Tag Archives: Shinjuku

Looking for Yoyogi Park

Sad to leave Shinjuku

After leaving Shinjuku Park I headed straight away to the nearest station in Shinjuku. I knew that it was probably going to be the last time so see Shinjuku and its beauty. I was fascinated by that part of Tokyo, like it was already a part of me. It was in my heart since my first day and I still remember now, more than 3 years after that experience, every single moment that made me fall in love of that place, our romance during day time and during evening time.  Goodbye Shinjuku. I really want to meet you again in the near future.

I didn’t have time to think about the beautiful times that me and Shinjuku passed together. I was there in Tokyo because I wanted to see more. I wanted to fall in love with other parts of the city. I had to go. When I reached the station I was sad, but at the same time I was happy because a lot of new adventures were waiting for me somewhere else in that city, in that country. The adventure hadn’t finished, in fact, it had just started.

Lunch near Yoyogi Station

Not even half of the daylight hours had passed, I still have the most of the day in front of me. I was getting hungry because lunch time was coming. As soon as I got of from the train and headed to the exit, the first thing to do was to look for a place where to eat. I walked few minutes around the area and finally I found a place where to eat. It was cheap and the food was quick to eat. I had to make the most of my remaining time in Tokyo.

I can’t remember what I ate, but as all Japanese food, the food was deliscious. I ate quick to save time so I could visit more places. I left the restaurant and went to look for the park. Where is it? Let’s find out.

In search of the Park

The first thing to do was to go to the train station to look at the detailed maps that are there for anyone walking by. I looked at it and realised that the park was not near the station, I had to walk a bit for the entrance.

I really didn’t care walking for a bit to look for the park, at the end of the day I had to walk for most of my day anyway, so a few minutes of extra walk didn’t make much difference at all. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to see new things, things that belong only to that area, a part of Tokyo that is not found anywerelse in the rest of the world. The idea excited me a lot.

Anyway, it took me around 10 minutes to reach the entrance of the park. I enjoyed the walk to the station. One of the things that fascinated me was that the the way to the park was not even. The road at the beginning was going downhill and then I had to walk up a slope. But it was short because the entrance to the park was just there.

Yoyogi Park is different from Shinjuku Park

The first impression of the entrance of Yoyogi Park was that the entrance to the park is different from Shinjuku Park’s entrance, or at least from the entrance I took entering Shinjuku Park. While Shinjuku Park’s entrance was set along a very large and busy road, the entrance was just a normal gate. In contrast, Yoyogi park entrance was like a proper Japanese style entrance to the park.

In fact, as you see on the photo above, the entrance gate is totally made of wood, with three golden color objects, looking like coins, above each of the two long pillers and one in the middle, they might have been used either as nails or to cover the nails for decoration. By the look of the wood, the gate seems that has been there for a long period of time, probably from the Meiji period, however, it is still in very good conditions.

Entrance of Yoyogi Park From Yoyogi
Entrance of Yoyogi Park From Yoyogi

Hills Ahead

I could see from the entrance that the park was not flat, not even Shinjuku park was flat but at least it was flatter. I could see that there were more trees and it looked more like a forest. That park has its own ability to attract people that it is different from the way Shinjuku Park does and I think that probably Yoyogi park is more popular to tourists than Shinjuku Park does and I will tell you later why, but don’t get me wrong, I still love Shinjuku park because I am not a touris arant for tonight for me and Mari, and I still wanted to see more things in this exciting city, so I decided to have a look at the park in a quicker way than I did with Shinjuku Park. In one word, I had to hurry up.

Quick Tour of the Park

Because I have done a very quick tour and because I am writing this blog post 3 1/2 years later, I cannot remember much about the park itself apart that there were many trees, I was going uphill and downhill, I couldn’t see everything, just some of the things, and I probably missed the most important things, such as the Meiji Shrine 🙁

Anywhay, here below I posted the photos of the park that I took while visiting it.

The Other Side of the Park

Once I went on the top of Yoyogi Park, I started the long way down the hill to the other side of the park. Once I reached the exit, I saw a familiar gate, it was the same as the gate I took at the entrance, however, this was in the other side of the park. There were definately more people there, it looked like that the entrance was more popular.

That entrance, however, was flat, and then on the other side of the gate it was a little bit more wide open with about 100 yards of footpath. Then I saw something that was even more familiar: I arrived at Harajuku!!!

Yoyogi National Gymnasium

Still curious of Harajuku (I will never get enought of that area), I saw a sign pointing the Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

What is it? Let’s go to have a look.

