Allison Day

Every Day is a Sushi Day! is all about sushi. My recipes vary from the most traditional sushi to the craziest off-the-wall combinations. Every week I will post new sushi recipes that I have made, as well as sushi restaurant reviews, sushi tutorials, and other sushi-related randomness. Every day is a sushi day!

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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Salmon PokePosted on May 26th, 2014 · 14 Comments »

Other Recipes

salmon poke

A few months ago, a new restaurant opened in Redondo Beach that serves nothing but poke. We’re kind of addicted. (We like the California Roll poke the best.)

Jus' Poke

A few weeks ago, Son and I went on a business trip/vacation to Europe, which was tons of fun, exhausting, and left us craving Asian food like crazy. (Check out my Instagram for lots of pictures from the trip, and keep an eye on the Fridgg blog for writeups about everywhere we went, as soon as Son has time to process some of the thousands of pictures he took!) (We totally have been binging on Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food since we’ve gotten back.)

Flying to Europe

A few days ago, one of the awesome people I met at Big Traveling Potluck this year blogged about ahi poke. Yummm….

And then, Saturday night, after a long day full of lots of eating, Son and I were standing in front of the fish counter in Whole Foods at closing time, trying to figure out what I should cook for the next week. “Figure out what you want,” I told Son with a yawn, as I gently pushed him towards the big slabs of fish.

“Hmmm, maybe salmon…” he hemmed and hawed.

“All the salmon is sashimi grade,” offered the man behind the counter, with a smile. “You could make poke…”

“Ooooh!” Son and I both perked up at the idea. “We could get a couple of pounds of salmon, and make half into poke, and cook the other half…”

So we bought the fish, and the next day, used Samantha’s ahi poke recipe (substituting the salmon for the ahi tuna, of course), and made half of the salmon into poke. And then made the other half of the salmon into poke, because it was too delicious not to. πŸ˜€

salmon poke

Recipe slightly adapted from Samantha of Little Ferraro Kitchen

  • 1 lb sashimi-grade salmon, cut into cubes
  • 3 tbsp shoyu
  • 2 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt (optional – Son thought it was a little too salty, but I liked it with the sea salt, so add to taste)
Cooking Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Enjoy!

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Note: I wrote this post shortly after New Year’s. And then couldn’t decide when to post it, or if I should post it, and… now it’s two months late and I’m posting it anyways. Yeah… I’m an awesome blogger like that. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

I hope 2014 started out with a little less excitement for you than it did for me!

Ever since starting Sushi Day back in 2006, I’ve gotten the responsibility for making sushi for my family’s New Year’s celebration every year.

On top of that, for the last three years since we mentioned it in my Miso Hungry Podcast, I’ve also started making the kuromame every year (we used to just have canned kuromame).

Making all that has never been a problem. Until now. (DUN DUN DUN!)

I started the kuromame on time – started soaking it two nights before New Year’s Day, then simmered it all day on New Year’s Eve. Buuuut… it seems I had the heat turned too low, because the beans were crunchy (crunchy!!!) after eight hours of simmering. GAH.

“Okay,” I thought, “I’ll just leave it on low overnight, and if it’s still not ready, I’ll cook it on high all morning while I’m making the sushi.” It was a totally solid plan.

… that is, until I noticed the power light on my laptop charger dimming, then brightening, then dimming again around 2:30am.

“Uh… am I using too much power?” Not that that makes any sense at all, but it was 2:30am. I wasn’t exactly thinking straight.

I ran out to the kitchen, and turned off our electric stove. Everything seemed fine (although for some reason our apartment seemed a tad bit dimmer than usual), so I tiptoed back to bed, trying not to wake Son.

A few minutes later, the power cut out entirely.

This time I did wake up Son, and made him go check outside. All the neighborhood lights were out. Great.

As we were falling back asleep, the sound of sirens cut through the air. “I wonder what that could be…?”

7am. The alarm on my phone is blaring. Sushi time!

Except… not. We have power, but only just barely. Not enough for the rice cooker to work, and no rice means no sushi! (And remember the part where we have an electric stove? Yeah, no way to cook rice the old-fashioned way, either.)

Crap. Crappity crap crap.

I stepped outside to run to Starbucks (which… um… was closed due to power outage. *facepalm*) and ran into one of my neighbors. “Do you have power?” “Just a little.” “Any idea what happened?”

Turns out a drunk driver was playing chicken with a power pole at 2:30am, and they both lost. -_-

Okay. Don’t freak out.

