There are few days in my memory that really standout. Days that I’ll remember years from now and think to myself, “Man, I’ve lived a good life.”
May 31, 2016 was one of those days.
In the excitement of planning our trip to Japan, my uncle Matt, a frequent traveler to the great country, suggested Joyce and I go on a food tour. Genius idea. Even better, he treated Joyce and I to a food tour with Oishii Tokyo <333 and it ended up being one of the best nights ever.
Our tour took place in Koenji and consisted four restaurants, fives guests including Joyce and I, and our wonderful guide, Satsuki.
Once everyone was introduced, we started our tour by walking to a little hole-in-the-wall corner restaurant called Baritora. We sat outside on short wooden stools and indulged in yakitori and beer (YUM).
One thing that I learned at Baritora was that the red lanterns hanging from most Japanese restaurants means that it serves food and alcohol (meaning, I’m there).
Stop #2 consisted of a sashimi and sake tasting! Granted, my love for seafood is new (I really only started eating it this year), this place did not disappoint. The first thing that Satsuki taught us was the use of oshibori or hot/wet towel that is used to clean up before meals. Before oshibori was a thing, restaurant guests used the fabrics that hang above the entryway to these eateries.
In addition to sashimi, we tried Eihire Yaki (grilled stingray fin), which is grilled and eaten with mayonnaise and red chillies (YUM, I promise).
And last, but not least, Ikayaki (SQUID!). This monstrosity was also grilled and is a popular fast food in Japan. We ate it with shoyu (soy sauce)
Our third stop was called Bon Bon and was decorated with Japanese Baseball memorabilia. By then, we were all feeling good from a sake sampler and we were definitely bonding as a group. We talked about where each of us was from — Hawaii, Washington D.C., New Zealand and Australia — and I personally learned how little vacation time Americans get.
Australia and NZ both get four weeks of “holiday” per year! And while Japan doesn’t get much vacation time, they have tons of national holidays.
Back to food: here we ate some delicious fried tofu and Okonomiyaki (~ Osaka style ~)
We topped the night off at a little hole-in-the-wall-had-to-go-down-some-sketchy-stairs restaurant with a 1950s vibe. This place was covered in World War II memorabilia and even played the same happy tunes used to encourage a defeated Japan to rebuild after Hiroshima.
Here’s my favorite photo from the last place, which was called Hanbe:
Here we ate some fried fish and Oppai Ice Cream. “Oppai” translates to breasts in Japanese, and this fun dessert is illegal in most places because it’s served in a latex balloon/condom-like device. The ice cream is tied off with a rubberband, and once you cut the rubberband, the you suck the ice cream out which comes at you fast. (Trust me, all the dirty jokes were made and videos were taken.)