Walking throug a short foot path I saw a pillar stating that next I could find Yoyogi National Stadium.

Another photo of the Entrance to Yoyogi National Stadium in Harajuku
Another photo of the Entrance to Yoyogi National Stadium in Harajuku
Entrance to Yoyogi National Stadium in Harajuku
Entrance to Yoyogi National Stadium in Harajuku

I looked behind and I see a very beautiful building with a wonderful design. It was the famous Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

Yoyogi National Stadium
Yoyogi National Gymnasium

As you can see, it has been beautifully built  with marvellous architecture. It was soooo beautiful and I fell in love with it (like the rest of what I had seen so far in Tokyo).

Because the time was ticking, I didn’t have much time to go there to visit it, I went to Harajuku train station and left for the next adventure, and to tell you the truth, Tokyo never disappoint me and it looks like there are 1,000,000+ things to do and see in that great city. I just wish I had more time to visit that amazing city.

Shinjuku Park

Beautiful Days

The sun rays started coming through my window in the morning early at around 7am. I look outside of the window and started admiring the beautiful sky above Tokyo. It seemed like that the sunny days in Tokyo were never ending. I always loved the sun, I always loved the heat coming from the sun rays and Tokyo when is covered by the sun light looks wonderful. I didn’t want to go back to bed, even though it was still early, I didn’t want to spoil the day, so I decided to get ready. I shaved my face and had a beautiful shower.

  • What can I do today? – I asked to myself.

I was thinking that when I walked to Shinjuku on my first day I saw a park on my left. The park seemed big and I looked at the map and saw that another park was marked not too far away with an entrance near Yoyogi station.

  • Yes! Let’s make this a park day! – At least in the morning

I also thought what Mari told me few days earlier. She said that I had to look for a restaurant for tonight before leaving Tokyo. She was working today so I couldn’t meet her during day light hours. I had to think about something. I was thinking to start enjoying my day first and I will probably find somewhere nice along the way.

After I finished to get ready and think about what I was going to do for the rest of the day, I left the room, went downstairs to have breakfast, asked the lady of the ryokan if she could keep my suitcases until later and then left the ryokan.

Different Countries Park

The first thing I did after leaving the ryokan was stop at the local Starbucks and grab a coffee. I can’t stay the all day without a coffee.

The sunrays were leading my way. It took me about 20-25 minutes to get there (excluding the coffee break). As soon as I entered the park I realised that the park was going to be big. Soon after I saw some signs pointing at different directions: English park on the left, straigth to the French park and right to the Japanese park. ‘Wow! This park is multicultural’ I said to myself.

Even though I couldn’t resist to the temptation to visit the Japanese park, I decided to visit the park clockwise. I don’t know why but I love the wait and the first part that I visited was the English one first, the French after and finally the Japanese.

Both, the English and the French parks were very beautiful, but I visited them quickly because I was not really too much interested in them. The area where the first 2 park were, was fairly big. Then, after I finished to visit the first 2 parks, I entered the Japanese park. The only thing I did was to follow the path and admire its contents.

Harmony

Walking along the trail in the park I could notice straight away that everything was placed consciously and in harmony with the nature. Harmony, in fact, is one of the elements that shape the every day life of the Japanese people, I will go more into detail about ‘harmony’ in Japan in another post.

Many trees had a haircut

One of the things that impressed me most were the trees. In fact, many of them looked like grown up bonsai, this is because they were perfectly trimmed, like they have been to the hair dresser or to the barber shop, giving them a shape that differs from the normal trees. The people that look after the trees in the park seem to use the same technology they use to shape the bonsai trees.

I ‘killed’ the time

The park never finished to surprise me, it was so beautiful and it gave the impression that the time stopped for many centuries and the beauty of every single element would stay there forever for the millennia ahead of us.

The only thing that made me realise that I was living in the 3rd millennium were the buildings in Shinjuku that I could see from far away behind the wonderfully positioned trees.

Trees, rivers, lakes, stones, traditional buildings. Everything was put together precisely. Nothing was out of order. It was done with the precision of a Swiss watch up to the minimum detail. It was just amazing. I had never seen before a park as perfect and beautiful as that. Totally different from western parks. I was lucky to be able to admire the beauty of the scenery. I just didn’t want to leave Japan anymore.

Ocha Douzo (Tea Please)

Walking along the way I saw a sign directing to a traditional Japanese tea room. I was curious how they looked like. I was in Japan and I wanted to feel the Japanese culture inside me. I wanted to experience as many things as I could in order to satisfy my hunger of Japanese culture.

