Tag Archives: Gastronomic Cycling

Gastronomic Cycling in Shizuoka: 8-Takajo Story 1

Picture of Falcon/Taka at Inari Shinto Shrine

Takajo is one of the oldest traditional quarters/precincts (in Japanese 町. Pronouce “machi” or “chyo”) in Shizuoka City.
It already existed more than 500 years ago when our city had a different name, Sumpu, and the Shogun Tokugawa Ieayasu came here to retire from politics.
The city and its depedencies were then divided into precise “machi”, each defined by the craft or profession of its inhabitants.
Takajo/鷹匠, meaning falconry was initially occupied by falcon breeders and their families. Falconry was a favourite past time of the nobility and a statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu with a falcon standing on his wrist is a celebrated sight in town. Accordingly the falconry guild wielded a lot of power in the daily affairs of the city.
Whether it stretched then as far as it presently does is difficult to verify, but the main shinto shrine, Inari Jinja, clearly indicates it lay near Sumpu Castle acroos from the precinct called Sumpu-Jo, the political centre of the City in Edo Era.

The Inarai Shinto Shrine in Takajo 1 Cho-me.

Although the name of Takajo had existed as the name of a village for more than 500 years, it got official recognition as the name of a distinct village only in 1876 and was finally incorporated into Shizuoka City, which has changed its name from Sumpu, in 1890 with three subdivions, or cho/丁 (or called cho-me/丁目 when counted).
In 1945 a part of the third “cho” was incorporated in neighbouring Tenma-Cho, and again in 1966 some areas of Takajo became part of Sumpu-Jo district.

Inari Shinto Shrine/稲荷神社 is probably the oldest living site (although it has been rebuilt numerous times) as it was erected in 1631. It was officially recognized as the Shinto Shrine of Takajo first “cho” in 1879 by the Meiji Emperor Govenment.
For all these years I have lived and worked almost across the road, I haven’t heard yet of an ofiicial shrine for the second and third “cho”.

As Shizuoka City was in great part destroyed during WWII, Takajo grew again in a somewhat haphazard manner in spite of its straight narrow streets.
For long it was a fairly drab residential area with dark alleys at night, although it never bore a notorious reputation.

If you look around, that is along the “back streets”, you still can find old tradional Japanese houses!

Until the 1980’s questions and queries about that particular area did not raise as mauch as an eyebrow, but with the end of the bubble economy, this quiet and almost comatose part of the city suddenly became the focus of many a shop owner’s attention, be they restaurants, bars, fashion shops, antique shops or cake shops to the point that Takajo was soon dubbed as the “Daikanyama” of Shizuoka City in imitation of the fashionable district in Tokyo.

Pupan, a high quality but expensive cake shop/bakery.

The area has now become so replete with “small” businesses that is has become a destination ofits own worth for shoppers and revellers at any times of the day and night.
One would sorely be tried to describe the whole district in a pre-ordained manner unless one would be pedantic enough to grid it into a meaningless pattern. It is simply a maze (I was going to say an amazing labyrinth) and one had better follow his/her instinct when exploring it!

Look out for some beautiful noren/暖簾 or shop entrance curtains, especially old homes reclaimed as restaurants!

The best ay to vist the whole place at leisure is naturally my good bicycle which allows me to rapidly reach a certain spot where I will leave it (don’t worry, nobody is going to steal it!) before I can espy places of interest and steal a picture or two:

Inari Shinto Shrine entrance as seen from the shrine front yard.

This very old shop sells “Abekawa Mochi”, a traditional wagashi/Japanese cake made in this city for than 400 years!

Another noren/暖簾, shop entrance curtain!

This place sells succulent soft ice creams made with matcha tea and kinako!

Do you remember the pasta at this Italian Restaurant?

And the Foie gras at this French restaurant?

Alright, I’ll start introducing (re-introducing)them all with other sights from the next posting!LOL
It promises to be loooonnnngggg series!

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Gastronomic Cycling in Shizuoka (7)

I did follow the Koya-Machi street in a previous posting.
The problem is that in Japan cities are not clearly divided into streets or districts. Very often names were given to main streets (only main for that matter) only recently as an indication of the main thoroughfar going through a district of the same name.
Acoordingly I had to cycle around and away from the same Koya-Machi street to give a good indication of the area.

