Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Tonight I was in the mood to cook something I have never tried to do yet.... make Okonomiyaki.

What is Okonomiyaki? Well as best as I can describes its somewhere between an pancake, an omelet and a latka cake. Its mostly comprised of cabbage, green onion, egg and a binder made out of wheat mix (traditional binder is made out of wheat flour with Japanese radish graded in, but I chose to get the ready-mix flour). 
What I also added to my Okonomiyaki for a more traditional flare was bacon... but I omitted the shrimp and Chinese sausage... as I already knew that this was going to be something of a glutinous dinner.
Pretty much all you do is mix all the ingredients in a big bowl and plop onto a hot, greased pan. The cabbage cake cooks on one side for awhile as you add the bacon on top. Once nicely browned you flip the cake over and let the bacon and the rest of the cake cook. 
Interesting with all that heat the cake doesn't burn that much and continues to cook through. The more you heat, the more the cabbage softens.
Once done you remove the cake from the pan and prepare it for toppings. First you add some special Okonomi -sauce over the entire top. Second you add bonito flakes (smoked fish flakes) and thirdly you sparingly cover with Japanese mayonnaise (i would later regret not getting the full fat variety as the low fat stuff isnt as thick... and never as good as the fatty stuffy).

And there you have it, Okonomiyaki. I am quite proud that it came out so well for my first attempt at making it. Its pretty much a 'add what you want' sort of cabbage cake. But, you must always serve with beer and I remembered to do. 

Also featured in this blog slide show is another miso ramen dinner I made... my little ramen dinner kit.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yokohama & Kamakura

So this past weekend I was in Yokohama and Kamakura. Yokohama is sort of a working mans city, totally different feeling than Tokyo. The area is not a dense as Tokyo and is much more topographical, rolling hills and terracing homes. 
I stayed over at a friends place in a nice neighbourhood. Traditional home, 45 years old, which is considered very old here. My parents 110 year old home in Canada is ancient by Japanese standards. The next day we travelled to Kamakura, which is along the southern shore of the Yokohama area. Its a 'cottage' community, small scale and cheap! A roomy place was cheaper than a place in Toronto! Depressing, I would love to live in the area... 
Rolling Yokohama 'burb
I enjoyed the train ride to Kamakura. An older train that travelled incredible close to the local homes... and when I mean close I mean we were as close as 1 foot from hitting some of the walls of the old homes.
Many Rolling Hills
We toured a sort of weekend market area with a temple. The temple was interesting, they had two traditional Japanese weddings occurring. However, unlike the idyllic scene that Lost in Translation showed, it was full of tourists taking pictures of the newly weds during the ceremony. 
Traditional Wedding Temple
There was a chicken skin BBQ place that I broke down and bought from. The chicken skin came with kimchi and was absolutely delicious. Delicious up until I was attacked by a hawk! Just sitting there eating my food and a hawk dive bombed my dish of food on my leg... total shock. Didn't know what to make of it. I looked it up later and found that its not rare, the hawks appear to go for anything that is food
Sake and Beer Shrine :D
My friend took to an acquaintances place where we had a thai style dinner. I put together the BBQ for the dinner... makes me want to go buy my own now! It took forever to get the charcoal going... very windy in the area along the ocean. (oh to note, now I have seen the pacific on two sides of the world now). We hung out with friends for the night in Kamakura before making our way back to the house in Yokomama. 
Pacific Ocean
In all, it was a great weekend outside of Tokyo. The more I see of Japan the more it continues to make we want to stay here!
Yokohama at night, Yokohama bridge in the background
I thought I would be making deep discussions about architecture related topics on my blog, but its appears I have been writing more about day trips and all the foods I have had here! We'll see how this blog evolves...

Miso Soup

Last week I decided to finally use my bonito flakes and miso and make myself some traditional miso soup. 
I also decided to try mochi, a glutinous rice thing.. 

What I created in the end was a really good dinner. The miso soup was pretty good, a little salty.
The mochi I made too much off and almost choked to death on... this stuff is super super sticky and gooie when added to water... good, but definitely has to be consumed in small pieces.

Of course I had a beer with my dinner, and as you can see, it was just a little one ;)

More blogging to come... have to write about a past picnic last weekend and a BBQ i went to in Yokohama this weekend. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yoyogi Park II

This past weekend I toured Yoyogi Park for a second time, but this time with company. My friend and I walked around the park, this time exploring the far ends of the park. Its a really nice gem in Tokyo. I wish Toronto was connected to High Park much better than it is. Yoyogi Park can be reached by multiply subway lines and is easy walking distance form many other stations. Toronto has a lot of missed opportunities for its park spaces. The waterfront is still disconnected from the city and the existing parks are almost forgotten. 
There is also the problem in Toronto of the people themselves. Japanese descend upon the park spaces and do all sorts of activities. When walking the park you can see people sunbathing, group dancing, duopping, reading, setting up bands, drinking, eating, and so much more... the space is appropriated by the people. Toronto people still seem highly conservative.... come on people, get out and have fun. 

This coming weekend I'll be joining my friend and her friends for an outdoor BBQ at a park. We'll take all our foods and drinks and set up on the grass. It will be a whole days even. For a culture that works insane hours, they really make a point of enjoying the little things. Its not a perfect system here, but it feels much better to spend any free time socializing with friends and relaxing than holding up in a living room watching TV.

