Saturday 26 September 2015

Utsunomiya gyoza - Utsunomiya and Nikko Part 1

A lot of people ask me where I find the places that I go to for my blog.  I get a lot of recommendations from people.  I also just do a lot of research on the net to find places.  I do a keyword search, or just go to Youtube and search through videos.  It was on Youtube that I discovered one very interesting place that I decided had to be visited.

Utsunomiya is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from Shinjuku in central Tokyo (less if you want to take the bullet train).  It is near Nikko which has it's world heritage Temples and Shrines and is a beautiful place to visit for it's autumn leaves.  Utsunomiya is famous for it's gyoza, or pan fried dumplings.  In fact, there are more than 200 gyoza restaurants in the city and gyoza is the main reason people visit Utsunomiya........or it used to be........

Trawling through some videos on youtube one day, I stumbled upon a video someone had made of their visit to an izakaya in Utusnomiya.  Now this was no ordinary izakaya.  Here, your drinks were brought to your tables by monkeys......., yes, MONKEYS!!  Now, because the owners have so many monkeys (about 6 I think) the monkeys no longer bring you drinks.  Imagine 6 monkeys all running around with beer and sake, that would be mayhem!  Now, after everyone has finished eating, the owners bring out the monkeys and you can play with them and have photos taken with them.  I had told one of my friends, Jarrett about the izakaya and to say that he was interested in joining me on the trip would be an understatement.  So Jarrett, his wife Scout and myself made our way north to Utsunomiya.

From Shinjuku the train ticket is 1,940 yen, but for an extra 780 yen, you can upgrade to the green car, and instead of regular train bench style seats, you can travel in style and have your own seat.

As you can see, I decided to splash out.

A couple of extended blinks later I arrived at Utsunomiya, met up with Jarrett and Scout and started making our way over to the hotel.  On our way, we bumped into Godzilla and friends who were standing guard outside a few gyoza restaurants.

We had booked rooms at the Hotel My Stays which is 3 gyoza throws (1 if you are a baseball player) or 100m from the station.  At 8,700 yen for one night, and considering the location, it is quite reasonable.  The rooms were your standard business hotel room, small but enough for my purposes.  I wasn't here to spend my time in a hotel room!  I was here for gyoza and MONKEYS!  

We wandered around the city for a little, killing time and walked past a few interesting signs.

I was intrigued by the golf place, but decided not to check it out.  I was pretty sure Scout would probably not have been interested.

We eventually found ourselves back near the station and decided to have some gyoza at one of the places nearby.  We chose one called Min Min.  

Now for all of my Aussie friends, there was nothing spooky about this place.  For everyone else who doesn't understand, have a read of the wikipedia entry on min min lights here.

Min Min was clearly popular as there was a small line-up when we arrived that pretty soon got longer and more and more people had to wait in the rain.

Our number was finally called and we went in and ordered the three kinds of gyoza they had.

Boiled gyoza,

regular pan fried gyoza

and deep fried gyoza.

My favourites were probably the boiled and the regular, but they were all good.

In all of the gyoza excitement, Jarrett and Scout had forgotten about the Monkey izakaya and needed a reminder that we had to get back to the hotel and get ready for some monkey madness.

I'm going to finish this post here and get this posted.  I think I will split this trip into 3 posts so as to not make the posts too long.  Thanks for reading this one, I hope you enjoyed it.  Bookmark this blog or put in your email address on the right side of the page to get a notification when I put up each post.  Leave a message below and let me know what you think.  Until next time, take care.

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