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Gems of Japan: Tasting Yakisoba & Okonomiyaki in Asakusa

May 14 // Lindo Korchi
When checking online, it didn't take long for me to discover that the most popular Okonomiyaki shop was Sometaro, located in Asakusa, Tokyo. I decided to begin my journey there.When I arrived at the shop, there was a queue that lasted for 40 minutes. After, I went inside. It was small, cozy, and warm. After viewing the menu, I gravitated to the noodle dishes and saw "yakisoba", or fried buckwheat, and decided to give it a try. I had yakisoba from the convenient store and didn't like it; a friend told me that I had to have one from a restaurant to really enjoy it. Which persuaded me to order. [embed]35014:5607:0[/embed] I believe I ordered the gomoku yakisoba. I was amazed to see that one of the staff members brought out all the ingredients and cooked my meal right before me. As for the taste? Although I like Japan, I'm not going to kid myself into liking something because it derives from the country. At the end, it was so-so. On top of that, it wasn't filling at all and I was still left hungry. However, the presentation was good. A couple of days later, I returned. This time, to order the dish that Sometaro is most famous for -- okonomiyaki. [embed]35014:5608:0[/embed] I believe I chose the gomokuten okonomiyaki. As with the yakisoba, all the ingredients were brought and cooked right before me. As for the taste? It was pretty good. I would've needed two or 1 1/2 to be full, though. The presentation was also extremely well, as it had more ingredients. Overall, I'd recommend okonomiyaki as it's really tasty. However, the most popular okonomiyaki is associated with Kansai, or to be more specific, Osaka. So if I choose to eat okonomiyaki in Osaka, I'll be interested to see if there's much of a difference, overall.When you try either one of these dishes, regardless if it's at the same shop or not, let me know your thoughts on it and which dish you prefer.
Gems of Japan photo
There Can Only Be One Winner
During my first trip to Japan, I heard a lot of people talk about Okonomiyaki. I didn't know what it was, except that some people labeled it the Japanese equivalent to pizza. I don't agree. It's more of a pancake than anything else. Nonetheless, I was interested in this pancake-pizza.

Gems of Japan photo
Gems of Japan

Gems of Japan: Find golden sweets at this awesome Akiba pastry shop


Put This On Your List
May 07
// Lindo Korchi
When it comes to Japanese sweets, it's difficult to taste ones that aren't satisfactory. Unless we're talking about anko (sweet red bean paste), which I still haven't gotten quite used to. But during my first couple of days r...
Corpse Hotels photo
Corpse Hotels

Book your dearly departed at a Corpse Hotel today!


A place you REALLY don't want to be
May 06
// Soul Tsukino
If you watch anime or pay attention to Japanese culture long enough, the subject of hotels inevitably comes up. Be it either Mountain hot bath retreats, hourly love hotels, and those ever quirky capsule hotels. But there is a new type of hotels that is on the rise, especially in Tokyo. Corpse hotels. And it's not what you think.
Hokkaido photo
Hokkaido

Hokkaido is taking the air out of tourism


Hold on to your gas!
Apr 29
// Soul Tsukino
A downloadable guide put out by The Hokkaido Tourism Organization to help foreigners understand the customs of Japan's northernmost island sparked a bit of an outrage recently when it was found it to be offensive. C...

