Tag: japan

Sweet, Sweet Osaka

I ‘discovered’ Osaka in 2010, and since then, have made it a pilgrimage country, one that I keep religiously going back to on an almost yearly basis. Here are the top three reasons why I love Osaka:

  1. I love Osaka because it has a proliferation of Daiso/Seria stores, my favorite fabric stores and oodles and oodles of craft supplies. Yes, it might be weird for other people to see that this is my top reason to go back, what with Daiso stores being available here in the Philippines. But, guys! The Daiso stores here are Php 88! The Daiso stores in Japan are just Php 45-50 (depending on the exchange rate). Plus, the stuff available there are really not available here (particularly craft supplies!). So do you understand why it’s the first thing I go to when I arrive in Osaka? (I imagine people shaking their heads at me…hehehe.)
  2. I love Osaka because of the proximity of very interesting places surrounding it. It’s a train ride away from Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara! It’s the home of Universal Studios, the home of Harry Potter! It’s where the Kaiyukan Aquarium is! Castles, temples! They have it all!
  3. I love Osaka because of the food! Every time I’m there, I just have to order gyoza, katsu and karaage. Not the most adventurous set of meals, but I always get a kick out of how authentic the taste is. I have yet to find a gyoza place in the Philippines that can rival Osaka’s vendo gyoza, the cheapest gyoza you can find there! And the desserts are so plentiful! Methinks Japanese, like Filipinos, love their sweets.

So, on to my actual article. On this trip, we really wanted to sample more desserts. This was the first one I tried–a cream bun from Hop Chou ala Creme in the Shinsaibashi-Namba area. The outside looks like its hard bread, but looks can be deceiving! Inside is yummy, cool and creamy filling! I chose a chocolate-flavored one because you can’t go wrong with chocolate. The thing though is that it’s not heavy on the stomach, so you could be tempted to eat more than one bun. Plus there are many flavors to choose from, which is another temptation.
The next dessert I sampled was the waffle-on-a-stick at Maison de Gigi (Shinsaibashi Suji, Chuo-Ku). We each ordered our own flavor, and I again got the chocolate-flavored one, while Bumbum got the strawberry-flavored waffle. Okay, note that this was spring time in Osaka, which may have accounted for the waffle being a bit cold. But that said, the chocolate on mine was very good, dark (the way I like it) and the waffle had the sugar crystals that gave it a bit of crunch. Bumbum polished hers off in no time.
Finally, we ate the small cheesecake tarts in Pablo and the big premium one as well. I wasn’t able to take a picture of the premium cheesecake (too busy stuffing my face with it), but here is how it looks like:

*photo borrowed from http://mogmog.us/category/review/106/

I really loved the premium cheesecake with the creme brulee-esk top. Honestly, if left alone with this cake, I could probably finish off half of it. The burnt sugar top gives a wonderful flavor to this cheesecake.

I wish I could tell you that I ate more desserts, but sadly, I did not. After all, I’m always on a diet 😜

 

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Fukuoka Food Delights Part 2

ramenA food trip to Fukuoka would not be complete without ramen. Hubby researched that Ramen Stadium was a good place to pick our ramen meal, and so off we went! Ramen Stadium is a floor located inside a beautiful mall, called Canal City Mall, so yey to hitting two birds with one stone! As hubby is very sensitive to certain meats and veggies (no cabbage, beansprouts, potatoes and beef), we had to be extra careful in choosing our ramen. We went to Marufuku Ramen (I hope I got the name right…all signs were in Japanese) and selected via their vendo a Tonkotsu Ramen. Of course I’ve had these before so was really curious what the difference would be. For 800++ yen, we got a bowl with two pieces of chasu, kelp, an egg and nori on the side. We noted that the aroma of the ramen was a bit stronger than what we were used to. Methinks its because the chasu was smoked. It did not disappoint. The flavor of the broth was very rich, the chasu was so soft it was like chewing butter. Noodles were nicely cooked, not soft or soggy, rather on the firmer side. Even Brie polished off her plate! Maybe next time, we shall order more meat, but again for the price, quite a satisfying meal.

I’m sure it will also be worthwhile to visit the other famous ramen places at the Ramen Stadium, Canal City, Hakata.

