Thursday 19 March 2015

Another ramen street - Tachikawa New York Ramen Square

There's no doubt about it.  Japan loves its food and it does food damn well!  In 2010 Japan out-Michelined the home of Michelin, France!  Japan also celebrates its food like no other country.  It has what it calls "food theme parks" one of which is the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum which I have written about previously (and hopefully another food theme park will be coming to this blog soon!).  One of the foods which is loved almost as much as sushi is ramen and there are various locations or "ramen streets" such as the Shinatatsu Ramen Street and another one inside Tokyo station which I hope to check out soon.

One of my favourite ramen blogs that I read occasionally is the well written and highly respected Ramen Adventures written by an American guy called Brian.  In fact his opinion is so respected that he has been on television in Japan on numerous occasions as a ramen expert.  Anyway, it was through his blog that I found another ramen street in Tachikawa, on the west side of Tokyo.  It is called New York Ramen Square (their website is in Japanese but you can get a rough translation if you use Google Chrome).  One Monday recently I decided to head out west to Tachikawa to check it out.

It is pretty easy to find.  Leave Tachikawa station through the south exit and head across the walkway.

You want to go to the Arearea 2 building,

so walk past the Softbank shop and keep going for a little until you see the sign that says "Ramen Square" in both Japanese and English.

Go inside

and up the escalators and you have arrived.

Basically NY Ramen Square is home to 7 different ramen shops.  A lot of the information is only in Japanese, but there are plenty of pictures if you can't read Japanese.

This one has a chicken, beef and seafood base soup.

The soup of this one is a combination of soy sauce, fish and chicken going by what I can see on the Ramen Square's website (haven't got a photo of the shop as it came out very blurry).

Menshiro has a pork and chicken base.

Gokujoe has ramen that has a tonkotsu (or pork soup) base and that char shu (or braised pork) on top looks amazing!

This next one, called Kizuna has a seafood base.

A nice Sapporo style Miso ramen

And finally Mantougyo which has a tonkotsu base.

After walking around for about 15 minutes not knowing which one to choose, I finally decided to go with Mantougyo, however I chose a miso ramen that they did using the tonkotsu base.

I went inside, handed over my tickets and waited for my deliciousness to arrive.

Before too long and with a cheerful "omatase shimashita" ("sorry to have kept you waiting") it had arrived!

The ramen soup was so thick it wasn't really a soup, it was more like a gravy sauce!  

And it was good!!

So, if you live or work on the west side of Tokyo near Tachikawa, or even if you just love ramen and live or are staying anywhere in Tokyo, I highly recommend a visit to New York Ramen Square in Tachikawa!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.  As always. feel free to leave a comment or share the blog if you know someone who might like it!

See you next time.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

In the shadow of Tokyo Skytree - Kira-Kira Tachibana Shotengai (Shopping street)

Tokyo Skytree is known around the world now.  It opened in 2012 and is the world's second highest structure (I use the word structure here rather than building because it is not technically a building) standing at 634m high.  It dominates the Tokyo skyline and is visible most of the way around the city, especially in the famous Asakusa area.

Today I was going to explore somewhere near Skytree.  I did, however stop at Oshiage station on the Asakusa line to take a photo of it!

I have never been to Skytree before and thus have never been up to the top and I am in no hurry to.  I feel that the price of a ticket (just over 2,000 yen) is not worth the view that you will get (especially on a wet and cloudy day like today was!) so I will continue waiting and hope that the ticket price drops to nearer 1,500 yen.  That might make me change my mind.

After taking that photo, I proceeded straight back underground to the subway and made my way one station further to Keisei Hikifune station on the Keisei line (it looks like the Asakusa line continues on from Oshiage and becomes the Keisei line).  Today was going to be another example of the contrast between new, modern Japan and old traditional Japan that I like so much.  My destination today was Kira-Kira Tachibana shopping street.  It is a small neighbourhood shopping street similar to those at Togoshi Ginza and Yanaka Ginza.  The thing that I love about these old shopping streets is that they lie right next to the modern concrete jungle that most people know Tokyo as.  I literally stumble across Kira-Kira Tachibana shotengai a couple of days ago on the internet and decided straight away that i had to go there!

Coming out of Keisei Hikifune station I started heading towards the area (it's pretty easy to find with google maps and only about 5-7 minutes walk from the station).

This side of Tokyo is well known for its Shitamachi or old town areas and Hikifune was no different.

Love this contrast!!

As I was walking along, I had two people stop dead when they saw me and just stood there with a bewildered and confused look on their faces as I walked by.  I could just imagine them thinking "Are you lost?  Tokyo Skytree is that way.)  I guess even though it's so close to Skytree this part of town doesn't get many tourists!

Pretty soon I arrived at the shopping street.