In daytime, the entry to the other street belonging to Koyama-machi has nothing particular about it, but keep an eye open even in daytime (whereas at night, you will need both!LOL).

Gyudon/bowl of rice topped with shredded beef is making for brisk business, especially at lunch time for restricted budgets. As for the taste, I wonder….

Now, this is THE important spot: the oldest wasabi store in the world: Tamaruya since the middle of the 17th Century!

Just in front is the local shrine.

A place you must visit on the second Sunday every month as a big flea-market is staged there!

Beware the guardian lion!

Kani-Tei is the only restaurant in town specializing in crab although it has a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant annex just next door.

In daytime, the crab is moving its legs!

But at night it will stay quescient, unless struck by an earthquake!

Check the plastic displays!

Pity it’s all plastic!

Next door they serve Oma Honmaguro/Blue Fin Tuna from Aomori Prefecture!

Check their susuhi displays!

Sushi set displays!

Next door is an invitation to hell. At least you will know how to read it in Japanese. Not bad as an art pic, though!

Toraya, the oldest bag store in town. Ladies should definitely pay it a visit!

Parco, which took over the defunct Seibu Store.
Not a bad place as far as department stores come.

It does have a great merit, though, at it includes an all-organic food stand in the basement run by Mr. Matsuki of Bio Farm in Fujinomiys City!

Organic vegetables grown by the same!

Great organic bentoes!

Parco’s pizza restaurant used to serve good enough pizzas. That is, until the Italian chain owner went back to Tokyo to open more diners….

Parco has its own restaurants to compete with the cheap shops in the area.

If you stretch your neck, you will discover izakayas at all levels. “Ikkyu” means “Take a little rest”!

All nationalities seem to have their massage parlour. This one is Chinese…

Judging from the rates, it seems good business!

The area is replete with relatively cheap izakayas. I can’t say anything about their food, but they make for good pics!

A Cafe bringing up memories of the past….

Some fashion clothes store are definitely worth a pause!

Great spot for taxi-drivers to take a rest!

Not many signboards, but you still find them!

At first sight, this new ramen restaurant look much like those everywhere in the country.

The originality resides in the fact they show their menu through a hi-tec computer display screen!

The only place harbouring the Basque flag. A Tapas restaurant, naturally! Sorry for the fuzzy pic, but not that easy to take on a windy night!LOL

A cheap yakitori.

Nakajimaya Hotel, one of the better hotels in town. Its particular location makes very practucal for night owls!

The interesting thing about this cheap izakaya is the old sign board advertizing insectiside! Ought to be clean inside!

Cheap and garish diner.

Now, what do they mean by “Paris care”? Notwithstanding the mistakes!

Cheap chain izakaya do make for good pics, though…

This place has just closed. They must not have had enough of them…

One more reason for me to avoid the place…

Don’t be fooled by that sign!
They only mean that you can drink all the wine you want for a determined time and price!

Wedding companies are BIG business in Japan!

Couldn’t find the entrance of that bar…serious!

That shop exclusively sells junk sweets!

As for this one, it sells only socks!

Interesting shoes…

This shop specializesin “kamaboko”.

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) is a type of cured surimi, a Japanese processed seafood product, in which various white fish are pureed, combined with additives such as MSG, formed into distinctive loaves, and then steamed until fully cooked and firm.

I was about to finish with this fruit parlour,

but I noticed the sign of that “convenience stire. “Cosme” stands for “cosmetics”…

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Gastronomic Cycling in Shizuoka (6)

As promised in the last article, I would like to introduce a paallel street to Aoba Koen/Green Leaves Park Street. It is called Genan Street and is actually the real “Shizuoka by night” street where you will discover some of the oldest restaurants in town.
Actually it makes for one of the three main parallel streets at the heart of what I call the “Gastronomic Grid” of Shizuoka City, at least the original one as it was known just after WWII. Now, restaurants of repute are found in all corners of the city.
Next time I will cycle across those three arteries to cover the whole “grid”!

The street itself is nothing much in daytime although it pays to cycle a few times along:

Hairdressers and beauty salons’ boards are always a great source of funny English. “Brow” actually means “Blow”, “Perm” means Premanent” and “S.Perm” (Holy Macaroni!) means “Special Permanent”!