I didn’t know if they were doing the tea ceremony there or it was in another room, more private. The building was open with few sits on the inside and customers sipping tea.

It took me a while to reach the tea room. I was excited. I wondered if I could experience there the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I didn’t know if they were doing the tea ceremony there or it was in another room, more private. When I arrived at the building I saw a man serving, the building was open with few seats on the inside and a few customers sipping tea.

As soon as I approached the man that was serving, he told me that on that day they didn’t do any tea ceremony. In that occasion I was not lucky. However, I was not upset about that. I thought that I had to stay for 11 months in Japan and I will have another occasion to experience the beauty of the Japanese Tea Ceremony Culture. After taking a few pictures, I left the tea room and carried on with my park experience until the exit.

My next adventure was waiting for me.

Shibuya: The Busiest Crossing In The World

Light inside the tunnel
After the long walk I almost felt exhausted, however, my feelings were still exiting because I had reached another destination, another place where I could visit for the first time, a new adventure where I could tell the other people about. I managed to get there without asking anybody for any direction, just my common sense, sense of direction (if I have got any, but I think I have some) and the train map that has got nothing to do with the road map.
I knew that I had arrived at the destination because there was a sign that was pointing at the entrance of Shibuya station. I entered a stair case inside a building, went up the stairs and the first thing that I noticed was that there was the entrance of a shopping centre. There were different shops and an escalator that was going to the floors below.
Picture 1: Down the escalator
Picture 1: Down the escalator
Outside was already dark by at least 1 hour, however, the lights inside the shopping centre and those that were coming from the shops were illuminating the inside of the building in the same way that the lights illuminate the inside of the buildings when closer to Christmas, but without any of the Christmas decoration.
Shibuya Station
 
I kept walking tirelessly until I saw that the number of people were growing. I was entering a tunnel. That tunnel was narrow and had windows. I could see that this tunnel was actually a walking bridge and from the windows there was a beautiful view of tall buildings, the roads underneath and I could also see that the tunnel was going to have a left turn. After walking a few minutes, the tunnel started to get larger and the number of people increased by a large margin.
Businessmen, schoolgirls, schoolboys and people with shopping bags were filling the tunnel and I realised soon afterwards that I was inside the train station. This larger tunnel was leading to the train platforms. People were entering the platforms from left and right. I think the time was between 6-7. Tokyo Shibuya rush hours and there was a lot still to come.
Better than Piccadilly Circus
 
After I had passed all the platforms from the tunnel, the building took me to a staircase leading on the street level. Step by step I managed to reach the exit and another staircase that led me to Shibuya Hachiko Square. The square was crowded and I noticed that in the middle of the square there was a statue of a dog. A lot of people seemed very interested about that statue and were taking photos and selfies with the dog.
hachiko_square1
Picture 2: Dog in Hachiko Square (from http://www.yayanoctopus.com)
Dog's Statue in Hachiko Square (From http://youinjapan.net)
Picture 3: Dog’s Statue in Hachiko Square (From http://youinjapan.net)
In front of me I noticed a pedestrian crossing and I could see on the corners on the other side of the crossing some very interesting buildings, some of them with a very interesting shape. I took some photos of the buildings in front of me and then I walked closer to the pedestrian crossing and took more photos.
Picture 3: QFRONT building
Picture 4: QFRONT building

Pictures 5,6,7,8: different buildings and different designs

Pictures 5 and 6: Beauty of the buildings
Pictures 5 and 6: Beauty of the buildings

SAMSUNG

Pictures 7 and 8: More from Shibuya
Pictures 7 and 8: More from Shibuya
The buildings were magnificent, especially at that time, when the sky was dark and the lights were standing out beautifully.
One of the corners of the crossing reminded me of Piccadilly Circus in London, a better version of Piccadilly. It had a screen with a video showing an advert and other LED adverts on the building. Almost everything was in Japanese characters.
Picture 4: Sibuya's Piccadilly Circus style
Picture 9: Sibuya’s Piccadilly Circus style
Another of the building had a Starbucks on the first floor (or second floor if you live in an Asian country). The tallest of the building was the most unique of the buildings. The bottom part was looking like that it had cubes with glass windows one on top of the other. The cubes were not parallel to each other, one was moved towards this direction and others moved towards other directions.
Picture 5: Cube Building
Picture 10: Cube Building
Wow!!!
 
