Those of you who have been reading for a while know that back in July I visited an area of Tokyo called Tsukishima. That day, unfortunately, I didn't stay very long as the temperature was over 36 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity. I did tell myself that I would have to go back and complete my visit, so I did.
A friend of mine, Mariko had offered to show me around if I went back to visit, so I arranged to meet up with her and jumped on the train and set off for Tsukishima again. I met Mariko outside the train gates and we set off in search of the rest of Tsukishima. Mariko is a true local who has lived in Tsukishima all of her life so I knew I was going to be shown around by one of the best!
Straight away she led me off in totally the opposite direction that I had gone in before so I knew I was in for a treat. As mentioned in the previous blog post about Tsukishima, it is a man-made island that was completed in 1892. There seems to be rivers everywhere in Tsukishima and I was hoping that the little island didn't float off with me still on it!
The autumn colours were still out in Tokyo, and although not as vibrant as those in Nikko recently, the combination of colour and clear blue sky was really nice.
One of the famous local foods here is called Tsukuda-ni. It comes from the Edo period (1603 - 1867) and is various seafood, meat, seaweed (in fact,almost any food can be cooked this way!) cooked in soy sauce and mirin. The cooking process preserves the food and it can be stored for long periods of time. Tsukuda-ni is traditionally eaten as a topping on rice. We walked past one of the oldest Tsukuda-ni shops in Tsukushima. It was a lovely old traditional style building that fit right in with the vibe of the area.
There were a lot of other buildings in this style dotted around Tsukishima.
We also walked past an old public bath house still in operation. It reminded me of the movie "Spirited Away" (Sento Chihiro no Kamikakushi).
In keeping with the atmosphere, a very old water pump outside someone's house.
Next we found ourselves at the gate of the local shrine, Sumiyoshi shrine.
I love these trees. The form and shape and the perfectly manicured look is phenomenal!
Mariko explained that parents bring their kids aged 7, 5 and 3 (Shichi-go-san) to this shrine to pray. We were lucky enough to see one family with their child dressed in her kimono at the shrine to pray.
Heading out the other side of the shrine we found a nice little park. There was some lovely autumn colour to the trees and a nice pond in the middle that was being fed by a waterfall.
Going back across the bridge
we walked back in the direction of Monja street. We stumbled across another little shrine.
Finally we got back to Monja Street. Monja street is a street that is lined with Monjayaki restaurants (approximately 60 in total). What is Monjayaki? It is Tokyo's answer to Okonomiyaki. It was said to have been invented here and thus, Tsukishima is considered the home of Monjayaki. Monjayaki is a lot more fluid than okonomiyaki and while it doesn't look appealing (it looks a lot like prison gruel) it is actually very tasty!! We didn't have Monja today. I will save that for another post.
As we hit Monja street there appeared to be some kind of market happening with stalls lining the street
Crossing over the other side of the street we reached the area where all of the monja restaurants are. With so many restaurants it was difficult to choose one, so we randomly selected one (thanks to Mariko I didn't need to look for one that was advertising an English menu!) and walked in.
We started ordering and soon, the first couple of dishes and the first beer arrived. The first two dishes were potatoes and butter (jaga bata) and pieces of asparagus wrapped in bacon on toothpicks.
Naturally, with Mariko being a local, I handed over control of the hotplate (teppan) to her.
With kitchen utensils in hand she began!
As anyone who has experienced sliced potatoes cooked on an Aussie BBQ can attest to (or anyone, for that fact, who has experienced potatoes cooked in butter!), these are delicious!! Quickly finishing these off, the okonomiyaki arrived! Mariko mixed all of the ingredients together well
and spread it all out on the hotplate.
Pretty soon it was half done
and soon after, the final product!
And, let me tell you, it was good! But Mariko wasn't finished, oh no! Next desert was ordered. Desert turned out to be a crepe cooked and then apricots were rolled up inside before being finished so the apricots were deliciously soft, sweet and bitter. What an end to lunch!
Looking out the window at this stage, I saw one of those uniquely Japan images.
A tiny balcony outside a window that was being used as a small garden. I love finding these little gems!
After desert we kept talking and having a couple of more beers. I noticed that the restaurant had pitchers of beer on the menu and so I called over the restaurant staff and ordered one. She looked at me with a quizzical look on her face and said something in Japanese and walked away. I asked Mariko what she had said and she told me that she had said that no-one had ever ordered a pitcher before and she didn't even know if they had them anymore! A few minutes later she came back with a full pitcher of beer for us to work our way through.
Satisfied after a nice lunch / dinner we left the restaurant and I stopped to take a shot of Monja street at night.
The good thing about having someone with me is that they sometimes take photos of their own while we walk around. Mariko took a few photos during the day and here are some of them. Jason at work (or at play!).
Looking down one of the tiny alleyways that I love!
Deciding on the restaurant.
Chef Jason hard at work....
adding the finishing touches.
And cleaning up afterwards.
Finally, time to relax.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the second, and more comprehensive post about Tsukishima. Thank you to Mariko for showing me around!
See you again soon.