PEr FYI

August 17, 2019

Maichibo, Chiba, Tokyo…the more is definitely the merrier.

Maichibo is a lovely spot in Chiba specializing in okonomiyaki, the Japanese savoury pancake cooked on a large steel hot-plate. I won’t hold it against you if you’ve never heard of okonomiyaki before. It’s the lesser known of Japan’s delectable dishes, but it’s certainly having a moment.

The Mai Course is made up of Caesar salad and baked romaine lettuce with half boiled egg followed by tonpei-yaki pork omelette. The sauce was not too overpowering, instead, it was a great combination of the pork. Then there were grilled chicken, chiba’s beef steak 50g and Hokkaido’s grilled scallops which was pleasant rather than exciting, cooked just a fraction longer than I would have preferred. Then the main event – the Mix okonomiyaki. Its flavors—sweet and savory, spicy smoky —were instantly recognizable (as they would be to anyone who has been eating casual Japanese food of late), while the texture, simultaneously crunchy and creamy, hit all of my comfort food sweet spots. No wonder they call this stuff Osaka soul food.

If you’ve been to Chiba only to go to Disneyland, this Japanese gem is the perfect reason to return. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 3, 2019

Otaru Music Box Museum, Hokkaido…never fail to dazzle

Otaru is home to a brilliant museum that never fail to dazzle visitors.

Comprehensively housing over 25,000 music boxes dating as far back to the 19th century, the museum continues to draw crowds from all over the world. Oh, and forget to check out the roof space where you may design your own music box, with options including music played and external design. Loads to see and do, and thanks to the vast variety of music boxes, it makes for a brilliant day out.

Then of course, there is the building’s 1912 architecture too – Otaru Music Box Museum is definitely worth a visit. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 7, 2019

Pie Face, Tokyo…It doesn’t look healthy, but it does taste good

Australian pie and pastry chain Pie Face sells warm savory pies with pleasingly flaky crusts. The dense, flavoursome and well-seasoned fillings include steak, ground meat, chicken and curried vegetables, each decorated with a face whose mouth identifies the flavor (an S for steak, M for meat, X for Mexican and so forth). There are sweet pies and other desserts.

If you come here and don’t order a pie, you’ll only have yourself to blame. Don’t let me down. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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June 16, 2019

Baikohken, Asahikawa Ramen Village, Hokkaido…oodles of noodles

Not all ramen are created equal. There are salty, brown-coloured, broths and milky-coloured ones. But which restaurants really strike the perfect balance of flavoursome soup base to soft, silky noodles to extra ingredients? What is the secret that sets one ramen join apart from another? Who is top of the broths?

My mission to find the best ramen took me to Asahikawa Ramen Village in Hokkaido. The broth is pretty rich here. For the full-on indulgence, go for the charsiew ramen miso. Make sure to add in the butter, just because you can. The gyoza is a worthwhile side.

Overall, the food was good but not memorable but I can think of 50 other places I can get the same or better quality ramen. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 19, 2019

Teshikaga, Sapporo…cure your ramen cravings.

In the heart of Sapporo’s red light district, Ganso Ramen Yokocho, the “original alley”  – a long narrow alley which features 17 popular shops offering different flavours of miso ramen. There are mutterings about noodle strengths, and the mammarian wobble of one soft-boiled egg over another. The problem is that, as with so much in Japanese culture, once you get past a certain quality threshold it’s very hard to distinguish one thing from another.

The one I ordered – the all the shoes  miso ramen – snow crab, barbecued pork topped ramen with miso (bean paste based soup) is a vivid flash of colour. The broth is a lovely shade of rust with a kick. The barbecued pork meat is soft, the fat beginning to melt away into the broth and respectable noodles come with a lovely bite.

With the kitchen directly in front of you, you can watch your bowl get assembled from start to finish. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 5, 2019

Snow activity Land, Rusutsu, Hokkaido…hits and misses

So what if temperatures are plummeting? Your excitement level life is heating up with exciting things to do in the powdery snow of Rusutsu. Rusutsu in the snow is a spectacular sight and whether you prefer to take to the slopes on skis or simply mosey on through the snow-dusted fields, there’s usually something for everyone to enjoy.

