter evening)?Ramen. That’s right. And Ramen Kai is a little gourmet ramen shop you should check out. Not a quick chain type of joint, instead everything is carefully constructed to bring you a next level bowl of ramen.
5 minutes | a month ago
TS0001: Sweet Potatoes, KitKats, Historic Alley, and $100 Ramen!?
In this episode, we have found some cool activities for you to check out and a $100 bowl of ramen!? Yes, you read that right, wow! But there is more to enjoy.The "show notes" for this episode can be found here: https://tokyospark.com/issue/october-3-2020/ -- go there to follow along with this episode and find links to all the resources I discussed in this episode.1. Sweet Potato-PickingLooking for an activity to take your kids to? Kawagoe is just a short day trip north of Tokyo with a lot to offer.2. Make your own KitKatsWith over 400 flavors in Japan, KitKat is a nationwide favorite here. The Japanese love their KitKats. And now you can make your own at the KitKat Chocolatory in Shibuya.3. What will you eat in Japan?You’ve probably heard that Japan is one of the food capitals of the world. It’s a place that has some of the best food you can find anywhere. But what is Japanese food?4. A glimpse into the pastThis is a fantastic photo capturing a cramped Tokyo alley that appears to have been untouched since the beginning of modern Tokyo. It’s dark, dusty, falling apart… but still very interesting to look at.5. A $100 bowl of ramen!?Yes, you read that right — it’s no typo. There really is a $100 bowl of ramen. It’s a ramen joint called Mashi no Mashi in Roppongi — and they serve wagyu ramen! Founded by the mastermind behind Wagyu Mafia, a private members-only wagyu restaurant.
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