Wednesday 30 September 2020

2020 Shimokitazawa curry festival ( 下北沢カレーフェス)

 Hi again!  I'm back!  Now, if you are regular readers of this blog you will know that I no longer live in Japan.  I moved back to Australia last year.  Since then, I have been wondering what to do with this blog.  At first, I thought I would just continue it but write about places and events in Melbourne, where I live now.  Covid-19 stopped that from happening (as it has stopped many things from happening....).  Some of you may know that Melbourne is the most locked-down city in the world.  We even had a curfew that ran from 8pm to 5am and travel was absolutely banned, so continuing to write about places here was not an option.

I recently realised that one of my favourite events in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo was coming soon, very, very soon!  I thought to myself, why not continue to write about Japan from afar?  I still love Japan very much and it is a place that is dear to my heart. This could now become an event blog, notifying people of when different events or festivals that I have been to or know about are coming up.  One of the most frustrating things for me (and maybe you too), writing the blog in the past, was that I was always writing about events that had already finished.  Now I can write about them as they are approaching so that you can attend now rather than having to wait a year for them to come around again!

So, what is the event that is coming up?  Well the title of this post probably gave it away.... That's right, the annual Shimokitazawa curry festival!!  Now, I have written about this event before (you can find posts about the 2018 edition here and here and in 2015, where I ate my way through 10 curries in 10 days, here.) as it is a great example of how Japanese people celebrate food.

This year's curry fes runs from the 1st to the 18th of October and you can find the official website here. The website is in Japanese only but if you are using google chrome you should be able to translate it into English (remembering that Japanese is a language that doesn't translate directly very accurately, but you will get the idea).  Traditionally with the curry festival, you went to the individual café / restaurant / bar etc that are making their own unique curry dish, which is also the case this year too.  However, this year they will also have a designated outdoor eating and drinking space where you can eat your take-out curries!

So, the deal is, when you arrive at Shimokitazawa, head out of the station and you will be able to pick up a map listing all of the participating places and where they are located in Shimokitazawa.  The map is in Japanese only so if you cannot read Japanese or don't have a Japanese friend accompanying you, you will need to do your homework first on the website which for me, was almost as much fun as actually eating all of the curries!!  They also run a stamp rally during the festival in which you can win different prizes based on how many places you eat at.

How many different curries are there?  I'm happy you asked!  This year there are 114 different cafés / restaurants / bars participating!  That's right, 114!  I know!!  How are you going to choose!!  That's why it is so much fun planning it all.

Here are a few of the dishes that I have tried in years past.

This one from my good friend's bar, Bar Loaded (also participating this year).

46ma shiro kuma café (cannot see them listed for this year).

This one is from the great little craft beer bar Ushitora (they are also participating this year with the same curry).

This next one was from a cool old school rock bar that is no longer open, Back Page.

Next up, an offering from Publion (still open, but don't appear to be participating this year.  Good bar for imported beers and football / soccer).

A unique offering from the now closed Ms Claudia.

This next place is also, unfortunately closed, Matsu to Eda.

Another unique one from &Roll café (still open but appear not to be participating this year).

This next one was a nice, healthy one from Café Lancul (still open but not participating this year).

Another of the craft beer bars in Shimokitazawa, Kazenori Merry.  They are also participating this year but with a different dish.

Next, a dish from the hamburg restaurant Torokeru Otona no Hamburg (which is participating this year with the same dish).

Finally, a beautiful curry from Mikazuki curry Samurai.  They are also participating again this year but the curry that I tried and photographed was from their regular menu rather than their curry fes special.

That is the unique thing about each of the dishes on offer at the curry fes.  They are all unique dishes for the curry festival.  You cannot eat these from the participating places at any other time during the year.  If you want tasting notes on all of the above curries, you will have to check out the links at the top of this post.

Now, looking at this year's offerings, I am especially interested in Bar Loaded's chicken nanban curry (again. Number 1 on the map. It just tastes so good! The curry itself is cooked for 6 hours!), Shimokitazawa Bar Seven's chicken curry (number 17 on the map), the mapo curry from Isshin (number 53 on the map.  This one I always wanted to try but never did), the beef and keema curry medley from Curry and curry bread shop Tenmaya (number 74 on the map.  I love keema curries!) and, finally, the Sri Lankan curry on offer from the ageless Okinawan bar, Never Never Land (number 21 on the map).

So, please go along and enjoy the curry festival.  I am sure that all of the businesses participating will be happy to have you there.  As with a lot of businesses, I am sure that they have had a difficult time with the coronavirus.  If you go to Bar Loaded, tell Kazu (my friend and the bar owner) that Jason says Hi.  Also, if you go, please leave a message below telling me where you went and how the curry tasted!

Thanks for reading and see you next time!