Snow Activity Land is a one-stop shop for dog-sledding, snowmobile tours, etc. The most disappointing activity was the dog-sledding. I don’t know if I have ever been more personally disappointed by any activity at Rusutsu than I was with Snow Activity Land’s dog-sledding. It wasn’t as long as I thought it would be. For a one hour activity as advertised for JPY3,780, the ride was over in 30 seconds. It’s a total rip-off, not worth the money. On the other end of the scale the snowmobile Adventure Course is worth every dollar. Conquering the snowy terrain as you zoom along on a snowmobile is the best way to enjoy a wintry landscape. If you’re a thrill seeker, you can zip up and down through the woods; if you prefer something more relaxed, you can opt for a scenic tour of the well-groomed trails. Nabin Tamang (email: paddletamang@gmail.com), our guide the best there can be, bringing with him hot coffee for a pit stop on the powdery snow.

Hit and misses with Snow Activity Land. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 27, 2019

Suage+, Sapporo…soup curry: Japan’s most underrated dish

Soup Curry – heavy, saucy and comforting – is one of Japan’s most underrated dishes.

Start by choosing the type of curry base you want…here choose your kind of curry from Crispy “Shiretoko” Chicken & vegetables – chicken (boneless), potato, carrot, eggplant, pumpkin, boiled egg, maitake mushroom, green pepper or Braised “Furano” pork kakuni – braised pork belly, potato, carrot, eggplant, pumpkin, young corn boiled egg. The broth is soupier than traditional Japanese curry. Then, select your desired spice level. Chicken-me chose the mild version. Next, choose the amount of rice you want and request any additional toppings. Most locals scoop rice onto their spoon and dip it into the curry, but you won’t be kicked out if you ladle the soup curry over your rice instead…like us.

It’s a spectacle of color that tastes as good as it looks. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 14, 2019

Café Yoshimi, Sapporo…refreshingly, as simple as that

If I know one thing it’s this: Japan has its fair share of absolutely gorgeous Instagram-worthy cafes and restaurants. Tucked away in the first basement floor of the newly opened Akarenga Terrace, Cafe Yoshimi is perhaps the platonic ideal of a café. Relaxed, quietly confident service matches the food and beverage offering.

If you’re after something for straight-up deliciousness, the chocolate and banana pancake is on a par with anywhere in the country. The banana and chocolate are a classic combination and coupled with eh soft and fluffy pancakes, this is irrefutable proof that God exists and wants us to be happy. The thick-cut French Toast and ketchup sauce Omurice add to the all-round appeal of this popular spot.

Unhurried atmosphere, lovely service and great food, Café Yoshimi has it all. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 30, 2019

Yu no hana, Otaru, Hokkaido…an antidote to Singapore stress

I am up to my neck in hot water. And it’s wonderful. Around me, naked Japanese men soak contemplatively. I am sitting in an onsen (natural hot spring) bath in Hokkaido’s hot water hotspot, Yu no hana. Utter bliss.

Yu no hana has a bit of everything….indoor and outdoor rotenburo (open-air, natural hot spring pools), massage, even claw and jackpot machines. Falling snow accentuates the charm of the rotenburo. And it is all made particularly easy by the English-speaking information centre at Otaru station and a free shuttle to and from the station. It was reasonably priced and an hour is long enough to take in the setting and to let your body completely relax.

Onsen is a pleasurable experience that will make you want to live in Japan . This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 3, 2019

Asahiyama Zoo, Asahikawa, Hokkaido…don’t miss the penguins

What’s cuter than penguins enjoying an afternoon waddle? Their webbed feet were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. It’s great to see them outside their habitat and see them walking right beside me. I’ve never been this close to one of these delightful birds.

Asahiyama Zoo is an intimate Hokkaido zoo with a number of fun and interesting exhibits. Look for the adorable polar bears and watch them at feeding time in the polar bear pool.

Asahiyama Zoo may not be as large or extravagant as Ueno Zoo, but it does feature beautiful surrounding scenery and some of the most exotic animals in the world. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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