Cold Ramen and Life in Tokyo

Hi everyone! It has been quite a while. The last time I posted, I was still living back in my apartment, but since then, I have actually moved to Tokyo! I have been here for 9 and a half months now, working as a high school English teacher on the JET Programme (Japan Exchange Teaching Programme).

It was an incredibly long and challenging process settling into my new life here, and at times I was not even sure if I made the right decision coming here. But now that I have it all figured out, I am positive that my time in Tokyo will be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

It has been very hot in Tokyo lately, at an average of 32 degrees celsius! So, for lunch the perfect option was cold ramen noodles. You can buy a ready-made package in the grocery store, so all you have to do is boil the noodles, cool them with ice, prepare your toppings, and add the sauces that come with it. Very refreshing on such a sweltering day!

As with all of us, I can’t say the the whole COVID-19 ordeal hasn’t had a large impact on my life, but during times like these, I’ve learned that it is crucial to keep a positive mindset and seek out things that make you happy and active.

Even when we were recommended to keep out of crowded areas, it was still fine to go to wide open natural spaces, and despite being one of the most urban metropolitans in the world, Tokyo fortunately has a lot of beautiful nature. Last weekend, I headed to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, near Harajuku Station. It was the first time I had been surrounded by trees in a very long time, and it was incredibly refreshing. It’s amazing what a little nature can do for the soul!

People all over the world have been picking up new hobbies — baking, reading, blogging…I even have one friend who started writing a movie script just for the fun of it.

A friend and I both enjoy making things, so we recently started experimenting with different crafts. First, we started experimenting with making clay figurines, then we moved on to making resting earrings, and recently, we have settled on making earrings using shrink plastic sheets, with a varnish and resin finish.

Each set of earrings a long creative process, from beginning to start, but coming up with quirky little designs and seeing them come to fruition has been such an enjoyable experience. Get out into nature, find a new hobby…it’s a beautiful world!


Irresistible Indian Cuisine in Japan

If you could only have one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I’ve been asked this a bunch of times, and my answer often depends on where I am at the time. If I’m traveling in South Asia, I tend to seek out Japanese foods. When I’m in Japan, I crave Indian spices. And, when at home in Vancouver my diet tends to gravitate towards the Mediterranean side of things. I’m not sure why…maybe I just enjoy the challenge of hunting for obscure ingredients!

So, how about you? What would you go with?

The other day, I went to another Indian restaurant. Every time I go for Indian food in Japan, I tell myself that I won’t go again. Don’t get me wrong, the food is usually quite good, but I always think that I should make the most of my time here and experience Japanese cuisine to the fullest. And yet…I always find myself wandering into every Indian and Napalese restaurant that I see. There’s something that’s just so irresistible about the aroma of roasting spices, especially after relying for so long on soy sauce and miso as my main seasonings.

veggie curry


huge, fluffy naan

mango juice

I tried out the vegetable curry, daal, naan, and mango juice. The daal was unlike any I’ve had before. I’m used it being a soupy dish made with brown lentils, but this daal was very thick and made with big split yellow peas. The mango juice was so syrupy, almost more like mango nectar than juice. All in all, it was an incredibly filling and generous meal.

Like most Indian restaurants in Japan, they offered unlimited free refills of fresh naan, but the servings were so massive that I was more than satisfied with just one!


Wakame Udon Noodles and a Bamboo Park

As I wandered through Mito the other weekend, I started to get hungry and was lucky enough to find a fantastic little udon shop. The prices are very affordable, and they have basically every udon dish you can think of. Among some of the veggie options were: kitsune udon (udon noodles with a huge sheet of fluffy deep fried tofu floating on top), tororo udon (udon topped with grated yam), kake udon (a plain udon bowl with sliced green onions piled up on top), oroshi udon (udon with grated daikon raddish), and kare udon (udon noodles in a thick curry broth).

I went for the wakame udon, which is the standard bowl of udon noodles, topped with a whole bunch of wakame seaweed and some sliced green onion. The great thing about a lot of udon restaurants in Japan is that they have a self-serve topping station where you can fill up on tenkasu (little bits of deep fried batter), crushed chili powder, grated ginger, and green tea.

After this fun lunch, I discovered an incredible park nearby that was surrounded by a bamboo forest. It was so serene and absolutely gorgeous!


Japanese Corn Pizza!

One of the things that I love to do in Japan is just walk around for hours exploring different areas and shops. Walking down random streets here is such a different experience from in Vancouver and it’s also a great way to become familiar with the neighborhood. After wandering around Hitachi for some hours, I decided to take a break and stop in at an old Japanese diner serving mostly Japanese versions of Western foods. I stuck with my pint of Asahi Dry beer, but my friend ordered a classic dish…corn pizza!

This is very popular in Japan, but it’s such an unusual pizza elsewhere that I thought it deserved its own little blog post. One thing I know for sure is that I’ve never seen it at any pizzeria in Canada! Corn pizza sounds a bit weird, but I’ve tried it in the past before I went vegan and the corn adds a sweetness to the pizza that’s really quite good! I’d choose this over Hawaiian pizza any day.

hitachi pizzahitachi streethitachi street0

Cherry Blossoms and Indian Curry in Japan

Over the weekend I took advantage of my time off from my new job and rode the train out to the neighboring city of Mito. They had a special festival going on to celebrate the cherry blossom season. There were all sorts of tents set up with a variety of locally grown veggies, plus a bunch of food stands with incredible smelling treats. I bought a bundle of my favorite green onions, or negi as they’re called in Japanese. I use these as a topping for my natto (a traditional soy bean dish) each morning for breakfast.


For lunch, after wandering through the streets peeking into all of the fun looking restaurants and cafes, I was lucky enough to stumble across an Indian restaurant. I always think that I should opt for more Japanese-style cuisine, but the Hindi script engraved onto the side of the restaurant wall caught my eye and I couldn’t help but go in!


Their “light lunch” set was 660 yen and included one bowl of curry, salad, and your choice of either naan or yellow saffron rice. I went with the veggie curry (extra spice!) and naan. I spoke to one of the chefs after the meal and he told me that they were all from Calcutta, but that they adjusted their dishes to suit the Japanese taste. As is usually the case in Japan, the food was nothing like authentic Indian cuisine but it was delicious with its own Indian-Japanese fusion of flavours!

If you’ve never tried Indian cuisine in Japan, it’s definitely worth a go. It’s a completely different experience from the Indian restaurants back in Vancouver, or the ones that I went to during my visit to India. They incorporate local Japanese ingredients to create unique and intriguing dishes that are a lot of fun to try.


Giant Steamed Veggie Buns!

I had a sudden craving for steamed buns the other day so I headed to Chinatown to see what was on offer. I wandered up and down the streets, stepping into random dim sum shops and bakeries looking for veggie steamed buns, but pretty much everything contained meat or seafood. Just when I thought I’d have to go back home empty handed, I discovered what is now my absolute favorite Chinese bakery in Vancouver. Every single bun, cake, dumpling, and tart is gigantic! They’re honestly about twice the size of every other shop I visited, and the crazy thing is that most of the items are actually cheaper!


For lunch, I got one white steamed veggie bun, and another whole wheat one. They were so huge that I couldn’t even finish them and ended up having the rest for dinner. It’s not just about the size and price either…none of that would matter if the food was poor. But, you could tell that fresh vegetables were used for the filling inside the buns, and they also had a variety of other ingredients mixed in like mushrooms, rice noodles, and tofu. Really fantastic!


Roadtrip to Aomori: Japanese Curry for Lunch

On our second day in Aomori we stopped in at a famiresu for lunch. In Japanese, famiresu is short for “family restaurant”. Family restaurants are very popular in Japan but funnily enough, even though the name comes from English, I’m pretty sure there isn’t any true equivalent of a famiresu in the English-speaking world.