After taking a number of pictures, I moved to the edge of the pedestrian crossing.
  • Wow!
I thought to myself.
  • Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!
What has fascinated me was to see all the pedestrian traffic lights going green all at the same time and hundreds/thousands of people crossing the road all at the same time. In pictures it looks beautiful, but for real, watching the reaction of that large number of people crossing the road live it really gave me a wonderful impression of the place. Something that I have never seen before – ever. It was just fantastic.
Picture 6: Shibuya's famous pedestrian crossing
Picture 11: Shibuya’s famous pedestrian crossing
My experience in Tokyo was just getting better and better. The only thing I felt sorry was for not crossing the road alongside all those people. Everyone is an individual, however, at that crossing everyone looks the same. I wondered what was the proportion of people crossing the road just because they needed to cross it and the people that were crossing the road just to try the feeling, maybe once in a lifetime.
Next adventures
I wasn’t feeling hungry yet, so I decided to go back to Shibuya train station. Jump on a train and then go back to Harajuku because I felt that I had to take some photos (which I had posted in ‘Cosplay Hunting in Harajuku‘). After that I felt hungry and decided to go to eat in Shinjuku.

Japanese Style British Pub

I miss England

While leaving the Ninja Restaurant, Mari told me how she missed England. At that moment I told her that near the Ryokan in Yotsuya I saw a British pub and if she wanted we could go there to have a pint of beer before going back home. She liked the idea and we headed to Yotsuya. Yotsuya was just 1 train stop away from Akasaka, so we headed to the train station and few minutes later we were there. Once we were in Yotsuya we walked on the pavement on a busy road that leads Yotsuya to Shinjuku.

British or Japanese?

We arrived at the pub few minutes later. Inside, the pub was very clean, it had tall tables and high seats where people can enjoy their beer. Inside there were only few Japanese people drinking plus the 2 male bartenders. Thinking about British pubs, the first thing that came into my mind was to go at the bar, order the drinks and pay there. Instead, we headed to one of the high tables, sat there and one of the bar tender came to our table to take our order. I found it a bit unusual but I got used straight away. The athmosphere was quiet with some music on the background (I cannot recall what music they were playing). Then the bartender came with the two pints, one for me and one for Mari, and we had a chat. We stayed at the pub for about half an hour, paid at the end then left the pub and went our separate ways.

Pubs in Japan

The athmosphere in the Japanese pubs is different from their British counterpart. That pub was very relaxing and people don’t have to go to the bar leaving their friends sitting alone lonley while ordering and therefore making the experience more intimate. Also the pub itself was much cleaner and not as noisy than those found in UK. The whole experience was different, even going alone, there are more opportunities to befriend to people never met before, especially if you are a foreigner in Japan. It is an experience that is worth trying.

Dinner at Ninja Restaurant (The Food)

Menu Please (?)

Usually, when going to the restaurant, the food is chosen from a menu, or in case of a canteen, the food is chosen by pointing or naming the food that people want to eat. That restaurant was different. The only option that we were given was if the food we wanted was either vegetarian or meat!!! What? Yes, just that!!!!! We were not given any opportunity to choose the food. This is one of the reasons that the restaurant is special, because the food that we were going to get had to be a surprise. In fact, if we knew what food we wanted, the food that was going to come to our table was not going to be surprising.

Ninja Starter

Nobody probably knows what Ninjas used to eat during their periods, however, the Ninja food found in that restaurant is as fascinating as the whole experience in the Ninja Restaurant and in my experience in Japan so far. The starter was absolutely unique, and really gives the impression of being inside the Ninja soul because of the look and taste of the food and because it has been served by Ninja waiters.

I was surprised when the starter came. Actually, instead than having the feel of being inside a Ninja restaurant, when the starter came it felt to be inside a ‘Ninja garden’!!!

<Ninja garden?> you might think. Yes, Ninja garden.

<What’s so special about that starter?> Oh well!!! The starter looked like a plant with its special fruit.

<What are you talking about?> As I said, the starter looks like a plant. The fruit is the ‘Shuriken’, you know? The star weapon used by the Ninja. I mean, they were not real Shuriken, they were edible black shuriken that taste like crackers.

Now let’s talk about the taste. I have already said that the taste is like crackers and the food has been colored probably by using the ink from the squid and because the environment was dark and the shuriken were black, it was actually difficult to see them. Their taste was actually nice and crispy and I have to say that the experience so far was just unique and I was pleased to be there to feel that surreal experience.

Smoking Hot Main Course

After having eating the lunch, the ‘Ninja Waiter’ brought us the main course, and what a main course!!!!!!! This restaurant was never running out of surprises!!!!! When the Ninja waiter brought the lunch, he came into the room with a wooden pot with a stew inside. The waiter said that it was a chicken stew and the stew was cold. Along with the stew the waiter brought a stone. Yes, a stone.