But enough ranting about differences. I've been loosing weight I suspect. My face is looking a little leaner, almost younger looking. Pants are very loose now and I am having to make another hole in my belt. Its not surprising though, I snack far far less than I did back in Toronto. I drink a lot less coffee too. Even though I'll eat lots of grilled foods and drink beer, my overall intake is far lower. Less guilt such as tonight when I got my fill of takoyaki from a street vendor and a beer. Which I have to make a note of, its the first red ale I have had make in Japan. I give them high marks, they really know how to make a good beer here. 

Anyways, as I mentioned in my previous blogs that I will be writing them soon one my phone on the way to and form work. This was the plan except they phone I received from a HK selling turned out to be an American model of phone... had to send it back and hoping for a quick return of the model that can work here... its been 5 weeks with no cellphone, very odd feeling. So hopefully soon you'll be getting more blogs and much deeper topics. 

Friday, May 6, 2011


Yesterday my friend took me out to Zushi for a beach BBQ with her friends. I almost missed the day when I slept through two of my alarms... I got out of bed to check the time to make sure I wasn't sleeping in too late and bam!! there the time was 9:15, I was to meet my friend at Shinjuku at 9:30!!!... Called my friend, she said she'd wait for me... threw on my close, fixed my bed head hair and ran out the door. Thankfully I got the express train to Shibuya... only took me 30mins to travel the whole way... so only 30mins late... 

The trip to Zushi takes about 1 hour to get there. Zushi is a beach resort community South-West of Yokohama along the coast. On the journey there you can see many hotel guest houses... similar to our bed-and-breakfast sort of living. 
The beach that we went to was located in a cover area, protected from the sea. Unfortunately the day was cool out and a little cloudy. I didn't venture out into the water, but did take in the ocean air.
The BBQ was fantastic. Lots of food and drinks. Had lots of grilled meats and rice balls. I'll definitely have to make BBQ'd rice balls sometime! I ate a massive sea snail that was boiled in its own juices with a touch of booze. 
And the best part of the day was meeting a lot of new friends. Few of them had visited Toronto and another lived in Toronto working for the Blue Jays. Lots of cute girls and good dudes. Unfortunately I partook in a little too much alcohol. Because I ran out the door I didn't grab anything to eat for breakfast, the first meal I had was a can of Kirin (beer). Only made a fool of myself on the way home... so I kept face with most of my friends haha. 
In all it was a great day and meeting great new friends gives me more reasons to stay here :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Was off to Ginza today, the Bloor Street equivalent, albeit Ginza is on a massive scale and encompasses a large area. I am not sure if this is regular or apart of Golden Week here, but Ginza's streets where shutdown and opened to the public. Canopies and street seating were placed down the middle of the road and the public appropriated the space. 

Ginza is a site of massive popularity and I always find these sorts of area's troublesome. These areas are always full of Brandnames and names that are typically found all over the world. Most of the stores located there are also located in Toronto, New Work, San Fran, etc. Architecturally though, Ginza is far more interesting than most places and for Tokyo... Ginza is a particularly. Its streets are massive and straight and buildings are large monoblock developments. This gives Ginza a unique feeling here in Tokyo compared to the tightly organic developments. Much of Ginza gave me reminders of Shanghai's Bund with historical icon buildings and sleek modern new buildings. 

A part of my goal in Ginza was to find some shoes... and that was a no luck endeavour. I was going to get a nice pair loafers at Zara, but of course my size 11 feet are massive here in Japan... 9 was their largest size. I did default and bought a pair of light weight pants that double as shorts... the weather here is getting warmer, but still relatively cool at night... almost cold. 

I did happen to stumble across a little architectural gem in Ginza. As I was sourcing out a 7/11 (the only place I can withdraw from a foreign credit card) I found Kisho Kurokawa's 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower. For those unfamiliar with the Capsule Tower, it was the first expression of the Metabolists idea of a Plug-in City. The tower is constructed with a central pylon with capsules surrounding it. Each capsule was to be the epitome of modern living in a single space. But as we know from much of the technologies and fashions of the 1970's, this lifestyle was short lived. Presently the Nakagin Tower is sitting in a forgotten area, adjacent to a highway. Time has not been favourable to the tower. Much of the capsules have seen better days and from much of the vantage points, these capsules look to be containers for storage. Many architects are seeking a way to get the tower refurbished, but things have been left so long in disrepair that it may never happen. Its an fortunate circumstance for great pieces of architecture, but we can always hope and try to get things repaired/restored/or re-imagined. Habitat Montreal was at  a point of disrepair before it was refurbished and now retails and boutique living. 

I journeyed home after my encounter with the capsule hotel. A little lost in thought... the building is massively famous in the architectural circles. A single small image can have any decently trained architect should out its name. But it appears to be little support to get things moving to keep this icon of design around. 

Tomorrow I am off to Zushi, a beach resort area south-west of Tokyo. It will be my first time outside of the Tokyo area since arriving. It should be an interesting day. Meeting a friend of mine and she'll introduce me to her group of friends. I have no idea what is in store tomorrow, but it should be fun. I have learned very well that Japanese really know how to enjoy their free time. More pictures to come and more to write about soon. There was a plan to write more when I was on the metro using my new cellphone that I ordered... however the phone I received does was the incorrect phone and does not work in Japan... Someday I'll get a working phone here...