Restaurants

How The Allied Occupation Helped Promote The Popularity Of Tokyo Style Nigiri Sushi

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When the Allied forces arrived in Japan in 1945 for what was to be the seven year military occupation, there was little doubt that the country would be changed forever. However, some traditions were retained in an effort to maintain Japanese culture.  One of these traditions was sushi.

The earliest form of sushi in Japan was called narezushi (salted fish).  Fish was stored in fermented rice for long periods of time without spoiling and provided an important source of protein in the Japanese diet. The sushi we are familiar with today is called nigiri sushi.  It had its origins in Edo (Tokyo). A restaurant owner named Hanaya Yohei is credited with having invented this type of sushi during the 19th century.  The Edo people were known for their busy lifestyle and lack of patience, therefore many fast food businesses began cropping up. Nigiri sushi, which was known as Edomaezushi at the time, was a type of fast food, conveniently shaped to be eaten by hand and no longer reliant on the fermentation process utilized by narezushi.

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While nigiri quickly became the most popular style of sushi in Edo, it did not immediately dominate the sushi landscape as it does today. There were two events which aided the popularity of nigiri sushi outside of Tokyo: one was the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the other was the military occupation of Japan in 1945.  The earthquake caused many people to leave Tokyo and return to their hometowns.  Among these were the various sushi chefs who opened restaurants upon returning home and served Edomaezushi to their clientele. In post-war Japan, many sushi shops were forced to close due to the rice rationing at the time and not allowed to reopen.

Eventually it was impressed upon the American Forces General Headquarters that the sushi restaurants should be allowed to reopen as sushi was an important part of Japanese culture.  When the restaurants reopened however, they had to adhere to one strict rule.  That rule was that the patrons were to bring in their own rice rations for the sushi.  One cup of rice was to be used to make ten pieces of sushi hence the nigiri sushi shrunk in size.  In pre-war Japan, nigiri sushi was three times larger.

Eventually the same system was implemented throughout Japan and Tokyo style nigiri became Japan’s predominant form of sushi.

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JAPAN: Kobe (Nanjing town / Chinatown)

Located just south of Motomachi Station in Kobe is one of only three designated Chinatowns in Japan known as Nankinmachi (Nanjing town). Originated in 1868, the area is home to over one hundred Chinese restaurants, shops and a temple dedicated to Guan Yu.

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When Kobe’s port was opened to foreigners after Japan’s isolation period, Chinese merchants from Guangdong and Fujian flocked in and settled in the western end of what was known as Kobe’s foreign district.  At that time, Chinese people were referred to as “people from Nanking,” therefore the settlement came to be known as Nankinmachi. The area flourished in the early 1920s but that all changed during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II when many of the settlers returned to China.  Further, the town was destroyed after the allied bombings and had to be rebuilt after the war by the Chinese who remained behind.  In 1995, Nankinmachi was damaged once again due to the Great Hanshin earthquake and quickly rebuilt where today it remains a thriving center of Chinese culture in the Kansai region and is home to 10,000 residents.

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A popular tourist attraction, Nankinmachi has three gates: Chang’an Gate (長安門), Xi’an Gate (西安門) and Nanlou Gate (南樓門). Two main streets run through the district, intersecting at a small plaza in the center. They are packed with shops, restaurants and food stands that sell items such as steamed buns (manju), ramen, tapioca drinks and various other Chinese dishes, many of which have been altered for the Japanese palate. The plaza is decorated with stone carvings of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs is a well-liked spot for photographs.

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Several events take place during the year, with Chinese New Year or Shunsetu Sai, being the most attended. The brilliant fireworks and dancing lions/ dragons are quite spectacular and attract thousands of visitors to the district.

 

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The Motomachi Station is 3 minutes from Sannomiya Station, 25 minutes from Osaka Station on the JR Kobe Line and 30 minutes from Umeda Station on the Hanshin Main Line making it an easy stop over when visiting Kobe.

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JAPAN: Tokyo/ Shinjuku (Christon Cafe)

Japan is a place that is never short of uniquely themed cafes. Just when you think you have seen it all, one comes along that totally surprises you. Having said that, there is a café located not far from Shinjuku Station that did just that. It is called Christon Café. If you are thinking to yourself, that sounds strangely like “Christian Café,” well, you are right. This restaurant is based on a church theme! It may seem strange to have a church themed café in a country where the number of Christians comprise approximately 1% of the entire population but aren’t themed cafes all about the novelty anyway?

