My favourite chic Soba

Soba are buckwheat noodles, very common in Japan, they date back from the Edo period where it was discovered that this wealthy dish, unlike white rice eaten by wealthy citizens, was not developing a disease at the time

there were at least a couple of soba places in every village in Japan. Nowadays, they are everywhere almost, from very basic to very sophisticated. Here is my favourite one, Honmura An.

Located just off the Roppongi crossing in Tokyo, it is very easy to find although in a tiny quiet street. the style is minimalist, modern, light wood, concrete because the owner was inspired by his New York times when he reviewed the place.

This is a family business, when the parents grew old, they asked their son to come back and run the place, which he did. Until then, he was running his own Honmura An in New York and it seems everyone knows that one rather than the Tokyo one.

it is always friendly, excellent service, food is amazing, fresh produce in season, prepared simply to enjoy the taste. I had the best Matsuyama potatoes for example. Every time I have been, it has been a delight! Yukiko San, thank you for introducing me to the best soba

Before that, I was not too keen on soba that I found sticky, tasteless, nothing fancy really. Now, I can tell you I became a fan BUT with high standards

 

IMG_5997

 

Wakkanai

That’s it!! I can now say that I explored Japan from North to South, from Wakkanai to Ishigaki!!

We spent 3 days at the end of November in Wakkanai, and visited the northernmost point there.

CLIMATE

VERY cold and snowy already

 

IMG_6021

AMBIANCE

SOOOO unique… it felt like there were no inhabitants, very special, hardly any cars, hardly any people outside in the streets, very old fashioned shops. Most of them have signposts in Russian since we are so close.

There was a very limited choice of restaurants in town, so much so that we had to plan our 3 days around that list and booked them, stick to their working hours, etc

it is also the last train station up north, 2 trains a day to Sapporo, first time that we go to a station where you watch the train coming to you through the window as the rail does not go beyond (see above photo)

 

FOOD

amazingly fresh, simple, fish based, excellent, every meal was of very good quality

we had one lunch above the fish market, that was cute, 2 senior ladies run the place, tatami rooms, set lunch with excellent sashimi

we also had a very good dinner in a sashimi/sushi place

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

overall, great if you like fish

We realised it had been so many years since we could tell the closest restaurant chain was over 3h drive away (no starbucks, no mc donald, no TGI etc,), there were actually no chains at all and it was even difficult to find a Kombini!! On the Sunday, I needed cash and could not find any ATM, go prepared

PEOPLE

really nice and smiling, curious, happy and proud to see us visiting, willing to share

 

HIGHLIGHTS

fish market – a small place but fantastic products, the fishmongers really tried hard to show us, explain, and even took us in the back office to see the crabs

Northermost point – so windy and cold but wild and beautiful, this is a 40mn bus drive from the train station, very easy, there is a bus every 20mn, they dont take suica or pasmo, you have to buy the ticket at the counter in the station or in the bus if you have change. Once there, apart from the monument itself, there is a hill with a windmill, a shrine and a breathtaking view over Russia and the sea, but my god, was it cold and windy that day!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

this is a great place for a quiet week end – hiking and walking in the summer must be beautiful – in the winter, meditation, peace,

on day 2, at breakfast, there were deers in the garden behind the hotel. on day 3, we saw more of them wandering in the streets. a different Japan all together, we will go again! loved it after all

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Japan again

It has been a while, dear readers and friends, I was under the impression that I was mostly writing for myself about things I already knew and could not see the point any more so simply took a break.

Lately, as I had visitors again, they all asked about the posts and I regained the energy to share my experiences. Needless to say that a lot happened in these  4 months of silence, I will not be able to catch up with all but will try my best (gambarimasu) to share some of the highlights.

As always, thank you for your likes, shares, comments, questions, let me know your thoughts, feedback, questions and anything you would like me to add.

Happy to have you!! Arigato gozaimasu.

Department stores

Japan is a consumer market, people love to spend, buy, they love brands, but they also love details, nice things, brands, luxury, quality. Along with that, for over a century, there have been a lot of department stores (Takashimaya, Matsuzakaya, Isetan, Mitsukoshi, etc)

My favourite remains Isetan for the B1F, food department and the 5F, tableware. I must say I also like Takashimaya historical building in Nihombashi for the architecture and the style.

They sell beautiful cakes made by Dominique Ansel and delicious Swiss Chocolate Laederach that I highly recommend

If you ever read The Ginger Tree, wonderful book written by Oswald Wynd, you will read part of the development of these stores in the early 1900’s

 

Anime

Japan has a fascination with cartoons, manga, anime of all sorts. What a surprise to find in one of those anime shops that you can buy THE Willy Wonka Chocolate….

 

 

Should I check whether I get the golden pass in one of those?