At a loss for what to do, I called my dad to see if I could try to bring everything over and make all the sushi at his house. (Which, by the way, is very difficult to do when the local cell towers are ALSO without power. Oy vey.) And then I realized that the car was in the garage… and I can’t get into the garage…

Called my mom. She suggested having Grandma cook some rice, and heading out there a few hours earlier than we had all planned to go. Okay. That should work. I woke Son, to tell him the plan and get him ready to go…


*happy dance*

Once I was sure the power was going to stay on, I started the rice, over-caffinated myself, and got the kuromame cooking again.

Two hours and 27 rolls of sushi, a successfully-cooked pot of kuromame, and a bowl of New Year’s ozoni later, we were ready to go. Right on time!

Moral of the story? Don’t drink and drive! (And maybe buy a backup generator for important cooking days… πŸ˜‰ )

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Ramen Burger

Have you heard of the Ramen Burger™?

They say it’s the next Cronut.

Ramen burger on TV

Started in New York just two months ago by Chef Keizo Shimamoto, the Ramen Burger™ has taken the ramen world by storm.

If his name sounds familiar to you, there’s a good reason for it – Keizo and I have been friends for several years now, and I’ve mentioned him when we went to the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum and his ramen shop Bassanova the first time Son and I went to Japan, and then again when we went back to Bassanova and then got monjayaki and ramen with him in the middle of a typhoon during our second trip to Japan with Rachael and her family.


A few weeks ago, Keizo sent out a message to a bunch of his LA friends. The ramen burger was coming to LA!

Even better (at least, as far as I was concerned), he was bringing the ramen burger to the Torrance Mitsuwa!

Since it was so convenient for us (we go to the Torrance Mitsuwa all the time), and we REALLY wanted to try a ramen burger, Son and I volunteered to help.

Allison with the Ramen Burger shirt

When we got there at 9:30am, they said there were already more than 300 people in line. (They weren’t going to start serving Ramen Burgers™ until 11am.) Some of the people near the front of the line had been there since 6am!

Ramen burger line

At one point, there were over 1000 people in line. The line wrapped around the entire Mitsuwa building, until the tail met the front of the line… and Mitsuwa’s a pretty large building.

Ramen burger line

Never have I been so glad to be able to volunteer for something – especially since it was a pretty hot day in Torrance.

Ramen burger line

Since there were so many of Keizo’s friends volunteering, I just hung out for the first couple of hours (and explained to all the random people passing by what a ramen burger is) while Son and Cam and Tracy (the other photographers) took photos of the prep and the enormous line.

Chef Keizo flipping buns

Chef Keizo showing volunteers how to cook the buns

Keizo was busy prepping, and showing all of the volunteers how to prepare the Ramen Burgers™.

Chef Keizo showing how to prepare a ramen burger

Chef Keizo with the first ramen burgers

Chef Keizo eating the first ramen burger

The first round of prep volunteers

Starting to cook ramen burgers for the media

It wasn’t long before the news stations and other journalists started crowding in.

News stations filming ramen burger prep

Getting ready to start

Keizo with his ramen burger

So… what is a ramen burger?

Allison holding a wrapped ramen burger

It comes wrapped in this neat wrapper that acts like a bowl, to catch the sauce and loose noodles.

Allison with a wrapped ramen buger

And when you open it up, you find two ramen “buns”, surrounding an angus beef patty, arugula, their special shoyu-based “secret sauce”, and green onions.

Ramen Burger

(Yeah, I’m a food blogger, of course I had to Instagram a photo of it!)

Allison taking a picture of her ramen burger

Ramen burger

So how does it taste?

Allison eating a ramen buger

Pretty gosh darned good, in my opinion.

Ramen burger with a bite taken out of it

I love ramen, I love burgers, and what Keizo has made is the perfect combination of the two.

Allison eating ramen burger with Lana in the background

The crowd

Everyone who had waited in line for hours seemed to think it was worth it, too!

The first people to get their ramen burgers

Keizo being filmed by CBS 2

Allison with her ramen burger shirt

Sweetest moment of the day? Keizo serving his mom the very first ramen burger of the day – and she loved it!

Keizo with his mom and brother

Lana being filmed by CBS 2

Hey, who’s that food blogger? Lana showed up! ^_^

Lucky woman didn’t even have to wait in line – one of the members of the media didn’t want to finish his, so he gave the rest of his ramen burger to her.

Allison and Keizo

The line inside Mitsuwa

People purchasing ramen burgers

Ramen burger prep line

Allison wrapping burgers

A few hours after we started, a couple of the volunteers had to leave, so I got to step in and wrap the ramen burgers for the next three hours.

Allison wrapping burgers

Allison handing off a burger

By 3pm, the last of the ramen burgers were gone. We had cooked, wrapped, and sold more than 500 of them. The day was a total success!

If you didn’t get to try a ramen burger this time around, you can try them every weekend at Smorgasburg in NY, or on weekdays for the next two weeks at Dassara in Brooklyn.