The first Christon Café opened in Osaka in 2000 and now there is one located in Shibuya and Shinjuku, each boasting incredibly detailed interiors decorated in a religious gothic theme.

The Shinjuku café is located on the 8th and 9th floors of the Oriental Wave Building. The restaurant has high ceilings decorated with enormous chandeliers, dark red curtains, tons of wrought iron, gothic and Catholic imagery throughout. The tables and chairs are a mishmash ranging from luxurious couches to rustic wooden tables with hardback chairs. The restaurant has exclusive VIP seating as well for those seeking a more private dining experience.

VIP Seating

VIP Seating

The food is just as mixed up as the décor, with the basic menu consisting of Italian dishes with Dutch hotpots and French inspired dished sprinkled in. The cocktails are somewhat strange too, some served with glowing ice cubes (plastic LED lights). The average price per person at this café is ¥3500, slightly less than your typical themed restaurant in Japan. However, I have found that dining at these restaurants is more about the experience rather than the quality of the food.

The café operates daily between the hours of 5:00 PM – 11:30 PM and reservations are recommended, especially on weekends when the place is operating fairly at capacity.

Web page:         http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g465406/

Address:             5-17-13 Shinjuku Tokyo Japan

Portugal: Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital and the largest city in Portugal. It is the westernmost large city in continental Europe and one of the oldest cities in the world, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. This global metropolis has so much to offer in the way of finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism that it is impossible to cover everything in just one blog post. However, I hope to be able to provide you with just enough of an introduction to whet your appetite so that you will one day tour this beautiful city on your own.

The city is ranked as the seventh-most-visited city in Southern Europe after Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens and Milan, drawing just under 2 million tourists annually. Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate and consequently has the warmest winters among other European cities with average temperatures hovering at 15 °C (59 °F) during the day and 8 °C (46 °F) at night. The typical summer season lasts about six months, from May to October.

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Constructed on seven hills, it is one of Europe’s most striking cities with castles, gothic cathedrals, monasteries, quaint museums, restaurants, and shops all contributing to the city’s colorful landscape. A great way to explore the city is by hoping on one of its bright yellow trams which wind their way through hilly tree-lined streets. In the hilltop district of Bairro Alto, you will find dozens of restaurants and bars with jazz, reggae, and electronica sounds filling the air until dawn. There are nightclubs scattered all over town which make use of old spaces tucked away on riverside docks and 18th-century mansions.

Barrio Alto

Barrio Alto

Lisbon Cathedral

Lisbon Cathedral

One of the biggest tourist draws is Castelo de São Jorge (St. George’s Castle), situated up the hill it offers great views of the city and the Tagus River. If you can, take a walk from downtown to the castle passing through the fantastic old neighborhood of Alfama.

Castelo São Jorge

View from Castelo São Jorge

View from Castelo São Jorge

Alfama

Alfama

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You will also want to visit the Commerce Square also known as Palace Square. This majestic square once served as the main maritime entrance to Lisbon. You can still see the old marble steps leading up to the square from the river. The name Palace Square is a reference to the palace that once stood here for 400 years. It was almost completely destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.

Praça do Comerçio

Praça do Comerçio

On the north side of the square stands a 19th-century triumphal arch that leads to Rua Augusta, one of the main pedestrian shopping areas in downtown Lisbon. The arch is decorated with statues of historical personalities, like Vasco da Gama (a Portuguese sailor) and Marquês do Pombal , who was responsible for the reconstruction of Lisbon following the earthquake. The spacious arcade buildings which extend around three sides of the square are occupied by government administrative offices and some restaurants.

Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake took place on Saturday, November 1, 1755, the holiday of All Saints’ Day. The ensuing tsunami and subsequent fires almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas. Seismologists today estimate the Lisbon earthquake had a magnitude in the range 8.5–9.0. Estimates place the death toll in Lisbon alone between 10,000 and 100,000 people, making it one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.

One of the buildings that stands today following the devastation is Carmo Convent. The convent is located in the Chiado neighborhood, on a hill overlooking the Rossio Square.

Carmo Convent

Carmo Convent

Another place you cannot ignore is Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery, dating back to 1495. Located near the Tower of Belém, it is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. The Monastery was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém, in 1983.

Torre de Belém

Torre de Belém

Jeronimos Monastery

Jeronimos Monastery

Jeronimos Monastery

Located across from Jerónimos Monastery, accessible via an underpass, is the Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.

It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I, Camões, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator. Inside the monument is an exhibition space with temporary exhibits. Visitors can take an elevator to the top of the monument for a bird’s eye views of Belem and its monuments.