The street starts with the ubiquitous “chain company cafes”,

another one,

“chain company restaurants” usually the “all you can eat and drink” genre,

another one,

and another one again, but I’m afraid their value solely resides in photography!

Still more of them!

There are other shops such as Takarado, the oldest jewelry store in town.

Now, people from all over Japan come to this restaurant!
Gentil is the oldest French restaurant in town and probably in the Prefecture.
They serve the best cheese tray in the Prefecture!

Keiko Kubota, the “chief” of the establishment is the sole Japanese individual holding the title of Grand Chevalier Taste Fromage and chose and served all the cheese at the G8 meeting in Hokkaido!

You also have to be on the lookout as all kind of new places are opening for all those that disappear too quickly. Mando will open on March 1st.

That particular sign for the same establishment is only for pre-opening parties!

You do have to keep your eyes open for those narrow alleys hiding some beauties. Always look around for those small red lamps!

Some shops have quaint names: “Undefeated” for a sport and shoes store?

Shops for everybosy and every priority: Herb Boutique!

The oldest Curry restaurant (Japanese-style curry) in Shizuoka City (sorry for the fuzzy pic!)!

Rouge et Piquant is a rarity as far as cafes and cake shops go! Open from 14:00 to 24:00.

rouge-09-1

Certainly the best cake and coffee offering at this time of the night!
All non-smoking as a bonus!

The Chinese are slowly and steadily coming: Shikinjo/Forbidden City. The owners and staff are all from Beijing. This is their second restaurant. Above average.

Nothing to do with food, but have you heard about Korean Massage? I haven’t!

Taking of Korea, Juju isthe oldest Korean Restaurant in Shizuoka City. Good stuff there!

As for this Korean Restaurant, only the sign is worth the effort!

Karaoke was supposedly (at least the term) invented in Japan, right?

Another one!

There is no Shinto Shrine in this particular street, but this izakaya might have the right idea!

A novel way to attract customers?

Imposing even from behind.
Must be at 3 metres high. All hollow and palstic-made. Certainly not “Made in China”! I wonder how big the mold was!

I just love these “noren”/Izakaya curtains!
For night owls!

This one too is a beauty!

The beautifull all wood sign for Tomii Restaurant and building.

The same building owned by the same family hosts Tomii Japanese Restaurant onthe first floor, my favourite in Shizuoka Ciy,

and Aquavite, the best Italian restaurant in Shizuoka!

Liquor shops (2) in that particular streets are open until 24:00 whereas other similar shops all close before 21:00 in this city.
The name “Aruco”/アルコ stands for “Alcohol”!

Not many signs in that street, but this one is a beauty for its concept and horror English!
“Deep Eross Virsion Mouse” stands for “Deep Eros/Erotic Vision Mouse”!
Any IT nerd interested?

Fashion boutiques are also open very late!

I told you to keep an eye open for those intriguing narrow alleys, didn’t I?

This particular one holds the Shizuoka Vegan and Vegetarian aradise, namely Yasaitei!

Going back to signs: “Crow Bar”!
Great name for a bar, isn’t it?
I have promised myself to investigate it!

We’ve seen that guy before, haven’t we?

Doppelganger?
Are we supposed to drink twice there?

You still can find a very few old traditional restaurants inthis particular street.

The same place.
Only problem is that it is bleeding epensive and patronized by old rich people! (I’m old, but not rich!LOL)

Another new Japanese Restaurant, saying they serve North-East Chinese Gastronomy. Why do they advertize Taiwan ramen, then?

On the other hand their prices are reasonable. Might have to investigate.

I found this place hidden in the corridor behind the above Chinese restaurant.

It’s called “Yozhik” in Russian, meaning “Hedgehog”!
I must say I was quite iuntrigued.
It is a beautiful little shop/cafe full of hedgehogs!
I decided to keep that one for a single posting!LOL

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Gastronomic Cycling in Shizuoka (5)

It’s never been so cold in Shizuoka City, the mildest area in Japan after Okinawa, and although we don’t have snow in our city it is chilly and windy. But cycling around is certainly a great way to get warmer!

