Japan Diary: Day 2- Oshiage, Shinjuku, Roppongi

I was still on my own in Tokyo on the second day of my trip, so I took it easy and decided to have another day of sightseeing. My first stop of the day was the Oshiage Skytree Tower, from which there was meant to be a great view of the surrounding suburbs of Tokyo.

View from Oshiage Skytree Tower
View from Oshiage Skytree Tower

From Tateishi, I opted to get the 1000Y all day ticket that would enable me to get off and on unlimited times on the Toei Subway line or Tokyo Metro line. I thought it was good value for money as I went to several stations around Tokyo that day, and pretty much all of them were on either the Toei Subway or Tokyo Metro.

Oshiage was located within a reasonable distance from my departing station, Tateishi. It took about 20 minutes to arrive at Oshiage station, with a changeover at Aoto station. From Oshiage subway station, I ascended several escalators to Oshiage Skytree town, which was a few levels of shops, small restaurants and clothing stores. It was crowded, and heavily air-conditioned because of the humidity. From Oshiage Skytree town, I caught a lift up to Oshiage Skytree Tower. At the top of the tower, there were several restaurants, but the tower itself wasn’t very impressive, and didn’t have panoramic views. The view of Tokyo was only visible from windows on one side, so all in all, I was rather disappointed by this. I stayed for about 10 minutes and decided to catch a train to Shinjuku.

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Oshiage Station
Oshiage Station

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With no real plans in mind for Shinjuku, I wandered around aimlessly until the heat got too much for me. I had planned to eat sushi again today but found it rather difficult to find a sushi restaurant or kaiten-zushi.

Shinjuku
Shinjuku

After walking around for a long time in the heat, and not finding any sushi restaurants, I decided just to settle for the next restaurant I saw, which was called Tendon Tenya. Tendon Tenya is a restaurant franchise specialising in tempura and noodles such as soba and udon. Due to the searing heat that day, I thought a cold soba dish would be refreshing.

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The menu items consisted of set meals that included tempura, rice, and soba noodles that could be served either hot or cold. I decided upon the Tendon and Small Soba Set for 770Y. After ordering, my meal didn’t take long to be served to me.

Menu at Tendon Tenya
Menu at Tendon Tenya

The tempura was crisp and deep fried well. It wasn’t at all oily and was placed on top of a bed of soft rice. The cold soba was fresh, accentuated well with a light soy dipping sauce. The service was exceptionally polite and deferential. As I was in a more urban area, most of the restaurant attendants were young and spoke basic English.

Small Tendon set meal with cold soba 770Y
Small Tendon set meal with cold soba 770Y

After eating, I decided to head aimlessly to Daikanyama, but once I got out of the train station there, there was really nothing to do. Admittedly, my idea to go to Daikanyama had been from a Scarlett Johanssen line in the film Lost in Translation about eating at a sushi place in Daikanyama. I didn’t stay there for more than 15 minutes after walking around the station with nothing in mind. Daikanyama also wasn’t covered by my 1000Y open pass, so I had to pay a small fee of about 120Y.

From Daikanyama, I caught a train to Tsukishima with a stopover in between. There was an owl cafe near Tsukishima station that I wanted to visit, but once I got there, I saw a sign saying that it was closed because of the typhoon. Someone had warned me to stay in that day because there was supposed to be a typhoon, but I didn’t want to waste a day. On that note, it did rain a little that evening, but by no means was there a typhoon.

Although being disappointed about the owl cafe being closed, I decided to make my way to Roppongi.

Before coming to Japan, a friend had told me that Roppongi was a foreigners area, and good for nightlife and clubbing. When I got to Roppongi, I noticed that I did see more Westerners than in any other area.

When I got out of Roppongi station, I spotted a Starbucks and decided to duck in there to escape the heat. Starbucks in Japan is of an infinitely better quality than Australian Starbucks. After having coffee, I decided to go to a bar nearby and wait for my friend there.

