7. The Mother of All Food Halls
Japanese food halls are simply a foodie's paradise - sushi, sashimi, pastry, bread, traditional Japanese sweets, $15000 yen rockmelon (around a measly AU$190), wagyu beef, bento box, okonomiyaki, chocolate, udon, soba, pasta, sandwich and sake just to name a few. I would even live in one if they let me.
One of the standouts to me is Patissieria, a specialty cake store at the basement of Takashimaya in Shinjuku. Rows and rows of impeccably decorated cakes greet shoppers every day, waiting to be picked, packed and golloped. But
It's a brilliant idea really. Every day, 13 of the best pastry chefs in town each contribute 10 varieties to Patissieria. So, instead of having to criss-cross around town for these jewels, one only has to mark their number on a list. Yep, just like choosing OZ Lotto numbers when the jackpot hits 30 million. Except that these cakes are guaranteed to provide satisfaction to the eyes and mouth, and better value for money too. Also, watch out for the state-of-the-art cake collision avoidance techniques employed in the packaging.
An izakaya, which literally translates to a sit-down sake shop, is like a pub to an Aussie. But instead of soggy wedges and mass-produced chips, small plates of Japanese snacks are served as accompaniments to the drinks of choice. Undoubtedly, the most popular is yakitori or grilled meat on a skewer. There are chicken, pork and beef skewers, and for the more adventurous, liver, tongue and intestine. What a perfect place to eat and drink away the day's worries.
Nakamise is a 200-metre long street market in Asakusa, extending from entrance gate Kaminarimon to the Sensoji Temple built almost 1400 years ago. Popular to locals and tourists alike, this market sells everything from yukata (summer kimono) to porcelain fortune cats with the unmistakable waving arm. But perhaps more importantly, there are plenty of local traditional snacks to sample such as dorayaki (Japanese red bean cake), agemanju (deep-fried soft cake with red bean filling) and rice crackers.
And once you have eaten your way to the Temple, it's worth paying 100 yen for a fortune telling paper. Mine is numbered 65, and from very hazy memory and even hazier Japanese, my fortune is not too bad. But if you get a bad reading, the custom is to fold the paper into a strip and tie it onto a special rack provided. The theory is to leave the bad fortune behind or have the wind blown it away. Ah, those clever Japanese - sounds like a win-win situation to me.