The Aoba and its prolongation the Tokiwa Park streets start from behind the Shizuoka City Hall, rebuilt after the Mayor of time, a sister idot called (I will have a few words against our mayors in this article! Soory!) Ogino decided he would build a city hall higher, even by a single metre that the Prefectural Hall standing across the street. True!

They’re everywhere, ain’t they? (like the spammers?)

Aoba Koen means Green Leaves Park. That is until another beauty of an idiot Mayor called Shingo Amano was long enough in office before a finacial scandal forced him into early retirement had all the trees uprooted and the whole park redesigned as a concrete walking area!

Nonetheless, Shizuoka People took it in their stride and made do with what was left and trued to add a touch of olour. This very popular cake shop (has branches in Tokyo and Kyoto, although it from Shizuoka City) is called “Qu’il Fait Bon!” (should have been called “Que c’est Bon!”….)

The entrance of LOFT, probably the best odds and ends shop in town.

Just loved this izakaya sign, Daikon!

Is thi fish edible? I can imagine what the French would use it for on the First of April!

Happy New Hair!

Sumarutei, one of the most conspicuous standing noodles counter shop.

Sushi Ko, my favourite Sushi Restaurant!

The greatest vegan sushi in the Prefecture!

Not a church, but a beauty salon!

Aka Kara/Red Hot! Cheap and hard on your ulcers?

Encounter of the third kind?

Pets are kings (and queens) in Japan. This shop is cafe where owners and their pets can enjoy a coffee and buy all kinds of gadgets (and clothes!) for thei dogs in particular!

Now, that wasteful idiot of (kickedout) Mayor Shingo Amano had a French (tears…) artist build that contraption which rolls over when full of water.

And how much did that cost the taxpayers?
500,000 US$ (at the time!), and to think it will probably roll away for good when we have THE earthquake we all expect!

Well, we already had a “coyote”!

Aoba Oden Row.
22 minuscule restaurants specializing in oden/Jpaanese pot au feu.
The shops were asked to move all into that alley when new hygiene rules forced them out of the Park!

View inside in daytime.
As for night time it will have to wait as I’m planning a special posting!

As far as it goes that is not too bad as a piece of art….

The local winged food connoisseur!

The local Shinto Shrine.

And its guardian lion.
Beware, or it will make minced meat of you for dinner!

SIESTA Love Hotel!

Day time and night time prices….

Do be careful, it is slippery. The city just does not the money to scrub it!

Hara Donuts! The best donuts in Shizuoka and most probably in Japan!

The healthiest donuts, anyway!

Whereas shinto shrines are open to everyone, why do the big money-spinning temples need to surround themselves with high fences or walls?

An ecological solar battery dolphin illumination objet!

A bit tacky though…

Talking of illuminations, that’s what Aoba park looks like at night. Cheap….

This is not a Love Hotel, but the Aoba Police Box!

A real musical fountain park at the Tokiwa end.

At night.

Lighting and waterworks synchronized until 9:00 p.m.
Not easy to take with a mobile phone.

The real Tokiwa Park is located behind the fountain.

If you go around, get off your bicycle and climb to the top of the Fountain.

You can enjoy the fullview over Tokiwa and Aoba Park Streets.

The Fountain stands in the middle of an amphitheater, a favourit place for lovers (and drunks!)

Good fashion are open late along Aoba Koen!

Just slong the Tokiwa Park and behind the fountain, discover Cia del Borgo, one of the top Italian restaurants in the Prefecture!

Have you ever tried Venison Ragu Tagliatelle?

Or black truffles risotto?

What’s next?
Probably a street parallel to Aoba Park Street!

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Gastronomic Cycling in Shizuoka (4)

Ryogae Cho Street in Shizuoka City where Koya machi meets Edogawa Street, one of the main arteries crossing the city parrallel to the sea.
“Ryogae” means “Money Exchange” and was the hubbub of the city in Feudal Times. The street of the same name. although being comparatively narrow and parallel to a more important thoroughfare is nonetheless one of the main venues for diners and revellers.
It is a very long street, making it impossible to cover in one single article, so let’s proceed slowly!LOL

Like the entrance of any by-night street it looks pretty drab in day time.

Much the same atmosphere even halfwy up.

But it starts lightening up at dusk.

Like in any other revelling streets expect all kinds of giant signboards!
“Woody Cloud” is the name of a large cheap izakaya, not a heavy contrapption hanging over your head!

