Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ramen Tomita

Several days ago I learned on TV about a very popular ramen restaurant named Tomita in Matsudo, neighboring town. My daughter was supposed to go to some university in Matsudo to take an interview test for English exam yesterday so after her test we went the ramen restaurant for lunch.
According to the TV program this ramen restaurant is so popular that people make a long line before opening at 11:00. We arrived there at 10:40 and there was a long line already.

The following picture is the entrance of the restaurant. It's very small and there are only 10 seats inside.
You can see the line across the street with the end of the line. There is another line on the side of the restaurant.

How long do you think we waited outside before we entered the restaurant?
The answer is 2 and a half hour! It was so cold outside yesterday that after I came back home I felt sick!

While we were waiting my daughter counted the number of people in the line and she said there were 81 people!
This is what I ordered. This is called Tuskemen. Cold noodles with hot thick soup are served. When we eat we dip noodles in the soup. The price was ¥950, less than €10.
Noodles were very thick and the soup is fish base and very thick like elten soup. I would say this is very different type of ramen from what I am used to.
There is soup noodles, too and this is what my daughter ordered. I heard that they serve 250g noodles for one serving, which is twice as much as other ramen restaurants, and they recommended to lessen the noodles for my daughter so we did so. First my daughter ate egg and pork and could not finish the noodles in the end. I could finish the noodles but I gave up one pork and remained soup.
The good thing was that they also provide take out noodles for reasonable price without waiting. They sell a pack of Tsukemen with 300g noodles with frozen soup for ¥800. We bought a pack for my son who could not come with us. I prepared this ramen for dinner for my son and he said it is so yummy that it is reasonable that people wait for so long time for it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

St. Valentine's Day

St. Valentine's Day in Japan is chocolate giving day as I explained in my last post.
My daughter seems to have someone she likes in her school but she does not have a courage to confess I guess. To be honest I really understand her feeling. I was like that when I was a school girl. But she has so many persons to give chocolate, her friends, her homeroom teacher and family including me, and she had to make nearly 60 chocolate candy the day before! Of course I had to help her melting chocolate and poring it in each heart shaped aluminum cup. What she did was chopping chocolate and decorating.
I told her to take pictures of the chocolate we made but she seems to have forgotten it! What a shame!
The only picture I can show you is this one for me.
She made 3 of these to each person. I put a pencil with the chocolate so that you can guess its actual size.

By the way many Japanese boys are restless on this day, you know why?
Popular boys get many chocolate but there are some who get nothing, what a pity! This is the fact since I was a child!
To my surprise I even heard that some 5th grade boys asked female classmates to give them Giri-choco which literally means 'obligatory gift chocolate' or chocolate for mercy this year! Mum of one of the boys told me that he got 5 chocolate finally but one of them was Honmei, or love confessing chocolate!

My 3rd grade son has not received love-confessing chocolate until last year. But, this year he got one! Yeaaaaaaah! It was his classmate. I don't know how she looks like because my daughter received it instead of my son when she happened to meet her in front of our house.
On White Day which comes on March 13th my son is supposed to return sweets to her. He said he will make cookies buy himself. Ummmmh. Good luck!

For your information, students are not permitted to bring chocolate on Valentine's Day in my children's school. Generally in Japan there is no snack time and in public school, school lunch is provided so children are not allowed to bring food to school.
So my daughter visited her friends house one by one after school to deliver chocolate and I even had to drive a car to her homeroom teacher's house in neighboring town.
February 14th is a special day for our family because it's my daughter's birthday. She became 11th this year.
Unfortunately I didn't feel good all day from morning but I went shopping and wrapped presents.
Last year we were in the Netherlands and we held a big birthday party at an ice-skate rink. But in Japan it is not common to invite lot of people for birthday of school age children so we did at home this year.

Today's menu: beef stake which my husband cooked, harusame vermicelli salad which is my daughter's favorite, Campbell's Minestrone Soup and chocolate cake bought at Cozy Corner cake shop. Campbell soup for daughter's birthday dinner? Because I am lazy? Noooooh! What I made was only salad this time because I didn't feel good. I am very sorry for my daughter!

Bonus photos
This is ramen shop called "Shiodome Ramen".
Ramen is noodle soup which originated from Chinese noodle and developed in Japan.
Japanese people love ramen very much and so are my children.
The basic flavor of soup are shoyu or soy source, miso or bean paste, salt and pork. Recently there are lot more variation.
While we were living in the Netherlands the best ramen shop was Raku in Uithoorn.

This Shiodome Ramen is open for limited period until this August. I heard that it has become very popular since several years ago but I didn't have a chance to visit it until I did recently.

This is what my daughter ordered. This is Salt soup ramen with umeboshi flavor. This is what I had at the first visit and it was very good, although my daughter didn't like umeboshi very much.
The following is what I ordered at the second visit.
This is vegetable tanmen. Tanmen is made with thick noodles with salt flavor soup. This shop uses chicken broth as a basic soup stock. This time I put hot pepper paste too much which was not right. In this ramen shop small jars of garlic paste, red pepper paste, ginger paste, etc are provided for free use. Because of too much hot pepper I could not feel the taste of chicken flavor soup. Next time I come I have to keep it in my mind I thought. Noodles here are basically very thin but I found out that they have thick noodles too like Tanmen.

Chinese foodstuff. Vermicelli made from green beans. For cooking we boil it for a few minutes and put it in salad or soup.

