Friday, May 31, 2013

May 2013

May 2013

This sums up Kabukicho. A flock of black-suited salarymen. A hip dude picking up a hot young lady. And a random selling handmade wind chimes.

Why am I not there right now!


Slow month, at least for things worthy of photographing.



So in May, there was a sudden boom of interests in foreigners and ramen. Four TV shoots. Each one was about 10 hours of filming. Each one was on air for about 5 minutes. The more I deal with Japanese TV, the more I realize that they should really work with a story-boarder. The 6 hours of filming we did at that one shop that you didn't use? With a crew of 8 people?

From what I've heard, this is a Japanese thing. Foreign TV crews have been shocked with the massive amount of overwork put in for stuff that feels haphazardly thrown together by an amateur youtuber.

Ain't complaining though, I didn't have anything to do those days anyways, except eat ramen.


Eat ramen and drink delicious sake.




Eat ramen and check out the roller derby scene.

Eat ramen and take photos of my friends peeing.

Eat ramen and drink tea.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Coffee Day in Tokyo


My morning cup.

Golden Week, Japan. Golden Week is a mash-up of holidays (green day, kid's day, some other day) that all come together to give Japanese people a kind-of week off. This year, Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday were working days, sandwiched between some long weekends. I am freelance so I was off the whole time.

The point I'm getting at is that this one week is when everyone has a holiday. Leaving Tokyo is horrible. Traffic is insane. Serene nature is inundated with city folk. Disneyland . . . maybe you can ride 2 or 3 attractions in an entire day.

Stay-cation is the way to go.

Anyways, I spent a day cycling around to local coffee shops.


First up is Bear Pond in Shimokitazawa. Only open for a few hours a day, this spot is kind of revered as one of the world's espresso meccas. Katsu Tanaka is absolutely fanatical about the stuff here, and an espresso will come out as less than an ounce of bitter chocolate that I think sends most people to the nearest Starbucks for something they are used to.


Unless you know that this is what you want, you might want to go with one of the other drinks, all of which are excellent. Dude lived in NY for a few decades, so you can ask him about coffee in English.



There seems to be a cafe boom in Tokyo, by the sheer number of magazines and books devoted to the places. I should say, a nerdy coffee boom. Tokyo actually led the planet in cafes back in the 60s, but these places, some of which remain, are often just smoky hangouts for old dudes who could care less about the flavor of their drink.

This perception of Tokyo being a coffee town is, I think, an illusion. The specific kind of shop that I'm searching for, airy, open spaces where people hang out and mingle, seem to be only a handful. Places with art on the walls and good music on the stereo. Well, minus the art and music I guess that would be Starbucks.


Nozy Coffee wasn't far away by bicycle.


The first branch of this excellent roaster is somewhere near the beach, probably next to the beach houses of the residents of Setagaya, where this 2nd shop is.

The coffee here is all single origin, and a hipster coffee nerd could have a field day with their variety.



I had a french press of something-or-other. Yeah, I'm obviously note that into the details. Atmosphere is what I like, and Nozy seems more like a place I would just go to buy beans for my home.

I heard you get a free cup if you buy beans here.


If anything reminds me of the San Francisco coffee shops back home, Streamer is it.


Just park your pisto out front, and you are good to go. There is art on the walls. The soundtrack was the latest Wiz Khalifa. The fashions were intentional.


The owner is some kind of world champion latte art guy, so expect a beautiful cup.

This place should be teeming with 20-something hipsters on MacBooks, but it isn't. Instead, being surrounded by some of the most exclusive high rises in Tokyo, this is a family hangout. Tons of kids bouncing around, playing gameboys, and drinking coffee.


Four cups was enough for 1 afternoon. There are a few more places to speak on in this area, like the mega old spot with massive ikebana arrangements on the tables and the soup-nazi spot in Kichijoji. By the way, don't use the pop reference soup-nazi in Japan. People will think you are talking about real nazis and it is awkward.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

April 2013

Ridiculous month for food, as I did a few high-end food tours.

Ishikawa is located on a side street in Kagurazaka, an area of Tokyo I know almost nothing about. If you can make it here, expect the highest level of seasonal Japanese cuisine.

Jiro Roppongi. The famed son of even more famed Jiro Ono is much friendlier than expected. And this shop is much easier to get that reservation, if Jiro is on your checklist.

Jiro, the main Sukiyabashi branch, is so popular now with foreigners that the major hotels have one person on Jiro duty on the 1st of every month.

I made a reservation for some clients a few months back, and it was a veritable nightmare. I'll write about it when I'm in the mood.


Ukai Toriyama is located an hour out of town near Mount Takao. This is the place to take out of town guests. Every group is seated in their own private bungalow in a beautiful Japanese garden.

Cost performance is very high.

Hato's Bar is legit. While other spots are doing American barbecue, they all seem aimed at richer-than-shit bankers. Peep the Vice video!

You so ugly . . .

My go-to nihonshu.

Ryugin. Everything during this 3 hour meal is insane.

Especially this strawberry. Actually, when we ate it, it was a little underwhelming. Flavor-wise, tastes like a strawberry. But watch this video of how they make it.

After watching all the videos on that channel, I want to go back.

Fuck this train line. Sorry Nagoya, but this train line sucks.




Random waterfall near Shirahone Onsen. The mountain was oozing water in some places, hemorrhaging in others.


3cm visibility. The men and women each have their own entrance into the mixed-gender bath.

Dinner at said onsen hotel.


I did it like 3 years ago. Never again. That is 1000 miles in a day for those in America. It is retarded.

Maybe in a rally car.




Shit, there looked to be a rad campground with secret onsens about 5km further. A minute later, a ski tour came down. One of them recognized me from the ramen site. Random.

Then I went home instead of camping. Weak!

Sup, wasabi.