Manga and Recovery: Reopening a comic museum in Kamen Rider's hometown

Apr 12 // Yussif Osman
The people of Tohoku are unique in all of Japan, they have their own dialect, their own food and attitude, they're louder, more themselves than the rest of what is quite a conservative country. I found the people very brave and very proud, heroically living through and beyond what befell them in 2011, and so it doesn't surprise me that many of the most iconic and heroic manga characters originate from this amazing part of Japan. As I get off the bus at Ishinomaki, a town in Tohoku's Miyagi prefecture, severely affected by the tsunami, I have certain expectations, I basically expect devastation. But that's not what I find. Instead, I'm confronted by statues of Kamen Rider and his contemporaries. The members of Cyborg 009 are striking poses and Astroboy is with them. This way, people who arrive at Ishinomaki station by Robocon covered train or bus, get a flavour of the true character of this place instead of just associating it with tragedy, the way much of the world has. Instead, travellers are met with colour and hope. Among the heroes which adorn the city, there's also Robocon and Sea Jetter, plentiful in murals and wall art alongside posing statues. Amazingly, many of these statues actually survived the tsunami, defying tragedy itself and becoming symbols of hope. And there is sincerely something super heroic about this place, the way people continue to live and who they are. People laugh and gather, eat heartily and celebrate what they share at every opportunity, they work through dark hours, from 2am onwards, harvesting catches from the sea and come to one another's aid, to pull their lives out of the rubble and build something new. Miyagi is home to the world's largest temporary housing camp for displaced people in the world, in the form of the kasetsu units, but many of these kasetsu have been converted into entrepreneurial hubs, restaurants and bakeries; people make more than the most of what they have, in fact they redefined their entire situation. In the town of Funakoshi, a fisherman named Nakasato (in the absence of the town's traditional leadership) brings his community together to rebuild and aspire, they gather in the local school and celebrate their harvests of seaweed and fish whilst putting together plans to move their town uphill, away from the waters. In Ishinomaki, an amazing woman named Hashimoto cooks nightly a feast for volunteers and community members, bringing immense warmth to the oceanic cold. The town holds children's festivals and local organisations like It's Not Just Mud whom I worked with, build amazing playgrounds and return to the sea to swim and reclaim the community's heritage. Throughout my time there, I found people speak little about what befell them, instead they speak of the present and the future, making plans and moving forward. For some, that's opening a sake store or reopening a community antique shop, others are focused on their next harvest of clams or their next shipment of crafts, others are planning the reconstruction of their town and others looking forward to the next gathering, to the next community meal. I found the manga characters which adorn the city allegorical (and I believe the community does as well) to the state of the community itself. Sea Jetter defies the calamities of the sea themselves, Cyborg 009 are a family and team who through working together can achieve anything, Robocon and Astroboy are both gentle and mighty and Takeshi Hongo, the Kamen Rider, all in all represents every act of tenacity and heroism. So though as a manga fan, I may have been looking forward to the reopening of the UFO-shaped Ishinomaki Mangattan, or Manga Museum, I couldn't imagine how much it meant to the people who actually lived there and their children. The days following the re-opening ceremony are immensely moving, costumed characters await at the doors to greet children and they're all there, from the members of Cyborg 009 to Kamen Rider. The community has been making steps towards recovery gradually, but this is a milestone, this is to celebrate all that. Artwork adorns the second floor above the gift shop, including concept art and original manga pages, as well as a movie theatre where never before shown short adaptations of manga are seen. And on the third floor is something out of a dream, a manga library containing a boundless collection of ongoing and completed series from Dragonball to Sailor Moon and Prince of Tennis. Among the celebrated creators in town is Osamu Tezuka, manga pioneer and arguably the father of modern manga. But here, I'd like to place particular emphasis on Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of both one of the first superhero teams in Japan in the form of Cyborg 009 and the iconic tokusatsu series Kamen Rider. Ishinomori was a native of Tohoku's own Miyagi prefecture, making the region home of Kamen Rider, the Cyborg team and Ganbare!! Robocon, which Ishinomori also created. The result was that the Mangattan's official name would actually be the Ishinomori Manga Museum. In fact, Ishinomaki itself is often considered the home town of Kamen Rider. In my time in Ishinomaki, I would also be confronted with a high density of promotional art for the upcoming film 009 Re: Cyborg, a continuation of the Cyborg 009 series, based on an Ishinomori story, entrenching the characters' presence in Miyagi and presenting the community's children and people with yet something more to look forward to as they continue to pull their lives back together. Ishinomori's work may have brought joy to people across Japan for decades, but I believe most vitally it has helped lift the hearts of local people and augment the sentiment that there are things to look forward to, that life is worth living and that we should never give up. Remember every cheesy yet cool moment from a manga? Well in Ishinomaki they mattered, they and their characters still do. I once had a disagreement with a friend of mine shortly after the tsunami, he said that the last thing people would care about after the disaster was manga or anime, but after going there myself, I found that that was very, very far from the truth. I hope that in time, Tohoku will be known for what it's culture and what its people celebrate and have achieved, rather than for what befell them, for hope, pride and the Tohoku way.
Ishinomaki Manga Museum photo
The role of manga in post-tsunami Tohoku
Everyone knows what happened in March 2011, everyone has heard about the tsunami and the earthquake and Fukushima, that's why I went, but what I discovered when I arrived is something the world hasn't paid the same level of a...