Roppongi is an area that has no shortage of bars. After walking up and down one of the main streets, I decided to go to Jazz Bar London, a downstairs bar located next to one of the Roppongi subway station exits. Although I had my heart set on drinking Japanese beers, the bar staff informed me that they didn’t have any. As Roppongi is a foreigners area, I deduced that it was probably due to this that there was no Japanese beer served, and decided to venture out of my comfort zone with a scotch on the rocks. While I waited at the bar for my friend, I chatted with the bar staff, and with another customer who was also drinking alone. I loved the friendliness of Japanese people and how easy it was to start conversations with strangers. When J arrived, we had a drink there and moved on.

Roppongi Crossing
Roppongi Crossing
Outside of Roppongi station
Outside of Roppongi station

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We decided to go to a craft beer bar that was within walking distance, although I don’t remember the name of that one. Like Jazz Bar London, it was also downstairs, but was busier and louder. We had a few drinks at the craft beer place, then decided to head to the restaurant. I had informed J that I was interested in eating torisashi (raw chicken) and basashi (raw horsemeat). As a Roppongi resident, he knew of a restaurant that served both of these dishes, and we made our way there. It was around 8 or 8:30pm when we got to the restaurant, which was a few minutes walk from the craft beer bar. The restaurant was rather busy, so they put us on the waitlist and told us to come back around 9pm. We went to another bar nearby and had a few drinks while waiting, then came back and were seated promptly.

Joumon is a more traditional Japanese restaurant, in terms of having to remove your shoes when you go inside. Prior to coming to Japan, I’d heard that this was the custom in many places, but was still unprepared for the reality of it, and a little discomforted by it. Nevertheless, we sat down and were brought a small dish of complimentary cabbage.

Outside of Jouemon
Outside of Joumon- a kushiyaki restaurant in Roppongi
Complimentary sliced cabbage
Complimentary sliced cabbage

Once we placed our orders, the waiter informed us that they didn’t serve sashitori anymore. I was disappointed, but glad to at least be able to try basashi. In addition to kushiyaki, we also ordered sake. I’ve only drank sake a few times before in my life, so on this occasion I found the taste to be overpoweringly strong and intolerable.

Range of Japanese shochu
Range of Japanese shochu
Traditional Japanese sake
Traditional Japanese sake

The first skewers to be presented to us went by the name of Gyutan in Japanese, otherwise known as beef tongue. The tongue was perfectly cooked and full of flavour.

Gyutan
Gyutan
Basashi (raw horse meat) and fat
Basashi (raw horse meat) and fat

The main attraction, basashi, was the second dish to be presented to us. The additional light pink slices on the side were horse fat. Similar to the texture of raw beef, the basashi was fatty, smooth and flavoursome. It was served cool and had a melt in your mouth texture not unlike very fresh sashimi. It was a pleasure to eat. I had a bit more trouble trying to swallow the fat, as I’ve never been a fan. The fat was smooth and chewy, but probably wouldn’t bother eating this again.

Some kind of pork
Tsukune- chicken meatballs

Tsukune is minced chicken meat mixed with shallots, and a few other ingredients such as egg, and sometimes breadcrumbs. The taste was pleasantly salty, and moist all the way through. I found the texture to be very similar to Vietnamese nem nuong.

Chicken
Chicken
Left to right: chicken meatballs, cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon
Left to right: chicken meatballs, cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon

The cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon provided an interesting contrast in textures.

Left to right: asparagus wrapped in bacon, chicken meatballs, and cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon
Left to right: asparagus wrapped in bacon, chicken meatballs, and cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon
Marbled beef
Marbled beef

The marbled beef was so fatty it was dripping with juice. The exterior was slightly charred, and the interior was moist and full of flavour.

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The atmosphere at Joumon was lively and buzzing. It had been rather noisy during the evening, probably because it was a Friday night, but I enjoyed the atmosphere. After dinner, I made my way back to Tateishi from Roppongi, which took about 40 minutes. The train ride home was crowded, humid, and filled with lots of drunk and chatty officeworkers. Despite coming home late, I felt safe walking alone around the dark, deserted streets of Tokyo.

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