Allison Day

2012 Japan Trip

It’s been two and a half years since Son and I went to Japan with Rachael and her family, and it seems I never quite finished posting about the trip! Oops.

However, since I find it helpful to refer back to the trip (especially when other people ask for recommendations), and I hope you all find these posts interesting and informative, I’m going to post about the rest of the trip anyways! (And if any of you go to Japan, let me know! I love hearing about other peoples’ trips.)

All the previous posts from our 2012 Japan trip can be found here.


Our last day in Japan was a short one. We took the Shinkensen, all the way back to Tokyo.

Shinkensen back to Narita Airport

Leaving Kyoto


Allison on the train

Of course we had to have some snacks, on the way.

Son with the shumai chips

Shumai chips – odd, but addictive!

Shumai chips

Train conductor

Back in Tokyo

View of houses from the train

Goodbye, Japan! We hope to be back soon!

At the airport.  Goodbye Japan!

(P.S. I’m surprised I wasn’t charged an overweight fee for my bags – half the weight was from cookbooks alone!)

Final cookbook tally

Continue Reading

It’s been two and a half years since Son and I went to Japan with Rachael and her family, and it seems I never quite finished posting about the trip! Oops.

However, since I find it helpful to refer back to the trip (especially when other people ask for recommendations), and I hope you all find these posts interesting and informative, I’m going to post about the rest of the trip anyways! (And if any of you go to Japan, let me know! I love hearing about other peoples’ trips.)

All the previous posts from our 2012 Japan trip can be found here.


On our last full day in Kyoto, we were lucky enough to meet up with an old friend of mine who now lives in Kyoto. I’ve known Kaori since I was a teenager, when we both danced with the same pre-professional ballet company. These days, she’s dancing as a professional ballerina with a ballet company in Kyoto.

We met up with her at Shijo station, then headed to Cafe Reims.

Cafe Reims menus

Outside of the cafe

Inside of the cafe

Inside the cafe


I ordered pasta with salmon, asparagus, white sauce, and fish eggs.

Pasta with salmon, asparagus, white sauce, and fish eggs

Kaori got a fish burger.

Kaori's fish burger

And Son had a hamburg plate.

Son's hamburg plate


After lunch, we headed to Nishiki market, which was just down the street from the cafe.

Unagi shop in Nishiki market

Shop in Nishiki market

Nishiki market hadn’t changed much from when we visited back in 2010 – remember these little candied octopuses?


There are so many tasty things to try at Nishiki market, it would be a shame to leave without buying anything!

So we got senbei…

Senbei shop

Man making senbei

Shop selling dried seafood

… black beans…

Allison and Kaori buying beans

Shop selling greens

Shop selling tsukemono

Shop selling misozuke

Allison and Kaori walking through Nishiki market

… yuzu kosho…

Shop where we bought yuzu kosho

… and shoyu mochi with matcha and red bean fillings.

Nishiki market

Allison and Kaori

After shopping, Kaori had to go run some errands, so after bidding her goodbye, Son and I stopped at Ippudo for ramen. Of course.

Just inside Ippudo

Diners at Ippudo

Ippudo Menu






Allison in front of Ippudo

Five stars, would go again. :D

Shellfish shop in Nishiki

Gift shop

Plush sushi

Samurai with utility belt

On our way back out through Nishiki market, we stopped and got some mochi with kinako for dessert. Delicious.

Mochi with kinako

After heading back to the hotel to pack, we finally got to check out the Kyoto Station CUBE.

Yatsu hashi shop

We found some tasty food souviniers to bring home for friends and family.

Allison shopping for food souvenirs to bring home



… and then headed to the hot food section to find some tasty foods for dinner!

Man making sushi

Inari shop

Tebasaki shop

After purchasing all sorts of deliciousness for dinner, we left the shops in the basement, and headed alllll the way to the top of Kyoto station.

Heading up to the roof of Kyoto Station

View of Kyoto from the roof of Kyoto Station

Way up on the 10th floor of Kyoto station, is a cute little area called “Happy Terrace”, where we sat a bit and ate.