What’s that stone for? I asked the waiter. He said that the stone was extremely hot and its temperature was 300 degrees!!!!!!!!

Wow!!!!!!!! I said.

Then he put the stone inside the chicken stew and said to wait for few minutes.

Yes!!!!! The stone was cooking the chicken stew!!!!!!!!! Amazing!!!!!

As soon as he put the stone inside, a smoke started coming out from the pot. Usually, when people cook something, the heat come from outside of the pot, of course, the only exception is when steaming the milk for making coffees where the steamer is placed inside the milk in order for the steam to heat up the milk. But even in this case, the heat come from the machine which is outside of the jug for steaming milk. But this time it was the stone that without any energy from the outside was cooking the stew from the inside (even though the stone, in order to reach the right temperature, has to be heated first).

When the stew was ready, we poured it inside our wooden bowl. The temperature of the stew when eating was high. The stone did a great job in heating up the stew. This is a great invention that few people in the world came up with, simple and effective idea. The taste of the stew was amazing and had a creamy taste. I will never forget that experience.

Smoking Stew heated with the 300 degrees stone
Smoking Stew heated with the 300 degrees stone

The side dish was made with Black Shiitake mushrooms and some vegetables above them (asparagus, broccoli and something else). This side dish looked absolutely gorgeous and was really tasting amazing.

Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms

Ninja Sweet

The sweet was probably the most Ninja food I had in the restaurant. This is not because of the taste, but because how the sweet looked like. Actually, more than a Ninja sweet, it was a ‘mini-Ninja’ sweet. The sweet had a sword!!!!!! A mini Ninja sword. The top was white and was made in two spheric parts, the top and the bottom part and it was probably made with the white part of the egg. It had eyes, arms and at the back it had a sword made with chocolate. The mini Ninja was standing on two pieces of peach and a blueberry in front of it. Everything was on lifted by a stand made with sponge bread. I really didn’t want to eat it because it looked so cute and pretty!!! However, I decided to eat it and it was tasting very nice.

My beautiful Ninja Sweet
My beautiful Ninja Sweet
Mine and Mari's Ninja Sweet
Mine and Mari’s Ninja Sweet

Final Show (Hide and Seek Card Game)

After eating, another Ninja came into our dark room. This time was not to surprise us with exceptional food, but to surprise us with something that will stay in our memory forever.

This Ninja was holding some playing cards. He mixed them and asked me to choose one. I picked the card and with a black marker he asked me to write something and then fold it. After doing all that, I put the card back in the middle of the bunch of cards that he was holding. Then he started mixing the cards again. Finished to mix them, he removes a closed envelope from his pocket. He told me to open it and inside I found the card marked and folded that I chose for the game. I was surprised. It was the first time that I witness something like that in real life. I saw different times magicians/illusionists on TV, but this was the first time that I witnessed something like that in real life. It was impressive. To tell the truth, the whole experience was impressive.

Tokyo is Impressive

Going to the Ninja restaurant was one of those adventures that has to be experience once in a lifetime that stays with your memory forever. I will never forget about that. I just loved the whole experience. Tokyo is great. I love Tokyo because it is a unique city with unique style with endless things to do, see and witness. It is probably the most amazing city in the entire world. Who’s never been there, I suggest to visit it, no cities in the world come close to what Tokyo has to offer. You will love it.

 

Dinner at Ninja Restaurant (The Restaurant)

What I am going to describe now is one of the most amazing experiences that my life offered up to date. This is not only regarding the food that I ate, but because of the overall experience in a restaurant that is nothing like anything else I have seen in all my life. Anyway, …..

Looking for the Restaurant

After taking Purikura at Ueno, we headed to Akasaka. When Mari came to London the week before I move to Japan, she told me something about the Ninja Restaurant, and I told her not to tell me anything because I wanted to be a surprise. I don’t like to be told information about places before going there because I love surprises and I love to find out by myself because it makes my experience more surprising.

Entering the Restaurant

When we arrived at Akasaka, we went to look for the Ninja restaurant. The building from outside was all black, and because of that, it was difficult to see the entrance. Once inside, everything was black and dark and there was a girl with a ninja uniform waiting for her customers and she told us to wait for few seconds to wait for ‘another’ ninja. After few seconds the other ninja came and took us through a dark short dark corridor from a hidden door. After few yards the corridor was blocked by a pond and no other way to go in front of us. The ninja at that point said that we had to say the magic word ‘ninja’ all together in order to go through. The ninja said: one, two, three….. and then all together we said ‘NINJA’!!! and a door came down working as a bridge for the pond for us to enter the……ninja village!!! and then we entered another dark room.

