Archive for category Japan



Posted by on Saturday, 12 July, 2008

If there is still anyone reading this (I wouldnt blame you if you didn’t, looking at my past record of, oh, 1 post every 3 months) I would like to update you on some changes which have kept me busy the last few months…

I’ve moved from Ota-ku (大田区):
Nishi-magome in Ota-ku

to Setagaya-ku (世田谷区):
Dog Cafe in Setagaya

If you’re not familiar with Tokyo’s geography, Ota-ku is the ward in Tokyo which is farthest to the South-west, bordering Kanagawa-ken (where Kawasaki and Yokohama are). Setagaya-ku is North of Ota-ku, a bit closer to the city centers of Shibuya and Shinjuku. Setagaya feels like a more urban neighborhood than Ota – it’s more youthful and active with schools and universities.

What are the “hot” spots in Setagaya-ku then? The following three I rank as top 3 as far as shopping&dining is concerned.

Shimokitazawa (in Japanese)
Sangenjaya (in Japanese)


Comeback – Reflections, Ponderings, Excuses

Posted by on Wednesday, 5 March, 2008

OH – MY – GOD. I have not been logged on here and written anything in 5 months!! I was thinking the other day that I should end my 2-month hiatus, since in my mind I had not been inactive for THAT long. I was shocked then to learn that my recent post was made in September…. Geez. I’m sorry. It’s been an extremely hectic time for me professionally and a tiring time for me personally. I just didn’t have it in me to come up with anything interesting or fun to write.

However, I am going to make my best effort to come back. After all, Japan is a country where there is something blog-worthy happening every single day!

What I want to talk about in this comeback is “host clubs” (hence the picture… You didn’t just think I like to put up pictures of pretty boys here, now?) – a phenomena that, as far as I know, does not exist anywhere else in the world to the same extent as here in Japan.

What is a host club? Well, in short, it’s the male equivalent of a hostess club – a club/bar establishment where men to go be entertained by women whilst paying them insane amounts of money for drinks, food, presents etc. Yes, the host club is then the opposite, it’s where women go to get pampered and entertained by smooth-talking good-looking young guys, whilst spending insane amounts of money on drinks, food and presents…

I hate to generalize, but I think there might be something wrong in a society where a large part of the male population feels that it needs to let off steam, relax and get some attention from the opposite sex by going to a bar and paying for it! And I’m not saying prostitution here – hostesses are generally not prostitutes, as the teasing and general “untouchable” and “unattainable” status of the hostess is part of the allure. So, what happens then in a society like this? Well, there arises a need for the women to have something similar – they don’t get any love or appreciation from their husbands, so they need to get it from somewhere else, I guess. HOWEVER, and this is where the female psyche differs greatly from the male, I do believe (and looking at the few pieces of hard evidence that exists) that it is actually rather uncommon for a “regular” house wife or working women to go to host clubs – it is rather the hostesses from the hostess clubs who, in turn, need to get attention from males and let off stress. I have seen some estimates that around 85% of the clientele of host clubs are actually hostesses (or women from “related” industries). The remaining 15% then are “regular” women, although I would suspect that, since the prices are ridiculous, you will see that most of them are bored house wives of rich men or independent women who have made themselves a lot of money.

So, the sad thing about this is that while you see rich guys spending lots and lots of money on being pampered by hostesses, a lot of the money they earn actually go back to the men, since the hostesses in turn spend a lot of their income on hosts. Talk about a vicious circle for females in Japanese society. They just can’t get a break.

Why has it become this way? Why is it almost accepted for guys to go to hostess clubs and spend all their money which should have gone into household goods instead? Why don’t they get enough love and attention from their wives? Why do their wives don’t give them love and attention? Is it because marriage is forced upon them, and they have not really chosen their spouses? No, not so much anymore – perhaps in earlier times, and then it could be an explanation. Has that kind of behavior just grown roots in society and it has become “the way life is” ? I don’t know. But I want to figure this society out, even though I know in advance, that I cannot.


Top 5 Burgers in Tokyo

Posted by on Monday, 24 September, 2007

Ok, so you want to enjoy some culinary delight while in Tokyo – it’s easy, I think there is no other place on earth with this many great restaurants. Anywhere you go, you are bound to fine something that suits your taste, whether you are into traditional Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Indian, or whatever.

Anyway, you might not think of Tokyo = Burgers, or even Japan = Burgers, but there some surprises in place for you then. Sure, some of the places on my list are actually foreign chain restaurants, but hey, I make the rules of this list ok?

1. 7025 Franklin Avenue

Franklin Avenue Burger
Now this place is a true delight – it’s located in a very upscale part of Gotanda in a building which presumably once was an embassy. The burgers are priced a bit steep, around 1,000 yen, but they are worth every penny. The patties taste magnificently, and the seasoning and sauce top it off to make it the perfect burger. Further, the inside of the restaurant is peaceful, serene and feels very “at home”. If you are lucky, you can get a seat out in the garden and enjoy what is truly Tokyo’s no.1 burger.
They don’t have a homepage, but you can get directions and a map here: Franklin Avenue Gotanda

2. Kua’Aina Burger

Kuaaina burger
Now, apparently Kua’Aina Burger came into existence in Hawaii sometime in the 70’s, a famous hamburger place on North Shore, Oahu. They now have two store on Hawaii, and 12 in Japan. I guess that makes it a Japanese chain of restaurants? Anyway, the hamburgers here are huge and delicious, grilled to perfection and served with some amazing fries. If you’re looking for something more ethnic, try the avocado or pineapple burgers. The hamburgers are so huge, they come complete with eating directions – i.e. how to best enjoy the burgers without having to stop at the dry cleaners on your way home.