Allison eating the pork and potatoes

We had found all sorts of interesting things, like pork with potatoes…

Pork and potatoes

View of Kyoto Tower across Happy Terrace

… and a beautiful bento box.

Bento box

(We really couldn’t get enough of the bento boxes in Japan – they were all so wonderful!)

Bento box

Schoolkids invading the roof

Schoolkids looking at one of their cameras

And then Happy Terrace got mobbed by a swarm of schoolkids.

Schoolkids everywhere

(Kyoto Tower looks so pretty from here!)

Kyoto Tower

So we headed back down the 10 flights of escalators…

The view down 10+ flights of escalators to the bottom of Kyoto station

Happy Terrace

So many schoolkids!

Heading back down to Kyoto Station

The roof of Kyoto Station

Kyoto Tower

Allison in front of Kyoto Tower

… all the way back down to the train station.

Shinkensen tracks at night

But before we left, we needed to make one more stop!

Had to buy a few last shiro cream puffs from Beard Papa’s, to bring home to California.

Allison buying cream puffs

Back at the hotel, we got into the other two things we bought at the Kyoto Station CUBE.

Five kinds of inari sushi – oh, how I wish I could find these in LA!

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

And tebasaki chicken wings. Delicious!


Continue Reading

It’s been two and a half years since Son and I went to Japan with Rachael and her family, and it seems I never quite finished posting about the trip! Oops.

However, since I find it helpful to refer back to the trip (especially when other people ask for recommendations), and I hope you all find these posts interesting and informative, I’m going to post about the rest of the trip anyways! (And if any of you go to Japan, let me know! I love hearing about other peoples’ trips.)

All the previous posts from our 2012 Japan trip can be found here.


Having forgotten to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door the previous night, we were woken up at the very early hour of 10am by a housekeeper knocking at our door.

Yeah… we were still pretty exhausted from all the walking the day before.

Tuna onigiri

But since we were already up, may as well take full advantage of our second-to-last full day in Japan!

(After a quick breakfast of tuna onigiri, of course.)

Shinkensen tracks at Kyoto Station

We walked to Kyoto station, and took the Shinkensen to Shin-Osaka.

View from Fukushima station

From there, we couldn’t figure out where to go. Son wanted to go to the aquarium, but he also wanted to go to this “food street” he had heard about, and I wanted to go to a cookware street that my cousin had told me about… but unfortunately we only had a limited amount of time to see Osaka.

Fukushima station sign

Which pretty much meant we promptly got lost. Yeah, the Fukushima station was not where we were supposed to get off for any of the above destinations. Oops.

Fukushima station

Luckily the Japanese trains come by quite regularly, and the line we were on was very similar to the Yamanote Line in Tokyo, in that it just goes in one big circle around the city. So you can’t get too lost.

JR-Namba station tracks

Plus in the time we had to wait for the next train, we managed to figure out where we wanted to go.

Pretty soon we were on our way to the JR-Namba station.

Suica machine

JR-Namba Station

Outside JR-Namba Station

So which destination did we choose?

Walking along a main street in Osaka

Crossing the street to get to Dotonbori


Well, you know us.

Walking through a covered strip mall

Side street

Of COURSE we went with food.


Dotonbori is a street lining a canal in Osaka, and it’s famous as a food destination. There are restaurants all up and down the streets surrounding the canal. So. Much. Good. Food.

Ramen shop at Dotonbori


Our first stop was an okonomiyaki and takoyaki shop.


Osaka is known for its okonomiyaki and takoyaki, so this was a no-brainer.

View out the back of the okonomiyaki restaurant


We got eight takoyaki – four with worcestershire sauce, and four with shoyu. They were excellent, of course.

Allison eating takoyaki

Takoyaki inside


We also got a pork okonomiyaki (and when they say pork, they really mean bacon) with egg and scallops. Good stuff, man.

Allison eating

Posters inside the restaurant


Cutting the okonomiyaki

Serving the okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki close-up

Tables inside the restaurant

Outside of the restaurant

Outside of the resturant

Hawker outside of the restuarant

Then we wandered…

More restaurants

Pastry stall


Side street

Food stall

… right into another bookstore, where we bought a Japanese cookbook all about ice cream, and some Japanese cooking magazines.