Generally, “family restaurants” are casual diners that offer Western style dishes as well as a selection of Japanese foods. Their dessert menu is also pretty extensive, which I’m always happy about! The menu is always reasonably priced, and unlike our concept of a “diner” in North America, the food is actually pretty high quality and artistically plated, and the interior decor is quite nice.

At this famiresu, I ordered a vegetable curry. Totally impressed by the quality of the ingredients and the care that went into it, especially for the price. Well done Aomori! 😀


Roadtrip to Aomori: Giant Apples and Good Food

A few of us took an overnight trip to Aomori in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. I was told it would be freezing cold there so I bundled up in about ten layers of thermal linings and we headed off the in camper in the wee hours of the morning. All in all, it was about an eight hour drive, minus a bunch of stops to eat and stretch our legs.

As we pushed on along the freeway, we could see the sunrise from the windows of the camper. Our first meal of the day was a bowl of freshly cut oil-free fries, prepared at about 4 or 5 AM that morning before we hit the road. We flavoured the fries with curry powder!


Mid-morning, we took a break at a truck stop. Well…I call it a “truck stop”, but in Japan they are totally different from the ones in North America. Instead of a greasy diner, a gas station, and a bunch of burly truckers, Japanese truck stops are set up almost like mini malls and can be a lot of fun to browse. They often have big luxurious bathrooms, a gift shop,  and a small food court.

As a snack, we bought these neat buns made out of brown rice flour. The bread had a soft, almost gooey texture (but in a good way). We tried out two types — one was filled with kimpira gobo, which is a traditional Japanese dish made of finely sliced burdock root and carrot, cooked in soy sauce and sesame oil. Kimpira gobo is usually eaten as a side dish, or with rice, but this was my first time having it inside a bun. Very good! The other bun was filled with veggie curry.


For lunch, we pulled in at another truck stop. Here, I had a big hearty bowl of miso soup filled with potato, carrots, daikon radish, taro, tofu, and green onions.



We finally reached Aomori in the early evening. One thing that Aomori is known for is it’s incredible apples. As an offshoot of that, they also have a whole range of apple-based products such as apple juice, apple cider, apple jam, apple chips…you name it!

We stopped at an apple producer and bought a few cases of their finest apples as gifts to take back home with us. I’ve never seen anything like them before. The apples that we bought are red even on the inside, and when you cut into them, the core is in the shape of a little star! And get this…they don’t turn brown. It’s true! I cut one open and let it sit for a couple hours. Yup, still red on the inside!

The farmers were incredibly kind, and in return for buying so many apples they gave us three huge bags of apples and pears for free. 😀


Noodles and Gyoza in Japan

When in Japan, there are a few dishes that I absolutely can’t return home without trying at least once. As much as I’ve been enjoying cooking at home with all the amazing market fresh produce, I try and treat myself to a restaurant meal every once in a while. The other day, I went for lunch at at a place that’s pretty much the Japanese equivalent of a diner. It’s the type of place where business men stop by for a quick bowl of noodles during their lunch break, and it serves up all the standard fare.

Between two of us, we ordered a bowl of ramen and a gyoza lunch set which came with six gyoza, soup, and a big bowl of rice (free refills!). Each was only somewhere around six dollars.


Considering how reasonable the prices were, the quality of the food took me by surprise. The gyoza were actually handmade and filled with fresh green onions, and the noodles also look like they were made in-house.

Ticking things off the list one dish at a time. Next up, Japanese curry!

Fried Potato Korokke Burger

Korroke are a very popular staple food item in Japan. You can find them in pretty much any supermarket or convenience store, all the way up to higher end restaurants where they’re dressed up with quality ingredients.

I always like to get the veggie ones which are a mashed potato patty mixed with peas and corn, covered in a fine coating of crispy breadcrumbs, and deep fried. This is the most standard type of korokke, but you can also find them made out of mashed pumpkin, tofu pulp, or potatoes mixed with a bit of ground meat. They can be eaten as is, on top of noodles, or as a burger topped with shredded cabbage and sauce. So simple, but they’re really fantastic, especially if you can manage to get your hands on one while it’s still hot!