3. Big Man Burger

Big Man BurgerBig Man Steak Burger
Big Man Burger is not really a Tokyo-based restaurant, but really just a small subsidiary of its headquarters in Sasebo, Nagasaki. Apparently, this is where hamburgers first made a landing in Japan, brought there by the American navy. Nowadays, there are tons of hamburger restaurants in the Sasebo area, each boasting its own unique taste. Big Man has then opened shop in “Tokyo Panya Street” inside Lalaport Chiba where you can enjoy their incredible burgers. I recommend the bacon & egg burger, which its juicy bacon and thick melted cheese.

4. Mos Burger

Mos Burger
Mos Burger is the only true fast food chain to make it onto my list, and it is basically because of two items on their menu: Spicy Mos Burger and Spicy Mos Cheese Burger. It’s culinary treat consisting of a beef patty, meat sauce, onions, mayonnaise, jalapenos, mustard and (in the cheese version) melted cheese. I don’t really know what it is, but this combination is a treat of the highest quality!

5. TGI Fridays

OK, so there is basically nothing Japanese at all about Fridays, but it doesn’t mean that they do not serve up one sweet burger. The peppercorn burger or the Mushroom Onion Mozzarella Burger….mmm… my mouth waters just thinking about it. And to fairly reasonable prices too – it’s definitely about 20% cheaper than similar restaurant chain Hard Rock Cafe.

Well, I might not have visited even a fraction of all restaurants serving hamburgers in Tokyo, but over the past four years which I have lived here, these five places really stand out. However, I am always on the lookout for new places so I might update the list in the future. Also, if you have your own favorite hamburger place in the Tokyo-Yokohama area which I missed, do send me some info on it, so I can check it out!


Hidden gems in Tokyo – Swedish Restaurant in Kichijoji

Posted by on Sunday, 15 July, 2007

I really have to shape up and cut loose from this “one post a month” routine I’ve got going here… I can only blame one thing – work. And lazyness. I can blame work and lazyness. And lack of ideas. I can blame three things: work, lazyness, and lack of ideas….

Allt Gott

Anyway, recently we went to Kichijoji to visit a Swedish restaurant called “Allt Gott” (which means “Everything Good”). We had tried one time before to go there for lunch on a Saturday without a reservation, but then we were denied! Apparantly it is really really popular. So, this time around we made a reservation for dinner, and went. And boy, were we up for a positive surprise!

First of all, it’s not a very big restaurant – it seats about 20 people or so. The atmosphere is hard tro describe, but it feels very Scandinavian “At-Home”. Not overly done with logging and pine furniture, but actually very cozy and it felt kind of Swedish. Sure, there were some Scandinavian touristy things spread around the place, but not at all to the level of that other Swedish restaurant in Tokyo, Lilla Dalarna.

I chose one of the special courses (they have courses between 3,000 – 5,000 yen – quite reasonable if you ask me) which featured herring (naturally), salmon (of course), reindeer (a must!), deer meat with lingonberry sauce and for dessert, cloudberry sherbet. It sounds a bit cheesy and “too” Scandinavian perhaps, but the food really showed the best of Swedish/Scandinavian cuisine. Honestly, and being Swedish I can say this, the food is NOT what Sweden is famous for out in the world (except IKEA’s meat balls) but here is a restaurant that manages to scrape together the few things in Swedish culinary tradition that is really good and make something really great out of it.

To top it off, as we were celebrating the birthday of my wife’s best friend, we had ordered a birthday cake – which they happily baked for us in the restaurant (with one day’s notice! Amazing!) – and it was a delightful and delicious ending to a wonderful dinner.

I can highly recommend this restaurant. It is in my opinion the best of the three Swedish restaurants in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, the restaurant does not have their own web page, but do a search for “Allt Gott” or 「アルト ゴット」 and you will find restaurant reviews which gives you more details about the restaurant. I also attach a scan of their business card which shows a map and their address/phone number.

Allt Gott Map

By the way, Kichijoji is something of a hidden gem in itself if you haven’t been there before. (To get there, take the JR Chuo-line towards Tachikawa.) It’s sort of like a slightly more laid back Shimo-Kitazawa or Sengenjaya. It’s has lots of small coffee shops, restaurants and speciality boutiques etc. Just a warning – don’t go by car on the weekend, because the traffic into the town center is a nightmare!


Darth Vader sighted in Tokyo

Posted by on Sunday, 10 June, 2007

Darth Vader in Tokyo
It seems Darth Vader has been sighted in Tokyo – he’s even been spotted tempting young school girls into posing in photographs with him!

Of course, it is Danny Choo who is inside the costume – you know the guy who has been seen regularly prancing around Akihabara in a Stormtrooper uniform. Sweet costume Danny! Keep up the good work!

Here is another batch of photos of Danny dressed as Darth Vader in Tokyo.