Tokyo

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: Japanese Sub-Cultures (Yankii)

Every country has a population of disgruntled youth who rebel against society and Japan is no exception.  But from a country who brought you such colorful trends as Dekotora, Gyaru, Lolita and Visual Kei, it only makes sense that their sub-culture of rebellious youth are just as colorful and trendy.

Japan’s largest and most well-known sub-culture consisting primarily of working class kids is called Yankii (ヤンキー).  Yankii also represents a whole genre of comics, movies and music in Japan. The word Yankii, came into existence in the 1950s and is said to have originated from the term “Yankee,” which refers to people from the United States. Perhaps influenced by the early post-war motorcycle gangs formed by former Kamikaze pilots known as Kaminari zoku (雷族), the Yankii lifestyle revolves around motorcycles and cars and is perhaps one of the most tradition-bound segments of the Japanese populace today.

Most kids begin their life-style as a Yankii around age 14 and are known for their pranks, bullying and petty crimes. They try to maintain a yakuza-like image but they are not as dangerous as their highly organized, older icons. They highlight their working class roots by wearing clothing associated with Japanese construction workers, such as oversized baggy pants known as Tobi trousers. Yankii boys and girls also tend to have shaved off eyebrows, permed hair (punch perm/ パンチパーマ/  panchi pamaa), dyed hair, pompadours, flamboyant, oversized clothes and customized school uniforms. Younger Yankii are expected to speak to the older members of their clan (senpai) in Keigo (reverent speech) at all times and run their errands. Members also observe a code of honor specific to their particular clan. The three pillars of Yankii behavior are said to be guts (konjyo), sincerity (seii) and dedication of the soul (nyukon).  Most Yankii tend to drop out of school by age 17 and get married. This early marriage is referred to as sokon.

Some Yankii eventually do get recruited by the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) but many simply blend into Japanese society, join the workforce and live regular, productive lives after lashing out at society and enjoying their youth.

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Japan: Tokyo/ Omotesando/ Gluten-Free (Natural Cream Kitchen)

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If you have food allergies like I do, you know how daunting traveling may be, particularly when it comes to overseas travel.  But, a great man once uttered, “Nothing is impossible,” and indeed with growing food allergy awareness, traveling with food allergies is becoming much easier than it used to be.  The only caveat is that you must do your homework ahead of time, which many of us who have allergies are accustomed to doing anyway.

In this new blog post, my purpose is to introduce you to a wonderful little café located in Omotesando, which offers all natural, gluten-free items on their menu.

Natural Cream Kitchen opened in spring of 2015 and bills itself as an “additive free sweets café.” However, sweets are not the only things offered on their menu. Here you will find delicious items such as chicken and roast beef entrees, meatloaf, pasta, sandwiches, quiche and salads.  Their drinks menu includes soft drinks, herbal teas, beer and wine! They even have a brunch menu featuring oatmeal and omelets among other items!  Everything is prepared using natural ingredients, no sugar and no additives.  Their tarts, breads and cakes are created with rice flour and sweetened with amazake  (a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice) and sugar beets. Their signature roll cakes come plain and in chocolate cake flavors and are available in sizes up to 50cm (19.6 in). For Christmas you can order the Christmas cake version. Oh, and did I mention their sweets sampler tower?

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You can choose to dine in the cozy café decked out in a bright and soothing décor or take your food out. There are large vases filled with white flowers, white washed tables and chairs, exposed white brick walls and a giant chandelier comprised of eating utensils.

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The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, able to answer any questions you may have regarding the menu (provided you speak Japanese.)  Even if you can’t speak Japanese, the menu has pictures of the items available so you can just point to what you would like to order.

Whether you have food allergies, are health conscious or just want to try delicious tasting foods, Natural Cream Kitchen should be on your list of places to visit when in Tokyo! The café is open Mon-Sat from 10AM-8PM, Sun & Holidays 9AM-8PM. It is easily accessible via the Meiji-Jingumae Station (Chiyoda, Fukutoshin Lines) or the Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda Lines).

 

Web page:                        https://naturalcreamkitchen.com/

Location:                           GYRE B1F 5-10-1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001

New Book: A Blogger’s Guide to JAPAN

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Friends, good news! My book is now available to purchase online. Please note that if you purchase the book from the CreateSpace eStore, you can use the discount code (YVW7YCQG) to receive $3 off the list price. Worldwide shipment is available.

Further, Amazon.com is offering a special limited time holiday discount.  Use the following code to receive $10 off the list price at check out:  HOLIDAYBOOK

Thank you so much for your support!

•CreateSpace eStore: Now available
https://www.createspace.com/6595032

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Bloggers-Guide-Japan-Kristine-Ohkubo/dp/1539033112/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480353733&sr=8-1&keywords=A+blogger%27s+guide+to+japan

•Amazon Europe: http://www.sysmod.com/amazon.htm

JAPAN: Manga Cafes (Manga Kissa / マンガ喫茶 )

The term manga refers to a comic book/ cartooning style which was developed in Japan in the late 19th century.  It is an art form that is easily recognized around the world today where it has enjoyed an increasing trend in popularity. As a matter of fact, many young people outside of Japan have been introduced to Japan and Japanese culture through manga.