No, we did not buy the Japanese version of Twilight, though the Japanese “Edward” on the cover is pretty amusing.

Twilight in Japanese

More wandering…

River and crazy ferris wheel

Another view straight down the river

… and more food, of course.

Crepe Ojisan


This time, a Japanese crepe with strawberry ice cream, pound cake, chocolate, and whipped cream.


View of the river from the other side of the ferris wheel

Then we headed back to a ramen place we had read about. Kinryu Ramen is easy to find – it’s the shop with the huge dragon coming out of it!

Ramen shop

Inside of the ramen shop

Allison in the ramen shop

Kinryu Ramen

Chashu in the ramen

After lunch part 2, (which was delicious, by the way), we tried to find our way to Doguyasuji – the cookware street.

Wandering Osaka, looking for Doguyasuji

Getting closer to Doguyasuji

On the way, we got distracted by ice cream. Again.

(But can you blame us? In Japan’s hot, humid summer, as much ice cream as possible is a must!

Pastry stand

Man making pastries

Another pastry stand

People dressed up as characters

This time, it was came in the form of a wafer filled with ice cream and red beans. Delicious

Wafer cookies filled with red bean paste and ice cream

People dressed up as characters

Allison with the wafer pastry

Wafer cookie with a bite taken out of it

A person dressed up as an old man character

And then… hey, look! We found Doguyasuji!

Found Doguyasuji!


Cat statue


I tell ya, this is food blogger heaven.

Allison, and lots of spoons

Tons of dishes

Knife shop

A food blogger's dream!

Side street

On our way back to the train station, we stopped at Choco Cro again, and bought a matcha daifuku croissant to snack on.

Choco Cro Matcha Daifuku Croissant

Inside of croissant

Reading one of our magazines on the train back to Kyoto

By the time we got back, the Kyoto Station CUBE was closed, so we picked up dinner at Family Mart again. (The best.)

Oh – and one more interesting thing you’ll find in Japan, but not in the US: oftentimes, disposable chopsticks come with a toothpick! How nifty is that?

Chopsticks come with a toothpick!

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After spending the morning getting lost and the afternoon satisfying our wanderlust, we were hungry. Time to eat!

Red light district? on the other side of the river

We headed across the river, and found ourself on a large, busy street full of clothing stores and fast food. We could have stopped at a McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Subway (or even Baskin Robbins!), but we weren’t quite that hungry. (Although we did eat at a McDonald’s the first time we went to Japan (for our very first meal!) and it wasn’t *that* bad. Better than American McDonald’s, definitely.)

Large building by the river

Woman in a kimono

Instead we kept walking, and walking, and turned down another walking-only street, and hey wait a minute, something about this place looks familiar

Turns out we found our way over to the mall behind Nishiki Market without even realizing we were in the area!

This was a very good thing, because there are lots of good eats in this mall.

Gindaco - takoyaki restaurant

Worker making takoyaki

I’ve been on a takoyaki kick throughout the entire trip (and ever since we got home, too!) so when we found a takoyaki shop, of course we had to try it.


We ordered takoyaki covered in cheese and spicy roe mayo. Yes, it sounds weird, that’s partially why we got it – what’s the point of traveling if you don’t try all the weird foods you can’t get anywhere else? ^_^



However, as weird as it sounded, it was freaking delicious. I never, ever would have thought cheese atop takoyaki would be a good idea… but it turns out whomever thought of this is a genius.

All gone!

A little further into the mall, we found a place called Churro Star.

Menu at Churro Star

Sounded interesting, so of course we had to investigate.

Churro Star sign

Mall, near closing

Allison with the churro

We got a churro that came with something called “strawberry milk” – very interesting.

Close-up of the churro and strawberry milk

Dipping the churro in the strawberry milk

The churro was fantastic. The strawberry milk was… well, it had the texture of caramel, and tasted like a strawberry-flavored Hi-Chew. While you can’t ever go wrong with strawberry Hi-Chews, it was kind of a weird combination with the churro.

Churro with strawberry milk

More wandering…

Shop near Nishiki market

(Even the Subways there are nicer!)

