Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

JAPAN DAY 8: Shinjuku-gyoen; Ice Cream in Shinjuku; Diet Socks; Okonomiyaki in Hiroo

Our eighth day in Tokyo brought us beautiful weather, so we headed out for a picnic lunch in the park. Shinjuku-gyoen is a large park that was originally the family residence of a wealthy family. The park has been open to the public as gardens since 1949.

The gardens here are in several different styles: French Formal, English Landscape, and Japanese traditional. You can wander the landscapes of three countries in an afternoon. There are also 1,500 cherry trees here and on this Saturday each one had several picnickers under it enjoying the blossoms and their food.

We stopped first at a depachika for our lunch. I got two rice balls, and a fruit salad that at 500 yen, was cheaper than most of the individual pieces of fruit. I also, as you can see drank my first and only soda of the trip, a grape Fanta. Something about the sunny weather made me want it.

One thing I love about buying Japanese food to go is that they always provide you with everything you need to eat it, no matter what you are buying. For example, my fruit salad came with a napkin and a little plastic spear to eat the fruit. I almost wished it didn't though, because I had come prepared with a travel spork in my backpack that I never had to use.

Jason got some fresh sushi that I believe was known as the best sushi in the world, since he couldn't stop talking about it ... ever.

He also got two different kinds of fried rice. That was a cool thing you could find in the depachikas--stands that sold several different kinds of fried rice, just take your pick!

After lunch we wandered the park to walk off all our rice. Pictured above is a small lake where we started. We walked around this lake, then back through a quiet back lane where we could see into the back yards of some cool looking modern houses. Then we came out into the French garden - quite a change - it was all gravel and shapely bushes. From there we made our way through the English garden, which was wild and green. Then we came through the Japanese traditional garden back to the cherry tree lawns.

Everyone was taking pictures of the cherry blossoms, so we had to take some more.

This park had several different varieties of cherry blossoms, including green ones! The ones above are a fluffy variety that grow in clusters.

After all that walking it was time for a treat. We stopped at Kihachi Soft Cream in the Lumine Est department store. At this ice cream shop you order by pushing a button on a machine and then walking up to the counter, where someone gives you your order.

I was able to select the flavor of my choice by labor intensive process that involved finding what I wanted on the English menu, matching the picture from the English menu to the picture on the Japanese menu, then matching the kanji on the Japanese menu to the kanji on the machine button. I managed to do this correctly and was rewarded with an order of black sesame ice cream. J. got a honey-vanilla flavor. Both came with crunchy cereal pieces in the bottom.

After this, we did a lot more walking around and shopping and then had to go back to prepare for dinner.

Now, I would like to take this moment to say that despite all of the eating I did on this trip, I did not gain one pound. I am pretty sure this happened because I discovered the secret of Japanese women.

See, there are a lot of skinny minnies walking around Tokyo, and yet everywhere you look there is tempting food that is delicious and not all of it healthy. But if you go into a few stores you will notice something. There are rows and rows of shelves devoted to diet and fat-dissolving products. There are cellulite rollers and cellulite pants and detoxing stones and special creams for to tighten and tone each and every part of your body. There was even a nipple cream, but I was kind of unsure what that was for.

I am pretty sure that all of things are magic bullets that melt the fat right away. So of course, I took the opportunity to purchase myself some diet socks:

Diet socks look like ordinary black knee socks. But according to the packaging , wearing them would cause my metabolism to go sky high and I would burn millions of calories just by doing my ordinary walking around.

So I made sure to wear these socks for important meals so that the meal would have no effect on me.

I definitely had to where my socks for dinner on this night. We met our friends Tak and Lori for dinner in Hiroo. They took us to their favorite okonomiyaki restaurant, where they regularly close out the place.

At the okonomiyaki restaurant, each table comes equipped with its own griddle on which you cook your food. We started with a stir fry made with several ingredients of our choice. We got, as far as I can remember, mushrooms, asparagus, scallops, and bacon. That's butter going on the griddle, and then the ingredients were stir fried together and we ate it with a side of kimchee.

Then we moved on the main course - okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a kind of cabbage pancake to which you add various ingredients. It could be vegetables, or cheese, or meat or seafood or any combination of the above.

We ordered cheese & vegetable, and then a seafood one. Above is our cheese okonomiyaki frying. As you can see it's a big thick slab of batter.

And this is the finished product. You can see the cheese oozing out the side. On top is the sauce, which is kind of like a Worcestershire sauce, and on top of that are bonito flakes. What the camera cannot convey is the way the bonito flakes squiggle and squirm like living creatures. The only way to calm them is to artfully criss-cross the top with mayonnaise from a special five-nozzle squirt bottle.

We downed our okonomiyaki, and once again closed out the restaurant with several rounds of shochu grapefruit cocktails. Those several rounds did not stop us from popping into "4," our local bar for one last bedtime round.

And ... oh no! The next day was our last full day in Japan, and will be my last Japan post. Then I will go back to dull drab ordinary every day non-traveling food.

Of course, the next post I have planned post-travel entries is a review of ... a Japanese restaurant. I'm still adjusting.


Did you have to squeeze the grapefruit yourself for the cocktails? I've been to some places where they made us do that. The first time, it's fun. After the third drink, getting the juice in the glass starts to become a little difficult.

said by Chubbypanda at 12:01 AM Delete

Yes, we did indeed squeeze the grapefruit ourselves. Luckily we had a gracious host, so I was never allowed to do manual labor like squeezing the grapefruit.

said by KT at 9:41 AM Delete

Your Japan posts are awesome!
My fiancee really wants to go to Japan and I've always been a little reluctant...but now I have to go.

said by Arianne at 2:14 PM Delete

Thank you! I have to say, Japan wasn't high on my list, as I am a Europe-lover, but I am so glad I went. It was an amazing time and I highly recommend it!

I was a little afraid because of the language, but we were able to get along fine, even if we had to go through some comedies of errors involving mad gesturing routines.

said by KT at 2:18 PM Delete

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