Urban trail around Nippori Tokyo

It’s one of highlights of travels when you walk through trails which are conditioned well in nature or in a country side. However, in Japan, a railway company, Japan Railway East provides events named “hiking from stations” on which we can enjoy exciting urban trails in Tokyo. And this weekend they provided the trail from Nippori station close to our house. Now let’s walk through the trail together!

After we left Nippori station, we headed to the east to Nippori Fabric Town. For those who like sawing, Nippori is well known as a center of small fabric retailers.

Then we went down to the south through Yanaka cemetery and several temples up to Ueno park. Ueno park is a huge park where there are several museum and a zoo. But one of these museums, National Museum of Western Art, attracted big public attention last year since it was registered to UNESCO World Heritage, as one of masterpieces build by a French architect, Le Corbusier.

We turned to the west for a while and came to Shinobazu Pond. The area including Ueno park and this Shinobazu Pond was parts of Kanei-ji temple ‘s land in Edo era from the 17th to mid 19th century. When Edo Shogunate started at the beginning of the 17th century, they tried to build a center of Buddhism corresponding to Enryaku-ji temple and Biwa-Lake in the Western Japan. Now in the 21st century well grown lotus leaves shows the beauty of Buddhism culture.

When we came west up to the corner of Tokyo University, we turned to the north and walked along the wall of the university. In 10 to 15 minutes we arrived at Nezu shrine. As I introduced in this blog in the past, Nezu shrine is famous for azalea flower in bloom in April.

When we walked to the northeast for a while, it’s almost the end of the trail. But we had another amusement before the end. On Yanaka shopping street you can enjoy a variety of sweets which cure your fatigue after the walk.

How was the trail? It’s about 11km and 3 hour walk by walking slowly while enjoying the places on the way.

If you come to Shitamachi, traditional area in Tokyo, please don’t take taxi all the time from one place to another. But please take a walk some time to know how places are connected to each other.

Sugiura, Japanese French restaurant in Yanaka

In Nippori Tokyo, where we live, there are a lot of cheap restaurants for the ordinary people living here. However, in Yanaka, located in five minute walk from Nippori, there is a French restaurant, Sugiura, named from the family name of the owner chef. Even though it’s a real French restaurant, they serve French menus arranged for the ordinary people in Japan.

The restaurant is located in the quiet residential area in Yanaka.

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It’s a small restaurant. The first floor is the chef’s kitchen, and there are a few tables for customers on the 2nd floor where they have simple interior furnishings.

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Even though it’s a French restaurant, they prepare not only folks and knives but also chopsticks as a part of tableware. In this area there are not few people who are not familiar with French table manner and thus reluctant to dining at French restaurant, but their approach makes French more approachable for them.

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Not only chopsticks but they cook foods familiar for Japanese in French way of cooking. Now let me introduce the full course of chef’s selection!

First of all, amuse-bouche including mini tomatoes covered with candy.

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Soup with Jerusalem artichokes and lentil.

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As a cold appetizer, sea urchin with crab, carrot mousse, consomme jelly and tomato puree. For the ordinary Japanese people, sea urchin is one of typical fancy foods.

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As a hot appetizer, sauteed abalone. Abalone is another typical fancy food for the ordinary Japanese food.

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As a main fish menu, grilled flounder.

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As a main meat menu, steak of Hitachi beef. Hitachi beef is high graded beef produced in Ibaragi prefecture, north of Tokyo.

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Lastly as a dessert, fromage bran with kiwi ice cream.

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How did you feel? Did it expand your image of French?

Furthermore, the price of the full course is only 9,000 JPY. In Tokyo there are a lot of fancy French restaurants which even got 3 stars by Michelin guide. However, Sugiura is the special French restaurant which serve very approachable French for the ordinary Japanese people.

Below is their website(sorry in Japanese only).

http://www.yanaka-sugiura.jp/

Restaurant serving a set of sushi and pasta

In Nippori Tokyo, where we live, it’s not a single case that we find a strange restaurant. This time we found a restaurant which serves a set of a typical Japanese menu and a typical Italian menu, sushi and pasta. Do you think this collaboration would create a synergy?

East to Nippori station, there is an area called Nippori fabric town where there are many shops of cloth and dress material for those who want to make clothes by themselves.

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In this area compared to the number of ¬†cloth shops there are only a few restaurants to supply energy during shopping. But today we found a strange signboard. It said in Japanese “sushi and pasta” with bigger characters than a name of the restaurant.

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We went upstairs to the entrance of  the restaurant. In the first glance it looked like a small sushi restaurant with a sushi counter.