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Finally, there is the delicious Portuguese cuisine to sample. Most restaurants are very small, family run and generally cheap. Some of them have a sheet posted on the door with the “pratos do dia” (dishes of the day) featured on it. These dishes are usually cheaper and fresher than the rest of menu. Beware that during dinner, the waiter will more than likely bring you some unrequested starter dishes, called couvert. These items are not free so feel free not to touch them and they will not be charged on your bill.

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Portugal specialty, egg tarts

Portugal specialty, egg tarts

There is so much to see and do in Lisbon that this article is merely the tip of the iceberg. I hope you will have a chance to visit this magnificent city one day, explore some of the places I have talked about and venture out on your own to discover the many places I have not even touched upon. So, “boa sorte e viagens seguras!”

Japan: NAKANO BROADWAY

The Akihabara district in the Chiyoda Ward of Tokyo draws millions of visitors from all over the world for its vast array of electronics/ appliance shops, anime/manga shops and maid cafes. But did you know that there is another lesser known neighborhood just northwest of Shinjuku called Nakano City which has just as much to offer in the way of Japanese pop culture merchandise and is less frequented by non-Japanese?

The main draw in Nakano City is Nakano Broadway, a multi-level shopping mall famous for its many stores offering anime and idol related goods as well as game consoles, toys, video games, souvenirs, clothes, shoes, second hand goods and even groceries.  Just a five minute train ride from Shinjuku via the JR Chuo Line, this four-level shopping mall is an otaku (Japanese term for people with obsessive interests, commonly the anime and manga fandom) heaven.

The second and third levels are primarily dedicated to the anime and idol related shops while the ground level houses the stores selling clothing, shoes and second hand merchandise. Mandrake, a popular Japanese manga, anime and doujinshi (amateur manga publications) shop occupies much of the real estate here. The basement level has a marketplace offering everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and seafood. You will also find numerous restaurants offering cheap and tasty yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients including pork) and ramen (noodle soup dish) all for around ¥1,000. If you happen to leave room for dessert, try the eight layer/ flavor softo cream at Daily Chiko. Here you will find unusual flavors like murasaki imo (purple potato) and various soda flavors. Aside from the soft serve ice cream, they also sell an udon (a type of thick wheat flour noodle) dish for only ¥180!

If you miss the maid cafes of Akihabara, don’t fret. Kuroneko, a maid cafe where the girls wear cat ears is just the thing. You will find one Kuroneko cafe on the first floor and another on the second floor of Nakano Broadway. Patrons can enjoy all you can drink beverages for ¥1,000 for 30 minutes.

Leading up to the mall you will come across a 740-foot long covered shopping arcade with a variety of shops including restaurants, cafes, jewelers, pharmacies and boutiques. It is a great place where one can switch gears from an adventure in shopping to an adventure in gastronomy. There are also many little food alleys lined with restaurants and izakayas (a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serves food) surrounding the mall and arcade, which offer a variety of different dishes to sample. You can practically spend an entire day exploring the area!

Where Akihabara is more or less a tourist attraction, Nakano is a place where you can find those very rare pop culture items not available anywhere else and get an opportunity to shop where the locals shop for such items.

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Japan: Ochanomizu

Ochanomizu, Kanda River

Ochanomizu, Kanda River

Tokyo has so much to offer in the way of restaurants, bars, culture, history, fashion, architecture, shrines, and festivals. It is no wonder that millions flock to the city annually. But Tokyo is also home to at least fifty reasonably large shopping districts which sell everything imaginable from food to fashion, ready to satisfy any shopaholic. Some of these districts, such as Akihabara, are hard core shopping areas focused on one particular niche, in this case electronics.

Juntendo University

Juntendo University

Meiji University

Meiji University

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Tokugawa Shogun Hidetada

Tokugawa Shogun Hidetada

Today, I want to tell you about another “hard core” shopping neighborhood which may be lesser known by the average shopper but is a haven for musicians throughout Tokyo. I’m talking about Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水), a university neighborhood that is known for its high concentration of musical instrument shops. Located near the Kanda River, Ochanomizu literally translates to “tea water.” It is said that the second Tokugawa Shogun Hidetada visited here once and enjoyed a cup of green tea made using the local spring water, thus the name. Meiji University, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Juntendo University all have main campuses in the area. Prior to the Great Kanto earthquake, Ochanomizu University was also located in the area, but was relocated to the Bunkyo area following the devastation.