Fukuoka Food Delights Part 1

To celebrate our 15 years of marital bliss, hubby and I decided on a less familiar, but still familiar travel destination: Fukuoka, Japan. Why Fukuoka? The answer: food!We’ve always been a great lover of Japanese food, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to see what Fukuoka had to offer. Incidentally, we discovered that some of our fave Jap food in the Phil (Uncle Tetsu for cheesecake and Nagi Universal Ramen) originated from Fukuoka.

Just so you know, we’re not really foodies. We don’t do in-depth research on the places to eat in. We’re kinda the “let’s-get-lost-and-go-into-the-resto-with-nice-food-pics” people. So on our first night, that was exactly what we did. Our hotel wasn’t really in the busy and tourist-y district so no English translations. When we entered Ten Jin Cha Han, we pointed to what looked good, while our very gracious waitress tried to understand what we were attempting to say. I ended up with a set meal composed of thinly sliced beef steak cooked in garlic sauce, cha-han (fried rice with pork bits) and vegetable salad. Hubby ended up with cheesy cha-han and Brie got her safe, but sure karaage. Since I got the house specialty, I assumed it would taste decent. And boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t decent…it was obscenely delicious! The beef required very little chewing and was flavorful, so good choice on the garlic sauce (the other option was Wasabi sauce). Although I’ve always been a “well-done” kind of beef-eater, I have to say that their medium-rare is heavenly. Didn’t taste a drop of blood, no slimy aftertaste. Each slice had a bit of pesto, which added a very interesting flavor. And it paired nicely with the cha-han. Hubby also gave a thumbs up to his meal and said the karaage was flavorful and crispy. To top it all off, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It was actually a very cheap meal (1,600 Yen, or about 800 Php) for ALL of us. Yup! That’s what I call a successful first day!

Hokkaido Soft Serve Ice Cream

Summer is definitely here and what better way to enjoy it by eating Hokkaido’s finest soft serve ice cream! Hokkaido is famous worldwide for its rich and creamy dairy products and it doesn’t hurt that Hokkaido has wide variety of sites to visit. Spend a day (or ten!) going around Hokkaido to enjoy the food and the beautiful landscapes the place has to offer. It is hard to choose just one so here are the top three soft cream brands you should definitely try!

#1: Le Tao’s Soft Cream

LeTao Soft Cream

Le Tao is famous for their Double Fromage Cheesecake which is so heavenly and light that it feels like one is eating sweetened clouds. They have magically extended this magnificence to their soft ice cream offerings by serving vanilla, cheese and chocolate ice cream flavors. They’re so good that there is always a bee line in ALL their five (yes, 5!) stores in the short strip of Sakaimachi Street in Otaru.

Website: https://www.letao.jp/

Available brancheshttps://www.letao.jp/global/en/shop/

#2: Kinotoya Bake’s Soft Cream

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Famous for the cheese tarts, Kinotoya offers soft serve in cup or waffle cone—whichever you choose, you can not go wrong. The soft serve swirls so high they encourage you to use a spoon which they have graciously provided. You can find Kinotoya in Poletown before you head towards Odori Park.

Website: http://www.kinotoya.com/

Available brancheshttp://www.kinotoya.com/shop/list.html

#3: Ishiya’s Soft Cream

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Ishiya Chocolate Factory is the company that produces the famous Shiroi Koibito butter cookie. In Sapporo, you can enjoy the Shiroi Koibito Park that rivals Mr. Wonka’s. They have awesome hourly musical display, mini houses to get lost in, and photo perfect scenery for those precious selfies. More importantly, there are shops to try Ishiya’s marvelous desserts. The free area park has a kiosk for you to quickly get your soft serve fix. Their flavors vary depending on the season! Try the strawberry or melon flavor or be bold and try lavender!

Website: http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/

Accesshttp://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/access/index.html

Extra: Cremia

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Technically not in Hokkaido, this brand by Nissei is the premium line that uses 25% fresh cream from Hokkaido and an amazingly high 12.5% milk fat versus the under 10% milk fat of normal soft serves. The cone is made out of lengue de chat (better known as thin butter cookie) making this ice cream supremely rich and utterly delicious. Make sure to go to the Narita Airport Domestic Terminal 3 Lounge Area early so you can eat this before you fly off to Hokkaido!

Websitehttps://www.nissei-com.co.jp/cremia/en/

Hurry off to Hokkaido and spend your summer holidays eating these delectable delights!  Don’t worry if you can’t find all these brands. Just stop by any shop which sells soft serve in Hokkaido and you’ll be sure that it taste better than any you’ve ever tried elsewhere.