At night the (chgeap places) neons seem to attract all kinds of people.
Did you know that in Japanese moths if described as night butterflies stand for women working in bars?

Those big sign boards are a bit difficult to investigate at night at leisure.

But in daytime you are in for a filed day!

don’t be afraid of climbing stairs. You will be left in peace in daytime. After all the night butterflies are still sleeping!

I have a special fondness for the meaning of this sign: Tsuki no Oto/The Sound of the Moon!

The same night sushi restaurant ha another larger sign on theopposite wall. Aren’t these rabbits cute?

but some places are open for business at lunch and dinner.
Above is the advertised lunch sets.

At night the same sign is turned around to announce the dinner sets!

The same sushi restaurant advertizes the setsubun festival/the day when the Japanese throw beans to ward off bad spirits. Contrary to what you might think, these two are good spirits!

We are still at the same place, but as I have some reservations about the quality of their food, I will not divulge their name. Actually they are known for having sued a magazine who criticized them.
On the other hand they the best array of sushi plastic models in town!

I would steal these!

And those too!
But I’m not ready to compromise myself yet!LOL

Now, in the next building there are signs definitely needing some explanations!
You will not get shot in this bar! They just mean they sell the drinks by the shot!

Do you speak French? If you do, you are in trouble!

Take your pick!
I don’t really understand what “lavless” stands for, even after so many years in Shizuoka! “loveless”, maybe, but it doesn’t stand to reason…

Now, what kind of shop can call itself “Psyche”?

A flower shop! which stays open very late at night: a ot of flowers are needed for uncountable reasons in such a neighbourhood!

Shidax is the largest single karaoke shop chain company in Japan!
They even own a semi-professional baseball team!

Back to the signs.
I wonder where I left my wallet!

Now, that sign could get you into trouble in some countries!

Don’t they have mountain cats in America?

The back entrance of Loft, a favourite shop of the Missus! They sell all kinds of clothes, stationery and crafts.

Sawamura, a good if small art gallery with exhibitions regularly changing.

A major lottery booth.
It stands at the very corner of Ryogae Street and Aoba/Green Leaves Park Street.
We shall not proceed any further this time but go back slowly for more investigation as dusk is coming on us.

Although the place is a cheap izakaya chain restaurant, the sign gives you a good indication of Japanese food. Left is shabu shabu/Japanese meat fondue, right is nabe/Japanese pot au feu.

What kind of customers patronize this nonetheless well-known night bar?

People drink very late in Shizuoka City!

Don’t complain later!

Part of the street is slowly turning into a mini China Town.
I’d love to try those egg tarts!

Cuthroat prices competition among those Chinese restaurateurs!

The third one within to entrances. Working day and night!
They must be from the same family!

Real cheap!

The dusk is slowly shrouding the street.
Shinchikurin, one of the older izakayas reamaining in the street.

Now as far as I know, this sign hasn’t changed for the last 20 years! C’mon!

Well-known cheap izakaya with a benevolent guardian.

The same guardian keeps a watch on the ridiculously low prices!

Akachoshin/Traditional red lantern (they were a lot smaller not o long ago!) denoting an izakaya!

Shidax Karaoke at night. Cheap! (I don’t mean the prices!)

Still closed at dusk, but I have promised myself to investigate this takoyaki shop!

Cheap store speciliazing in “hostess dress” open till late at night. You never know, you might firnd some interesting garments!

Venturing into a dark side alley would be dodgy at best in many countries. In Shizuoka it would very often end up in discovering a little well-kept secret (gourmet secret!)!

Well, I’m afraid I will have to leave my bicycle somewhere as walking is more practical at night!

Next: Aoba Park Street!

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Gastronomic Cycling in Shizuoka (3)

Eating Veal Kidneys at Pissenlit!

Venturing into side streets might be tantamount to tempting fate in some countries, but in Japan, and particularly in Shizuoka, it is more like opening an intriguing Pandora box!

The side street is called koya Machi and is parallel to the traditional merchant artery called Gofuku-cho.

Japan does not have fire hydrants but fire “holes”. Keep an eye at ground level and you are bound to discover some interesting “manhole covers”!

Koya Machi Street entrance in day time.

