Friday 12 July 2013

Summer's here - Tsukishima

On the weekend I looked ahead at the weather forecast to my day off and it said that it was going to be 32 degrees Celsius (90 F) and thunderstorms! The day arrived and it was 35 C (95 F) and 80% humidity!  Oh well, at least it wasn't raining!

Before heading to today's location, I had to head to a post office.  An attempt was made to deliver a letter to me (by registered mail I guess) but as I wasn't home, they left me notification to either call them to organise re-delivery or come to the post office to collect it. I decided that I should go to the post office as my Japanese is not good enough to talk over the phone (some people will tell you that my Japanese is not good enough for talking at all!).  I headed off to Shimokitazawa where I met up with Dan and we the proceeded to a place called Minami Asagaya (which was about a 30 minute train ride away).  Dan asked me why they hadn't left it at a closer post office.  I had wondered that too.

So we get to Minami Asagaya and go into the post office and after going to the wrong counter 3 times we finally were shown the correct counter.  It is here that I am lucky that I have Dan with me as his Japanese is miles ahead of mine.As one post office worker is instructing me to fill out a form, his very observant co-worker notices something on the undelivered mail card that I had brought in.  He then tells Dan that we have come to the wrong post office and that my letter is actually waiting at Minami Suginami post office!  He pulled out a map of central Tokyo and circled where we currently were and then circled where Minami Suginami post office was.  Feeling a chill run down my spine I then summoned my best Japanese and asked where Eifuku-cho (my home train station) was.  He then pointed to a spot that would be a 15 minute walk at the most from my station.  Dan and I burst out laughing and feeling just a little embarassed, but very amused we made our way out of the station with (I'm certain) the post office staff having a good chuckle at us too!  Dan then made clear that he would be in charge of directions for the rest of the day.  As we were heading back to the train station I saw a sign outside of an Indian and Nepalese restaurant that was worth a picture.  Now a lot of people have a laugh at Asian English, so this one is meant for my Japanese readers.  This sign has obviously been written by a non-native English speaking foreigner who has attempted to write a Japanese word in romanised English and gotten the spelling quite wrong.

You may notice that the same word has been spelt differently again on the sign in the upper right corner of the photo, however it is still incorrect.  I think what happened is that the person who wrote the first sign was fired for his mistake and they employed a second person to replace them.  The restaurant owner obviously hasn't realised that the second one is wrong too, although I suspect they think something is not right because of the large number of Japanese people who come in to the restaurant with a big smile on their faces.

But enough fun, we had a suburb to explore.  The location for today's exploration, Tsukishima.  Tsukishima is a man made island in Tokyo Bay.  It was created using earth that was dredged up when creating a shipping channel in Tokyo bay.  It is just across the bay from the famous Tsukiji fish market.  Recently there have been some newer apartment blocks built, but in some of the backstreets you can still find some of the older Tsukishima.  Due to the heat and humidity we didn't get to explore as much of the area as I would have liked, but there is always next time.

Stepping out of the train station, you can already feel some of the old town atmosphere even though you are surrounded by tall office buildings and apartments.

The patchwork look of some of the streets really appealed to me.  Dan kept asking me what I saw in the different scenes I stopped at.  All I could say is that it was different to what is normal for me.  

Today, considering the weather I was only looking for one thing, a street near the station nicknamed "Monja Dori" (Monja street).  This street (that looked off limits to traffic for most of the day) is lined with restaurants devoted to a dish called Monjayaki.  It is Tokyo's version of Okonomiyaki.  The biggest difference is that Monjayaki is made with a batter that is more liquid than okonomiyaki, and it doesn't set like okonomiyaki.  I have tried Monja (as it is nicknamed) once before, and although the taste was good, it doesn't really look very appetising and it takes a long time to cook and eat.  Luckily for me, most of the restaurants along Monja Dori also make Osaka style Okonomiyaki which I do like (although not as much as the Hiroshima type!).

I didn't really know in which direction we should be walking to get there though (which made Dan pretty nervous....).  He suggested we walk down one street and we passed by a little meat shop.

As I was taking the photo I heard Dan behind me say "That sign says Monja something"  We had found it! (or rather, Dan had.....).  We walked to the beginning of the street and started making our way down, looking for a nice place to have lunch.

Here is a photo looking down the street.

Monja Dori doesn't only have monjayaki restaurants, there are a whole lot of different shops along the street.  A coffee shop,

I am guessing this was some kind of restaurant/bar, but those label posters were pretty old!

A flower shop,

This sign was telling us not to do something, but I didn't know what it was telling me not to do, so I was probably doing it........sorry.

I think Cookie monster was telling us that this place was closed at the moment.

As we were walking along, Dan asked me what Monjayaki is like.  I told him that while it doesn't look very delicious, it does actually taste good.  He asked me what it looked like and I told him that he should look at a photo and make his own mind up!  You may be able to get an idea from this photo.  The bottom two are the finished product.

We looked in at one restaurant but that one had a TV crew filming inside so we moved on to the next one.  As we were looking at the menu displayed outside, the restaurant door opens and the female staff told us that they have an English menu if we wanted to have a look.  

She went and got it for us and as we were looking she told us to come inside while we decided to escape the heat (very nice of her!)  Dan isn't an okonomiyaki fan, and after seeing what Monja looked like, wasn't too keen on that either, but luckily this restaurant had other options so we decided to eat here.  The restaurant was air conditioned and also had fans at the table to help as well.

