To be honest, I have next to nothing to offer.
Earlier this year, we spent a week in Tokyo, and by Tokyo I meant Daiba, and by Daiba, I meant the Docklands of Tokyo.
Shiny development in the empty part of the city, promised to be the new hub of activity, with a fake river and lots of yachts, and some edgy art pieces by local artists. All the main brands are there, all the franchise restaurants are there.
You can picture it already.
There’s a Docklands in every city in the world.
It has a great view of the city because it’s that far from the city.
And like all Docklands in the world, parents will justify their reasons to go there.
We picked Daiba because:
A 15-minute taxi ride from Haneda airport. Once, when we were young we could stomach the 60-minute limousine bus ride, followed by the onslaught of subway underground air, but nowadays I really want Hana’s first impression of Tokyo to contain some sort of skylight.
30-minute train ride to everywhere. Disneyland, Kidzania, Asakusa, Museums
Because of how uncool the place is, hotels are surprisingly spacious. For the same price, we’d probably get a coffin in the city.
Anyway, it worked for us, but probably not for you.
This is a report written by a lazy, trend-hating, uncle past his peak.
I’m sure you know about Yamato already, but in case you don’t it’s the courier service with the black cat logo.
This service has been available for ages, but we’ve only tried it out this year.
Instead of dragging your luggage with you from the airport to the hotel, Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka to Fukuoka, you can find a kuroneko counter, pay 2500 yen for each luggage, and they’ll deliver the luggage to you, to the station, to the hotel, some even on the same day.
They call it ‘Hands-Free Travel’.
We packed up a suitcase three days before our flight back to Melbourne, and left it with the hotel counter.
The night we flew off, we picked it up from the airport before check-in.
Those who are not impressed by this service, probably have not experienced the stress of managing five pieces of luggage during peak hour trains in Japan. The katakatakata sound of the wheels as you walk from station to hotel.
Parlor Vinefru, Ginza
If you’re still queueing up for ramen in 2023, it’s time to hang up your foodie hoodie. Nowadays the cool queue is for curry, for kakigori - shaved ice.
When I was chatting with a college friend about meeting up in Ginza, I was not expecting to visit a kakigoriya.
But there we were, lining up a narrow stairway, to a narrow shop serving shaved ice. I remember really enjoying the one with kinako.
There’s no shame in finding a local friend to find you local places to try.
But to tag on friends of friends, expanding a group of 4 to 5 in a crowded restaurant, requires some low-life thick-skinned scummy quality that only I possess.
Isen Honten, Bunkyo City
My Shokupan-baking friend Satoshi’s daughter is studying graphic design in Tokyo. We asked her to meet up and if she knows anywhere good. She asked her parents if they know anywhere good. They texted her a few restaurants, and she forwarded us the links (why didn’t I just ask Satoshi then) and we decided on Isen Hoten - a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) shop.
There are two types of queues in front of Japanese restaurants - tourists queue or local queue. The queue in front of Isen before opening was filled with old ladies and men. It’s the same aunty rules around the world - to generate a queue, the place must be good AND worthy of their pension money.
I’m not a pork person.
But the Japanese tonkatsu is probably the juiciest and ‘least porky’ pork one can find in this world.
Or you know, just eat chicken.
Tsukiji Sushiko, Narita Terminal 2
An airport restaurant, really, Harvard?
This report is really taking a turn for the worse, right?
Here’s the thing. My wife doesn’t usually have an opinion when it comes to food. Guys know what I’m talking about.
Anything, whatever, up to you, I’m fine with anything, I’m not fussed.
Yet on that night before we fly to Melbourne, she miraculously said:
I. want. sushi.
So we took a bus from terminal 3 to 2 for our first and last non-sushi-train sushi of the trip, then took the bus back to terminal 3 again.
Japanese airport sushi is probably better than 95% of sushi in Australia.
And here’s the thing, a sushi restaurant in terminal 2 is still better than any dishes from the LCC terminal 3. Any dishes from the LCC terminal 3 are better than any airplane food imaginable.
I scratched my head as passengers ate their 10pm meal on our flight. Did they not eat dinner? Why couldn’t we just skip this part and dim the lights?
Maybe the real advice here is to allow plenty of time at the airport before flying off.
It takes a lot of pressure off checking in, I remember spending a lot of effort tracking this particular brand of dashi in the city, only to see a shop in the airport.
Tsukiya Ramen, Fukuoka & Tokyo
And speaking of airport food, the most impactful ramen I had on the last trip was in Fukuoka airport.
My most favourite piece of food adventure literature, is Ramen Beast’s quest of the most elusive bowl of ramen in Japan - the clear tonkotsu ramen from Rairai.
Someone must’ve hacked his recipe because on the top floor of Fukuoka domestic airport, along the ramen street, sits a shop serving clear tonkotsu ramen.
I didn’t plan to, but fate had me tasting one.
I know, I know, Fukuoka is not Tokyo, BUT there’s a branch in Tokyo.
I’m surprised that they’re using the non-PC, pre-WWII name Shina Soba 支那そば to describe Chinese Ramen and not being torched by the Chinese.
The ramen must be pretty decent.
Rokurinsha is a nostalgia hit for me. They are a major player in tsukemen (dipping-style) ramen, and in my past life, I queued up in Tokyo Station with my wife, my friend for over an hour.
I never thought I’d have a chance to try it this trip, but chance would have it that they have now mainstream expanded to Ueno Station which was a seven-minute walk from our hotel.
It’s kinda hard to explain why it is so addictive to me. It could be the anchovy and bonito power, the bite on the noodles… but my money is on my boomer mentality that everything was better back in the days, betting on conservative consistency rather than taking the risk on something new.
My wife hates tsukemen. In fact, most Fukuokans dislike tsukemen because to them it’s just lukewarm noodles - neither porky, chewy or hot. Like a bowl of normal ramen being left out on the table for an hour for the noodles to expand, then strained.
So she allowed me to enjoy the noodles solo one night.
But don’t tell her I told you, I went back the next afternoon to try the soup version. I told her I was in the toilet, that’s why I was a little late to the science museum.
It’s true though, I was doing research, for science, for you, my readers. Burp.
Honestly, I enjoyed the soup version more.
Oh no, I’m turning into a Fukuokan.
What is a post about Japan without a chart, ey?
The point here is, most food is delicious in Tokyo, in Japan.
And let’s be honest here, you are not really equipped to notice the difference between ‘pretty delicious’ and ‘the limit of deliciousness’.
Just go with the flow and let go of that FOMO.
Oh, before I forget, my sugar daddies.
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