If you want to know when the ramen burger will be back in LA, follow me on twitter or facebook – I’ll announce it next time Keizo brings his Ramen Burger™ back to LA!

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Ramen shop

It’s time for another Mitsuwa fair, and all of the delicious things that comes with it!

This past weekend they had their Kyushu and Okinawa Fair at the Torrance, Costa Mesa, and San Diego stores. (If you’re near San Jose, Chicago, or New Jersey, check out their event page – the fair is in those cities this upcoming Thursday through Sunday!)

Condiments for ramen

As usual, they had a guest ramen shop visiting from Japan. This time, it was “Tanaka Shoten” with their “Hakata Nagahama Ramen”.


We loved the light flavor of the broth, and the chashu was flavorful and just fell apart in your mouth.

They also offered a rice bowl topped with spicy cod roe, which Son loved.

Spicy cod roe rice bowl

We loved everything so much, we came back two days later for two more bowls of ramen and another rice bowl!

Allison eating the ramen

One very cool part about these Mitsuwa fairs is getting to see all of the interesting products they import from Japan just for the fair.

Allison shopping

Since this was an Okinawa fair, there were quite a few sweet potato products, including purple sweet potato somen (you can expect to see a recipe using that one of these days!) and sweet potato sticks.

Strawberry pudding cream puff stand

They also had β€œPie Fresh AMAO strawberry Pudding on Choux” from β€œKikuya” from the Oita Prefecture.

Strawberry cream puffs

They were interesting – custard and a flan-like strawberry pudding inside a cream puff.

Allison shopping

The caramel sauce was a little too bitter for my tastes, but aside from that they were delicious.

Sushi stand

They also had various types of sushi rolls, including mackerel sushi (which we didn’t try), and the Genkai Roll Sushi.

Sushi packaging

Japanese packaging is always so pretty!


The Genkai Roll was delicious. The fillings in the roll included anago, shrimp, crab, cucumber, tamago, and mushrooms.


Crepe stand

And, of course, we can never resist Japanese crepes!

Allison with the crepe

Since they had a “purple yam special” crepe, we obviously had to try it.

Purple sweet potato crepe

A little too potato-ey for our tastes (we would have expected them to sweeten the purple sweet potato puree just a bit), but it sure does look nice, doesn’t it?

Purple sweet potato crepe

Want to know when the next Mitsuwa fair is? Check out their event page (the next fair is in just a few weeks!), or follow me on Twitter or Instagram – I always post photos when I go!

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If you live near Torrance, CA or New Jersey, and if you like Japanese food (which, if you don’t, I hate to tell you this might not be the right food blog for you… πŸ˜‰ ), then you MUST go to the Mitsuwa Japanese Gourmet Fair this weekend (next weekend if you’re in New Jersey). (Also, if you live near Costa Mesa, San Jose, San Diego, or Chicago, they all have smaller versions of the fair, so those stores may have some, but not all, of the things I mention here.)

Ramen shop sign

Mitsuwa has these food fairs every year and I always try to make a point to go, because there is always SO much good food to try that they don’t normally carry!

I visited Friday, and let’s just say that my tummy is in a very happy place right now. πŸ˜€

First things first, let’s talk about the food that they sell to be eaten there. Because oh my goodness, I think this food fair was my favorite of all the ones we’ve been to.

If you haven’t ever been to a Mitsuwa, then you should know that every one has a large food court with about five or so different Japanese restaurants there, as well as assorted other shops, and a large grocery section. For the food fairs, Mitsuwa takes over one of the restaurants and brings in a restaurant from Japan.

This time, they brought in Kamome Diner, owned by a man named Mr. Chiba, from Kesennuma, Japan. His shop served “Kesennuma Ramen Ushio Aji (Salt)” – a shio (salt broth) ramen – and a salmon bowl with sesame shoyu (soy sauce).

Kesennuma Ramen Ushio Aji (Salt)

We LOVED the ramen. A lot of time ramen can be pretty heavy, but since this had a chicken-based broth instead of a pork base, this was really light. The chashu was incredibly flavorful. We could have happily eaten another bowl. ($11 with the egg, less if you go without.)

(Pardon the instagram photos – someone forgot to bring his camera.)

Salmon bowl with sesame shoyu

I wasn’t expecting much from this, but it was insanely good. The sauce was a little bit sweet, and perfect for the fresh salmon. Seriously, so good we went back for a second bowl (and at only $4, totally worth it!) Even as we were eating it, Son was telling me that we will have to replicate this at home – so hey, maybe you guys will get a recipe sometime soon!

That was it for the food court (although all the other restaurants are still open, so you could totally have takoyaki, okonomiyaki, ramen, or all sorts of other delicious things, at least if you’re at the Torrance store!), but there was plenty of packaged food available to purchase.

