Jan 28, 2014

Japanese chocolate snacks you should try ② Kinoko no Yama & Takenoko no Sato

Kinoko no Yama (lit. mushroom mountain) and Takenoko no Sato (lit. bamboo shoot village) by Meiji company are long-sellers that I have enjoyed since I was a child.

Unlike many treats I used to love but don't feel like eating any more, these two have always been my favorite.

Kinoko no Yama is a mushroom-shaped crunchy cookie and Takeno no Sato is a bamboo shoot-shaped biscuit cookie covered with two layers of chocolate. Both taste great, but I personally like bamboo shoots better than mushrooms.  It is hard to explain why, but I find the combination of mouth melting chocolate and crispy cookies so delicious.

This is the package of Takenoko no Sato (above), which has been on the market since 1979. It sells for 194 yen at convenience stores and little bit cheaper at supermarkets.

One package has about about 32 tiny bit-sized cookies (77grams, 426 kcal).

Last year Meiji released the new versions: "Otona no Kinoko no Yama" and "Otona no Takenoko no Sato."  "Otona no" means  "for adults."  What is different from the standard ones?

Well, the package are more chick and they say the chocolate is less sweet and better quality, though I honestly didn't find such a big difference. I should have compared the two versions at the same time to recognize the difference, because I don't have a keen sense of taste.

Here is the TV ad that was running last autumn, featuring Jun Matsumoto, a member of very popular boy idol group Arashi. In this ad, Matsu-jun is grown-up Peter Pan driving a car. Tinkerbell says "You look so grown-up today," and Peter replies, "Listen, nowadays even Kinoko no Yama and Takenoko no Sato grow up. There's no fighting against the trend of the times."

You are right, Peter. In Japan where the birth-rate is declining, developing products appealing to adults is an important survival strategy for any companies. Good for me!

By the way, the cookie & cream version, bitter chocolate-flavored cookies coated with white chocolate, is also very yummy. I really like it. Must try!



きのこ  mushrooms
たけのこ  bamboo shoot
里  さと   village
お菓子  おかし  treat
両方  りょうほう  both


明治  めいじ  name of the company
発売  はつばい  put on sale
それ以来  (それ)いらい  since then
ずっと = いつも
人気  にんき  popular


箱  はこ  box
開ける  あける  to open
形  かたち  shape
個  こ  piece


去年  きょねん  last year
大人  おとな  adults
出る  でる  to be released


嵐  あらし  name of the boy idol group
松本潤  まつもと じゅん  member of Arashi
演じる  えんじる  to play a role


甘さ  あまさ  sweetness
控え目  ひかえめ  mild
高級  こうきゅう  high quality  

そうそう、クッキー&クリームバージョンもありますよ。チョコレートクッキーにホワイトチョコレートの組み合わせです。 これもおいしい。試してみて!

組み合わせ  くみあわせ  combination
試す  ためす  to try

Best restaurants you can eat dry-aged meat in Tokyo

Look! This is the best steak I've ever had! Yes, it was dry-aged meat! I had never had a chance to eat the dry-aged beef, but finally I had it at  Wakanui Grill Dining Tokyo.

The photo above is the 500 grams of rib eye steak (5,600 yen) my husband and I shared. Actually, the waitress who came to our table recommended having 1kg of rib steak to us, saying, "If you want to have aged meat, trust me, the bigger the tastier. I always recommend 1 kg to a group of two or three people. Don't worry, it may look pretty big, but many people eat it up with no problem." 

Are you serious? After great consideration, we ordered 500 grams of rib and 250 grams of grass-fed Heifer fillet (3,200 yen, photo below). At this restaurant, the meats are all from New Zealand. 

A waiter cut the thick steak in two for us. Look at the beautiful rosy color! It is over 5 centimeters thick.

Both the rib and the fillet were delicious, but 750 grams of meat was too much for two midagers. I asked for a doggy bag (they nicely wrapped my leftover meat), and next day I made sandwiches with the thin-sliced aged meat, which was unbelievably tasty!!

Dry-aged meat is not cheap, but worth the price.  If you feel like eating a thick tender steak full of flavor on special occasions,  don't hesitate, choose dry-aged meat!  

Unfortunately, unlike in the U.S. and Australia, dry-aged beef is not yet too common in Japan, as this meat-aging technique is relatively new here. So don't expect to be able to eat dry-aged meat anywhere in Tokyo.

Restaurants you can eat dry-aged meat


Wanukai Grill Dining Tokyo

Address:  2-23-14 Hibashi Azabu, Minato-ku Tokyo (it is in the basement. Don't miss the entrance)
telephone: 03-3568-3466
Open daily, 11:30a.m.-3 p.m. for lunch, 6-11p.m. for dinner.
Nearest station: subway Azabu-Juban station (close to Roppongi)
For more information, check their website here (English).

La Boucherie du Buppa 


They offer not only beef but a great variety of wild meats, such as ducks, turtledove, dear, wild boars and even bears!!!!  