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Even with its increased popularity around the globe, nowhere is manga more popular than in the country where it originated. As a matter of fact, Japanese people of all ages read manga as the subject matter includes a broad assortment of genres ranging from action-adventure to sports and games. Today, manga represents a major part of the Japanese publishing industry with sales over $5.5 billion!  Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that manga has contributed to another growing Japanese trend, the manga café.

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The manga café or manga kissaten (referred to as manga kissa by locals) is a type of café offering an extensive manga library.  Some cafes provide internet access, video games, TV, and snack and beverage vending machines as well. Patrons are typically charged by the amount of time they stay at the café.  Most cafés have pricing plans starting at ¥100 – ¥400 for the first 30 minutes with additional time charged in increments of ¥1 for each 10-15 minutes spent thereafter.

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The cafés offer two types of seating, private booths and open seating areas. The majority of these private booths are rather narrow with only enough space for a desk, chair/ reclining chair/ flatbed. There are some cafés which offer larger booths, big enough to accommodate two people.  Naturally, these tend to be more expensive to rent.

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Certain manga kissatens allow their patrons to stay overnight and have become a popular low budget accommodation option for many.   These cafes are open 24-hours and offer such amenities as showers, blankets, slippers, and free drinks for as little as ¥1,500 per night. Some even offer women-only sections.

To use the manga café you will need a photo ID or passport.  Most cafés require a membership, which you can readily obtain on the spot. You will be asked to choose your type of seating and time plan for your intended stay and given a receipt with your seating number printed on it. When it is time to leave, present your receipt at the check-in counter. You will be charged for your seating type, time spent at the café and any extra charges you may have incurred.

Manga kissatens can be found in most major cities all over Japan.  Many are located in multi-level buildings situated along the side streets near train stations. So the next time you travel to Japan, why not check into a manga kissaten and drift off into a world created by one of the popular Japanese manga artists like Hideaki Sorachi, Eiichiro Oda, or Akira Toriyama?

Japan: Tokyo (Shinjuku Gyoen/ 新宿御苑)

Once having served as a feudal lord’s residence, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks.  It is home to more than 20,000 trees, including approximately 1,500 cherry trees, which make it a popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) destination from late March to late April. The park is also nice to visit during autumn when the leaves change. The spectacular fall colors typically appear from mid-November to mid-December.

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Shinjuku Gyoen, which spans 58.3 hectares is comprised of three different types of gardens. The oldest is a traditional Japanese landscape garden, which features the Taiwan Pavilion, constructed on the occasion of the Showa Emperor’s wedding.  During the first two weeks in November, a chrysanthemum exhibit is held here with beautiful floral displays and temporary pavilions erected around the park’s grounds. You can also find a traditional Japanese tea house here.

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The park’s other main gardens include a formal French garden and an English landscape garden. The remainder of the park consists of forested areas, lawns and several structures including a restaurant, an information center and an art gallery. There is also a beautiful greenhouse with numerous tropical and subtropical flowers on display. The park was almost completely destroyed during World War II, but it was eventually rebuilt and reopened to the public in 1949. It is not uncommon to walk around the park and find various artists creating beautiful water color images of the scenery.

Shinjuku Gyoen also has three gates. The Shinjuku Gate and the Okido Gate are both just a five-minute walk from the Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line. The third gate, the Sendagaya Gate, is located five minutes on foot from the JR Sendagaya Station on the local Chuo/Sobu Line.

The park is open from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM Tuesday through Sunday, except during cherry blossom season and chrysanthemum season, when the park is open seven days a week.

Web page:         http://www.env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/english/

Japan: Tokyo (Madame Tussauds Wax Museum)

In an earlier blog post, I had written about Madame Tussauds Wax Museum located in Hollywood, California. (https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/traveldreamscapes.wordpress.com )  During my recent visit to Japan, I had the opportunity to visit Madame Tussauds in Tokyo.

Madame Tussaud or Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg, France.  She eventually settled in London and by 1825, opened the first wax museum on Baker Street. Today, the museum is a major tourist attraction in London, displaying life-size waxworks of royalty, historical figures, film and sport stars and famous murderers. The wax figures were once roped off from visitors but today the public can get up close and personal with the celebrities, dress up in costumes and take pictures!

If you are unable to visit the original London attraction, do not worry, Madame Tussauds has opened up branches in various countries including China, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Australia, the United States and Japan.

The Japanese museum opened on March 15, 2013.  It is located at DECKS Tokyo Beach in Odaiba, approximately 32 minutes by train from Tokyo Station. The museum has over sixty wax figures of world leaders, celebrities, music stars and other television and news personalities on display. You can mingle and have your photo taken with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, President Barack Obama, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, you name it.  The museum also features various Japanese personalities such as Prime Minister Abe, skater Mao Asada, television personality Matsuko Deluxe and the famous rock band, XJapan, just to name a few.

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Duke & Duchess of Cambridge

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Nelson Mandela

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Lady Gaga

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Marilyn Monroe

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Audrey Hepburn

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Meryl Streep

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Michael Jackson

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Elvis

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Madonna

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Yu Darvish

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Matsuko Deluxe

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Akiko Wada

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Danmitsu

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Yuko Oshima (AKB48)

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Becky

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Odaiba is accessible via the Yurikamome Line from Tokyo Station, exit at the Odaiba Kaihin Koen stop. DECKS is just a short walk from the station.

 

Web page:         https://www.madametussauds.jp/tokyo/en/

Location:            3F Decks Tokyo Beach Island Mall, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo