Small-town Alberta Girl Attempts Making Various Japanese Foods

As you will know if you get me talking on the subject (don’t do it, I’ll never stop talking), I am very much enamoured with Japanese food, fashion, and culture. I’ve visited Japan twice in the past, and am currently planning trip #3 once it’s safe to travel again. With the many different things to see and do and local cultures and food specialties in every prefecture, I will never get bored of visiting this lovely country.

In Japan, both my sweet tooth and my umami tongue (?) are satisfied. Yet, every time I fly back to Canada I find myself missing the delicious foods of Japan. Sure, there are a few wonderful Japanese restaurants where I live, but there are some things, like mochi and dorayaki, that I just can’t get in town. Some foods can be ordered online, but then they are heavily processed and super overpriced. Monthly Japanese snack boxes are fun, but you don’t get to choose what’s in your box, and after a while you get a lot of repeats and stuff that you don’t want. I also live in a small town in northern Alberta where the nearest big city with an Asian supermarket is at least 5 hours away.

So what’s a small-town Alberta girl to do? Well, I’ve started to stock up on Japanese ingredients. Some things I can find easily in town, like udon noodles or panko breadcrumbs. Other things, like mirin and rice wine, are more hit or miss. Then, some things, like kombu seaweed, sweet rice flour, furikake rice topping, are impossible to find anywhere in my area.

With no other options, I’ve had to bulk up my pantry. Between ordering things online, stocking up whenever I go to Edmonton or Calgary, and even bringing home a few things from Japan, I’ve begun to gather my own stocks of ingredients. I’m the flustered girl you see at the T&T market during my biannual trip to Edmonton rushing around and buying implausible amounts of dashi soup stock because I simply cant buy it at my home grocery stores.

Where to start!?

A good place to start might be the konbini egg sandwich. These humble and unassuming morsels are known to travellers as a quick and cheap option available in convenience stores (“konbini”) across Japan. You might be thinking “who the hell wants to eat a stinky convenience store egg sandwich when they are travelling?!” and in any other country you’re totally right. However, Japanese convenience store offerings are on a whole other level, to the point that one of the things I regularly miss about Japanese cities is stopping into a friendly neighborhood konbini and loading up on affordable snacks and meals. A lot of things are new and exciting in Tokyo, and it’s great fun to explore restaurants and try out new cuisines, but there’s also something so comforting about knowing that the bright lights of konbini are waiting for you nearby (always nearby) any time that you just want something that you don’t have to think about or navigate. A simple, quick sandwich.

RECIPE USED: A pretty simple mix of a couple mashed up boiled eggs, couple tablespoons or so of mayo, salt and pepper to taste. Throw it between a couple slices of bread and voila. Should give you enough to make 2 sandwiches.

I was pretty happy with how my egg mix turned out, but my whole grain braid couldn’t compare with the soft, thin, chewy, cakey white bread used on my favorite konbini egg sandwiches.

Next up, another konbini staple: onigiri.

RECIPE USED: it popped up on the MyFitnessPal app one day and I’ve since lost the recipe, but rest assured these are easy to make and if you google “onigiri recipe” you will get tons of hits.

I guess I never took a picture of an onigiri in Japan aside from this one of them still in the wrapper. My own onigiri look like sad little rectangular lumps because they took on the shape of the little bowl I used to form them, but I assure you they were tasty. I used tuna (with mayo, basil, salt, and pepper) for the filling.

Coming up: shabu shabu!

RECIPE USED: https://www.justonecookbook.com/shabu-shabu/ (with some substitutions)

Shabu Shabu is a type of hot pot and a really great meal for sharing in the winter when it sometimes gets to be -38°C where I live. I bought a double-chambered electric hot pot that we can keep on the kitchen table while we eat. The name Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) refers to the swishing (shabu) noise that the thin slices of meat make as you twirl them through the hot broth. The broth gets tastier and tastier as you eat, because the juices and flavorings of more and more ingredients get deposited to the pot as the meal goes on. I took this a little too much to heart when I was in Gunma and one of the ryokan staff noticed me putting pickled vegetables in my hotpot… they got a good laugh out of that (apparently the pickles do not go in the hotpot. To be fair I didn’t even know they were pickles).

I’m still experimenting with my Shabu Shabu, as some ingredients are hard to find. Enoki mushrooms are hit or miss in my town, and so far I’ve only found one grocery store that offers the thinly sliced hotpot meat.

Next, it’s bento time:

RECIPE USED: White sushi rice topped with furikake and mini hamburger bites with carrot shapes from The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go by Makiko Itoh, Mini-hamburger bento, p. 27

Bento are awesome kuz you can throw together whatever you want into a cute little portable bento box. Bento picks and other little accessories can add to the creativity, but bento don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy; leftovers make great bento fare and you can use whatever tupperware you have on hand. I also love making tamagoyaki, which is like a rolled omelette.

Speaking of omelettes…

RECIPE USED: not applicable ^-^’

Ok, to be fair I didn’t actually make omurice here, sorry… this is just a badly flipped omelette on top of some hastily placed lettuce and grape tomatoes. It was basically an excuse for me to try some ketchup art. Someday I will master the omurice in all of its smooth, saucey glory. Someday.

On to dorayaki…

RECIPE USED: Get Started Making Japanese Snacks: Step By Step Recipes for Delectable Bites by Yamishita Masataka, p. 14 Tsubu-an & p. 22: Dorayaki

I have something to admit…The first time I had dorayaki (well, actually it was taiyaki, those fish shaped cakes which are sorta similar) I was put off by the red bean paste that is a common filling in Japan. I am someone who has a huge sweet tooth and is used to overly sugary western snacks, so the first time I tried azuki bean paste I thought something like “this is weird…I’d rather have custard or icing inside”.

HOWEVER! I can honestly say that anko has since grown on me. Very much so, in fact. I’ve developed a taste for it, and I’ve bought my own azuki beans and started making Japanese snacks with anko filling at home. The first one I tried was dorayaki.

Dorayaki is like two sweet pancakes wrapped lovingly around a filling of anko paste. These pictures are from my second attempt. The first time I tried making dorayaki, I used custard powder (the recipe calls for custard sugar) and ended up with globby, chewy pancakes that were less than delightful. Pro-tip: regular sugar works just fine! Then for the anko paste filling, two common kinds of anko paste are tsubuan (chunky consistency) and koshian (fine consistency). I made tsubuan for my dorayaki, and I also used it in my next sweet:…

mochi!

RECIPE USED: https://www.justonecookbook.com/daifuku/

The mochi I made in Japan with friends is probably about as authentic as you can get. We made it as part of a New Year tradition, and took turns pounding hot rice in a giant usu mortar.

Take that, mochi! And that! And that!

The one I made at home, on the other hand, involved using sweet rice flour to quickly make the mochi dough. I put a bit of anko paste inside, and voila: daifuku mochi. Make sure to have some potato starch or cornstarch on hand to keep the mochi from sticking to every single surface imaginable.

It’s even got the Butters’ seal of approval!

Next: kakigori

RECIPE USED: No recipe… just shave some ice and pour a bit of syrup on top. I ordered grape kakigori syrup online, but you can also use sno-cone syrup or whatever.

I had to buy an ice shaver to make homemade kakigori, but I’m so glad I did. It’s such a nice summer treat, light and cold and sweet. The closest thing I can compare this to is a sno-cone, but in Japan shaved ice, as with so many other things, is taken to higher levels of sophistication (levels which I clearly did not successfully replicate at home).

Finally, a soothing beverage:

RECIPE USED: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uavCHN_k0Lk&t=9s

Latte art is beyond my talents currently, but nonetheless I was super surprised at how tasty my matcha latte turned out. It’s so easy to make, too! This is a recipe I will whip out again and again. Heating the milk also gives me an excuse to use the cute spouted Animal Crossing pot that I bought at the Nintendo store in Parco Shibuya last year! I think it makes the latte taste better…

Bonus time: pudding!

RECIPE USED: Dr. Oetker Crème Caramel boxed pudding

I’m calling this a “bonus” because I only have a picture of a pudding label that I stuck in my travel journal (can’t believe I never took a picture of an actual konbini pudding! I guess I was too busy eating them), and the pudding I made at home was from a box…

The custard puddings from Japanese konbini are… TOO good. I ate way too many of them. Breakfast with a side of pudding? Pudding with lunch? After dinner pudding? Dangerously delicious.

You don’t see these puddings out and about in Canada. The closest I could find for a quick pudding was this Dr. Oetker box mix. It was tasty! Still, not quite as tasty as the plentiful puddings of Japan.


Well, that’s about it for my forays into Japanese cooking for now, but I have more ideas for the future that I want to try, such as matcha mochi, kushiage skewers, and maybe even a fluffy Japanese style strawberry shortcake!

Tokyo Video: December 2019

A few weeks ago I compiled some of my video clips from our last trip to Japan (December 2019) into a 30 minute video. It’s a chronological mashup of many of the sights and sounds that we experienced on our trip, which took place mainly in Tokyo this time.

I hope that you will enjoy this video, which features dancing, singing, a Pokemon cafe, some cute dogs, amazing food, Sailor Scouts, robots, cram-packed stores, shrines and temples, kawaii monster girls, karaoke, mochi-pounding, snakes, and much more.

And even after my second trip to Japan, I am again dreaming of my return. Someday! ❤

If you’d like to see the videos from our last trip to Japan (2017) in which we traveled more broadly, check out this post.

Or, if you would like to read the detailed day-by-day blogs from our trips, they start here (2017) and here (2019).

Thanks for stopping by!

Tokyo Memories, Day 16: Pounding New Year’s Mochi With Friends, and More Karaoke!

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 16, December 29th, 2019

Another packed day full of adventures ❤

Dustin and I met up with Maika at Tokyo Guest House Nakano, a place that she stayed at for a while previously. We took our shoes off in the entrance and donned some communal house-slippers, then took the stairs up to the common room where a ton of people were gathered. We joined the group in making mochi for New Year’s celebrations!

First, white rice and hot water is added to a giant hollowed out stump mortar called a usu (theirs is 80 years old!) and then two pestles called kine are twisted against the rice. The rice gradually becomes gummier and more paste-like, and is folded against itself again and again.

Next, we take turns pounding the mochi! The kine need to be wet every so often, and someone keeps folding the mochi at intervals.

Then the mochi is taken out and carried quickly inside to the kitchen table where clean, floured hands roll the mochi balls and add fillings/mix-ins like edamame paste, and wrap with nori.

Fresh mochi is so yummy! Making mochi with everyone was a very special experience that we feel lucky to have had the chance to enjoy.

There was a cute toddler there with his family and he watched his grandfather pound the mochi with the giant kine, yelling “Ojiisan! Gambatte!!!” (Grandfather, you’ve got it/good luck!) The kid also began talking to me and randomly singing “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” with me! Adorable.

Thanks for inviting us Maika-san! And thanks for having us, Tokyo Guest House Nakano!

After we said our farewells, I went to another Karaoke meetup group! Dustin didn’t want to go >.< but I sang my heart out for 4 hours! This karaoke place, Cote D’Azur near Gotanda station, didn’t have unlimited slushies like the other one, but it was FANCY! It had a stage, huge screens on all 4 walls, party lights, and an excellent sound system.

We sang so much, even a few more duets, and I think I sang the most powerfully in my life. They said that “my song” is White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane!

Then we were hungry from all the singing, and Hayato, the organizer, invited me to a Japanese chain resturaunt, Ootoya, where we had nabe hot-pot and matcha ice cream. Yummmmm.

Tomorrow is our last day before we leave on the 31st 😦 this has been such a whirlwind couple of weeks, I don’t want it to end and yet I feel satisfied that I’ve lived every moment to the fullest. I miss Teegs and Butter, and everyone back home too… I do love Japan so much, though, I don’t think I will ever get over my love of this place!

Check out day 17, Last Chance Shopping in Akiba and Sailor Moon Dinner Theater, here!

Tokyo Memories, Day 14: Yanaka Ginza, Ameyoko, and Kindness at Nippori Textile Street

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 14, December 27th, 2019

Today we checked out Yanaka Ginza and enjoyed a bit of street food: yakitori and croquettes, mmm. I got a couple of personal hanko stamps made, too!

My hanko!

Then we went to Ameyoko, where I got blissfully lost in the giant Yamashiroya toy store. The Ameyoko walk was so crowded that we were pretty much swept up in the wave, but we did manage to dip into a restaurant for some hamburger omurice and melon soda floats.

I also visited Nippori Textile Street today (well, first I got lost and ended up in a quiet and beautiful cemetery).

Textile street has so much lovely fabric, lace, jewelry-making items, embroidered patches, etc., it’s overwhelming! I got a few bits and bobs, but it was getting late.

I was expecting warm weather, but with gale wind and the evening chill I was actually quite cold, and moreso just annoyed at all of the whispered well-meaning “Samuii! Gaijin samuii!!?? (isn’t that foreigner cold!?!) I was getting again, so when I spotted some shawl-sweaters on sale outside a shop I tried one on and promptly went to buy it.

Cute, and also on sale for a really good price! ❤

When the staff member went to bag it I said “Oh, no please, I’ll wear it out… it’s a little cold…” Suddenly, as if they had just wholly noticed my existence, she and the two other women in the shop (a customer and another staff) began fawning over me and tut-tutting, touching my open-lace sleeves and remarking things like “ehhhh! samuii!!!!” getting me to step into the sweater and rubbing it over my arms. One of the staff reached behind the counter and grabbed an instant-heat patch, exclaiming “Heat! Ok?!” I nodded and thanked her many times as she lifted my new shawl-sweater up with a “Hen, ne!? Gomen!” or something like that, meaning something along the lines of “sorry for being weird lifting up your shirt like this!” and she stuck the patch on my back. To be honest, I didn’t really feel much heat coming from it, but the gesture warmed my heart more than I can say.

They asked me where I was from and how I could stand the cold so much, and when I said Canada they “aaaahh”ed knowingly. They bowed to me as I left and saw me out the door. ❤

Lastly I swooped through Uniqlo on my way back to the hotel, finding a few quirky printed shirts, and got some laundry done again (no easy feat when everyone is waiting for a dryer >.<)

I waited in a big line for these amazing cheese tarts at Ikebukuro station as well ❤

Check out day 15, Karaoke With Strangers & Taemin in Yokohama, here!

Tokyo Memories, Day 12: Christmas Cruise To Odaiba

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 12, December 25th, 2019

Merry Christmas! Though, for our family and friends in Canada, it’s still Christmas Eve. We got up early this morning and took the trains to Asakusa. There, we arrived at the pier and got some frozen yogurt and drinks while we waited for our boat to arrive.

Our ride to Odaiba, the Hotaluna, was designed by Leiji Matsumoto, who we know most affectionately from Interstella 5555! Hotaluna has a very spaceship-like feel, and was a nice change of pace from the many trains.

We could see the ferris wheel, Fuji TV, Rainbow Bridge, and other landmarks from the boat. When we landed in Odaiba, we headed out right away for Teamlabs Borderless Digital Arts Museum. It’s a good thing we did, because later in the day we saw a MASSIVE lineup stretching down the street– we barely had to wait. 🙂

The lights museum was very cool, with various surfaces, rooms, and structures to explore. Some spots had interactive aspects, like creatures you could “squish” under your feet (illusions of light), and one room had people colouring in pages of Santa, reindeer, and cars, then scanning them and seeing their artworks come to life on the wall. LED lightstrips, lasers, beams, spotlights, mirrors, shadows- these and more were used for various effects. Lots of people trying to get the perfect selfie!

Hungry, we then wandered Venus Fort, a huge mall with an artificial sky, for lunch–we decided on yakiniku at a place called Toraji, which had wagyu beef on the menu. MAN, we had a great lunch. Bit on the expensive side o.o

Dustin then went to the Aquacity Cinema to see the new Star Wars movie, but I had heard of some old-fashioned candy stores and a retro arcade in DECKS, so I went off on my own in search of those. I saw some cool things in Aquacity and Decks: an entire store dedicated to the Nissin Chick, a large Godzilla statue, lots of couples fawning over eachother, and some unusual gatcha machines. One of them stole my 500 yen T-T I just wanted a giant pill bug! I found 3 different retro candy stores, and definitely got a bunch of new candies and snacks to try.

We used the free bus service to get around Odaiba, and when we were done we went back to the trains and stopped at 7&I on the way back to the hotel. I picked out some more snacks, sweets, and hot foods to try. The corn dogs, buns, and croquettes are so good!

Turn on the sound to hear Dustin waxing poetic about Star Wars, and me shocking myself when the condiment packet suddenly flings out of my hand XD

Check out day 13, Traditional and Whimsical Shopping in Tokyo, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 10: Tebori Handpoke Tattoo with Horimitsu

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 10, December 23rd, 2019

My tattoo with Horimitsu started at 12, and was at his studio in Ikebukuro within walking distance from Sunshine City. As such, I left at 11:30 to give myself plenty of time- even still, when I reached the tagged spot on Google Maps, I couldn’t tell which building was Horimitsu’s. I found a wooden structure with some signage and a doorbell, but Google Translate didn’t really tell me what it said. I thought, well, this is mainly a residential area, so maybe it’s Horimitsu, or a business that can direct me to him.

Street-view from a skywalk

I rang the buzzer and waited. A hunched, tired looking old man answered, standing in his dark entrance, and I knew right away this was not Horimitsu’s studio… I blurted “Horimitsu desu…ka…?” and the man sort of smiled and said “ah… Horimitsu…san…” and beckoned me to follow him. He hobbled along with his back bent at an improbable angle, heaving himself up the couple of steps to the building across the street. Tucked there in a corner was a door covered in cool stickers. He told me to knock. Soon, Horimitsu answered amidst my desperate apologies to this kind old man: “Doumo sumimasen! Gomennasai! Totemo gomennasai, doumo arigatou gozaimashita!!!” The man told Horimitsu something, probably like “she knocked on my door so I took her to you” with a bit of a smile (likely translation? “another damn gaijin mistook my business for your tattoo place, jeez…!”)

After apologies from Horimitsu, I entered, and he bid me sit on his couch, where a coffee table sat covered in tattoo magazines, including the one featuring John Mayer on the cover with his Horimitsu tattoo on full display.

Master Horimitsu was quiet, charming, and knew quite a lot of English. We decided on the placement of my tattoo and he began with the linework, which is done with a regular tattoo gun. Right before starting he said “Okay… starting… prepare… my tattoo hurts more than other tattoos!” ok thanks, got it… ^-^’

His linework was indeed thick and a tad painful at times, but I think I did okay aside from a few grimaces. As he worked on my arm, we listened to Christmas jazz & chill music, and I gazed up at his impressive wall of stencils from previous tattoo designs.

After a while, maybe 45 minutes, he said “Hai. Tebori ne” and started tebori (hand-poke) method just like that. Amazingly, it didn’t hurt any more than any other tattoo I’ve had! I could hear the needles puncturing my skin again and again, but it wasn’t bad.

We chatted on and off through my tattoo- about Japanesed tattoo laws and the current court cases, Japanese food, Canadian weather and seasons, our pets, Dustin, teaching English in Japan, onsen etiquette, all kinds of things. He is a very accomplished and impressive man, but also very humble and kind. ❤ I gave him some maple candies, a card, and a magnet with my designs, and he thanked me.

The tattoo was over in just 2 hours! It really does capture the energy and cuteness of Tegan!

You can see my arm was breaking out- I think I was a bit too liberal with applying the creams to my other new tattoos >.<

I said my goodbyes to Horimitsu, and as I was standing outsite setting up my GPS directions he dashed out of the studio, patted my shoulder and said farewell once more, and ran across the road towards the old man’s house/business. I feel certain he was giving the man a gift (he had something in his hand) in apology for my earlier intrusion!

I walked a bit to the Ikebukuro Ichiran Ramen, where I enjoyed another bowl of delicious tonkatsu (no waiting in line this time!) and laughed at the bathroom that had something like 12 toilet paper dispensers mounted to the wall- you won’t run out of TP at this Ichiran!

I took a couple of detours before heading back to the hotel, spending a considerable amount of time browsing at Animate, where I bought some vampire comics and BluRay musicals. I also stopped at the Gakuen cafe for a drink or two and met a couple of nice girls from New Zealand, and chatted for a bit.

Later on, back at the hotel, Dusty and I enjoyed a great assortment at the buffet on the basement floor. The dinner spread was elegant and fancy, but my favorite was the dessert- cakes, squares, and soft-serve ice cream, plus a chocolate fountain!

Now I am doing laundry on the 6th floor and tidying up our hotel room -_- zzZZZzzzZZZ

Check out day 11, A Christmas-Eve Date at Robot Restaurant, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 9: Harajuku Fashion Walk, Shopping, Snakes, and Rainy Ramen

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 9, December 22nd, 2019

This morning Dustin and I went up to the 3rd floor breakfast area and indulged in some very yummy omurice together. Then we went back to Harajuku and walked the gorgeous path to Meiji shrine. ❤ I got some delicious mitarashi dango on my way out.

I participated in the Harajuku Fashion Walk, which was a cool experience! I met a lot of other people done up in different styles, everything from colourful decora, frilly lolita, Christmas inspired, to intense gothic.

I wore my own designs which I had printed onto fabric: a skull lino print on my tights, cute 90’s illustration toy dress, and a silky scarf covered in a digital illustration of my own lips and tongue. I ended up buying a sweater later from an artist at Design Festa to complete my look (and it was rainy so I was starting to get chilly!) The girl who I bought the sweater from gave me an Umaibo stick and wished me a Merry Christmas ❤

FASHION. F-F-F-F-F-F-FASHION.

The fashion walk stopped at several locations to get group pictures. We got a lot of stares! We made a very eclectic bunch for sure. We also saw some people on motorcycles dressed in Christmas & Santa costumes.

After the walk I booted it to Tokyu Plaza since it was raining hard and I needed an umbrella. I settled on a black parasol-type umbrella from Lips & Hips.

Then I checked out Laforet, where I got a couple of cute things at the Sailor Moon store, and also visited a couple of REALLY cool fashion shops with street-fashion, lolita, mod, and more. I got a really awesome hoodie with a pissed-off looking teddy-bear on it who’s about to eat a cupcake(?) and it says YUMMY. The man who sold it to me had a very cool Jrock style. The store was called WRouge.

I finally had a chance to visit the famously strange and colourful 6% DokiDoki store, with its huge decorated bear at the entrance; I just got a sticker and a couple of pins, and snapped a few pics!

Next, I found my way to the Snake Center, where I enjoyed a delicious Kuromitsu (?) latte and held 4 different snakes, including a huge ball python named Jagger! Such good, cute snakes T-T I love them.

The last thing I did before trudging back to the hotel in my wet socks and shoes was to wait in a 30min lineup in the pouring rain for Ichiren Ramen. It was worth it though! You get your own tiny booth and stool, and order with a ticket: perfect for introverts or those who are feeling overstimulated! I drank every last drop of the delicious umami broth, which warmed me up and gave me the strength to get home in the windy chill.

Tomorrow is my tebori (handpoke) tattoo with Horimitsu! Excited!

Check out day 10, Tebori Handpoke Tattoo With Horimitsu, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 8: Seeing Friends, Matcha Cafe, Anpan, and Vampire Rose

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 8, December 21st, 2019

Another busy day! My morning got off to a rough start, as I was going to explore Ikebukuro a bit more but I suddenly developed severe heartburn while browsing doujinshi at Mandarake. I guess eating pudding and Christmas Cake for breakfast wasn’t the best idea?…

So, I booked it to a pharmacy, feeling worse by the minute, and managed to ask for heartburn medication. After taking it back to the hotel and using it, I curled up in a pathetic, sweaty heap on my bed.

It worked though! After healing up for a couple of hours, I headed out to Kagurazaka to meet up with Maika and Marie at Saryo Matcha Cafe. I got a bit lost (when don’t I?) but eventually found them, and after waiting outside for about 30 minutes (popular spot!) we got in.

We had so much to talk about- it was so nice to see them again. We got on really well (though Maikasan was terrified of my new spider tattoo!) and I got a delicious matcha latte, as well as my first ever anmitsu (AMAZING!). Maika gave me some chopstick rests that she made herself with leftover pottery clay ❤ so nice!

Marie and I, in awe of the lovely anmitsu ❤

Maika had to go, so Marie and I left for Ginza to meet up with Ritsu at the Vampire Cafe (Dustin didn’t feel up to dealing with vampires tonight…). Marie told me that she and Ritsu got married! I had no idea! AND they are expecting a baby! Wow! ❤

We had some time before our late reservation (8:30) so we went to Kimuraya and got anpan buns- I just ate mine now and HOLY! THEY ARE SO GOOD!