We didn’t buy/try everything (some of the stuff is CRAZY expensive, like seafood salads that cost $40/lb!!!), but here’s what we did get:

Seafood bento

This seafood bento (which I’d call a chirashi, because there was definitely sumeshi underneath all that seafood, but what do I know? πŸ˜‰ ) was so beautiful, we couldn’t pass it by. Son really wanted to try it.

Seafood bento

It’s a little pricy at about $16, but SO WORTH IT. It consists of sushi rice topped with a mixture of uni, tamago, mushrooms, two types of tobiko, ikura, crab, and… I’m not entirely sure what that translucent white thing is, but it was delicious.

Seafood bento

I have never tasted such a satisfying bento/chirashi before! Everything was fresh, perfectly seasoned, and all the ingredients were wonderfully complementary, not to mention the presentation is gorgeous. Son really wants to go back tomorrow and get another one. πŸ˜€


When we bought these, Son was all, “Meh, I don’t really like croquettes, just get whatever you want.”

And then he actually tried them after taking the photos, and was more like, “OMG THESE ARE THE BEST THINGS EVER! WHY AREN’T ALL CROQUETTES THIS DELICIOUS?!?!”

(Okay, maybe not so much yelling, but you could tell that’s what he meant. πŸ˜‰ )


We got potato and butter, salmon cream, and uni cream croquettes. The potato was alright, not too exciting. Tasted like mashed potatoes. However the salmon and uni croquettes were MIND BLOWING. Imagine taking the best things about salmon and uni, then make them creamier, mix them with potato, roll them in panko, and fry them up. It tastes even more amazing than it sounds.

They’re $1.50 each, but fairly large, so not too pricy.

Fish cakes

The thing Son loves most about every Mitsuwa food fair is the stalls that sell a huge variety of fish cakes. He always buys a bunch, then brings them home to put in his instant ramen or eat them over rice. They’re pretty much his favorite thing ever.

This time, they were all on sticks. There were six types (not like I have any idea what they all were – sorry!) and we got one of each.

Fish cakes

Delicious x 6. (Obviously we had to try a little of each, so we could report back to you!)

$2 each.

Sesame makidora

I’m a total sucker for anything black sesame (Rachael is 100% to blame for that one) so I just had to get one of these black sesame makidora (rolled dorayaki – like little Japanese pancakes filled with some sort of filling).

Sesame makidora

Mmmm, yum. I always love Japanese sweets, especially if black sesame is involved. πŸ˜€

$2 each – they also had red bean, custard, and matcha fillings.

Caramel and custard imagawayaki

I’ve had something like these Sweet Pumpkin Obanyaki before and wasn’t super enthused about them, but this time, everything was different. We skipped the red bean one, and went for the caramel and custard ones.


So here’s what you do.

Buy a caramel one. (I bet the custard is good too, but I haven’t actually tried that one yet.)

Heat it up just a bit, until the pastry is warm and the caramel is soft.

Take a bite. Make sure you get some of the caramel.

Do a happy dance around the kitchen because it is SO FREAKING GOOD.

Eat the rest, and then wish you had bought a few more at the fair.

Realize that hey, there are still two more days of the fair!


Caramel and custard imagawayaki

These were quite a bit sweeter than I’d usually expect from Japanese sweets (that caramel is LEGIT caramel!), but I did not mind one bit, they were so good.

$2 each – there was also a red bean-filled one, but I seriously recommend the caramel.

Green tea cheesecake

Lastly, green tea cheesecake.

We almost didn’t try this one. Son wanted to buy something for his dad, so he decided on the cheesecake. Then while we were in the checkout line, he piped up, “I kind of want to get another one, because I really want to try it…” So he ran back to grab another one for us. πŸ˜‰

This is true Japanese cheeesecake. Now, forget everything that comes to mind when you think of cheesecake. This is nothing like the rich, heavy, sweet American cheesecakes you’re probably familiar with. No, this is super light, not too sweet (especially with the green tea flavor), with only the slightest hint of cheese.

In other words, absolutely delicious.

About $20 each.

Green tea cheesecake

We also got a lemon chiffon cake which we haven’t opened yet because we’re saving it for dessert on Father’s Day (hi Dad!)

So if that hasn’t convinced you that you should go check out the Mitsuwa Japanese Gourmet Fair, you should go read Mary the Food Librarian’s post… and if you’re STILL not convinced, then there’s no hope for you at all. πŸ˜‰

Personally, Son and I plan to stop by at least once more this weekend, because, um, we kind of want to get more of everything. πŸ˜€

For more information, you can visit Mitsuwa’s website.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, I was not paid to write this review. Mitsuwa probably has absolutely no idea who I am. I just adore Japanese food (obviously) and want you all to be able to share in the deliciousness as well!

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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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