Ninja Village

Inside the new room was lying a small ninja village set in the ninja period. For me it was an exciting and unique experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Also the village was all dark. It was made by small dark stone houses and a pathway that goes in between of the houses. Each small dark house was a small private room for customers to eat. The village seemed real and gave a real impression of a ninja village. Our room was at the end of the village on a small staircase.

Dining Room

After walking up the small staircase, we entered a tiny dark room with a dark stone wall which was lit carefully in order to present the room as from the ninja period. The room had only one table that can accomodate only few customers, probably up to 4 people could sit into that room. Considering that Mari and I have been surprised along the way to our private room, the dark atmosphere of the room gave us the impression that the surprises were not over and we had more surprises to come. Apart from the room being dark, everything esle inside the room was traditionally Japanese with a short leg’s table, thin cushions where people sit on and room under the table for people to put their feet and legs inside in order for the people to sit rather than crossing their legs.

The food is on the next page>>>

 

 

Japanese Style British Pub

I miss England

While leaving the Ninja Restaurant, Mari told me how she missed England. At that moment I told her that near the Ryokan in Yotsuya I saw a British pub and if she wanted we could go there to have a pint of beer before going back home. She liked the idea and we headed to Yotsuya. Yotsuya was just 1 train stop away from Akasaka, so we headed to the train station and few minutes later we were there. Once we were in Yotsuya we walked on the pavement on a busy road that leads Yotsuya to Shinjuku.

British or Japanese?

We arrived at the pub few minutes later. Inside, the pub was very clean, it had tall tables and high seats where people can enjoy their beer. Inside there were only few Japanese people drinking plus the 2 male bartenders. Thinking about British pubs, the first thing that came into my mind was to go at the bar, order the drinks and pay there. Instead, we headed to one of the high tables, sat there and one of the bar tender came to our table to take our order. I found it a bit unusual but I got used straight away. The athmosphere was quiet with some music on the background (I cannot recall what music they were playing). Then the bartender came with the two pints, one for me and one for Mari, and we had a chat. We stayed at the pub for about half an hour, paid at the end then left the pub and went our separate ways.

Pubs in Japan

The athmosphere in the Japanese pubs is different from their British counterpart. That pub was very relaxing and people don’t have to go to the bar leaving their friends sitting alone lonley while ordering and therefore making the experience more intimate. Also the pub itself was much cleaner and not as noisy than those found in UK. The whole experience was different, even going alone, there are more opportunities to befriend to people never met before, especially if you are a foreigner in Japan. It is an experience that is worth trying.

Dinner at Ninja Restaurant (The Food)

Menu Please (?)

Usually, when going to the restaurant, the food is chosen from a menu, or in case of a canteen, the food is chosen by pointing or naming the food that people want to eat. That restaurant was different. The only option that we were given was if the food we wanted was either vegetarian or meat!!! What? Yes, just that!!!!! We were not given any opportunity to choose the food. This is one of the reasons that the restaurant is special, because the food that we were going to get had to be a surprise. In fact, if we knew what food we wanted, the food that was going to come to our table was not going to be surprising.

Ninja Starter

Nobody probably knows what Ninjas used to eat during their periods, however, the Ninja food found in that restaurant is as fascinating as the whole experience in the Ninja Restaurant and in my experience in Japan so far. The starter was absolutely unique, and really gives the impression of being inside the Ninja soul because of the look and taste of the food and because it has been served by Ninja waiters.

I was surprised when the starter came. Actually, instead than having the feel of being inside a Ninja restaurant, when the starter came it felt to be inside a ‘Ninja garden’!!!

<Ninja garden?> you might think. Yes, Ninja garden.

<What’s so special about that starter?> Oh well!!! The starter looked like a plant with its special fruit.

<What are you talking about?> As I said, the starter looks like a plant. The fruit is the ‘Shuriken’, you know? The star weapon used by the Ninja. I mean, they were not real Shuriken, they were edible black shuriken that taste like crackers.

Now let’s talk about the taste. I have already said that the taste is like crackers and the food has been colored probably by using the ink from the squid and because the environment was dark and the shuriken were black, it was actually difficult to see them. Their taste was actually nice and crispy and I have to say that the experience so far was just unique and I was pleased to be there to feel that surreal experience.

Smoking Hot Main Course

After having eating the lunch, the ‘Ninja Waiter’ brought us the main course, and what a main course!!!!!!! This restaurant was never running out of surprises!!!!! When the Ninja waiter brought the lunch, he came into the room with a wooden pot with a stew inside. The waiter said that it was a chicken stew and the stew was cold. Along with the stew the waiter brought a stone. Yes, a stone.