Have a great summer 😀

Bien-Etre Patisserie

There’s always room for dessert, no? Right after having lunch at home, we decided we needed to go out. We decided to try out this neighborhood cafe (far from us!) that is getting a lot of good reviews.

Bien-Etre is a small sweets shop that sits about 10 people. When we arrived, there were already 3 couples seated and so we chose the bar seats where the drinks are being prepared. I think it was the first time Little A smelled coffee! It was wonderful but we aren’t coffee drinkers so we asked for really cold water instead.

There were about a dozen or so cakes and entremets to choose from. I chose 2 desserts and Little A chose hers. DrG doesn’t get to pick! Hahaha, oh well!

Little A’s choice is Harmonie. She likes that it’s purplish!

The innards. The raspberry mousse sandwiched between biscuit and chiffon cake layers then covered with blueberry mousse and blueberry glaze on top. The blueberry tartness was prominent which I think gave the cake a loud personality or else it’d be just a standard off the mill mousse cake. Oh, is it obvious? I’m not a fan of mousse based cake (except for Sugino’s!).

The Mille Feuille au Ceresis.

I was surprised that the layers were still crispy — Little A said, “It’s crunchy!” I felt that the custard cream was only there to hold the cherry and crust together. It would’ve been nicer if there was more of the cream but I think it’s the reason why the crust is still crisp. You can’t have it all. Nevertheless, delicious!

The third cake–Melon Shortcake. I suppose this is a seasonal treat instead of the standard Japanese strawberry shortcake. The cake was moist, the nama cream light and the melon sweet. I think A Tes Souhaits still makes the meanest shortcakes. But, this one is good enough!

It took a bit of a walk to get to this shop and it was so hot that day! We weren’t ready to go out of the airconed shop yet so we decided we can still make room for another dessert. We chose to have kakigori– never mind that we were still coughing. Shhhhh!

Kakigori is basically shaved ice topped with delicious fruits and sauces. I have tried going to kakigori-ya’s in the past but have always been shut down by DrG. He said, “But it’s ice!” I am proud to say I have converted him to a kakigori-liker (not an addict, not yet!).

We ordered the peach kakigori and was surprised to find ‘treasure’ inside. Hidden beneath the layer of peach, peach sauce and ice were crushed preserved plums! It was a nice contrast to the delicate dessert. I wish the peach cubes were chilled though. The ice is finely shaven– once you spoon it inside your mouth, it instantly melts!

There’s another patisserie to visit in the area, Asterisque. Come with us?

パティスリー ビヤンネートル BIEN-ÊTRE PÂTISSERIE

Address: 〒151-0064 Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Uehara, 1−21−10 上原坂の上21番館 1F 
03-3467-1161

 

 

 

 

How to Izakaya When You Have A Toddler

Ever since I came to Tokyo, I have never been to an izakaya. Smoke, drinks, and rowdy salary men. Not a good combo for kids and sensitive noses.

Izakayas are shops that mainly serve drinks and plates of pica-pica. People go there mainly to unwind, talk about their day, and complain to their bosses or colleagues when they are drunk enough. An acceptable practice only when you are drunk because you are not be responsible for any thing you say.

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So here’s what we did!

1 Go on a sunday.
Izakayas are less crowded on Sundays. Salarymen are tired all week long, so Sunday’s their rest day.

2 Have an early dinner.
Instead of eating at 7pm, try to get to the izakaya earlier. 6pm seems like the perfect time. The izakaya wasn’t a ghost town, but the guests weren’t drunk (yet).

3 Stay as far away as you can from other guests.
Smoking is generally allowed but if you are seated far from them, hopefully the smoke won’t reach your table.

4 Choose a chain izakaya.
You can’t go to quaint little shops coz those sits 20 in a compact space. Chains will give you ample room!

The izakaya (山内農場) we went to specializes in chicken.

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Niigta Chicken

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Tuna and avocado

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Gyoza

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Fried Tofu with bonito flakes

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Chicken skin in ponzu sauce.

They were right! Both chicken dishes were good, the rest are meh. We were there for the experience anyway. They had this tablet that allows you to check your orders, the total, and if you need to divide the bill, automatically does it for you. Pretty neat! And quite useful when it’s 2am and you’re pissed drunk.

Have fun!