Any city in Japan shows two distinctive faces in day time and at night.
The same spot might look drab and even decrepit in the afternoon but come dusk and you enter another world.

Koya Machi entrance at dusk.

Koya Machi Street starts across from Shizuoka JR Station and is only a few hundred metres long (the continuing and busy Ryogae Street is much, much longer) but pack enough for investigation.

At the very beginning on the left side stands Fugetsuro, the abode of the klast Shogun of Japan, Tokugawa Yoshinobu who retired there after the failed Bakufu Revolt.

It has then been transformed into an expensive restaurant-hotel by his descendants. It surrounds the best private Japanese garden in the city, complete with pond, bridge and guest house.

View of the garden from the Ukidono Izakaya.

One of the annexes was transformed seven years ago to accomodate a better-class izakaya, Ukidono, but still cheaper than the unaffordable Fugetsuro Restaurant, a renown, if somewhat old-fashioned, kaiseki restaurant.

Ukidono is worth paying a visit because it has a very extensive list of Shizuoka sake!

Just across the street is Lavigne Wine Shop.

Lavigne seels exclusively French wine you can also savour at the standing pay cash on delivery bar until 10:00 p.m.!

Walking past Lavigne, you will see this small curry restaurant with a somewhat strange name, Kabocha, written as “Kabo Cha/Kabo Tea” instead of the real name, “Kabocha/南瓜/Southern Gourd”.

just a little further up stands the oldest Izakaya (founded in 1922!), Takano!

Notice the real flower arrangement outside!

More real flowers outside!

The entrance at night.

Takano has recently been voted one of the best true izakayas in Japan!
It serves true local food such as sakuraebi kakiage/sakura shrimps tempura.

The present generation speaks fluent English!

The sashimi plate is simply a bargain!

And the Japanese sake is exclusively from Haginishiki Brewery in Shizuoka City!

Go across the street again and you will find Life Time, the other place owned by Fugetsuro.
It is a cafe opening late until night with a selection of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and the jazz concert place in Shizuoka City!

Life Time on a cold winter night.

On the right at the next corner, stands a thin building.
on the second floor you will find an izakaya called Ichi. Never been there but must be very old, because…

the sake, Kikugenji/菊源氏, advertised on their sign was brewed by a brewery called Toyo Shuzo (Izu eninsula), which disappeared more than 10 years ago!

The sign makes clear you have to climb the stairs up to the second floor to Ichi in case you don’t know!

Ichi at night.
The sushi bar on the first floor has not much interest unfortunately.

A litle further up and you notice people busy delivering bottles of sake and beer to this busy and cheap izakaya.

The same place at night.
The name means “Showa Era Hormones”! (hormones are actually animal intestines).

Another ubiquitous “Ramen Shop”.

“Five Bucks Bar” or “Fine Bucks Bar”?

I wonder what customers drink there!

Beware! The larger and the most colourful the poster, the more forgettable food!

back again to the Showa Hormones Izakaya for more investigation!

I found this “notice” pinned on the wall at eye-level in the men’s toilets.
The notice says:
“Genki no nai Otoko ha mamushi sake!”/Viper Sake for people (men) not feeling energetic!”
This is real sake in which a snake was marinated!
The note says above that you should be careful not to drink too much, or you will suffer from nosebleed (Japanese men supposedly go through this predicament when their libido is overstimulated!).
Actually, orders are limited to a single glass. It had better work as it costs a whopping 22 US$!
Last, but not least, as if men needed more incentive, they added a picture of a “well-endowed” man (face not shown!) wearing snake skin pants!

N.B.: A lady friend told me that there was nothing hanging on the wall inside the ladies’ facilities!

More seriously, the place also serves “oden/Japanese pot au feu”. Shizuoka Oden is famous all over Japan!

Behind the place I found this notice.
It says, “Open form 15:00. The earlier you come, the fresher the food!”
Thank you for telling us!

The same place at night. Empty…. I wonder why….

On the first floor of the next building stand this sign introducing no less than 26 watering holes!

Some names are worth a second look!
Oratoire, in French! I wonder what people are visiting this place for!

Lay back maybe?

Back across the street you will find a horror show of a restaurant (?) sign! Interesting grammar notwithstanding…

The sign in question to prove I’m not kidding you!
Now, for the horror show!
Take your time and read slowly!