What’s that stone for? I asked the waiter. He said that the stone was extremely hot and its temperature was 300 degrees!!!!!!!!

Wow!!!!!!!! I said.

Then he put the stone inside the chicken stew and said to wait for few minutes.

Yes!!!!! The stone was cooking the chicken stew!!!!!!!!! Amazing!!!!!

As soon as he put the stone inside, a smoke started coming out from the pot. Usually, when people cook something, the heat come from outside of the pot, of course, the only exception is when steaming the milk for making coffees where the steamer is placed inside the milk in order for the steam to heat up the milk. But even in this case, the heat come from the machine which is outside of the jug for steaming milk. But this time it was the stone that without any energy from the outside was cooking the stew from the inside (even though the stone, in order to reach the right temperature, has to be heated first).

When the stew was ready, we poured it inside our wooden bowl. The temperature of the stew when eating was high. The stone did a great job in heating up the stew. This is a great invention that few people in the world came up with, simple and effective idea. The taste of the stew was amazing and had a creamy taste. I will never forget that experience.

Smoking Stew heated with the 300 degrees stone
Smoking Stew heated with the 300 degrees stone

The side dish was made with Black Shiitake mushrooms and some vegetables above them (asparagus, broccoli and something else). This side dish looked absolutely gorgeous and was really tasting amazing.

Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms

Ninja Sweet

The sweet was probably the most Ninja food I had in the restaurant. This is not because of the taste, but because how the sweet looked like. Actually, more than a Ninja sweet, it was a ‘mini-Ninja’ sweet. The sweet had a sword!!!!!! A mini Ninja sword. The top was white and was made in two spheric parts, the top and the bottom part and it was probably made with the white part of the egg. It had eyes, arms and at the back it had a sword made with chocolate. The mini Ninja was standing on two pieces of peach and a blueberry in front of it. Everything was on lifted by a stand made with sponge bread. I really didn’t want to eat it because it looked so cute and pretty!!! However, I decided to eat it and it was tasting very nice.

My beautiful Ninja Sweet
My beautiful Ninja Sweet
Mine and Mari's Ninja Sweet
Mine and Mari’s Ninja Sweet

Final Show (Hide and Seek Card Game)

After eating, another Ninja came into our dark room. This time was not to surprise us with exceptional food, but to surprise us with something that will stay in our memory forever.

This Ninja was holding some playing cards. He mixed them and asked me to choose one. I picked the card and with a black marker he asked me to write something and then fold it. After doing all that, I put the card back in the middle of the bunch of cards that he was holding. Then he started mixing the cards again. Finished to mix them, he removes a closed envelope from his pocket. He told me to open it and inside I found the card marked and folded that I chose for the game. I was surprised. It was the first time that I witness something like that in real life. I saw different times magicians/illusionists on TV, but this was the first time that I witnessed something like that in real life. It was impressive. To tell the truth, the whole experience was impressive.

Tokyo is Impressive

Going to the Ninja restaurant was one of those adventures that has to be experience once in a lifetime that stays with your memory forever. I will never forget about that. I just loved the whole experience. Tokyo is great. I love Tokyo because it is a unique city with unique style with endless things to do, see and witness. It is probably the most amazing city in the entire world. Who’s never been there, I suggest to visit it, no cities in the world come close to what Tokyo has to offer. You will love it.

 

Walking to and Around Shinjuku

Road map

After I left the luggage in my room at the Ryokan I asked for some information from the lady at the reception (she is also the owner) regarding where to go (not too far away from the Ryokan) while I was waiting for my Japanese friend Mari (we have known each other for about 12 years) she was meant to come at around 3 PM to show me around Tokyo more in detail. She suggested I should walk to Shinjuku and then gave me a local map of the area. I could not believe it I was in Japan.

Beauty of Shinjuku

After I left the Ryokan on the way to Shinjuku, I saw a traditional Japanese house with typical sliding doors (which at that time were open) and I noticed a man inside sleeping on the floor on a futon, this made my Japanese experience more real. It was not difficult for me to get to Shinjuku, apart from few turns at the beginning, the road was almost straight and I managed to get there with the help of my good sense of direction.  When I arrived there, I went around walking into some small street looking for the real Japan. I saw many interesting things there such as a building that from the outside is decorated like a jigsaw with a brown color, a restaurant with a giant crab moving above the door (I should have taken a video but I just took a photo) and other colorful buildings.