Subway restaurant and cafe

Outdoor street in the mall

Lots of Chopper dolls

Then we found a sock store. With awesome socks. Yes, I had to buy some. Yes, I actually wear them. (The Totoro ones are my favorite.) ^_^


Sandwich case at Choco Cro

Before we left Tokyo, Rachael said we should definitely try Choco Cro. There was one in the mall by Nishiki Market, so we stopped in and bought one to go.

Pastries at Choco Cro

Matcha Daifuku Croissants at Choco Cro

Unfortunately by then, it was late enough that all the restaurants were closed. So we headed back to Kyoto Station… where got lost again… and by the time we found ourselves, everything was also closed.

River at night

Lit-up building in Gion

So we went back to our hotel, stopping at a Family Mart on the way.

Choco Cro

We ate the Choco Cro (chocolate croissant) back at our hotel, and it was delicious.

(Oh hai, Twitter!)

Choco Cro

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a Family Mart dinner, yo.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – convenience store (combini) food in Japan is better than grocery store food in the US. Seriously good stuff.

Sushi, salad, zukemono, and ice cream. And then an Icy Hot bath. All that walking makes for a sore Allison…

Mango ice cream

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After spending the morning going in circles, we once again left our hotel, and walked to the train station. This time we went to the station nearest us, which – go figure – was not a JR Station. However this time, we had an actual goal in mind.

Double decker train

At Son’s suggestion, we were heading to the Gion area of Kyoto – an area famous for its Geishas (or, as they’re called in Kyoto, Geiko).

Historical building in Gion area

We took the local subway to the Gion-Shijo station, which let out on Shijo street, which is the main street in the Gion area.

The main street in the Gion area

Street in the Gion area

It’s a busy street, and obviously caters to tourists.

Signs on the main street in the Gion area

Man on a motorbike

Maiko on the main street


Eventually we turned down a side street, and just wandered.

Beautiful houses down a side street in the Gion area

Smaller street lined with restaurants in the Gion area

A restaurant in the Gion area

We found our way to one of the busier side streets, where there was a traffic jam of cars lined up all the way up and down the street.

Cars lined up in the street


According to a woman on flkr who is apparently familiar with the Gion area, this is a lantern in front of the Tama ochaya (tea house).


It was the time of day when the maiko were beginning to make their way around the area.

Large building next to a theatre

Woman with umbrella and two dogs

Alley in Gion

This narrow alley holds the entrances to the two most popular okiya (geisha houses) in Gion Kobu: the Tama (left sign) and the Tsurui (the right sign).

A geisha getting mobbed by tourists wanting to take her photo

We also saw one or two geisha… or at least, we got quick glimpses before the poor geisha got mobbed by tourists wanting to take photographs. We kept our distance, but some people had no problem getting right up in her face, crowding all around her to take their pictures. Crazy.

Alley in Gion

Back alley in Gion

Street in Gion

We headed off on another side street to avoid the crowds and try to see more of the area, and ended up at a temple.

Structure in the middle of the park

Park in Gion

We wandered the temple grounds for a bit, Son taking pictures, me taking pictures of him taking pictures.

My view for most of the trip

A pathway in the park

It was late enough in the afternoon that everything was closed, but it was a beautiful, serene area.

Pathway out of the park

Entrance to a restaurant in Gion

A restaurant in Gion

A cafe

Crossing the river

By that time we were getting pretty hungry, so we headed across the river to try to find somewhere to eat…

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Our first whole day in Kyoto was such a jam-packed day that I’m splitting it into three posts. Looking back, I can hardly believe we managed to fit so much into one day… and yet can now totally understand why I was so sore I could barely move that night.

Kyoto street

We started the morning off walking to Kyoto station from our hotel.

Curry pan

We stopped by a tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery to buy a curry pan, which unfortunately was one of the few not-so-good things we ate on the entire trip.

Kyoto street

Kyoto alley

River in Kyoto

Kyoto street

Kyoto street

Smaller river in Kyoto

We managed to find our way to Kyoto Station, and then spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out where we wanted to go.

View of Kyoto Tower between two maps

We were looking for a park, somewhere that we could sit and eat the onigiri we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning, and take some time to relax after the hectic week in Tokyo.