I continued along the street as mothers walked past me taking advantage of the break in the rain to do some shopping and kids ran playfully past on their way home from school.

Most of the shop owners were older people, maybe in their 60's, 70's and 80's or more and I got the feeling that they had owned these shops their entire working lives.  It made me wonder what will happen to the area when these people inevitably start dying.  Who will take over these shops or will they fade away to be replaced by completely different shops?

Walking along I passed a wide variety of shops and restaurants.

A takoyaki (battered balls of octopus pieces) place which also offered a variety of other food.

A clothing shop.


Lots of interesting food!

Fruit and vegetables,

Gyoza, cooked or raw to take home and cook.

There were a lot of these pre-cooked meal places with food cooked ready to take home, re-heat and eat, much better than the frozen dinners you get in a supermarket.  These shops are everywhere, especially with the Japanese workforce working as long as they do.  The last thing a worker who lives alone wants to do when they come home after a 12 hour day is to cook!

A cafe of some sort.  As with a lot of these shops, there was food on tables outside for passers-by to buy without having to come into the shop.  Some places had a "take away" window specifically for this.


A tofu maker.


Castella sponge cake shop which had had a lot of famous people shop here in the past judging by the number of photos and signed cards.

A hanko shop.  A hanko is a name stamp that is used in Japan instead of a signature.  It is used for any official document and usually has a person's surname on it.

Finally, a household goods shop.

At the end of the street 

was the local shrine, the Tamaru Inari Shrine.

There were a few places that I had passed that I wanted to go back to (each of them were food shops) and the first one was one that did Oden (not to be confused with Odin, the Norse God of war and destruction.....).  Oden is a variety of foods such as egg, vegetables, tofu and fish cake (the list is quite long) stewed in a light soy sauce broth.  It is an amazing winter comfort food!  I should note here that at each shop I stopped at I asked the staff if it was okay to take pictures and all of them said yes with a smile!  Very friendly!

I ordered some in a bowl to enjoy and the owner happily dished some up for me.  Gyoza, wiener and dumpling all wrapped in a kind of dough with a scrape of hot mustard on the side!  Amazing in it's simplicity, surprising in it's complexity of taste.

After I finishing I thanked the lovely lady in the shop for the food and she asked me for my rubbish (the bowl and chopsticks) and I told her that I had put them in my bag.  No, she insisted that I give my rubbish to her so she could dispose of it for me.  As I was getting it out of my backpack she asked me where I am from.  I told here that I am Australian but that I live in Japan.  She asked me where I live and after I told her (it is about 55 minutes by train from where I live) she asked why I had come all the way across Tokyo to Hikifune.  I explained that I enjoyed exploring Tokyo and that I wrote a blog about different places in Japan.  She mentioned that they sometimes have a morning market on a Sunday.  I looked into it and it is on the fourth Sunday of every month (the second Sunday in December) and goes from 6am to 9am.  At least that is the information I have been able to find.

The next place I went to sold a lot of dishes using chicken.  Chicken skin gyoza (everything tastes better wrapped in chicken skin right?), fried chicken, chicken wings, chicken guts and a variety of other dishes.  The young guy working here looked at me nervously probably worried that I might start speaking English to him but a wave of relief swept over his face when I started speaking Japanese and he served me enthusiastically!

The final place I stopped at was another chicken place.  They did yakitori, fried chicken, chicken wings, fried potato and a lot of other things.  As the lady was preparing my order she started asking me a few questions in Japanese like where I was from and so on.  They also couldn't believe that I had come from the other side of Tokyo to go shopping here.  Their daughter (who spoke quite good English) came out and had a chat with me.  I left with a smile on my face, a smile on their faces and smiles on the faces of the other customers who had patiently waited for me to finish.

By this time it had started to get dark and the rain had started up again so I walked back to the station to make my way home.  After arriving home, I straight away heated up some of the food I had bought.

Delicious, especially the chicken skin gyoza!!

What a day it was.  Trust me, if you go to Tokyo Skytree, either before or after you have finished there, jump back on the train and go one more stop to Keisei Hikifune and make your way to Kira-Kira Tachibana Shotengai.  Walk along the street, take a look at the different shops, experience old style, homely, genuine customer service and grab a few items of food to take back home or to your hotel.  Trust me, the contrast between Tokyo Skytree and Kira-Kira Tachibana Shotengai, hidden in the shadows of Skytree will leave you with a smile on your face and with a unique Tokyo experience unlike you can get at many other places.

Thanks again for reading.  I had a break for a few weeks as work got pretty busy and it is cold and flu season here in Japan and I came down with both of them.  All is good now.  I hope you enjoyed taking a look at another little known area of Tokyo.  Feel free to leave a message or share the blog if you enjoyed it.  See you next time.