Cat Island photo
Cat Island

Japan's Cat Island gets lots of love to fight food shortage


A Purr-ty big response!
Feb 29
// Soul Tsukino
Aoshima is a small island in a remote part of the Ehime prefecture of Japan. It's the kind of small island you mind find a martial arts master residing, or the kind of place you'd take a high school class for a trip (don't forget the commemorative metal collars!). The whole island is only about 8 miles around and is occupied by about 16 people- -and oh yeah... Aoshima
Ninjas photo
Ninjas

Japan uses their ninja skills to increase tourism


Ninjas are back in business
Mar 10
// Salvador GRodiles
I know that I joked around in the past about 2015 being the Year of the Ninja, but Japan's recent tourism-related move might as well turn my made-up holiday into a real thing. Long story short, the Japanese government have de...
Universal Studios photo
Universal Studios

Universal Studios' Attack on Titan and anime attractions are pure nightmare fuel


Zombies, Monsters, and Nudists, Oh My!
Feb 02
// Josh Tolentino
I took a trip to western Japan last year, and my big regret of the trip was not finding enough time to visit Himeji castle, the best-preserved traditional castle in the country. I think it's time to add another regret to the ...
Manga apartment photo
Manga apartment

When you visit Japan, try a manga apartment


Behold the manga apartment
Nov 03
// Josh Tolentino
What's the first thing you want to do when you visit Japan? If your answer is "Sit around reading manga in the first room I arrive at," then Slow Curve has just the lodging for you! Slow Curve have announced that they're work...
Attack on Titan photo
Attack on Titan

Colossal Titan now terrorizing various landmarks around Japan


The chibiest of Colossal Titans
Jun 18
// Kristina Pino
Most tourist attractions and gift shops in Japan aren't complete without a huge selection of various cute phone straps and keychains you can buy as a memento. You can find them with Hello Kitty, Stitch, One Piece characters, ...
Ultraman photo
Ultraman

Ultraman prefers Hawaii as a vacation destination


And so should you, apparently
Mar 22
// Josh Tolentino
Japanese tourists love Hawaii. I can't blame them, it's lovely, but part of the reason is surely its proximity to Glorious Nippon, making it an easy port of call for tourists who don't want to go too far. Hence the thriving t...
NagiAsu photo
NagiAsu

Real life locations found for Nagi no Asukara


Otaku tracks down the locations
Feb 13
// LB Bryant
One of my favorite anime studios right now is PA Works because of the beautiful series that they have created over the last couple of years. From Hanasaku Iroha to Tari Tari to Angel Beats, it's hard to deny that they've crea...
Travel Osaka photo
Travel Osaka

Osaka leads the way to free WiFi in Japan


Yay, technology!
Feb 03
// Kristina Pino
It's been a long, and I mean long, time coming, but one city in lovely Japan has finally, finally gotten with the program and decided to offer free WiFi. And surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on how you look at it), ...
Onsen photo
Onsen

