Tag Archive | "tokyo"

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The Weird and Wonderful in Tokyo

Posted on 21 February 2014 by Miranda

Travelling to Tokyo always offers the promise of brand new experiences; it’s one of the attractions that make it one of the top travel destinations in the world. Visiting any of the popular sites makes for an interesting experience, but for a taste of the weird and wonderful, demand from your Tokyo guide a behind the scenes feel of the whacky ventures hidden in this city. Here is a list of some of the stranger deals Tokyo has on offer for you so you know exactly where to go and what to do!

Hang out in Shimokitazawa…

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The first thing you will notice about this area is the lack of cars. It makes for a change of pace from the busy Tokyo metropolis. Shimokitazawa is a tiny network of alleys crowded with amazing alternative shops and second hand boutiques, followed by an evening of trendy bars and jazz clubs. It’s the perfect place to spend a day and a little off the normal beaten track. The sheer quantity of eating and drinking establishments in this tiny area is truly incredible!

Rest your head in the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel…

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You may have heard of this hotel experience before. Sleeping in a tiny capsule in the bustling city has very little more than a brand new typically Japanese experience to appeal to the visitor. However there are pleasant communal facilities of baths and saunas and an adequate restaurant and bar with good snacks in case you get a bit peckish in the night. The hotel is just for men and be warned, it is popular with drunken revellers who have missed their last train home. An alternative for women and those uncomfortable with a less than sober clientele should head to the Asakusa Hotel, which offers both rooms and capsules.

Experience the relaxing Cat Café…

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People who own cats have been proven to be less likely to suffer from stress and live for longer. However having a cat is obviously a big commitment; so Tokyo has provided the cat experience for those not wanting to go the distance with a pet of their own. The Cat Café Nekorobi is a wonderfully serene place where you can spend a few hours drinking tea, eating cake and playing with the cats that live there. The result is a very calm and soothing experience far away from the hectic city streets.

Get a taste for the Tsukiji Fish Market…

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Although getting up at the crack of dawn to go to a fish market doesn’t sound like too much fun, the Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest fish market in the world and a completely new perspective on how to enjoy a Tokyo guided tour. More like an aquarium than a fish market, catch the creatures alive and swimming! The auctions in particular are amazing to observe as wholesalers and restaurants come through hoping to get the best price on the day’s produce. One has to be up early to get a ticket for the auction and by afternoon the market is all done for the day!

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5 Things to do in Tokyo

Posted on 28 September 2011 by muchadoabouteating

One can enjoy Tokyo no matter how short the stay may be. Of the many things to do, these were those I did.

1. Walk through the lush greenery of Meiji Jingu Shrine 明治神宮. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Write your prayers on a piece of ema.

At Meiji Jingu

Ema to write one's wishes

2.  Pop into any ramen chain. Try to order lunch on the vending machine. Slurp and enjoy the piping hot goodness.

Ramen Vending Machine

Keika's ramen vending machine

3. Wake up early for Tsujiki Market 築地市場. Walk, look, buy and eat your way through.

A stall at Tsujiki Market

Random stall at Tsujiki Market

4. Visit the any intriguing shops and busk in Japanese’s way of life.

Shop in Midtown

Chopsticks shop at Midtown, Roppongi

5. Explore the amazing food basements numerous times. And eat till one’s content!

Pierre Herme at Isetan, Shinjuku

Pierre Herme at Isetan, Shinjuku

Have fun in Tokyo!

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Tokyo for the Oenophile

Posted on 14 June 2010 by Amy Ma

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Experience a Japanese take on the quintessential pairing of a piece of great steak with a good bottle of wine. Here at Old Vine, the chef serves up a cuisine style he coined “fusion teppanyaki”, which simply translates into the fact that there are no tacky spectacles or flair-filled displays around the hot plate – just elegantly prepared food from the highest caliber of ingredients.

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The specialty of the house is the Ohki beef, from the Yonezawa prefecture in Japan renown for their magnificently reared cattle. The combination of cold weather and their all-grain diet yields a marbled flesh equally tender but less oily than beef from Kobe and Matsuzaka. “In Kobe the cattle drink beer and get massages, like a lazy and unhealthy man,” says Senior Partner Jiro Kinoshita. “In Yonezawa, they eat a healthy diet, but because of the cold weather, they develop beautiful layers of fat.”

