Monday, 21 October 2013

Japan Trip 1: JAL, Keio Plaza, Omoide Yokochō

Japan Trip Day 1

JAL Flight
http://www.au.jal.com/aul/en/

My Sydney - Tokyo return JAL economy tickets were about $1300. Unfortunately, Sydney Airport shoved us to the deep dark corner of the airport. In addition to that, we had to board a bus on the tarmac to the plane (on the return trip, the same bus took us back to the deep dark corner of the airport).

JAL Economy Seat
The JAL economy seat wasn't bad. It was pretty comfortable. My main complaint on the flights was that the aircon wasn't turned up high enough and it was far too hot.

Snacks
Pretty soon after we were up in the air, the flight attendants served us a hot towel, a pack of rice crackers and drinks. I went for "Skytime" which is a JAL original drink of a citrusy drink. I really liked the taste and preferred it to the other drink options. Of the alcoholic drinks, I went for umeshu (Japanese plum wine). It tastes really good simply with ice.

JAL Sydney to Tokyo Main Meal Economy Class
Clockwise from top left: miso soup, bottle of Mount Franklin water, prawn salad, zaru soba (cold soba with soy based dipping sauce), fruit (kiwi, orange, and pineapple I think it was in syrup), beef stew (w/ mash potato, carrot and beans), garden salad w/ dressing

The choice for the main dish was beef stew or chicken mustard. Chicken dishes tend to be highly variable in dodgy settings such as economy class airline food so I went for the beef stew option. It was pretty good and I enjoyed it. Stew is successful airplane food.

Overall, I thought the meal was great for economy class. I had it washed down with umeshu.

JAL Sydney to Tokyo Light Meal Economy Class
Clockwise from top left: salad (cheese & salami), fruit (kiwi & watermelon), water, cheesy pasta, Cadbury dairy milk chocolate.

I enjoyed the main meal substantially more than this lighter meal before landing. It wasn't bad per se but perhaps it simply didn't cater towards my personal preferences.

Partly because it was a day flight, the 10 hours on the plane wasn't bad. I watched three movies: World War Z, The Internship and Fast and Furious 6 and that helped pass the time fairly enjoyably.

The flight was on time and arrived according to schedule. Overall, a good flight.

Keio Plaza Hotel
http://www.keioplaza.com/

Keio Plaza Hotel is a 5-star hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It is absolutely huge - with almost 1500 guest rooms. It's main selling point is its fantastic location in the heart of Shinjuku and close to the train station, good food and shops. Our South Tower rooms were about $280 AUD/night including 2 breakfasts.

Keio Plaza Hotel South Tower Room
The South Tower rooms are more spacious than the rooms in the main tower. There's nothing exciting about the hotel itself, it is simply a place to rest.

View from the Room

Omoide Yokochō/Memory Lane/Piss Alley

Map From Tokyo Teleport Plus Video Guide Iphone App By HoodHot Inc
Tokyo Teleport Plus is a most excellent travel guide app for the Iphone (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tokyo-teleport-plus-video/id359011509?mt=8). I'd highly recommend getting the app - it was a bit over $10 but well worth it. There are maps, guides, recommendations for eating, shopping, cultural experiences etc. In addition, there are really cool videos showing you various experiences.

Shinjuku Omoide Yokochō (Memory Lane) is also known as "piss alley" and is known for where Japanese salarymen go after work to get some yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and beer. This is Japanese street food at its best. There are numerous restaurants with little decor along this tiny alleyway. I really love this and everything about this.

The Restaurant We Picked
A number of the restaurants in the alley seemed to only serve yakitori - we were after a bit more variety and this place looked good.

Sat at the Bar
Nama Birru (beer)
Sashimi
Sashimi: kingfish, hotate (scallop), meguro (tuna), and mystery fish with stick poking out of it. The sashimi was superbly fresh (as one would expect from Japan) and beautifully presented.

One thing I've found about sashimi in comparison to Australia is that salmon and oyster sashimi in Australia is just as good if not better, but tuna, scallop and kingfish sashimi tend to be better quality in Japan.

Yakitori Selection
To get a taste of everything, we ordered the chef's special yakitori (chicken grilled on skewers) selection - it included normal chicken, chicken with leek, chicken heart, chicken liver, chicken skin and chicken meatballs. This was really delicious, cooked perfectly with just the right amount of sauce.

Deep Fried Crispy School Prawns
I'm not sure why but there's something about deep fried crispy school prawns that I really like (and it's not just the fact that I'm lazy). You don't need to peel these prawns and can chew through everything. Fantastic beer food.

Oysters Naturale
The raw oysters was drizzled with a nice citrusy sauce (ponzu). Fresh and very tasty.

Uni (sea urchin)
OMG the uni! (sea urchin). This was the best sea urchin I have ever had. Instead of being mushy, this was still intact and in beautiful slivers. This sea urchin was so fresh, sweet and tasty.

The quality of sea urchin in Australia is shocking and even then, still a really rare find. A lot of places list sea urchin on the menu but when you order it, they say it's unavailable. It has come to the point I have simply stopped ordering it for fear of poor quality.

Having found such good quality uni, I knew I was definitely in Japan.

Chicken Karaage
Chicken Karaage: even this simple dish of deep fried chicken was fantastic and I could tell a lot of attention to detail was paid.

On top of it all, all the dishes had the perfect amount of sauce/salt ratio. I didn't need to add any extra condiments to anything or found anything overly salty. Everything we ordered from this restaurant was really really fantastic. The price was very reasonable too. For all of that food, the bill only came to 5580 yen which is about $60AUD.

The Bill
No better way to start my trip to Japan with a most delicious meal.

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