Gaijin on Getas Blog

Food

Omoide Yokocho “Memory Lane”

Posted on December 4th, 2017 by Stephanie Miera

It’s easy to get lost in the towering skyscrapers and bright lights when walking around the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, but if you look closely enough you will find a cramped alleyway called memory lane (known as piss alley to the locals). This local hotspot started out as an illegal drinking quarter after World War 2 and quickly became one of the most popular and affordable places to eat and drink.

Located near the west exit of Shinjuku Station, entering the alleyway is almost like stepping back in time. Japanese lanterns light the tight alley as all different kinds of aromas fill the space. Each restaurant and bar could only be described as tiny, most having only about 6 seats. As you walk down the alley, you will see shopkeepers working over grills or caldrons, carefully preparing their shop’s specialty. The food here ranges from Yakitori (grilled skewers) to Nikomi (thick Japanese stew)  and one particular restaurant famous for it’s odd offerings. While food is the highlight of Piss Alley, the drinks available are the perfect pairing. The small bars are the perfect place to meet other foreigners or Japanese locals for a truly Japanese experience.

We would recommend taking the evening to tour Piss Alley, as it is easy to take your time making multiple stops at different eateries. You will likely not find an English menu, but with that comes an adventurous evening, eating things you may love before ever learning what they are.

Nyuto Onsen – Historic and Remote Hot Springs

Posted on August 19th, 2017 by Mike Roberts

Nyuto Onsen is a collection of seven popular and remote hot spring inns, located in the Towada Hachimatai National Park in north-central Tohoku. The name Nyuto Onsen means “nipple hot spring” and comes from the suggestive shape of nearby Mount Nyuto. With a history of over 300 years, many of the springs were visited by feudal lords during the Edo Period seeking hot-spring cures. Located deep in the mountains, and surrounded by dense beech forests, you feel far removed from the rest of the world.
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Umami

Posted on June 23rd, 2017 by Mike Roberts

If you have done any research on Japanese cooking, you will have heard the term “umami”. All Japanese cookbooks, cooking shows, etc. will talk about “umami”. It is said this it is what gives Japanese food its unique flavor. The term is a shortened version of “umai” (delicious in Japanese) and “mi” (taste in Japanese). Increased “umami” is the primary goal of all Japanese chefs.

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Akihabara Maid Cafes

Posted on May 11th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Akihabara Maid Cafe Ad

Akihabara Maid Cafe Ad

Akihabara is a paradise for electric appliance and anime subculture fans. Akihabara started as a place where radio parts were sold just after the Second World War. Today Akihabara is famous as the cheapest place in Japan for electric appliances. It’s also well-known as a place of ‘otaku’ (Japanese word for geeks) including comic-book devotees, video-game fanatics or anime figurine colletctors. Among all the shops, maid cafés attract attention, especially to men. If you spot girls dressed in a waitress costume delivering brochures on the street, they are the maid café waitresses who attract customers to their shops. They wear a maid dress, petticoat, and apron and frill accessory. At a maid café, they act as customers’ servants and entertain them just as the customer’s own servants. When customers enter a maid cafe, they will be greeted with ‘Okaeri nasai mase, goshujin sama!’ which means ‘Welcome back home, my lords!’ Read the full post »

Everything you wanted to know about Okonomiyaki, but were afraid to ask

Posted on March 23rd, 2013 by Mike Roberts

Osaka-style Okonomiyaki

Osaka-style Okonomiyaki with Okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and dried green seaweed

I have heard Okonomiyaki called everything from Japanese pancakes to Japanese pizzas. It is hard to describe exactly what okonomiyaki is since there is nothing else like it outside of Japan. If you break down the name, it might help. “Okonomi” means your choice or you choose, and yaki means grilled. There are different types and styles of okonomiyaki found around Japan. For the purpose of this blog, when we refer to okonomiyaki, it will refer to the Osaka style of okonomiyaki as that is most common type found in Japan. In Osaka, okonomiyaki is very, very popular and could almost be considered another food group. As you walk around Osaka (especially South Osaka) it seems like every other restaurant is an okonomiyaki restaurant. Other, common types of okonomiyaki in Japan is “manjayaki” from Tokyo and “Hiroshima-yaki” from, yes you guessed it, Hiroshima. The ingredients used for all these are basically the same. The main difference is in how they are prepared. In Osaka style okonomiyaki, all of the ingredients are mixed together and cooked together. In Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, all of the ingredients are layered almost like a cake. Soba or udon noodles are also added to Hiroshima-yaki in another layer as well. (Although they do add noodles to okonomiyaki in Osaka. It is called “modanyaki” or modern-yaki.) Read the full post »

Noodle Shops

Posted on January 28th, 2013 by Mike Roberts

Noodle Shop Display

Noodle Shop Display

If you’re looking for a quick, tasty and inexpensive meal in Japan, noodle shops are the places to look for. Although, you don’t have to look very hard because they are everywhere. Walking into a noodle shop in Japan and ordering noodles is like walking into a Starbucks and ordering a cup of coffee. There are many different kinds and styles available to choose from. Initially, it may seem a little overwhelming, but most noodle shops will have plastic food models you can point to.  Read the full post »

Fugu (Pufferfish) in Osaka

Posted on January 9th, 2013 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Fugu (Pufferfish)

Fugu (Pufferfish)

Osaka is said to be a ‘Gourmet Paradise’ for the Japanese and is famous for its specialties such as Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) , Takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and noodles. Another specialty of Osaka, especially in winter is the poisonous fugu (pufferfish). Most of the fugu in Japan is caught in the Shimonoseki area (the water between the main island of Honshu and the southern island of Kyushu). But it is estimated that 70% of all the fugu eaten in Japan is consumed in Osaka. Read the full post »

Tokyo Retains its Title as the Gourmet Capital of the World for the Sixth Straight Year

Posted on January 5th, 2013 by Mike Roberts

Kaiseki-ryori Meal

Kaiseki-ryori Meal

Tokyo retained its title as the Michelin guide’s world gourmet capital with the latest version of the Michelin guides published on Nov. 28, although the number of three-star restaurants fell slightly. This is the sixth consecutive year the capital of food-obsessed Japan has been awarded top honors by the publishers of a guidebook regarded by many as a fine-dining resource. Read the full post »

Tsutenkaku and Shinsekai

Posted on December 16th, 2012 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Tsutenkaku

Tsutenkaku

Tsutenkaku is a symbol of Osaka.It means ‘tower reaching heaven’. The first tower, built in 1912, lived up to its name and was the highest in the East at that time. The original tower had an eccentric design that combined influences from the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Unfortunately, it was dismantled in 1943 to supply iron for the war. The present tower is the second one, constructed in 1956 by a well-known architect Naito Tachu, who is called the ‘father of Japanese high-rise towers’, and is 103 meters high.

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There’s Something Fishy Going On With The Food Here…

Posted on November 23rd, 2012 by Rachel Moore

We will often get questions from people who are interested in taking our tours if it is possible to avoid fish in their meals.  There is so much more to Japanese food other than sushi and sashimi, but escaping fish all-together is near to impossible in Japan.  After all, it is a staple in Japanese cooking and the Japanese eat more fish per capita than any other country in the world!  You can avoid eating the actual pieces of fish, both raw and cooked, but there are so many things that you may eat and not even realize that there is fish in it.  I have enjoyed a lot of meals in Japan where they use fish broth and fish essence, and it often didn’t taste like fish was in it at all. By definition, here are a couple items that you may be unaware of. Read the full post »