Like all great meat dishes, the ones at Old Vine scream for a glass of wine. And there are plenty to choose from. The entrance is lined with bottles from various estates, all personally autographed by the winemakers themselves. As the night progresses, feel free to migrate into the bar area to continue your wine tasting with the Enomatic Wine Machines, which allow you to select tasting, half-glass, or full-glass portions from an assortment of varietals.

Back at the dining table, attentive gourmands will enjoy the tasteful additions. Dip your rustic bread into two flavors of olive oils – robust or fruity. Or opt for the A.O.C. designated Lescure salted butter. And take a sip of the Vichy Catalan sparkling water, which carries a slight saltiness to cleanse the palate and is the brand of choice by Ferran Adria for El Bulli in Spain.

Only after the entire dining experience do you realize how well the 75-year old vine that adorns the doorway of the restaurant represents the philosophy here. Oenophiles have long since heralded that the grapes from old vines produce wines of a deeper complexity, and Old Vine restaurant carries within its many layers the same je ne sais quoi.

The soothing atmosphere and gracious staff quickly convert any first comer into a regular friend, who knows that like a good bottle of wine, Old Vine will get even better with age (or in this case, multiple visits).

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Old Vine

1106 Bldg. 1/F, 1-10-6 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031 Japan

Tel: +81-03-5771-2439

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Take the “Red Pill”

Posted on 03 June 2010 by Amy Ma

tapas bar (Large)

This 14-seat “sushi-bar” styled restaurant is the territory of Chef Jeff Ramsey, formerly of Minibar in Washington D.C., and his team of what can only be described as the coolest chefs in town. Piggybacking on the increasingly popular trend of molecular gastronomy, this squad of young chefs is cutting edge from head to toe. Even their chef coats are designed to resemble stylistic motorcycle jackets.

If you are lucky enough to score a seat, the two hour long session serves up more than 20 courses, all personally introduced and meticulously plated by two chefs in the front and one in the back kitchen. In this small space, you’ll witness sizeable culinary miracles.

Nothing is what it seems. The beer is not just beer, but the foam on top is made from a yoghurt-y Yakult drink pumped through a sifone. The miso soup comes in a skinless ravioli sprinkled with dried seaweed powder. The sizzling beef is not hot, but blasted with shot of nitrous oxide that coats the tender flesh with bubbles as it hits your mouth. Even regular ole lemon wedges don’t end up tasting sour with the help of a little “red pill”.

The food here demands that you pay attention to it, and somehow manages to catch you off guard every time. The best part is that the skilled magicians behind the counter reveal their secrets and educate you about what it is they’re doing every step of the way. They explain that they use an algae that immediately solidifies when it touches calcium to create small tapioca balls. They show how the liquid nitrogen “cooks” the mousse by dramatically dropping its temperature. It is dinner and a show, all in one go.

There is much humor and experimentation behind what they are doing. “We take big risks and sometimes it’s successful, sometimes it’s not,” says Ramsey. But the dedication and passion behind it is unmistakable. No doubt volunteer yourself to be their next test subject.

Caramel Corn "freeze"-cooked popcorn mousse in caramel floss

Caramel Corn "freeze"-cooked popcorn mousse in caramel floss

Miso Soup Ravioli

Miso Soup Ravioli

Magic Fruit Citrus Plate

Magic Fruit Citrus Plate

Chefs at work...and play

Chefs at work...and play

Exhaling with liquid nitrogen

Exhaling with liquid nitrogen

Chef Jeff Ramsey

Chef Jeff Ramsey

Tapas Molecular Bar

38/F Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, 2-1-1, Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-8328 Japan

Tel: +81-03-3720-8800

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Top 10 Asian Movie Destinations

Posted on 30 March 2010 by Jitthip

Hollywood has long been fascinated with Asia for its exotic cultures, engrained sense of honor and duty, cinematic landscapes, romantic languages, and of course, its pioneering directors.

Asian cinema is just as enamored with its own exoticism, industry leaders such as Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood For Love) focus as much on the beauty of their locations, on Asian mythology and finely crafted cinematography, as they do on narrative.

Regardless of cinema’s tremendous works of imagination and the effort directors have taken to bring the beauty of Asia to a wider audience, the only way to experience the richness of the continent is to visit the locations yourself. Here are some of the most spectacular Asian destinations seen on film.

+ The Beach, 2000

The Beach

The Beach, 2000

Movie: The Beach, 2000

Location: Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand

Props: SLR camera, a romantic inclination
Recreate the scene: Find a quiet spot on Maya Bay – the beach – and take ‘the perfect photograph’ of the night sky. Take turns with your partner in romance to stare at the stars through the camera’s viewfinder, discussing the existence of parallel worlds.