We sat down and ordered and the lovely waitress/cook started talking to us , in English to Dan, and Japanese to me!  She soon figured out that it was Dan who had the better Japanese.  She brought us our order and asked if we wanted to cook it ourselves or if we would like her to cook it for us.  Thinking that it might be better for a professional to do it for us we asked if she wouldn't mind.  She happily said yes, and began.  I had ordered okonomiyaki and Dan had ordered yaki udon (stir fried udon noodles).

She began.  My okonomiyaki 

and Dan's yaki udon.

A professional in action.

Nearly done.

As she was cooking, she asked where we were both from.  Dan is from the USA and when she found out that I am from Australia she said that she had visited Cairns last year and absolutely loved it!  I am always happy to hear that people have enjoyed themselves visiting Australia!

She finished cooking and the last stage was to top it all off with katsuoboshi (dried fish flakes).

The final product.

No, this was actually the final product!

It was really delicious!  As we were paying our bill we asked if we could have a photo with our new friend.  Of course, she said!

Thanking the staff we made our way outside.  This is the restaurant we went to

Their website is here, it is in Japanese, but if you are using Google chrome, it can translate it for you.

We decided to have a little more of a wander around before the heat got too much for us.  The thing I like about old places like this (and I have shown photos of this before) are the little alleyways that separate the buildings.

This one was particularly nice!

And this one was barely wide enough for me! (I was hoping an earthquake didn't hit while I was standing there!)

And down the end of this alley was someone's front garden!

From here we headed back to the other side of the station to have a quick look at the Sumida River.  On the way there, I saw that even in an area dominated by monjayaki and okonomiyaki restaurants, there is still always room for a ramen shop!

The Sumida River is the main river that feeds Tokyo Bay.

It stretches for 27 km and features 26 bridges including Nihonbashi.  Some of the bridges (the original structures, not the current ones) date back as far as 1594.

The heat was starting to get to us, so we headed back towards the station to head home.  On the way, I found another one of those huge bicycle parks!

I made my way home, and the weather (combined with the alcohol) had obviously gotten a little too much for this poor guy who thought that a quick nap on the pavers outside of the station was in order before walking home.

I ended the day feeling that there is more to Tsukishima than I was able to see, so I will be heading back there again another time.  Mariko, I hope I did a good job!

That's it for another week.  Thanks for reading and I hope you are handling the weather OK, wherever you are in the world.

See you next week!


  1. Hi Jason.Continue to read your comments with interest.Many happy returns from last week.Monjayaki I am not aware of...but they do look tempting.A small french creperie called Le Carpe Diem has recently opened at the East End of Grenfell part of the original East End Market Produce building which has been converted into units.The owner is a south aussie and his wife an other staff are from France.It has a definite french ambience and it is a nice addition to the dining scene here.The Dons had a fright against the Bulldogs,but their class got them thhough in the end.Should win next week,but after that it gets tough.All the best...Noel.

    1. Hi Noel. Hope you are well. I was working while the Dons were playing last weekend, but had the Adelaide Now website up showing real time scores and commentary so I could sneak a look between lessons. Hopefully Jobe is back soon.
      Monjayaki is Tokyo's answer to okonomiyaki. It is approximately the consistency of porridge and is eaten straight off the hotplate, so it requires a lot of blowing on to make it's temperature safe!
      Good to hear about the creperie and I think the East End is probably the perfect place for it too.
      Take care.

  2. Hi Jason,
    Your weather is opposite to what it's like here at the moment but I must say that I prefer cooler weather to such high humidity. It has rained quite a lot even here in Adelaide during the past few days and there is a lot of water laying around. I need some of those trendy rubber boots you mentioned in your blog! We decided to go to the zoo today and due to predicted rain, it was actually very quiet. It didn't even rain so double bonus! Hoping to walk to the Central Market to buy some yummies during the next few days (I love looking in the asian grocery shops for different things) and there is a gorgeous Thai Restaurant around the corner that has beautiful fresh food. Bye for now!

    1. Hi Nat,
      yes, I too prefer cold weather to hot, and it is a bit of a struggle in summer here, but in a couple of weeks we should be almost halfway through it. We've then got Typhoon season to look forward to!
      I used to love going to the Central Market and Chinatown! I used to try and get in there every couple of weeks. There is a little Japanese shop out by the Victoria square entrance of the market, before you go in through the market arcade entrance. I used to go shopping there a lot. They have a lot of Japanese food and other things too.
      Enjoy the market.

  3. Hi, Jason

    Wow, You were strolling in my area. Tsukishima is my neighborhood. I live a short distance from the entrance of Monja street. One of the photos on your blog showed my apartment!! Next time you come to Tsukishima, we might bump into each other on the street.

    Take care,

    1. Hi Masa,

      if I knew that you lived in the area I would have come around and used your air conditioner!! It was so hot that day. Like I said in the blog, I think I would like to go back and have a better look around because I wasn't able to stay there very long because of the weather. I liked what I did see though

      See you soon.


  4. Hi Jason!!
    Thankyou for coming in Tsukishima!
    I'm very happy:)
    You know,This is a fusion area --old style house and tall building--
    And there are some shrine.
    When the autumn comes, You should come to Tsukishima again, and stay long!!
    Take care,

    1. Hi Mariko!

      Tsukishima was really interesting and I was disappointed I couldn't stay longer on the day I went there. I could see what you mean about it being a fusion area! I would love to go back again in autumn when it is cooler and have a better look around Tsukishima!

      Take care,