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But when we saw the menu, in fact it said a variety of sets of sushi and pasta. Even though we couldn’t imagine yet how they collaborate, we ordered a set of chef’s sushi selection and spaghetti Neapolitan.

In a few minutes they served spaghetti Neapolitan at first with green tea.

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Spaghetti Neapolitan is a menu of spaghetti which has been popular in Japan in a long time. Many Japanese people believe spaghetti Neapolitan is a kind of spaghetti made in Napoli, Italy. However, this spaghetti with ketchup source, sausage, onion and pimento is made in Japan only as one of typical images of the western food.

Then in another few minutes they indeed served chef’s sushi selection.

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Kinds of sushi the chef selected were normal, not special to collaborate with pasta. So we wonder how two menus influence each other.

In conclusion, there were no synergy, nor marriage between two menus. Each taste of two menus were quite normal. I guess that this restaurant was originally a sushi restaurant, but they started serving pasta with sushi in order to attract women who come the area to buy cloths and want to eat the western food for lunch than Japanese food like sushi.

We believe there are many other strange restaurants here in the northern part of Tokyo…

Tagitsu-ya, teppan-yaki in Nippori Japan

The word “Teppan-yaki” is becoming common worldwide. That’s the style of Japanese cuisine to use an iron griddle to cook food. But in Japan the food cooked in the griddle is not only meat but also Japanese savory pancake such as Okonomi-yaki. And Tagitsu-ya is a popular restaurant of teppan-yaki in Nippori Japan.

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Okonomi-yaki, Japanese savory pancake includes the word “Okonomi” which means as you like in Japanese so you can add a variety of ingredients as you like. For example, the Okonomi-yaki below is the most poplular menu “Buta-tama” which includes pork, egg and cabbage.

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In the eastern area of Japan it’s normal that customers cook Okonomi-yaki on their griddle by themselves while in the western area of Japan chefs normally cook and serve to customer’s tables. But rarely in Tokyo at this restaurant the chefs cook Okonomi-yaki for us, because they want the customers to enjoy the best of their menu.

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Also they have Negi-yaki, another type of savory pancake. While Okonomi-yaki includes cabbage, Negi-yaki includes a lot of green onion. That’s why it looks more green than Okonomi-yaki. The Negi-yaki below includes beef sinew on the top.

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In Japan Okonomi-yaki is a cheap food for ordinary people. Thus in each area of Japan they developed different styles of Okonomi-yaki. And the other types of Teppan-yaki have a variety as well.

When you visit Japan, please enjoy several Teppan-yaki restaurants to check the difference of each type of Teppan-yaki.

Noodle restaurant at a cake shop’s backdoor in Nippori Tokyo

In Nippori, area of Tokyo Japan we live, there is a street called Nippori Fabric Street where there are many small fabric shops along the street.

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And around the end of the street there is a small cake shop called Sablon. It looks quite normal as long as we see from the frond side. The word “Feinbackerei” in the signboard indicates that the chef might have had training of cake making in Germany.

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However, when you move to the backside of the shop, your impression has totally changed. It’s not so obvious if we can enter into the shop from this side as well. But several people are waiting and there is a simple signboard saying “dip noodle”! Wait, isn’t it the backdoor of a cake shop?

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It’s a noodle restaurant indeed. After waiting about 30 minutes we can enter into a tiny restaurant with only 4 seats. And they have a single noodle menu, Tsuke-men (dip noodle). Only one chef is working hard for both the cake shop and this noodle restaurant. He called the noodle restaurant “Ura-Sablron”. Ura in Japanese means backside or secret.

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According to an explanation on the wall, when he was young, the chef was a big fan of Taisho-ken in Ikebukuro Tokyo, which is the legendary dip noodle restaurant well known to have created the current style of dip noodle in Japan for the first time. And even after he got training of cake making and started his own cake shop, he couldn’t forget his passion to the dip noodle of Taisho-ken. Finally he decided to start a dip noodle restaurant while keeping his cake shop at the same time.

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By the way, I myself was a fan of dip noodle of Taisho-ken. And the dip noodle here has an authentic great taste. I believe it’s the best dip noodle in this area.

Meanwhile it seems that the chef cannot help serving his original specialty, cake. So with additional price he also serves his original dessert after dip noodle.

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The dessert is also delicious but quite ordinary compared to the special dip noodle. Seeing no guest in the front side as cake shop, we are afraid how long the chef can continue this double work…

Sablon (and Ura-Sablon)

5-12 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan 116-0014