All we found were temples… and somehow it felt like it would be a little weird to go to a temple just to sit, eat, and read.

Allison looking at a map

So instead we went to Mister Donut.

Donuts at Mr. Donut

Mister Donut (along with Bassanova and Beard Papa’s) are one of our must-visit places when we go to Japan. We had already gone once in Akihabara, on our third day in Tokyo. But obviously, once was not enough.

Chocolate pon de ring doughnut

We got a chocolate pon de ring doughnut, and a ginger doughnut (which was one of their summer specials – they had a huge ginger promotion going on while we were there.) The chocolate was good, but the ginger was better. A nice strong ginger flavor, with a delicious white chocolate frosting.

Ginger doughnut


We also had a bottle of mugicha and a tamago onigiri that we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning.

Tamago onigiri wrapper

Tamago onigiri

Display for the upcoming Tanabata festival

Mister Donut

After we ate, we were all ready to head out… and then we realized that someone (*cough* me *cough*) had forgotten their JR Pass at the hotel. Oops. Guess we weren’t going anywhere after all.


Instead, we explored the train station, and wandered around the food mall downstairs.

Pastry shop

Tsukemono shop

Mochi shop

We love these food malls (you may remember we were kind of obsessed with the one in Ueno station while we were in Tokyo), because they always have so many delicious things to buy!

Mochi shop

Godiva shop

Grocery store cashier

Fried foods shop


Potatoes and pork

Maki sushi

Maki sushi and inari-zushi

Maki sushi

Inari zushi


Bento shop

Inari sushi shop

Yakitori shop

Yakitori shop


Salad shop

Taiyaki shop

Worker flipping taiyaki

Tempura shop

Meat shop

Pastry shop

Confectionary shop

Cake shop

Chocolate pudding cups

Son is kind of obsessed with creme bruleé, so we bought one at a fancy dessert shop.

Fruit cups

Confectionary shop

Mochi shop


Confectionary shop

Purse shop

Kyoto tower

Creme brulee box

We headed back out of the station, and sat on a ledge to eat the creme bruleé.

Shattering creme brulee

It was just as good as it looked. It shattered perfectly, and the custard was creamy and smooth. One of the better creme bruleés we’ve had.

Creme brulee

A building near Kyoto Station

… and then we got to walk back to our hotel.


It was a very hot day, so we took a little break and ate onirigi and a bag of chips, before heading off to our next adventure…

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Our ninth day in Japan was our last day in Tokyo. We started the morning by finishing up packing (and ate a couple of onigiri), before checking out and leaving our baggage with the front desk so we could do a couple more things in Tokyo before heading to Kyoto.

We met Rachael and her girls at their hotel, and headed to Kappabashi – the “cooking street”.


Chef Statue in Kappabashi

Kakigori (shaved ice) machines

Mini brands for mochi

Rice cookers

An aisle in a cookware shop

Kappabashi is a street in Tokyo where many restaurants buy their supplies – cookware, dishes, signs, even the insanely realistic fake food that is often displayed in front of restaurants.

Stacks of pans

A street by Kappabashi


We bought a few things there – a plate, a set of coasters, a silicone doughnut mold, a ramen strainer, and a couple of ramen spoons.

Allison and Rachael looking at rice molds

Colorful baskets

Sushi stickers

A fake food store

We really wanted to buy some of the fake food (or maybe a keychain or magnet) but we were in a little bit of a rush.

Fake seafood

Fake sushi

Seriously, though, doesn’t that yakitori look like it should be sizzling, ready to eat?!)

Fake yakitori

Fake food keychains

Sign shop

Aisle in a cookware shop

A man carving wood

Alley near Kappabashi

A view of the Tokyo Skytree through a side alley

Golden statue

Another side street

Lots of dishes

We always say every day is a sushi day, but how about every minute? :D

Sushi clock

A wall of knives

Knife shop

Chef statue outside a shop

After we walked down Kappabashi and back, we took a train to the Ginza area for lunch.

Tall clothing store in Ginza

A map in Ginza

… and promptly got lost.