Ishibashi

Ishibashi

Guitar Planet

Guitar Planet

Shimokura Second Hand Guitar Shop

Shimokura Second Hand Guitar Shop

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Ochanomizu is home to about fifty music stores, thirty of which exclusively sell guitars. The shops are generally open between 11 AM and 8 PM and include large retailers such as Big Boss, Ishibashi, and Kurosawa. You will also find specialty shops such as Guitar Planet and various second hand stores offering great bargains on used guitars, particularly replicas of Fenders and Gibsons made and sold only in Japan by Aria, Burny, Fernandes, Greco, and Tokai. The variety of guitars available in Ochanomizu is mind boggling! You can get anything from amazingly good $80 Fender Stratocaster copies to vintage American instruments in mint condition selling for tens of thousands of dollars.

Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nicholai-do)

Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nicholai-do)

Although you can spend hours browsing the various music stores, the fun does not stop there. Ochanomizu is also famous for its ski and snowboard shops located just a short walk from the station. While in the area, stop by at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nicholai-do), the main cathedral of the Japanese Orthodox Church. It was established by the Russian Orthodox priest Nikolai Kasatkin, St. Nicholas of Japan, in 1891 when he came to Japan from Russia for his missionary work. The building is designated as a nationally important cultural property.

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If you get hungry, try one of the many restaurants on the main strip. You will find anything and everything from McDonald’s to soba to udon to Indian curry to sushi!

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If you are not a musician but want to pretend to be a rock star, you can do so in a private karaoke box at Karaoke Pasela, a chain with shops located in Ginza, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Okachimachi, and Ochanomizu. The daytime fee per person is ¥100-250 for 30 minutes. Night time fees are ¥500 per person for 30 minutes. If listening to music is more your game, drop by Disk Union, a chain specializing in used CDs and DVDs.

Whether you are a musician or just a curious tourist, Ochanomizu is a great place to visit.

Japan: Nagasaki, Sasebo ( Huis Ten Bosch Theme Park)

Where once Japan segregated the Dutch, today she embraces their culture. So much so in fact, that the Japanese have painstakingly recreated the Netherlands in a 152- hectare theme park located in Sasebo, Nagasaki. The park is called Huis Ten Bosch and was named after Huis ten Bosch, a royal palace in The Hague, which serves as one of three official residences of the Dutch Royal Family.

Opened in March of 1992, the park features numerous Dutch-style buildings including hotels, villas, theatres, museums, shops and restaurants, along with canals, windmills, amusement rides and seasonal flowers throughout. Established as a tribute to the shared history and culture of the Netherlands and Nagasaki, it took five years to build on reclaimed land. Huis Ten Bosch is home to over 400,000 trees, 300,000 flowers and six kilometers of canals. The park consists of two areas: the Theme Park Zone requiring paid admission and the Free Zone.

The Theme Park Zone houses various amusements, many of which are modern theaters featuring 3D technology. There is also a Michael Jackson museum, haunted house, mirror maze, Ferris wheel and a replica of the Domtoren (Dom Tower) of Utrecht offering panoramic views from its observation deck. The original Dom Tower is a Gothic-style tower in the Netherlands, which stands at 368 feet high. It was a part of the Cathedral Saint Martin whose unfinished nave collapsed in 1674 making the Dom tower a free standing tower.

The Free Zone’s main attractions are a theater and boat ride related to the hit comic series, One Piece, and a replica of the Palace Huis Ten Bosch, which houses an art museum.

There are several European themed hotels including the Watermark Hotel and Hotel Nikko. Guests staying at these respective hotels are advised to check at the counter for discount tickets to the Theme Park Zone.

Huis Ten Bosch is currently managed by H.I.S., a travel agency who invested 2 billion yen to revitalize the park. The park hosts various events during different times of the year, including a tulip festival, which takes place in spring and a fireworks competition, which occurs in summer.

Park hours are from 9:00 AM to 9:30 PM daily (9:00 AM to 8:30 PM from December to February). A day passport ticket, covering entry and a number of attractions costs ¥6,100 for adults and ¥3,800 for children.

 

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Original Dom Tower

Original Dom Tower

Dom Tower replica

Dom Tower replica

Michael Jackson Museum

Michael Jackson Museum

Wooden clogs are very popular

Wooden clogs are very popular

One Piece

One Piece

One Piece themed boat ride

One Piece themed boat ride

Watermark Hotel

Watermark Hotel

Hotel Nikko

Hotel Nikko

Museum

Museum

 

Web page: http://english.huistenbosch.co.jp/