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A Taste of Fukui in Aoyama – Bouyourou

Fukui prefecture, on Japan’s west-central coast , is one of those places that conjures up images of rough oceans, rugged cliffs and punishing winter weather. Sandwiched between its more famous neighbors – to the south, Kyoto prefecture, and to the north, Ishikawa prefecture – Fukui seems to have little going for it, except for the bounty of its moderately long coastline, which stretches 400 kilometers along the Sea of Japan. The waters off the coast of Fukui are rich in… Read more »

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Zakka – last chance to delve into “goods and things”

The first thing to catch the eye when you walk into the extraordinary Zakka exhibition at 21_21 Design Sight is the stylized sign bearing the English translation of “zakka” as “goods and things.” What is a “good” and what is a “thing?” I wondered. In the end, this wide-ranging exhibit of retro-paraphernalia, contemporary design, with displays of everything from six-decades old cardboard packaging for toothpaste tubes and mosquito coils, plastic ice cream spoons (yes, really – my main thought was, who… Read more »

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Eclectic Japanese cuisine at Kafuka

It is unusual for japonica to write twice about the same restaurant but Kafuka deserves a follow-up. We recently managed to secure seats there at short notice, and were rewarded with an eclectic meal that was both impressive and entertaining. Chef Ito, who greeted us with a friendly smile and a warm “konbanwa,” or “good evening,” served a tasting menu of creative dishes and comfort food that was a steal at Y6,000. From where we sat at the counter, we were… Read more »

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Kafuka – Innovative Japanese Cuisine

  Tokyo has no shortage of high quality Japanese restaurants but rather inconveniently, most of them only offer full-course menus, complete with dessert. The problem with set courses, though, is not just that some of us, myself included, end up eating much more than we would like to. Because portions tend to be of identical size in any professional restaurant, regardless of whether the guest is a big or small eater, this practically guarantees that some food will be wasted…. Read more »

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Kyoaji – a Taste of Kyoto Kaiseki in Central Tokyo

It is regularly voted the best Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. The proprietor is a legendary chef, who inspires adulation among his loyal fans. As one of an exclusive community of “ichigen-san okotowari” (or “introduction required”) restaurants, foodies, both foreign and Japanese, agonize over how to secure a seat there. But there is nothing grand about Kyoaji, even though it is arguably one of Tokyo’s most highly regarded kaiseki restaurants and, undeniably, one of the most difficult to get into. In… Read more »

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Restaurant Feu

Once past the bustling commercial complex that is Tokyo Midtown and the imposing National Art Center on a side street to the left, there is little to entice pedestrian traffic down Gaien Higashi-dori, the street that connects Roppongi to Aoyama. Gallery Ma in the Toto building, which holds interesting exhibits strictly for the initiated – such as a show that was on this summer of architect Kenzo Tange’s photographs of his work in progress – and the bookstore just below… Read more »

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Akomeya

If you like Japanese food, enjoy seeing nicely designed packaging or just have time to kill in Ginza, visit Akomeya, a food and household goods store that is chock full of unusual Japanese goodies. The name, which is a rather peculiar combination of the Japanese word for rice store – komeya – and the English pronoun “a,” points to its distinctive eclecticism. Akomeya stocks a mesmerising variety of Japanese foodstuffs from all over the country as well as tableware, socks,… Read more »

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L’Embellir

Whether you are looking to impress your partner or entertain a business associate, L’Embellir in the heart of Aoyama would be a good choice for several reasons. To begin with, it is conveniently located just a few blocks from the Omotesando crossing on the narrow boutique-lined lane that leads to the Nezu Museum – a walk that never fails to provide a glimpse of some of the most creatively decked up Tokyoites around. Even if you don’t wear Prada (and… Read more »

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Ichirin

The minute you step into Ichirin (一凛), it feels like a different world. The space is serene yet unstuffy, with a light wood counter dominating one side of the room and two tables generously positioned apart from each other and away from the counter, offering a bit of privacy. A young lady, clad in a white outfit that is often seen on Japanese chefs, quietly escorts you to your table and takes drinks orders, as if performing a time-honoured ritual…. Read more »

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Cooking with Kikuo Muramatsu at Totoya Uoshin

At first glance, cooking traditional Japanese food may not strike the uninitiated as particularly complicated or even very time-consuming. After all, how difficult can it be to slice raw fish or cook vegetables in broth? Difficult indeed, I discovered one afternoon as I stood in the kitchen of Totoya Usohin (ととや魚新), a comfortable and welcoming Japanese restaurant conveniently located 3 minutes from Akasaka subway station in central Tokyo. We had come to Totoya – nine women of various ages eager… Read more »

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Kitera

There are a number of theories about the invention of soy sauce but at least one legend has it that tamari soy sauce was invented in Wakayama, the prefecture at the tip of the Kii peninsula, south of Kyoto. Tamari, which is a specifically Japanese soy sauce, is made almost entirely from soy bean. The story goes that Kakushin, a Zen Buddhist priest who had traveled to the Kinzanji, or the Temple of the Golden Mountain, in China, returned not… Read more »

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Sukiyabashi Jiro

Jiro Ono rolled the rice in the palm of his hand and slipped a slice of fish on to the vinegared mounds, wordlessly working his trade behind the counter. His eyes darted quickly from one customer to another, keeping tabs on how they were progressing with their meal. As soon as he saw an empty plate, the grand sushi master would promptly place the next course of sushi on it, quietly urging diners to eat up, leaving hardly a moment… Read more »