Aargh!

Tears….

Blast me!

I definitely trust you!

At night….. empty…..

Next: Ryogae Street!

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
Bread + Butter, Comestilblog, Greedy Girl, Bouchon For 2, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Mangantayon, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles, Lexi, Culinary Musings, Eats and Everything, Bite Me New England, Heather Sweet, Warren Bobrow, 5 Star Foodie, Frank Fariello, Oyster Culture, Ramendo, Alchemist Chef, Ochikeron, Mrs. Lavendula, The Gipsy Chef, Spirited Miu Flavor, Wheeling Gourmet, Chef de Plunge, Sushi Nomads, Island Vittles, The French Market Maven, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glas, Palate To Pen, Tokyo Foodcast, Good Beer & Country Boys, Tokyo Terrace, Think Twice, Jefferson’s Table

Please check the new postings at:
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Wasabi: All you need to know!

For all my agnosticism, I sometimes think I am blessed to be born in Dijon, Bourgogne, France and lived in Shizuoka City, the birthplace of Wasabi!

The sign at the entrance of Utogi, the birthplace of wasabi!

Around 1600, farmers in Utougi District, some 33 km from Shizuoka JR Station along the Abe River, first started experimenting with the culture of that particular plant, which they already knew as a wild vegetable used for pickling. At the time they were only processing the stems, leaves and flowers.

Utogi Village

If you want to visit Utogi, where you will find a soba restaurant and other shops as well as the possibility of trekking and festivals watching in April and October, either go by car (55 minutes) or take a bus (Shizuoka JR Station/75 minutes). The trip along the Abe River is worth for its own sake with all the changing landscapes and vistas!
I did it by bicycle, but it took me 5 hours for the return-trip from the city centre and had to push the bicycle along forthe last 3 kilometres. Even a maoutain bike would have made it!

Another view of Utogi

Wasabi Monument in Utogi.

They even have their own “Mon/Arms”!

This is still a very popular kind of pickles in Shizuoka where they are sold in season.
In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Japanese Overlord/Shogun, who had just moved to Sumpu (presently Shizuoka City), grew extremely fond of the grated root and helped spread its use all over the country. Its present culture has expanded outside our Prefecture, especially in Nagano, but Shizuoka still produces not only 80% of the whole crop in Japan, and the best wasabi are grown in Utougi and in the Amagi Range in Izu Peninsula.

This gentleman is the 17th generation of the first wasabi growers in Utogi! Check His homepage (Japanese) where you can order a whole array of products! Look at him in his field on youtube!

Tamaruya stand at Haneda Airport

The first and oldest wasabi shop, Tamaruya, is still very much in business in Shizuoka City and even has a stand in Haneda Airport, Shizuoka City!

Wasabi growing is backbreaking work. You need a constant temperature, so you have to be located at a certain altitude (weel over 1,000 metres in some cases) as extreme heat is not welcome, as well as extrem cold.

Pure, soft, constant water is a must. Shizuoka water is known as the best in Japan as demonstrated by its superlative (and rare) sake.

Fields need constant care during the two years it takes for roots to be mature. You can drink the water in these fields without any fear!

WASABI IN JAPANESE CUISINE

If you want to grate your own wasabi, you will need a grater.
The best (above) are made with shark skin!
Grated wasabi is the most common use for the plant, especially with sushi and sashimi.

Wasabi Flowers.

But the stems, leaves and flowers are extensively used.
The leaves can be eaten raw and are great with miso!

The stems are a delicacy marinated in rice vinegar.

Wasabi zuke/wasabi stems and flowers pickled in sake kasu/sake white lees.
Wasabi zuke in Shizuoka is simply extravagant as the sake breweries sell their best white lees/sake kasu (after the sake has been pressed) to the local farmers and producers!

Soon I will post an interesting home-made recipe for wasabi zuke!

The same leaves, once pickled, can be included inside inari zushi for the pleasure of vegans!

Na no hana/rape flowers boiled and seasoned with wasabi mayonnaise.

Now, you might know it, but thinly sliced wasabi root is not as strong as grated wasabi. In Shizuoka, as it is not that expensive, try and ask your favourite sushi chef to cut it in very thin strips and roll as it is in a “maki”. It’s called “namida maki/tear maki” or “bakudan maki/bomb maki” (the real one, not the buster made with grated wasabi!). A favourite of mine!