 

 

Real Japanese Essence

While walking around, I saw some tall buildings traditional Japanese with big signs, and I said to myself that this is the image of modern Japan and I wanted to go to look what was hidden through the small streets in between of each building, then I a crossed the road and went where I felt like I should go.

 

Through those streets I could see the real Japanese essence, however, not long after I was walking through those streets, a young Japanese man stopped me and said to me something in Japanese that I could not understand (is not that I could understand any Japanese at all anyway). I said to him that I did not understand what he said (in English of course) and then he said to me ‘sex, sex’. He could not speak English at all but I could understand that he meant if I wanted to have sex with a girl. I refused by saying ‘No, sorry’. At that point I realized that, without knowing, I ended up in the red light district of Tokyo (or at least the red light district of Shinjuku). Then I kept walking around and I saw more men like that and was still morning and afternoon had not come yet, let alone evening or night.

First Japanese meal ordered from food machine

After walking around Shinjuku  I felt the need to grab something to eat, I was in Japan and therefore I wanted something Japanese. At that point the time was 1 PM and I had to start walking back to the Ryokan so I could meet Mari. On the way back I looked at different restaurants that could please my needs and then I made my choice to stop to one of them. It looked like a place where busy people go there to eat something quickly and then leave. I was surprised to see that many restaurants like that one had counter service, customers seat at the counter and have their meal there.

Other two things which I was surprised was that, first, I had to order the food through a machine, put the money in and the machine give you the ticket to hand to the person that serves you in order to get the food, second, the food was very inexpensive, I had a bowl of rice topped with pork (probably pork belly) for a very reasonable price, of only ¥370.

At first I didn’t know how the whole system worked so I asked someone to explain to me with hand gestures because nobody could speak a word of English. One of the customers came and explained me with his broken English. Once the food was on the table I was surprised that they gave me only chopsticks and no spoon for the rice (in contrast with Korean culture that you get also the spoon as well as chopsticks if you get rice).

I thought to myself if I should order a spoon but then I said ‘I am in Japan and I do like Japanese people do’. Another thing which I was surprised was that I could also get water (tap water) for no extra cost and other drinks were not offered to me (I know that in nearby Korea people do not trust tap water and they always buy water by the bottle). The food and the tap water were actually quite good. After the meal I walked back to the Ryokan waiting for Mari to come.

 

Dinner at Ninja Restaurant (The Restaurant)

What I am going to describe now is one of the most amazing experiences that my life offered up to date. This is not only regarding the food that I ate, but because of the overall experience in a restaurant that is nothing like anything else I have seen in all my life. Anyway, …..

Looking for the Restaurant

After taking Purikura at Ueno, we headed to Akasaka. When Mari came to London the week before I move to Japan, she told me something about the Ninja Restaurant, and I told her not to tell me anything because I wanted to be a surprise. I don’t like to be told information about places before going there because I love surprises and I love to find out by myself because it makes my experience more surprising.

Entering the Restaurant

When we arrived at Akasaka, we went to look for the Ninja restaurant. The building from outside was all black, and because of that, it was difficult to see the entrance. Once inside, everything was black and dark and there was a girl with a ninja uniform waiting for her customers and she told us to wait for few seconds to wait for ‘another’ ninja. After few seconds the other ninja came and took us through a dark short dark corridor from a hidden door. After few yards the corridor was blocked by a pond and no other way to go in front of us. The ninja at that point said that we had to say the magic word ‘ninja’ all together in order to go through. The ninja said: one, two, three….. and then all together we said ‘NINJA’!!! and a door came down working as a bridge for the pond for us to enter the……ninja village!!! and then we entered another dark room.

Ninja Village

Inside the new room was lying a small ninja village set in the ninja period. For me it was an exciting and unique experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Also the village was all dark. It was made by small dark stone houses and a pathway that goes in between of the houses. Each small dark house was a small private room for customers to eat. The village seemed real and gave a real impression of a ninja village. Our room was at the end of the village on a small staircase.

Dining Room

After walking up the small staircase, we entered a tiny dark room with a dark stone wall which was lit carefully in order to present the room as from the ninja period. The room had only one table that can accomodate only few customers, probably up to 4 people could sit into that room. Considering that Mari and I have been surprised along the way to our private room, the dark atmosphere of the room gave us the impression that the surprises were not over and we had more surprises to come. Apart from the room being dark, everything esle inside the room was traditionally Japanese with a short leg’s table, thin cushions where people sit on and room under the table for people to put their feet and legs inside in order for the people to sit rather than crossing their legs.

The food is on the next page>>>