Hi Tony.

Am currently sitting on an Asama 625 super-express Shinkanzen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nagano. I’ve never been on one before, but can highly recommended it. Smooth is an understatement. All the while cruising at a lazy 325km/h. This is one of the older, slower trains. As you would understand, the red Shinkanzen is the really fast one.

We’ve just finished our stint in Tokyo. Off to the snow for some downtime.

Tokyo really did turn it on for us. Not only did we get thoroughly spoilt by our local friends, but we also happened to arrive just before cherry blossoms. There is a reason the Japanese celebrate this so passionately. While we had the pleasure of sharing the cherry blossoms with a few others in Ueno, we unfortunately missed the spectacle that is the Imperial Gardens. Next time perhaps.


Our food adventures continue, with breakfast being the only thing to disappoint. I just don’t get the infatuation with the worst that the US can offer. Bad, and I mean bad, coffee matched with an ultra-sweet donut. Try as we may, the best we got was a bakery for a croissant or one better, an almond croissant. Nice, but just not breakfast.


Dining at railway stations is a Japanese pastime. You wouldn’t do it in Australia, maybe Thailand? The choice of food types and quality on offer at Japanese railway stations is extra-ordinary. Cheap, fast, and chock full of stuff. Much of it I wasn’t able to identify, but it tasted damned fine.

Ok, on downside. I don’t get the Japanese fixation with smoking. You cant do it on the street, so they do it in restaurants instead. I’ve never wolfed down a bowl of piping hot udon as fast as when the table next to us lit up. Sometimes you find a restaurant with a smoking section. This is often neatly divided from non-smoking by a bamboo blind (or similar). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it is simply shit at keeping smoke out.

Speaking of hungry. I’ve been told there is a snack trolley on the train. Yeah, no sign of that happening. Might put this on hold and explore the train a little.

no food trolley

Back. Hungry, bordering on hangry (hungry angry). The people across from us had a picnic they bought on the station platform. Smells great.

Ok, quick snack in Nagano station from 7-Eleven. They have sushi fresh daily and often find Japanese grabbing their lunch from 7-Eleven, Lawson or Family Mart. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It actually works quite well.

An hour in a taxi to Hakuba, because we were too late for bus. Hakuba is a hot little snow town. We are staying in Happo One (pronounced “on-e”). Unfortunately it is very late in the season and a lot of bars and restaurants are closed. Despite that, we found and onsen in our hotel and there are a multitude of restaurants on the mountain where you can get ramen, katsu (fried pork fillet), ramen, curry, fried chicken, ramen, pasta or ramen. While a good katsu-don (fried pork fillet with egg on a bowl of rice) or katsu-curry (you get the picture), the ramen is often the way to go. Salty stock flavoured with miso or soy, some noodles, bamboo shoots, spring onions, seaweed and an egg, with optional slice of roast pork, tempura or similar. $6-10/bowl and you are good for the afternoon, even with some skis strapped on and lots of vertical feet to cover. Did I mention it is good washed down with an icy cold Kirin or Sapporo? If you are lucky they might even have some Suntory Malted, which is just that little bit more special than the standard lager.


Breakfast continues to disappoint us. Miso soup and trimmings is nice from time to time, but the Japanese appear to have determined that the US has the best breakfast offerings going. Sure, a stack of French toast with fresh fruit and maple syrup, with a side of crispy bacon is a nice treat, but even that is hard to find. Pale, limp bacon, scrambled “eggs” (not sure they are made from egg), pan fried potatoes and plump little pork sausages. Ok the sausages are good, but I can’t only have those.

We are off shortly to Japanese BBQ. It’s derived from Korean BBQ, but with some Japanese flare. Perhaps I should say “Japanese improvement”? I don’t want to be unfair to Koreans. We are planning a trip to Seoul next year and I am excited about that visit.

Better fly. Getting that hangry feeling again.

We’ve got another day here before Tokyo and home. Still plenty of time to eat. 







Hi Tony,

Sitting in hotel room looking over a building site to Ginza. Before I even talk about food, there is the Japanese way of doing things. It is a fascinating thing watching the site. Everything is immaculate, right down to the guys hosing the tyres of the trucks as they leave, in case they were to drop dirt on the road. I’m now wondering if the building will be finished at a certain time on a certain date. Reckon I could set my watch to it.

If only I could bring these guys over to build our place?! Maybe even entice them to a tropical island to build something for you?

I had most of a day to fill in before Julia arrives, so I headed up to Kappabashi on the advice of a well researched, passionate knife collector colleague of mine, Justin. He armed me with just enough information to ensure I bought something pretty good, but avoid the exquisite ¥50,000+ works of art. So, I’ve ended up with a 210mm wa gyuto aogami with a kasumi finish. In short, I bought a very nice kitchen knife. Pic to follow (the thing is wrapped so carefully, I can’t open it until I get home).


We’re delighting in the Japanese food, as per usual. Alright, breakfast isn’t on our list of special cuisine, but the rest is just sublime.

Old dear friends of mine, Atsushi, and his wife Yumiko took us out to Soregashi in Gotanda. A favourite of theirs. While chicken is the theme and highlighted in many ways, it wasn’t all we ate. There was a healthy chunk of delightfully seared fois gras on a carefully constructed chicken rissole, for example.


Atsushi explained Soregashi over a few glasses of sake, which I will get to shortly. Soregashi is an old samurai word meaning ‘me’, or ‘I’. It is not a word used in today’s language and was really only ever used by a Samurai when speaking with a Lord or Shogun.


Every time we catch up with Atsushi and Yumiko we are treated to superb out of the way places. The sort of place that unless you knew about it…you get my drift. But not only is it a case of finding these gems (I’d never be able to locate it again without help), it’s the food and drink ordering that takes a seasoned expert. I can’t even tell you what we ate, but the chicken sushi, yes raw chicken, was delectable as was the celery sorbet to help close the night off.


What continues to surprise and impress me is the complexity and versatility of sake. Even here Atsushi sought advice of the “sommelier”. We drank a variety of sake, some of which could easily have been mistaken for some slightly obscure white wines.

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The final sake was rich, sweet, but with a clean acidic finish. The sort of thing I would expect and get from a Auslese Riesling from the Rhine or a late harvest Semillon from the Hunter Valley. Which would I chose to finish a night off? Damned if I wouldn’t chose the slightly nutty hint in the sake. The name of it? Just grab it off the handmade paper label below…


After piling into a cab at 1am, not a bad effort given that Julia flew in from New York at 5:30pm and I had been on the go for about 40 hours, we remembered our deep fondness for this city.

We have pretty much opted for ‘fast food’ for lunches, which usually consists of ramen, katsu or ramen. Even better, wander off one of the main streets for 50m and you’ll find somewhere with a menu with pictures and a startlingly good feed for $6-8. Who knows what’s in it, but there is a reason there are a bunch of locals there.

We’ve got another day off tomorrow before we have 3 days of trade show goodness to get stuck into. Not sure what our diet will look like during those days…

Better kick this off to you.