FRENCH CUISINE

Wasabi is getting more and more popular in French and other cuisines all over the world.
The above dish was created by Dominique Corby a great French Chef who learned his craft at the Tour d’Argent in Paris, among others, before coming to Japan to look after the kitchen of the Sakura Restaurant in the New Otani Hotel in Osaka and of the 6eme Sens in Tokyo.

His cuisine was created with whole wasabi (1 metre long!) i sent him by cool box from Shizuoka.
These are the best grown in Utogi. Very fat, clean, with no black marks and with enormous stems and leaves. Dominique steame the leaves and stems before serving them with fish seasoned with a wasabi sauce reduction from the roots!

FANCY FOODS

Wasabi Dango!

Wasabi comes into many kinds of fancy food for the pleasure of all, young and old!

Wasabi soft Ice-cream!

DERIVATED PRODUCTS

Wasabi comes into a whole array of derivated products worth exploring:

Wasabi Dressing 1

Wasabi Dressing 2

Wasabi dressing is not that strong and can be used in cold and hot/warm dishes.
The Missus uses it extensively with dtir-fried veetables and meat.

Nori/seaweed and miso seasoned with wasabi is another great vegan seasoning!

Wasabi salt by Tamaruya!

Stewed wasabi by Tamaruya!

Wasabi Shochu!

The only true wasabi shochu is made by Bandai Brewery in Shuzenji, Izu peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture! (don’t be fooled by unscrupulous producers/traders!).

HEALTH FACTS:

-Wasabi is a natural medicinal herb as it contains big amounts of Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin B2 ad C.

-Combined with vinegar, or mustard, or ginger, helps combat fppd poisining, obesity and helps blood flow.

-Combined with Chinese cabbage, or cabbage, or yam, helps combat ulcers and cancer.

-Combine with onion, or leek, or galic chive, helps combat blood vessel ageaing and heart diseases, as well as preserve skin health.

-Combined with chili peppers, or umeboshi/Japanese pickled plums, or orange, or grapefruit, helps appetite and quick illness recovery, helps skin rejuvenation and helps combat ageing.

FOR RESIDENTS AND VISITORS IN SHIZUOKA CITY:

On every first Wednesday of the month, a small but very special fair is held in the basement of Isetan Store in Shizuoka City.
It is called “Shizuoka Utsurogi Ichiba” after a group of farmers residing and conducting business up Abe River in Shizuoka City, up to an altitude of 1,500 metres, around Utogi, the birthplace of wasabi, and still considered the best in the world.
Try to come as soon as Isetan opens as it can become quite a unashamed tussle with all these local grannies fighting for the best morsel!
All products on sale are purely local and practically devoid of industrial fertilizers. It is actually a paradise for vegetarians as only vegetables are represented there. A multitude of succulent and extravagant wasabi pickles, pickled plums, onions, etc.
The names, addresses and even phone numbers of the farmers are clearly stated, making all purchases eminently traceable.

But the pinnacle is some incredible fresh vegetables, including enormous fresh wasabi roots at ridiculously low prices. I grabbed tis couple of fresh bouquets of wasabi stems, leaves and flowers for my better half (worse?) who loves them as tempura or home-made pickles! I wonder what people in Tokyo would have to pay for that!

It is possible to travel up to Utogi and buy directly from the Farmers Cooperative at:
422–8031 Shizuoka City, Yumei Cho, 2-20
TEl.: 054-2869018

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
Bread + Butter, Comestilblog, Greedy Girl, Bouchon For 2, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Mangantayon, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles, Lexi, Culinary Musings, Eats and Everything, Bite Me New England, Heather Sweet, Warren Bobrow, 5 Star Foodie, Frank Fariello, Oyster Culture, Ramendo, Alchemist Chef, Ochikeron, Mrs. Lavendula, The Gipsy Chef, Spirited Miu Flavor, Wheeling Gourmet, Chef de Plunge, Sushi Nomads, Island Vittles, The French Market Maven, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glas, Palate To Pen, Tokyo Foodcast, Good Beer & Country Boys, Tokyo Terrace, Think Twice, Jefferson’s Table, While mY Sautoir Gently Weeps

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi,
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