We met up with Ritsu at the Vampire Cafe, where we had various dishes to share, like roast beef, pizza, potato fries, and salad, but of course each of them had creepy names like “slave feed”, “sacrificial meat”, etc. It’s the Vampire cafe, after all!

Cutting Rose’s Love Letter Pizza.

I finally gave Rose-Sama the folder full of artwork I made for him. I was so nervous and stammered and looked down, but Marie said that he smiled and complimented my art, and proposed we take a picture together again. This time we took our picture in the hallway with the red blood cells on the floor casting an eerie glow up at us.

Earl Rose has me in his spell…

Such a fun night. It can be lonely as a foreigner in Japan, so it was very nice to meet up with some friends ❤

I came back to the hotel so late that I was locked out of the Sunshine City building and had to ask a security guard how I could get into my hotel (I had to walk all the way around the complex to access a separate hotel entrance o.o)

Check out day 9, Harajuku Fashion Walk, Shopping, Snakes, and Rainy Ramen, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 7: The Wackiest Izakaya in Tokyo

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 7, December 20th, 2019

I woke up so tired today T-T but even though part of me wanted to nap the afternoon away, I can’t bear to waste any of my time in Tokyo, so I worked on getting my postcards written and package packed, and mailed them out at the post office.

In the afternoon Dustin and I headed to an area we’d never been before- Shimbashi. I had a reservation for us for the Kagaya Frog is Stranger Than Fiction izakaya, known for its owner who does lots of wacky things to entertain his guests.

After being seated by Kagaya-san, our visit began with a remote controlled Anpanman rolling up to our table to deliver our hand towels. Kagaya-san let us pick our chopstick rests from a tray (DBZ characters) and made them interact on our table. We ordered cola (Dustin) and beer (me) and he had us choose which country’s “style” we would like our drinks served in. We chose England, so Kagaya-san brought out his famous teddy bear and made him walk around, wave at us, stretch, and finally pick up the tray of drinks. As he (well, Teddy), “carried” the drinks toward the table, he grunted and kept exclaiming “I’VE GOT IT! I CAN DO… IT… I CAN ….DO IT!”, and everyone cheered him on YOU CAN DO IT, TEDDY! Finally, with an “I CAN DO IT….AHHHHHHH!!!” Teddy gave one last burst of energy, charging toward our table and giving us our drinks. It was absolutely adorable and hilarious.

The food menu is a mystery- you choose a phrase and Kagaya-san makes you sing it to him!

The other visitors, all locals, ordered throughout the evening, in “Brazil” (lively dancing with puffed sleeves and party horns) “China” (Kagaya-san jumped clean over their table suddenly and began chopping at them with martial arts) and “France”, where Kagaya-san emerged to dramatic French romance music with an easel and a hat and drew portraits of all of the women in the room! I was so happy and surprised, the drawing he made of me is such a special souvenir, and really looks like me! After finishing each drawing he would kiss it with a flourish… the drawing of me he also rubbed in his crotch for a second as he closed his eyes, which the locals thought was HILARIOUS (and I did too!).

It would be understandable if the sole draw of this place was its funny owners antics, but the food was also AMAZING! Some traditional food with vegetables, tofu, tiny battered fish, chicken, beef, salad, and curry.

A few other memorable moments:

  • When Kagaya-san touched foreheads with Dustin and stroked his beard, exclaiming “oh, softly touch, sofuto touchi”.
  • The locals warming up to us and yelling “KAMPAIIII! JAPANESE STYLE!” cheering with us
  • When Kagaya-san finished drawing a portrait and Dustin said “Very good!” in French, the locals loved it
  • When I gave Kagaya-san a small gift from Canada (maple candies, a card, and a drawing of him and Teddy) he was very thankful and said “Thank you. I’m surprised!”
  • When they saw I gave Kagaya-san a gift, everyone started digging out random stuff from their bags and giving them to me! Candy, snacks, a bag-holder gadget, it was so nice.

A really wonderful night!

Thank you, Kagaya-san ❤

On our way back to the hotel I got some okinawan sea-salt soft-serve. So good ❤

Check out day 8, Seeing Friends, Matcha Cafe, Anpan and Vampire Rose, here!