If you are in Tokyo over the weekend I recommend a visit to the Kuozei, food fair in Hibiya Park. Over 100 booths representing 25 prefectures in Japan showing traditional as well as new food specialities. The biggest participant is Hokkaido, with the majority of booths, crabs, steaks and ramen and much more. The food fair goes on from 10 to 18 today and tomorrow.
One of my favorites was the Unagiimo booth from Shizuoka Prefecture, which was new to me, combining unagipie and sweet potato. The cakes and the pudding was great and I loved their character, Unamo, half eel, half potato. The unagiimo is potatos grown using the fertilizer made from left overs from the massive eel as food processing industry in Shizuoka prefecture. Rather than throwing it away, the left overs are recycled in the potato fields. A worthwhile project, a cute character and some very nice desserts – what is not to like?
More photos from the interior of little Enoshima island off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture! Having braved the stairs all the way up to the middle of the island there are even more things to see, souvenir shops, the third and final part of the Enoshima Shrine and a few small restaurants serving the “uminoie” food in the form of ramen, noodles, grilled seafood and shaved ice deserts. Usually uminoie are little beach huts or tiny restaurants set up on the beach during summer to serve drinks and light food to tourists but these restaurants are on top of the island. Some of them have fantastic views of the ocean though. There are plenty of vending machines on the way as well, one of which had a couple of mystery servings!
There is also the option of visiting the 60m tall observation tower in the middle of the Samuel Cooking botanical garden if you want even better views of the area. On this visit I was happy enough taking pictures of the tower rather than from the tower. There are combination tickets called “Enopass” for 1000 yen that includes the entrance fee for the garden, the tower, the ocean front caves and the escalators bringing visitors up to the top of the island comfortably (really recommended if you are not into walking or used to the hot summer weather). The Enopass is even more worthwhile if you also plan on visiting the other attractions around Enoshima, like the aquarium, as it gives a discount.
The third portion of Enoshima Shrine is called Okutsunomiya and well worth a quick visit. Do not miss the famous turtle painting in the roof of the prayer structure! There are quite a lot of things to discover in this part of the shrine so I won’t give away all of them. I couldn’t resist sharing a few massive fruits! The sign calls them “oniyuzu” (鬼柚子), or demon yuzu but they are more commonly known as shishiyuzu (獅子柚子) or lion yuzu, due to the resemblance to a lion or demons face. They are not actually related to yuzu at all, but more closely related to the pomelo fruits (a distant relative in the citrus fruit family). A shishiyuzu is about 5-6 times as big as a yuzu (and yuzu are already much larger than oranges). They are not good for eating raw but often used in marmalade or candied. The impressive look of the fruits also means that they are sometimes kept in shops to bring in big luck and they have been known to scare off demons and ghosts. This shopped sold them for only 200 yen each, very cheap but maybe it is because these weren’t very attractive? I would think they would be even more effective against evil spirits though! If you are lucky you can sometimes find these in very good green grocers for 700-1500 yen a piece, from December to February when they are in season.
The convenience store chain Familymart released a limited edition nikuman hot bun snack in the form of the famous comic book super hero Kinnikuman (キン肉マン). It was the third in a series of nikuman snacks in the shape of comic book characters. Kinnikuman is the story of bumbling super hero that has been going since 1979 and has by now sold well over 53 million books in Japan alone. Despite the super hero getting his power from garlic, that particular onion was not heavily featured in the recipe, strangely enough. Although nikuman are usually about 110 yen, this one came in at 180 yen.
You can see another character inspired nikuman at the end of this post, and a couple of photos of the real thing in Yokohama Chinatown.
One of my favorite cafes in Tokyo right now is the Manseibashi Station cafe, called N3331, right on top of the old Manseibashi Station platform, between the present day Chuo Line tracks. The unwieldy name comes from the cafe being run in tandem with the closeby 3331 Art Chiyoda art center project in the converted building that used to house the Rensei Junior High. You can read my blogs about this project here and here.
Understandably, this cafe is popular both with older people revisiting their old station house, as well as young couples into a slightly more cultural cafe experience, as well as train maniacs and kids who get a thrill out of sitting next to the trains rushing past ever couple of minutes on both sides! The coveted table next to panorama window at the end is taken quickly and even though I rushed to be the first one through the doors at opening time I had to settle for a lesser table until the lucky couple who got it first left. Still, it doesn’t really matter because all the seats are good, as is the food, the soups, the coffee. Not the cheapest cafe in the city but not over expensive by any means.
Best part though is role reversal, usually I am in one of those orange trains zooming past looking out the window. At this cafe I can relax and enjoy seeing them from the other side! Just remember to turn of your flash if you take a photo – don’t want to accidentally blind one of the train drivers!