Allison walking in Ginza

A restaurant in Ginza

Nikon Plaza in Ginza

Allison walking in Ginza

A street in Ginza

We were looking for a yakitori restaurant that one of Rachael’s friends had suggested. After a good bit of time wandering around Ginza and trying to ask for directions, we finally found it thanks to Son managing to locate it on his iPhone.


The entrance to Torigin is in a small alleyway, which is part of why it’s so difficult to find from the larger streets.

Apartments in Ginza

The restaurant is in the basement of the building, so you go down a flight of stairs once you enter the front door.

Allison entering Torigin

Torigin menu

But once you’re there, you can smell the smoke of the yakitori being grilled. Delicious!


Son and I shared two plates of yakitori (and Rachael shared the same two plates with her girls).


There was a huge variety – from grilled peppers to these odd, ball-shaped eggs, meatballs to chicken livers.

Mostly-eaten yakitori

All of it, delicious.


Painting in Torigin

Torigin window display

New Torigin

(There’s also a shop right next door called New Torigin. We have no idea if it’s related to the one we went to, or if it’s even a yakitori place. Let us know if any of you ever go there!)

New Torigin

Apartments in Ginza

After we all ate, we got a taxi back to our hotel and said our goodbyes.

Bug giving Son a hug

Both girls giving Son a hug

Skylight in our hotel

We still had a little time before we had to head to Shinagawa station to catch the Shinkensen to Kyoto, so we hung out in the lobby of our hotel for a bit.

Allison in the lobby of our hotel

View of the floors from the lobby

View of the train tracks from the hotel

Beard Papa's

And then ran to Beard Papa’s to get supplies for the trip. It’s a terribly long trip from Tokyo to Kyoto. A whole three hours! So obviously, we needed cream puffs in order to survive a trip that long.

Allison buying cream puffs

Tokyo tower

Then we caught a taxi to Shinagawa station, ate a cream puff while we waited for our train, then it was off to Kyoto!

Speeding past rice paddies in the train

Zooming past small villages

View from the train

View of an empty platform from the train

View of a house from the train

View from the train

By the time we got there it was late in the evening and pouring rain, so we caught a taxi to the Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel and ate a couple of onigiri and a cream puff that we had left over from earlier that day, and passed out.

Stay tuned for our few days of Kyoto (and Osaka!) adventures, coming up soon!

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On the eigth day of our Japan trip, my true love gave to me… cookbooks, udon, and sushiiii!!!

(Sorry, now that Thanksgiving is past, I’m in a bit of a Christmas-y mood!)

So. Day 8. This was a hot, hot day!

Our eighth day in Japan started out like this.

Itch cream

If, like us, your legs get attacked by crazy biting bugs when you’re out late at a park, then you’ll want to acquire some of this apparently fairly popular cream at a pharmacy. Luckily for us, Rachael knew just what we needed.

Itch cream

We had decided on sushi for lunch that day, since it was eight days into our trip and we hadn’t had a single sushi meal yet.

Outside the train station in Shibuya

So off we headed to Shibuya, Rachael’s old stomping grounds.

Walking past the train station in Shibuya

Japanese police car

JR Station in Shibuya

Crossing the street

A canal

Line outside a restaurant



We went to a kaiten sushi restaurant (“conveyer belt” sushi) that she liked.

Kaiten sushi

Man cooking the rice

Sushi chef

Sushi chef

Salmon with mayo and lettuce

Maki sushi

Ebi sushi

Salmon nigiri with mayo and lettuce

(Kaiten sushi, or “conveyer belt” sushi, is a type of sushi bar where the sushi chef(s) stand in the center and make the sushi, and then place each plate on a conveyer belt that revolves around them. The customers sit at a bar around them, and take a plate off the conveyer belt anytime they see something they want to eat. You pay by plate (sometimes they color-code the plates; here all the plates cost the same amount, except for a few specially-marked ones) so at the end of the meal they just tally it up for you.)

Maguro sushi

Octopus sushi

Ebi sushi

Gunkan maki

Nigiri sushi

Mango pudding

Mango pudding

Stack of plates

We ate our fill, for a fairly reasonable price – just 1560 yen (about $19) total, for Son and I to eat our fill of sushi and each have an incredibly refreshing mango pudding for dessert.