Between shoots: Maya Bay is located on Koh Phi Phi Leh – the smaller of the two Phi Phi islands (Phi Phi Don is the island with all the resorts and restaurants). You can snorkel, charter longtail boats around the limestone caves of Phang Nga Bay, eat your weight in fresh seafood and bask on powdery white sand waiting for Leo – or Francoise – to emerge glistening from the water.

+ Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001

Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001

Movie: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001

Location: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Props: Cargo pants, water canteen, army boots
Recreate the scene: Cambodian nationals – unsurprisingly – weren’t overjoyed to see acts of violence staged in their revered UNESCO World Heritage Site, so when you visit Angkor, shoot at the temples with your camera only. Head to Angkor Thom, and explore the ruins as Lara Croft the intrepid archaeologist would, ever on a quest to unlock the lost secrets of ancient civilizations.
Between shoots: Sample local fare (such as snake and frog), pay a humanitarian visit to a local orphanage or monastery and cruise past the fishing villages on Tonle Sap lake. For something more classically Tomb Raider, visit a local firing range to indulge your AK-47 fantasies.

+ Lost in Translation, 2003

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation, 2003

Movie: Lost in Translation, 2003

Location: Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Props: An unrequited love interest, several hundred Japanese locals
Recreate the scene: Stride through Shibuya in tears and wait for your love interest to catch up with you. Embrace, murmur something inaudible yet deeply profound, kiss briefly then go your separate ways forever.
Between shoots: Shop at Shibuya 109, hit the karaoke bars, cook your own shabu shabu, slurp ramen noisily, lose hours (and yen) playing pachinko, go to the BIC camera electronics stores on every corner, hang out at the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar for jazz and cocktails and dodge salarymen on Japan’s most filmed – and busiest – pedestrian crossing, Shibuya Square.

+ In The Mood For Love, 2000

In the Mood for Love

In The Mood For Love, 2000

Movie: In The Mood For Love, 2000

Location: Macau

Props: Several cheongsams (traditional Chinese dresses), a devastatingly handsome/beautiful object of desire
Recreate the scene: Walk the hallways of a dimly lit 1960s hotel and head down quiet back alleys looking forlorn and heart-broken, repeatedly bumping into your love interest, who is also walking around looking morose. Take a black taxi to a restaurant together without speaking a word.
Between shoots: This film took 15 months to shoot across Macau, Bangkok and Angkor Wat, but you won’t have that much time, so for instant romance, wander Macau’s historic Portuguese quarter in your finest cheongsam then head to Fat Siu Lau restaurant to sample its famous roasted pigeon.

+ Indochine, 1992

Indochine, 1992

Indochine, 1992

Movie: Indochine, 1992

Location: Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Malaysia

Props: 1930s period clothes, record player
Recreate the scene: Indochine is set in Vietnam, but was shot in Penang, mostly inside the Vogue-approved Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – the Blue Mansion. At dinnertime, dance the tango with a friend as 1930s music crackles on the turntable.
Between shoots: One of Penang’s main draws is its cuisine – Indian, Chinese and Malay are all available cheaply from street hawkers and all-night eateries. CFTM is one of the most photographed hotels in South East Asia – all romance and antique Chinoiserie – take pictures, read books, listen to records or just recline with melodramatic style on a chaise longue and absorb the ambience.

+ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000

Movie: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000

Location: Jiuxiang Scenic Resort, Kunming, China

Props: Assassin’s mask, antidote for poison dart, if available.
Recreate the scene: Travel insurance probably doesn’t cover any self-inflicted harm befalling those attempting to recreate any of Crouching Tiger’s scenes, so it’s probably best to make do with enjoying the scenery. Wear a kung fu outfit and profess your undying love to someone while choking out your last mortal breaths if it makes the experience more authentic for you.
Between shoots: Jiuxoiang is a national park with dramatic limestone karst formations, caves, cliffs and rivers. Visitors can kayak through canyons, visit local Yi and Hui communities and witness the wonders of geology unique to this part of the world.

+ Bangkok Dangerous, 2008

Bangkok Dangerous, 2008

Bangkok Dangerous, 2008

Movie: Bangkok Dangerous, 2008

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Props: Hawaiian shirt, bad hair, likeable side kick
Recreate the scene: Enter a pharmacy somewhere around Silom Road and attempt to communicate your ailment using only sign language – something many a visitor to Thailand has probably had to do. Then head to Soi Cowboy in a scene recreated by millions of tourists every year, and gawp at the flashing neon signs and scantily-clad go-go dancers.
Between shots: If you visit around the Thai New Year – Songkran (13-15 April) – you can safely wear your Hawaiian shirt the entire time while engaging in ‘water play’ – drenching everyone within range of a super-soaker (it’s good luck!).