Dogo Onsen celebrates 120th anniversary with art show


Stay in rooms of modern art in Matsuyama
Jan 31
// Brad Rice
Are you planning a trip to Japan sometime this year? If so, you might want to consider an excursion to Matsuyama. It'd be a 5-hour train ride from Osaka, but you'll be visiting a rare historical sight and get to stay there. D...
Japan photo
Japan

Tokyo travel agency is letting us all go to space


Should Japanator go? I think yes.
Jan 07
// Amber Hunt
Hey, do you have ¥25 million to spare? If your answer was yes, then this is your invitation to go to space. Yup, I said it, travel to space. A new Tokyo travel agency is allowing this to happen, and nearly 600 people have...
Travel Japan photo
Travel Japan

CNN names Japan among top destinations for 2014


As if we didn't already know
Dec 16
// Kristina Pino
It's that time of year when every travel outlet and publisher is talking about 2014 travel. CNN just revealed a list of 11 countries they deem top destinations for next year, and Japan sits comfortably among the likes of Ecua...
Japan photo
Japan

Send your stuffed animals to Japan


Is this cute, or weird?
Nov 28
// Amber Hunt
Did you know you could send your stuffed animals to Japan? Forget going, why not just send your furry friend there?! Unagi Travel, created by Sonoe Azuma, is a company based in Tokyo, and focuses on giving your animals tours ...
Harry Potter photo
Harry Potter

Osaka is ready for the opening of Wizarding World


Get on the Potter Train
Nov 25
// Kristina Pino
Rocket News reports that Osaka is already gearing up for next summer's opening of Wizarding World, which I remember writing about here way back in 2012. It doesn't seem like that much time has gone by, but we're almost there!...
Inflatable Building photo
Inflatable Building

Need a concert on the go? Blow up this concert hall


Rad architecture to hit Tohoku
Sep 25
// Josh Tolentino
No, that freaky purple jellybean-thing you see in the header above isn't the next candidate for a Japanator Eats segment, nor is it a titanic sculpture of Grimace in repose. It's actually the next big venue for hot music and ...

JapanaTour: Where to start when planning a Tokyo vacation

Sep 21 // Kristina Pino
For the devoted otaku Of course, this entry had to go first. So you're going to Tokyo and you're looking for all the nerdy stuff? Great. Here are a few places you can make pilgrimages to: Square Enix Artnia at Shinjuku (directions) Akihabara's Electric district (shops, maid/butler cafe, arcades - see also: JapanaTour part 1, part 2) Ikebukuro (Japan Guide's Ikebukuro page) The Ghibli Museum (warning: you need to reserve entry passes way in advance; access) Harajuku (where all fashion dreams come true) Gundam Front (don't miss out on the huge robot at Odaiba!) For the hungry traveler Great food can be found all over Tokyo, so this section was a little tougher to compile. Here are some suggestions: Asakusa (specialty snacks, street food) Theme Restaurants (costumed staff, themed decor/menu, overall cute experience) Kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi Chanko (the glorious soup of Sumo champions) Ramen (the dry packaged stuff you buy for cheap at the grocery store just isn't the same.) Okonomiyaki For the sight-seer Some folks just want to "be a tourist" and see all the "cheesy" (or cool) sights! Here are some suggestions in that area: Ueno Zoo (from Ueno Station) Yoyogi Park (for a relaxing picnic, yeah?) Tokyo Skytree at Oshiyage Shibuya (Shibuya Crossing, Hachiko statue next to train station) Harajuku's Meiji Shrine (follow signs from the train station; afterwards, stroll over to Yoyogi park for that picnic I mentioned) Asakusa's Sensoji (goes great with Ueno Zoo and Skytree Town) Tired of the big city? Take a day trip: Tokyo Disneyland (access) Kamakura (See the Daibutsu, and other lovely temples. It's the closest to Kyoto you'll get without actually going to Kansai; Japan Guide listing) Mount Fuji (the climb is so worth the view. Also Fuji Q; check out the official website for climbing season dates, tips, and directions) Yokohama (Japan Guide listing) This is, of course, not an exhaustive, or even an extensive list. I'd like to point out the title of this post, where it says "Where to start..." before anyone freaks out. Tokyo has so much to offer, and frankly you can spend weeks there and still not discover everything there is to it. I didn't even mention all of Tokyo's districts in this list! That being said, do feel free to add suggestions of your own. The more the merrier! Want more posts like this in the future? Your opinion matters. [Header image courtesy OnlyHDWallpapers, all other images have been snapped by yours truly]
Vacation to Tokyo photo
A few handy tips, because we care
In case you're planning a trip to Japan in the future (like for the 2020 Olympics), or even if you're there right now for Tokyo Game Show and are looking for suggestions, here's a list you didn't ask for but totally need. I've even gone through the trouble of sorting it based on interests/activities rather than just making it a numbered list.

Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #30 - View


Cheating again
Aug 30
// Kristina Pino
Since I'm boring today and I had to go to work, I don't have an awesome picture freshly taken for your viewing pleasure. So instead, I'm tossing up another picture from last week's visit to Enoshima, this time a view from the top of the Sea Candle, which is a tower that doubles as a lighthouse. [full image in the gallery!]
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #27 - Tokugawa


Checking out some history
Aug 27
// Kristina Pino
Today, I went on an excursion to the home of Mitsukuni Tokugawa, also known as the Koumon of Mito, the Seizanso House. It's located in Ibaraki, the prefecture I live in, and not too far from my current home base. Koumon (1628...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #24 - Beach


Bummin'
Aug 24
// Kristina Pino
Nothing too wacky or witty for you folks today, since really what I did was hit the beach to read and relax. Sme interesting things went on throughout the day for sure, but really today was all about lounging around. I'm not ...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #22 - Peeking


Looking back
Aug 22
// Kristina Pino
Peek-a-boo! I did some hiking today, and the view just kept getting better and better as I kept climbing higher. This photo is taken at Enoshima, which is a lovely little island nearby Kamakura. [see the full image in the gallery!]
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #21 - Dress up


Yukata EVERYWHERE
Aug 21
// Kristina Pino
How do you know it's summer in Japan, besides by the heat and the noise from Cicada? It's all the women dressed up in kimono and yukata everywhere ya look. Obon is over, but I'm still seeing lovely ladies dressed up and out on the streets. I've moved again! I'm in beautiful Kamakura now, which reminds me quite a bit of Kyoto. Refreshing.
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #19 - Oversize


So tall...
Aug 19
// Kristina Pino
A sea of huge lily pads in the foreground, and a sea of modern buildings in the background. Sometimes, these contrasts are fun and interesting. One of the things I love about Japan is the juxtaposition of traditional and mode...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #18 - Akiba


Roaming the streets
Aug 18
// Kristina Pino
Today, I spent a few hours wandering about Akihabara. Since it's Sunday, the main electric district area is closed to vehicle traffic from 1-6 p.m., so everyone is free to roam safely up and down the street. A friend tells me...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #16 - Lavender


Lavender fields, forever!
Aug 16
// Kristina Pino
Since I'm taking a one-day break from vacation to catch up on things, I'm actually posting an image from yesterday in today's daily thingy thing. This is a patch of lavender I was lucky to catch looking remotely in bloom, sin...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #15 - Cheese


CHEESE
Aug 15
// Kristina Pino
I heard you like cheese, so we made this huge map of the world according to cheese. We have surmised this is really the only map that matters. The cheese map of the world. Taken at the Furano Cheese Factory in Hokkaido, where I was at today. [Cheese Check out the full-size image in the gallery!]
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #14 - Stay Cool


Japan, y u so hot?
Aug 14
// Kristina Pino
Note: No deer were harmed in the making of this photograph. Yes, it's alive. It's just really tired, you guys. The summer heat in Japan this year is pretty terrific, and though it's generally milder up here in the north (Ho...

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