Outside of kaiten sushi restaurant

After lunch, we headed back to the other side of the Shibuya JR Station, past the famed Shibuya crossing.

Walking back towards Shibuya Station

Building in Shibuya

Shibuya crossing

Starbucks overlooking Shibuya crossing

We were headed to a store known as Tokyu Hands – a Japanese homegoods store that seems to have pretty much everything. We got some cooking utensils there – silicone saibashi, and a rice paddle.

Octopus statue

Japanese clothing

Japanese fans

Leaving Tokyu Hands



After taking some time to browse Tokyu Hands, we stopped at a combini and had ice cream in a pouch – it tasted like a Ramune slushie, and was exactly what we needed in the middle of that sweltering day.




After that, we took a train to Roppongi Hills, for the second thing we wanted to do that day.

Shibuya JR Station

Train station mosaic

Train tracks

Bakery inside train station

Exiting the train station

Building in Roppongi Hills

Spider statue in Roppongi Hills

It was terribly windy in Roppongi Hills. We nearly got blown away while the girls were running around beneath the spider statue!

Beneath the spider statue

Rachael's girls running around beneath the spider statue

Spider statue

A building in Roppongi Hills

Car demo at Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills

A small park in Roppongi Hills

A small park in Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills

After walking around Roppongi Hills for a bit, we headed to the Tsutaya bookstore – I really wanted some Japanese cookbooks, but needed Rachael’s help picking them out.

Starbucks inside the bookstore



Outside the bookstore

Leaving the bookstore

As you can see from a photo I took later that evening, we ended up with quite a haul of cookbooks, design books, and a hiragana/katakana for beginners book!



Bug with an ant

Rachael and her family had a dinner with her husband’s work at a super expensive place, so we decided to pass up the invitation to join them, and instead take Rachael’s recommendation to go to her favorite udon place.

McDonalds in Roppongi Hills



Tour bus

As Rachael describes it, “the bowls are the size of your head.”

Display bowls of udon



Udon restaurant

The place is called Tsurutontan, and there are apparently several locations around Tokyo.

Display bowls of udon

Menu at udon restaurant

Allison in udon restaurant

Menu at udon restaurant



Son's nabeyaki udon

Seriously, Rachael wasn’t kidding about the size of the bowls. I could’ve taken a bath in mine!

Allison with her curry udon

Son taking a picture

Curry udon

I got curry udon, and Son got nabeyaki udon. Both were delicious, but I think the consensus was that mine was better. The meal was about $40, but totally worth it.

Nabeyaki udon

Allison eating

Shrimp tempura in curry udon


Allison outside the curry restaurant

Happy and full, we wandered Roppongi a bit, stopping in another bookstore for a few minutes on the way to the train station, and then at the magazine stand back in Shiodome where we got a few more cooking magazines.

Then it was back to our hotel room, to pack, rest, and eat vanilla ice cream topped with blueberry sauce. You know, priorities.

Only one more day in Tokyo – stay tuned for our next post, where we visit Kappabashi street, and then head off to Kyoto!

Kajitsu blueberry ice cream

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This post was supposed to go up a week or two ago, but then Hurricane Sandy hit. While I’m on the west coast, and not directly affected by the storm, I felt like it would be a bit insensitive to be posting about a fairly minor typhoon in Japan while everyone on the east coast was dealing with the Hurricane.

The TED blog has a great post about ways you can help those who were affected by the hurricane. There are lots of people who still need our help, so if you can, I’m sure they’d appreciate any donation, no matter how little.

Walking to the Ueno Zoo

Our seventh day in Japan was a rainy one. Or, more specifically, a typhoon-y one.

Map inside entrance to Ueno Zoo

So of course we decided to go to the zoo.

Sleepy panda bear

We met our newfound best friend Kate at Ueno station, and then headed over to Ueno Park to visit the zoo there.

Thai Pavillion inside Ueno Zoo

(It’s about 600 yen per person to get into the zoo.)

Thai Pavillion inside Ueno Zoo

We had a lot of fun walking through the zoo and seeing all the animals they had there.