+ Drunken Master, 1978

Drunken Master, 1978

Drunken Master, 1978

Movie: Drunken Master, 1978

Location: Hong Kong

Props: White T-shirt, black pants, white socks and kung fu slippers
Recreate the scene: Challenge the baddest kung fu guy in the city to a fight – and lose. Get more training from your drunken master, re-challenge and win.
Between shoots: In the spirit of doing things as low-budget as this film (if that’s even possible), do Hong Kong the cheap way: catch the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, stroll through Mongkok for street food, browse the Ladies’ Market and go up the cable car on Lantau Island to visit Po Lin Monastery and the Giant Buddha.

+ Seven Samurai, 1954

Seven Samurai, 1954

Seven Samurai, 1954

Movie: Seven Samurai, 1954

Location: Izu National Park, Shizuoka, Japan

Props: Samurai swords (fallen branches should suffice), fake moustaches, six brave friends
Recreate the scene: Find a densely forested part of hiking trail within the park, wait for some tourists to approach, then ambush. Or just enjoy the scenery with your mates – this is one of the most beautiful – and visited – parks in Japan, drawing more than 100 million tourists a year.
Between shoots: The Atami hot springs, white and black sand beaches and exploring Izu Islands (Izu Oshima island is where the creepy cabin scenes in the Japanese horror flick Ringu were filmed) should keep you occupied between takes.

+ Raise The Red Lantern,1991

Raise The Red Lantern,1991

Raise The Red Lantern,1991

Movie: Raise The Red Lantern,1991

Location: Qiao’s Compound, Pingyao, Shaxi, China

Props: Anything red and Chinese-looking, a paper lantern
Recreate the scene: This film is all about Chinese concubines in the 1920s so it’s therefore difficult to recreate a scene here without offending some of the Qiao Compound’s other visitors. Simply getting out your red lantern and raising it should be enough.
Between shoots: The historic and beautiful Qiao Compound lies just outside the equally stunning and ancient UNESCO-listed city of Ping Yao in Shanxi province. The massive city walls were built in 1370 and measure 12 meters high with 72 watchtowers – more epic than all of Kurosawa’s films put together.

By Bek van Vliet

go smarter. go agoda. LOGO


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Mama Knows Best

Posted on 16 March 2010 by Amy Ma

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Besides an understated lantern that hangs outside the old-school Japanese-style house, there’s not so much as a sign at the door. And perhaps that was intentionally done so as not to spill their secret out to the masses. So just between you and me: this is a not to be missed stop on your next Tokyo layover.

Things don’t get much more traditional than this quaint izakaya (Japanese pub). As you enter, you’ll notice that the entire floor is watched over by the elderly Japanese mama who owns the store. She sits poised in the center of the room and scans the floor throughout the night to make sure every customer has a smile on his and her face. They chef in the back of the kitchen preparing a selection of small tapas-sized dishes – that’s her son. The server in the front of the house politely bringing the sake to the table? Her daughter-in law.

Shi Ru Kaku is an oasis for true sake connoisseurs within the rowdy Roppongi district. There are no drunken brawls; no raised voices. Just a large selection of sakes on a hand-written menu, and the guarantee that your cup will be thoughtfully attended to so that it always remains filled.

There are also various izakaya delights designed to bring out the taste of sake. Try the shio kara [squid innards], which are salty and briny on its own but mouth-watering when paired with the mild fragrance and spike of sake. Also order up an onsen tamago, a dish created originally when eggs were cooked in the mild 70-80°C temperatures of a Japanese onsen [hot spring]. The result is a perfectly soft boiled egg sitting in a soy sauce dashi. End the night with a hot bowl of miso, a specialty at the store that comes in multiple varieties – with small button mushrooms in one version or grated yam in another, just to name a few.

Conversations flow freely and time passes quickly here – as it always does when you’re enjoying yourself.

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Shi Ru Kaku, 12-11, Roppongi, 7-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Tel: +81-03-3408-6479

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Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

Wellness Spa

Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

Travel Adventures + Singapore

Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

Travel Adventures + Borneo

She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

Photo Blog + Taiwan

She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

Kuala Lumpur

From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

Chiang Mai

After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]