Address: 1-1-1 Yutenji, Meguro-ku, Tokyo  
telephone: 03-3793-9090
Open 6 p.m.-2 a.m. (Tue.-Sat.), 6 p.m.-12 a.m. (Sun), Closed Mon.
Nearest station: Nakameguro on Tokyu Toyoko Line and subway Hibiya Line
website: http://dubuppa.com/ (Japanese only)


LB6 Wine Bar ad Grill

Located in Roppongi, Tokyo's famous night life district, and open till 3 a.m.!  
Address:  4-11-13 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
telephone: 03-3478-0222
Open daily, 5 p.m.-3 a.m.
Nearest station: Roppongi
website: http://www.lb6.jp/ (all in Japanese but you can see the atmosphere) 


Address: 7-11-4 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 050-5869-8768
Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-1 a.m.
Nearest station: Hiroo


Address: 16-2 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 050-5872-2567
Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 a.m.
Nearest station: Daikanyama

Bistro 熟肉 Nareniku


If you are looking for a dry-aged beef restaurant in Shinjuku area...
Address: 7th floor of Shinjuku Youth Bldg., 4-1-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-5363-5201
Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-11:30 p.m. (Mon.-Sat.), 5-10:30 p.m. (Sun. & holidays)
Nearest station: Shinjuku

Specialita di Carne Chicciano


Fancy Italian.  The price is also fancy.
Address: B1 fl. Akasaka Nakamura Bldg. 3-13-13 Akasaka Minato-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3568-1129
Open 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. (Mon.-Fri),  6-11 p.m. (Mon. -Sat. & holidays), closed Sun.
Nearest Station: Akasaka on the subway Chiyoda Line
website: http://www.m-onecafe.jp/chicciano/index.html (Japanese only)

From here I'll write in Japanese.


初めて  はじめて  for the first time
熟成肉  じゅくせいにく (dry) aged meat
場所  ばしょ  place
麻布十番  あざぶじゅうばん  name of the area in Tokyo


勧める  すすめる  to recommend
注文する  ちゅうもんする  to order


お腹  おなか stomach
残り  のこり  leftovers
持ち帰る  もちかえる  to take something home
翌日  よくじつ  next day
本当に  ほんとうに  really

紹介する  しょうかいする  to introduce
数年  すうねん  several years
限られる  かぎられる  to be limited
値段  ねだん  price
試す  ためす  to try
価値  かち  worth
機会  きかい  chance

Jan 16, 2014

Let's go to temples and shrines ②: Izumo Taisha

Hi everyone! みなさん、こんにちは!

What do you do when looking for a new love? Go to a singles bar? (Do they still exist?) Ask your friends to introduce someone? Become a member of  a marriage agency?

In Japan it has been a trend that girls pray for fateful encounters at Izumo Taisha, one of the oldest and most important shrines, located in Shimane Prefecture.

Why do they go down all the way to Shimane, far west in the Honshu Island, taking 1.5 hours by plane from Tokyo? Because Izumo Taisha is dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto, the deity who establishes good relationship over people, and naive women believe that the deities will bring them Prince Charming by visiting the shrine. 

I went to Izumo province for the first time in my life last year-end, not because I'm looking for a romance, but because 2013 was the important year for the ancient shrine.

The shrine needs to be renovated every 60 years, and the "goshintai" or a holy object in which the spirit of deity resides is moved out to the shrine building. Goshintai can be mirrors, swards, jewels, etc. depending on the shrine, but no one, except for a handful of shrine priests, knows what the goshintai of Izumo Taisha is.  It has been a big mystery for centuries. When it moves out from the shrine, priests carry it, hiding with big white cloths.

Anyway, when we visited, it was very cold and quiet, as people are usually busy preparing for the new year. If you like the serenity, year-end would be a good season for tourism, if you don't mind the coldness. 

As you already know, this type of gate, called torii, is the symbol of shrine and marks entrance to holy precincts. 23.5 meters high, this torii is generally known as "O-torii (big torii)". 

 Going down the path, you'll reach the haiden, a prayer hall (photo below). At most shrines, you first bow twice and clap your hands twice, make a wish or pray and then, bow again (only once), while you have to clap your hands  four times at Izumo Taisha.

The huge shimenawa (rice straw rope), weighing 4.4 tons, is a symbol of Izumo Taisha. Shimenawa marks god's territory, and can be seen at any shrines but this size is exceptional and rare.  

Then, advance to "honden (本殿)," or the main hall built in the oldest architectural style in Japan known as Taisha Zukuri style, and designated as the national treasure. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by wooden fences and you can't get close to it.

I took this photo from the back. The roof was completely renewed last year, and the enormous scissor-shaped finial on the roof called "chigi" was replaced with the new one. The removed chigi is displayed at the nearby shrine museum, where you can see how big it is (photo below).

Today the hall is 24 meters high, but when it was constructed, according to some records, it was 48 meters high, perching on the huge pillars. People were all suspicious until the evidence was found. In 2001, the base parts of the pillars that supported the hall were excavated at the precinct of the shrine. 

The original shrine was probably like the photo below. This scale model is displayed at the museum, as well as the excavated pillars.  

After visiting the shrine, why not have luch at Izumo soba, the local specialty?

How to get to Izumo Taisha:
At JR Izumo-shi Station, take a Ichihata bus bound for Taisha or Hinomisaki at bus stop No.1, and get off at Seimonmae or Izumo Taisha. Takes about 25-30 minutes from the train station. The bus comes every 30 minutes.

From here, I'll write in Japanese.

出雲大社 (いずもたいしゃ) Izumo Taisha shrine
縁結び (えんぶすび) match-making
神様 (かみさま)  god, deity
注目する (ちゅうもくする) to pay attention to~
出会い(であい) encounter
求める (求める) to seek
若い (わかい) young
訪れる (おとずれる) to visit

最も(もっとも) most
改築 (かいちく) renovation

ご神体(ごしんたい)  holy obect
社(やしろ)  shrine building
儀式 (ぎしき) ritual
話題 (わだい) topic of conversation

昔 (むかし) ancient time
柱 (はしら) pillers

土台 (どだい) foundation
部分 (ぶぶん) parts

お参り (おまいり) pray
お辞儀 (おじぎ) bow
手を叩く (たたく) to clap hands
最後 (さいご) at last
価値 (かち) value  (行く価値がある:worth visiting)
機会 (きかい) opportunity