It’s been over a week since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. Even now, there is daily news about the nuclear situation at the Fukushima Daiich nuclear plant. Since that time, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on our recent trip there and all the kind and friendly people we met along our travels in Tokyo. Although my aunt’s family in Japan is safe and accounted for, I know many more people who weren’t as lucky. If you haven’t donated yet and are looking for a way to help out, I encourage you to look into giving to the Canadian Red Cross. You may also want to see if your employer or other institution has a donation matching campaign. I did a little research on my corporate intranet and found out that my employer had started a matching campaign for funds to the Red Cross in support of the Japan earthquake. Any amount helps and I know it will be much appreciated!
I thought it would be a nice closing post on the Tokyo portion of our trip to do a recap of the many snacks and small eats we had as we made our way through the city. I know that Japan will rebuild again as they have before and I’m looking forward to making my return visit in the near future and experience the vibrant and friendly culture of that country.
Onigiri – Our almost daily breakfast. Since we were splurging on quite a few meals, we tried to save on breakfast by buying cheap but delicious onigiri from the convenience store next to our hotel. At about ¥100 each, we could eat two for a regular sized breakfast and and still have room for intermittent snacking before lunch. My favourite was a tuna and mayo version as well as a grilled salmon version.
Ninyo-Yaki – At least I think that’s what these were called. Along the path to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, we noticed many stores selling different shaped cakes filled with red bean paste. I’ve had these cakes before in Vancouver and was never a fan but I decided to give them a try since they were freshly made and what a difference that made! The cakes were moist and delicious with just the right amount of red bean inside. You definitely need to eat them right away as the ones I saved for eating a few days later did not taste as good…at least to me.
Fresh Mochi – My little cousin is a huge fan of this stuff and she seemed pretty excited for me that I was going to get to try it for myself. We found a little store in Asakusa that sold fresh mochi and we hopped in to sample some. Pictured below from left to right, we had miso, black sesame, and shoyu (soy sauce). I really liked the nuttiness of the black sesame paste and the soft mochi really picked up its flavour.
Fresh Rice Crackers – Especially around the Asakusa area, we noticed many rice cracker vendors with a display in the front where they made the rice crackers fresh and on premise. We definitely had to try a couple of these and for ¥100 each, the price wasn’t too bad. We tried classic shoyu and although that was good, I really liked the wasabi with seaweed version.
Crepes – Tasting nothing like the French versions, I really don’t think their intention was to make it the same. Japanese crepes are less rich and the crepe batter seems lighter and slightly sweeter. Perhaps that is why I always prefer the sweet filling version of Japanese crepes over the savoury types. The one I had below was from Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori, which had several busy crepe vendors. The crispy crepe went really well with the strawberry, whipped cream, and ice cream filling I chose in the version below.
Takoyaki – A definite must try if you are in Japan! I found the balls to be quite larger than the version in Vancouver…hehe The piece of octopus was also more substantial and I’m not sure if it was because of our choice of vendor…we tried to pick the one that seemed the busiest. The takoyaki itself was nice and crispy, being freshly made when we ordered it and had just the right amount of sauce, nori, and bonito flakes. We ordered 8 balls below for only ¥500.
Canned Drinks – We had a blast buying drinks from the many vending machines that grace Tokyo’s street corners. We bought this sparkling chardonnay in a convenience store and it sounded kind of interesting so we had to give it a try. It tasted mostly like grape juice with a hint of alcohol…nothing like real chardonnay.
Soft Serve Ice Cream – This seemed to be quite popular in many place in Tokyo. The one I had below was actually from Kamekura, which is about a 1 hour train ride away from Tokyo. I decided to have the purple potato flavour, which is a specialty of the Kamekura region. It was only mildly sweet and had a really great yam flavour to it. I believe this one cost about ¥300.
Ice Cream Wafers – We saw this at many vending machines as well so wanted to give it a try. Although good in theory, the ice cream made the wafers slightly soft so I think this would be better eaten fresh.
And that sums up the many snacks we had while in Tokyo! I’m sure that many of these snacks are regional specialties and if we had ventured to other cities, there would have been other goodies for us to check out. It was really interesting for me to try out things that I had eaten before in Vancouver and I finally had the chance to compare it with the freshly made version in Japan. I highly encourage you to give some of these snacks a try if you are in Tokyo. Next up in these travel series will be Singapore!