It is picked fruit. It literally means dried plum. It is very salty and sour and we often put it inside of rice balls.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shiodome and Ginza

Last weekend we visited Shiodome and Ginza area in Tokyo.
My daughter joined performing arts school this year so I need to come to Shiodome to send and pick her up every weekend.

From our house to Shiodome is about 1 hour by train.
Shiodome is known as the former site of JR railway garage. It is redeveloped and many new buildings were built and particularly known as the place for Nittele or Nippon Television Network Corporation, one of the major TV broadcasting company's site.

The above video is the clock called Nittele Giant Clock. Its size is 12m high and 18m wide. It consists of 32 mechanisms in total and the performance can be observed 4 or 5 times every day. This clock was designed by Hayao Miyazaki who is a famous Japanese animator known for his films such as 'Princess Mononoke' or 'Spirited Away'.
It was the first time for us to observe the performance and what amazed me was its quality of sound. I felt like I was in a concert hall.

The following photo is the landscape from one of the buildings nearby.
All of these lands you see are reclaimed land in Tokyo bay.
The large green area is Hamarikyu Garden.

We happened to find this fantastic place. This is a kind of a fountain which squirt mist at set times.

After my daughter's lesson we walked to Ginza from Shiodome because they are very close.

Ginza is known as fashionable shopping district with many stores including several department stores and it is always crowded with people.

Please look at following picture! Where do you think I found this?
The answer is at a toy store in Ginza.

What do you think this is? Is it a baked fish?

No! It's chocolate!

In Japan we have a strange custom of giving chocolate on St.Valentine's Day. In the past it used to be a custom for girls to confess their love but nowadays girls give chocolate not only to boys but also to friends and co-workers or boss in their office, which means almost everyone!

For this reason, in this period of the year we see variety of chocolate for Valentine's Day for sale.
This fish-shaped package of chocolate is off course a joke product.
I hope the chocolate inside doesn't taste like fish.

My son was interested in eating Shabu-shabu. He had never eaten Shabu-shabu. So we decided to have dinner at a Shabu-shabu restaurant.

Shabu-shabu is one of the popular Japanese dish. It is particularly popular for foreign visitors to Japan. I think regular Japanese don't eat Shabu-shabu often. Because beef is very expensive in Japan and we regard Shabu-shabu is a luxury dish for a special occasion.

We cook thinly sliced beef in a boiling broth just a short time and eat it after dipping in "ponzu", sour soy sauce, or "gomadare", sesame flavored sauce. We cook vegetables in the same pot and eat them dipping in either of these two kinds of sauce.

The restaurant we went was called Shabusen. The price was more reasonable than we expected. The price of the course we ordered was ¥2,000, about $20.00 or €20.00. The course included one serving of noodles or rice porridge and desert in addition to Shabu-shabu.

On the ground floor of Matsuzakaya department store there is a very popular baumkuchen shop called Nenrinya. There is always a line of people to buy this baumkuchen in front of the shop.
I joined the line without hesitation to buy some for our family! They have two kinds of baumkuchen. One is fresh and soft and the other is more dense and crispy outside. I bought both and the taste was great! They have two flavors which is plain and chocolate. Usually I prefer chocolate flavor but I liked plain better this time. My daughter liked the crispy one but I thought soft one was good, too. What is regrettable is its price. If it is cheaper I would buy some every weekend!

The following picture is of dense and crispy ones. I forgot to take a picture of soft one before eating, which happens so often in my case. Sorry!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Today is 3rd of February.
It's Setsubun!

I purchased beans yesterday.
And I got a mask as a gift. It seems that this mask was made as an advertisement
for digital TV broadcasting system.
In Japan all TV broadcasting will be digitalized this July!

This is the package I bought. Every year I purchase beans at a supermarket for Setsubun. It is cheap, about $1.00. My children scatter them outside and inside our house. The beans are dry so if we step on them it will be messy. I don't like mess so I try to collect all the beans after the event every year but it is difficult to collect all of them.

For these several years a custom of eating Eho-maki, a kind of a sushi roll, has been popular everywhere in Japan. It was originally a custom in Osaka area I heard. When I was a child I had never heard about it because I grew up in Tokyo.
It is considered that it would be a successful year if we eat Eho-maki facing Eho, or the lucky direction, on the day of Setsubun.
I hear this year's Eho is south.
Recently many kinds of Eho-maki sold in a supermarket, but this year I am planning to make them with my children choosing their favorite foodstuff.

This is Eho-maki we made today.
My daughter put tuna, egg and cucumber.
By the way I forgot to prepare the full size sheet of nori so I called my husband and asked him to get some on the way home!

My son put tuna, salmon, cucumber and egg. He is eating Eho-maki facing south.
The point of Eho-maki eating is we should not cut the roll. We should eat the whole one!

You can see how we perform beans scattering. I dare show inside of our house. Please don't look at things in our house carefully since I am not good at housekeeping.

For the readers who want to know about Japanese culture;
Setsubun is a traditional festival in Japan which usually comes on February 3rd.
Setsubun literally means season's division.
According to a dictionary setsu is any of the 24 divisions of the solar year.
The day of Setsubun is the last day of Daikan, which is one of setsu, and it corresponds to the eve of Risshun, which means the first day of spring in the ancient calendar.
On this day we have a custom to scatter beans, roasted soybeans, to ward off evil spirits.
Sometimes one of a family plays a role of a goblin wearing a mask and children throw beans at him/her shouting "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" which means "Out with demons! In with good luck!" We also have a custom to eat the same number of beans as our age because it is believed that we could be healthy.