Tokyobling's Blog

Eating in Tokyo Like The Locals Do

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on July 2, 2015

One of the most daunting – and at the same time most interesting – aspects of travel is eating. The local cuisine can be both the curse and the blessing of any trip, a fabulous dinner can excuse the most boring city, and a terrible kitchen hovel can damn the finest resort spot in the world. I do not know how other people travel or how they eat when visiting Tokyo, but I was daunted myself. Having spent decades in Tokyo I am still slightly daunted by entering a new restaurant or trying out food and nothing I do seems to change this. I can only imagine how other (as nervous as me) travelers feel when visiting this country. While it is true that almost everywhere you go you are likely to get good food in the Japanese capital, tourists tend to be drawn towards the first floor establishments with the bright signs, photo menus in English and prices clearly marked! This, however, is not how locals eat out in the capital.

Today I had an errand in Shinagawa, which in the last few years seems to have attracted hundreds of times the number of tourists it had when I first visited many years ago. I saw scores of them, in small groups, families, couples, singles, young men that reminded me of myself, walking around by themselves with a camera and a guidebook in each hand. I started thinking about them, where do they eat, what kind of experiences do they have here? Passing through the station every restaurant I saw with even a barely understandable menu in English had at least a handful of foreign tourists seated inside. I thought I should write something about the other side of Tokyo eating that few tourists ever see.

Take this tiny neighborhood eatery for example, the Marusanshokudo (丸三食堂) in the Shimbamba district about 30 minutes walk from Shinagawa station (or three minutes from Shimbamba station). There is no sign, outside, not pictures and not a word in English or any other western language. I would forgive anyone for passing this kind of building (and there are tens of thousands of them all over Tokyo) and not understanding that there was a restaurant inside. If you can summon the courage to enter though, you will be lucky sometimes to even find a Japanese menu with prices. Sometimes there are just a few tables and a kitchen in the back. The Marusanshokudo has the menu written in Japanese posted on the wall, with everything from 50 to 600 yen. Restaurants like this would not be in business if they did not know what they were doing and Marusanshokudo has so far lasted over 80 years in this location! If you can read Japanese you can pick your favorites, if not you can just point at a few things with reasonable prices and hope for the best. The times I have had the courage to do just this I have always had interesting food – at best, a fabulous meal, at worst a cheap adventure. The Marusanshokudo however served up fantastic dishes followed by more fantastic dishes, even the simple edamame was superb enough to order in a second plate and the restaurant’s choice in sake (Japanese rice wine) was perfect for the season. Slightly chilled, sweet and fruity.

If you are ever in Shinagawa or Shimbabma, I recommend trying this place out, but these kind of mom and pop restaurants are absolutely everywhere in Japan, and almost always able to serve up a great meal, or at least an interesting experience far from the glossy chain store menus you see around the major stations. The address here is 2-12-11 Minamishinagawa Shinagawa Tokyo, 東京都 品川区 南品川 2-12-11 コーポマルサン 1F.

I am in no way a food snob and to be honest even the most glaringly obvious chain store cafes around the biggest tourists attractions of Tokyo almost always serve great food. Some people (like me) prefer to spend their few available hours traveling looking at dusty old statues in remote temples, for some people it is the opposite and I know many who travel only to try local food, some just want the experience of eating in a foreign country others are complete gourmands searching for the most obscure culinary experiences. It is all good.

marusanshokudo_3264

Hello Kitty – Hello Curry

Posted in Shops by tokyobling on July 4, 2014

I saw this sweet curry restaurant window sticker in Tokyo’s Hachioji City. Hello Kitty, Hello Curry.

hello_kitty_hello_curry_2107

Hideaway Treehouse Cafe – Harajuku

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on June 30, 2013

Update 2016/Jan/05: Since at least a few weeks ago when I last passed this cafe it has been closed and the tree house part of it removed. Too bad! RIP cute little cafe!

One of the oddest cafes in Tokyo must be the Hideaway Treehouse cafe in Harajuku, where for just one crinkly note can get a nice meal and a drink while enjoying nature at just a tap of the knuckle away. Or as they say, you can enjoy Treedom! I visited last week and took these photos in a gap between customers. The restaurant probably seats about 16 people when absolutely crowded. The thing with it is the tree which they built the restaurant around. When the wind blows harder the tree sways in front of you and it fun to sip on a ginger ale while looking at the birds walking around on the roof on top of you! Easily one of the must see cafes in Tokyo. The cafe seems to be run by a group working to promote treehouses around the world, and there’s plenty of literature on the subject on sale, as well as clothers, magazines, hammocks, camping gear and other odds and ends. I am already planning my next excuse to visit!

Oh, and I love the wonky anarchistic freedom in finding a cafe run like this in the middle of one of the most expensive areas of Tokyo, the biggest city on Earth. I can’t think of many western countries where the city officials wouldn’t get a heart attack from seeing this place!

Findiing it is part of the fun. Let’s just say it is somewhere in the maze of backstreets around Harajuku.

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8480

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8482

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8484

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8487

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8494

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8495

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8496

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8500

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8501

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8506

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8523

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8526

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8528

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8530

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8538

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8542

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8544

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8546

hideaway_treehouse_cafe_harajuku_8548

Asakusa Restaurant

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on April 14, 2012

Walking in Tokyo’s Asakusa district I found this very unusually decorated restaurant, possibly serving beef (but certainly not dog!)? Interestingly, this animal themed restaurant’s next door neighbor is a veterinarians office (see the third image). I haven’t been inside the restaurant to try it out but maybe some day! I wonder if the interior is as interestingly decorated as the inside?





Tagged with: , ,
<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: