Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Final Hours of Tokyo

I am now wrapping up the final hours I have in Tokyo.  Tonight, my friends and I will be saluting the city of cities in true fashion with some sushi and karaoke.  Today was nearly a perfect final day here as I accomplished almost every one of my final objectives in the city.  japan 2 526

We started the morning in Tsukiji and saw everything from 4 men breaking down albacore cross sections to shellfish that I did not know existed.  It certainly stretched the limits of my seafood species’ knowledge and humbled my thoughts on what I or anyone might consider as “fresh”.  I bought a box of small sea urchin which had been cleaned and packaged during the morning – spending all of $15 on what would normally run a tab of $40 outside of the market.   japan 2 542 japan 2 543 japan 2 547 japan 2 550 japan 2 558 japan 2 560 japan 2 567

In Tsukiji, you’re either getting in someone’s way or you already are in someone’s way.  It’s nuts.  I wish I had that access to the seafood options on display.  In a way, it struck me that if I had been given such choice, quality and access to this seafood, I think I would represent it in its simplest form: raw or lightly prepared – which from the sense of the Japanese approach to cuisine, is exactly what they do best.

From there, we went to a little coffee shop and roast company named Cafe Maple – a notable shop that has garnered features (including a reference on a NYTimes article) and acclaim for their roast and single source offerings.  Their preference of delivery was french press.  The barista took her time and expertly prepared a divine cup at the table almost without any sludgy sediment, normally more present with an uneven grind.  In terms of quality vs. price, Maple was a bargain: a 500g bag (1.1 lbs) of award winning beans cost about 1800 yen.  The Brazilian roast, which tasted of a smoky roasted almond and dark chocolate, was only 1500 yen per 500g.  Score.japan 2 577japan 2 575 japan 2 571 

After that we went ramen hunting in Kiba for one of the world’s best bowls at a place called Menya Kissou.  Menya Kissou is the quintessential mom and pop ramen joint.  It is well known and widely established as being Tokyo’s #1 ramen place and currently sits at #2 on ramendb.com’s 2009 ratings.  The line was clearly indicative of that.

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From there, we visited the less popular Union Commerce district/store where kitchenware is king.  The official Union Commerce store is actually a knife store that sells the most amazing collection of fine Japanese and even some high end Western knives.  I myself decided to go in on a beautiful Damascus slicer that was every bit as sharp as it was beautiful.  The clerk told me it was actually on sale, so I got a pretty sweet ass deal.  I got exactly what I came for.   japan 2 608

Later in the day, my friends and I split ways; they went for Temple viewing and shopping and I went back on my ramen hunt for what was currently known as the #1 ramen shop in the world.  Sadly, this ridiculous shop sits near the Matsudo station in Chiba, 30-45 mins outside of Tokyo.  For those that follow me on twitter, I suffered a body blow Wednesday morning when I ventured to Matsudo and found out that the ramen shop, known as Tomita, was closed on Wednesdays.  I felt such an yearning to finish my trip properly that I had to go back on this Thursday.  To my surprise, there was no line on a late Thursday afternoon, thus proving that even the best of the best sometimes cannot withstand the confines of a shitty location.  If they were in central Tokyo, they might be 30 deep at this time.  Such is restaurant life.

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**UPDATED since I got home:

The night finished with some good sushi, a 10+ dollar glass of some sort of daiginjo sake (cost more than my food meal) and Tokyo karaoke – simply because you can’t go to Japan and not do karaoke.  It would be against almost everything I stand for.  Great trip, great last day and great times.  A more official Hot Food Porn Japan photo album to follow with all the food and travel pics including my all too ridiculous ramen journey.  And, I have random video of street food coming!


  1. I love your blog! I'm new to the blogging scene so I've been searching around a bit and your blog is awesome! love the pictures of foods! I've been to Japan a couple of times, but was only able to take a limited number of pictures (plus I didn't know I was going to start a blog) so I'm trying to make the most with what I have. Keep up with the great work! Will be visiting soon...

  2. What do you consider to be a "sweet ass deal"? And what are Western knives in your opinion?

  3. AnonymousMay 08, 2010

    We love HFP blog. I just got back from Japan-must have been there the same time! would like to send you some Terroir coffee on us. some newer ones to try. Please tell me how. janet@terroircoffee.com

    Janet Hoshino

  4. How long was teh wait at Menya Kissou? Any other ramen ya you found as great in Tokyo?