Website here

Tokyo Holiday ’16 (Part 1)

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Santos Family in Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa

It has been a tradition for our family to celebrate and spend the New Year (not CNY, as this post has long been overdue, and we’re not Chinese) holiday with my husband’s family out of the country, particularly Hong Kong. We started with just ten people then. Now, our family is composed of 20 people, 10 grandkids and 10 adults. For this year, to coincide with my FIL’s 70th birthday, we went to Tokyo, Japan to celebrate.

Before, it was fairly easy to go around, we just used public transportation. But since this time we are far too many, and with small kids to boot, we had to hire a private service. Though we’ve all been to Tokyo before separately, this was the first time for all 20 of us to travel together so we wanted to go to the usual tourist spots as a group.

We hired Mr. Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com as our guide/driver.  Among the three companies that provided private tours that we inquired at (one of which was owned by a Filipino), he had the best rates for tours and airport transfers. He was also the most prompt in answering e-mails (which I take as a good sign). Mr. Yokokura is very fluent in English so communication is not a problem. He was very nice and accommodating. I highly recommend him when in need of private service in Tokyo.

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With the highly recommended Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com

Our party of 20 stayed at Hilton Tokyo located in Shinjuku. It was about a 20-minute walk to Shinjuku Station, 5 minutes via the free shuttle service. The rooms are quite spacious compared to typical Japanese hotel rooms. It was relatively quiet, with no malls or restaurants nearby. The nearest Family Mart is about a 5-minute walk. If you want any action, you have to take the shuttle bus to Shinkuju Station. The breakfast buffet was not that impressive, in my opinion. They serve the same food Every. Single. Day. The hotel restaurants are very expensive, Michelin-starred (they they are not) expensive. I suggest eating elsewhere, Tokyo doesn’t lack for good, inexpensive food. Checkout was a breeze though. They send a form to your room on your last day, just fill it out, and leave it at the reception. And as expected, Japanese service was top-notch, the best in the world.

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Hilton Lobby

 

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Spacious rooms at the Hilton

 

A tip when going to Japan (or Hong Kong) in the winter – buy winter clothes when you get there. The moment we arrived, I hauled myself to Uniqlo to buy Heattech thermal and winter coats. They are so much cheaper there compared to here. Case in point, a woman’s thermal top cost P990 here, Y1290 on sale (P520) there. For our family of 5, I spent a total of Y50,000 (around P20,000) for 4 winter parkas, 10 thermal tops and bottoms, 5 knitted caps, and 5 gloves.  The savings was well worth freezing for a couple hours, if you ask me. Most, if not all of the shops are on sale by the end of December anyway. Better yet, take a trip immediately to the outlet shops in Gotemba, where there’s Columbia and North Face to get extra savings.

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All bundled up at the Hilton lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamakura Day Trip

I’m sure you’ve seen this image before:

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It’s a gigantic bronze Buddha statue in Kamakura (Hase station). It weighs 93 tons but it’s hollow and you can actually pay 20 yen to go inside. Rudyard Kipling wrote several verses of this daibutsu. The temple is rather small though so we only spent half an hour here and decided to go some where else.

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The surrounding area has a lot to offer. More temples, little shops and restaurants. But since Enoshima was a train ride away, we decided to go there instead.

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Enoshima has a little island you could explore for a day or two! You can even see Mount Fuji on clear day.

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was not a clear day

You can climb up the mountain to the temple and find this:

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A love lock fence.  You can also ring the bell for eternal love ❤

It’s nice to visit in Autumn and see some pretty koyo (changing of leaves). But, our mission for the day was the Enoshima Aquarium.

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We have been to plenty of aquariums in Japan and while Enoshima’s was a bit smaller in scale, they had lots of fishes to showcase.

IMG_4173Watch out for the sea lion, dolphin and whale shark shows. They were the highlights of the day!

 

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We weren’t able to find seats for this show! This one is better for kids and more entertaining than the previous one.

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Check out their arts and crafts room, too!

 

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Before we left the aquarium grounds, we went to the beach on the other side. I miss the beach so much it doesn’t matter that we were wearing winter clothes! Beach! But, alas, far too cold to swim in. You can see Mount Fuji, too!

Find out where we ate on the next post!

Dessert Stop: A Tes Souhaits

On my free time, I search the world (wide web) for dessert places. I daydream about the cakes and pastries because… dreams don’t have calories.

A Tes Souhaits has been rated number 1 patisserie in Tokyo so when Jin of Jinlovestoeat came, we decided to go on an adventure and find our way to this little shop in Suginami.
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Continue reading “Dessert Stop: A Tes Souhaits”