Elephant trying to eat the leaves


Life-size baby elephant picture



Black bear hanging on a tire swing

Snowy owl




Prarie dog

Prarie dog

Spider monkeys

Marsh in the zoo

But, like I said, a typhoon was expected that day, so periodically pre-typhoon winds and rains would send us looking for shelter.

Marsh in the zoo

Marsh in the zoo

On one such occasion, we took shelter in a covered eating area, and decided this would be a good time to stop and eat something.

Pancake box

Kate brought us peanut senbei, which were ridiculously good.

Senbei box


Then Son and I shared pancakes that had a maple syrup filling, and came with squeezable blueberry jam. It was really good, for zoo food, and only cost 300 yen.


Rachael got each of her girls a karaage (Japanese fried chicken) kids meal.

Bug eating karaage and fries

Blueberry jam container

Squeezing blueberry jam on the pancakes

Pancake with jam on it

Rachael taking a picture, Kate eating

Squirrel eating, Allison smiling

On top of the senbei, Kate also brought us yaki imo that she had baked for us. That’s serious comfort food right there.

Yaki imo

Son and I also got an energy drink, which was actually pretty darn good (I’m not usually a fan of energy drinks, but the Japanese ones are much better than most that you can find here in the US.)

Energy drink

Map inside the zoo

Peanut senbei

Buildings by the zoo

Marsh inside the zoo

Jackass penguins

Jackass penguins



Ring-tailed something



Nocturnal animal with big eyes

Nocturnal animal with big eyes


Allison with a penguin picture

On our way out of the zoo, we walked through a little temple known as Fox Temple.

Fox temple

Bread desserts?

Leaving Ueno Park


Candy street

We then walked through a street known as Candy Street. Rachael said there used to be a food vendor there that she wanted us to try, but unfortunately she was unable to find it.

Fruit display on candy street

Candy street

Candy street

We headed back to our hotel to rest a bit before dinner (and eat a little more of a lunch).

Spicy onigiri

Son got a “spicy” onigiri (which he said was hardly spicy at all), and I had coffee and a salad.



Allison with the melon pastry

We shared a melon-flavored cookie sort of pastry filled with custard. It was pretty good! Son wanted to go right back and get another.

Melon pastry

Inside of melon pastry

After we rested up, Son and I spent a little time browsing a little bookstore kiosk downstairs in the train station before we were to meet Rachael and her family.

Then we took a train to Tsukishima to meet with Keizo for dinner.

Ginger ale

Keizo took us all to a monjayaki place.

Workers at the monja place

Monja is kind of like okonomiyaki, but with a runnier batter. I believe it’s like the Tokyo version of okonomiyaki.

Monja ingredients

The place where he took us was in the middle of a street that consisted of nothing but monja restaurants.

Corn with butter


Monja ingredients

Making monja

Making okonomiyaki


This place reminded me of a lot of KBBQ places here in LA, in that you have a griddle and cook your own food. However, since my side of the table had no idea what we were doing, the employees and Keizo luckily were happy to help us out.

One of the employees making the food


Outside of the monja place

An alley near the monja place

The typhoon is coming in

By the time we got out, the typhoon was definitely getting stronger. Rachael and her family headed back to their hotel (it was getting late), but as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, Son was still hungry.

If you’ve read Keizo’s blog, you’ll know that the guy eats a ridiculous amount of ramen. He had planned to go grab a bowl before going home anyways, so he let us tag along to the nearby Tsukishima Rock.

Tsukishima Rock menu

Menu chalkboard inside Tsukishima Rock

Businessman at the bar in Tsukishima Rock

Beer tap

View outside from inside Tsukishima Rock


Keizo’s friend got the tsukemen.


Keizo tried their shio ramen.

Shio ramen

Shoyu ramen

And Son got their shoyu ramen.

Shoyu ramen

And then it was a sprint in the strong winds and heavy rain back to the train station, to head back to our hotel and listen to the typhoon come in.

It was supposed to be at its worst around midnight, which meant we didn’t get much sleep that night.. we were too busy listening to our hotel (we were on the 28th floor) creak in the wind and get pounded by rain!

Typhoon on the news

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