The Ramen Shop in Omiya: Negijiro

There is never a bad time to eat ramen. But everyone knows that it’s especially good on a chilly winter day, which is exactly what we did!

We were in Omiya, a city in Saitama that I rarely go to, for my sister’s wedding dress fitting. It was so much fun seeing her in all kinds of dresses! I took tons of pictures from every angle so she could review the fitting, but I am unable to disclose them due to part superstition, part too many to go through. So I thought I’d share where we went after the fitting!

Negijiro Ramen is located on the west side of Omiya Station, which is a bit more quiet than the other side. I’m not really familiar with this area, the last time I was here was in high school, but apparently it is considered a competitive ramen district by those who are “in” on the ramen scene. Obviously I am not one of them, but I happened to have a friend who recommended Negijiro Ramen if ever in Omiya.

It was our first time there, a tiny shop with maybe 10 or 12 seats around the counter. We all ordered Shoyu Ramen (soy-sauce based ramen), which is one of  two most popular dishes, the other being their Tsuke-men (ramen noodles with a separate bowl of soup). Every order came with a small plate of boiled vegetables, which is not only filling, but very healthy, too.

The shoyu ramen was so delicious, the perfect combination of thick-ish noodles and light soy-sause soup, with a hint of pepper. And I didn’t even have to add an egg to it, I love when it’s part of the original menu!

What do you think? Will you try this ramen?

NEGIJIRO (葱次郎)
2-331 Sakuragi-cho Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama JAPAN
埼玉県さいたま市大宮区桜木町2-331
TEL: 048 645 3711
OPEN: 11:00am to midnight
SHOYU RAMEN: 630 yen

The Turkey-less Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving (to those who celebrate Thanksgiving)!!!

This is definitely one of those holidays that will probably never come into Japan, despite this country’s love for importing holidays, such as Halloween and Easter. For one, Japan never had any Native Americans that taught the pilgrims, that never came to Japan, how to grow corn and sat down together for a meal after a good harvest season. But more importantly, it’s almost impossible to roast a whole turkey in Japan’s tiny microwave ovens.

But I’v always loved this holiday from my childhood days growing up in Michigan and since my sister was heading over to my place for the weekend, I invited the girls over for an early Thanksgiving dinner, sans the turkey.

I was up and early, running back and forth to the supermarket, cooking and baking my butt off. It’s always fun putting a dinner together for family and friends, I get pretty excited about things like this. At the same time, I often get in over my head with ideas too difficult to execute by myself. This year though, I was surprisingly level headed throughout the whole process and had a great time in the kitchen, even though it was just me, my oven and reruns of Sherlock in the back ground.

The menu consisted of apple cranberry walnut salad, pumpkin soup, blooming onion bread, mashed potatoes, broccoli and macaroni casserole, green bean avocado fried rice, spinach balls, and bread stuffing. For dessert, there was pumpkin pie and apple pie, which I baked the day before.

When everyone came over, they helped set the table and then (after a quick photo session of the food, hehe) we all dug in! It was all SO GOOD!

I’ve learned that get-togethers like this are not really about the food. I mean, it kind of is…but it’s not. We could have had conbini bentos and it still would have tasted good, although not as Thanksgiving-y. For me, what makes the difference is that we were all enjoying this meal together. I personally miss my family the most around the holidays, so it was nice to have a full house (because my apartment is tiny, you know?) filled with chatter and laughter over dinner. The fact that we were all there enjoying the meal together is definitely what made it delicious!

I hope you’re enjoying time with friends and family this holiday season, too! x

Here are some photos:
 

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What is your favorite dish? x

The Mount Takao Hike

What do you do when your head is ready to explode?

Why, you go to the mountains, of course! Or anywhere quiet really. The lake, the woods…snuggle with a book on a rainy day. But we were headed for the hills, aka Mount Takao, on this particular day and that suited me fine.

Like I said before, Mount Takao is a very popular spot, which I’ve managed to avoid all these years. I mean, if a mountain offers a beer garden at the top, you know it’s going to be packed with people. I don’t even know if a mountain with a railway is even a real mountain (it is, I checked…but still).

But that being said, it’s a very convenient mountain from the city, especially Shinjuku. Just one train ride on the Keio Line and you’re there at the foot of the mountain within an hour, and only 390 yen! And because Mount Takao only stands at 599 meters, it’s a very easy hike for people of all ages. Not to mention the lift and railway that easily takes you straight to the top.

So for some, it’s worth the crowd.

My best friend and I went on a week day, and the crowd of people getting off at the station mostly headed towards the railway, so we nearly had the trail all to ourselves! My first time there and it was exactly what I needed to relax both mind and soul.

I admit, there’s a lot of concrete on this mountain. But the cool mountain air and warm sunny rays felt wonderful. The hike wasn’t difficult at all. I just enjoyed being surrounded by nature and seeing the views as we got closer to the peak.

We took Trail 1 and Trail 3, so by the time we reached the peak I were starving. Good thing for us, we packed a lunch! But I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture. Oh well. You’ll just have to believe me when I say it was delicious, especially with that mountain air. I did remember to take a picture of our tumbler, that held hot water for coffee, and mikan. Yum!

The peak was getting quite crowded when we finished eating. And even though the kindergarten kids were adorable, we decided to escape into the quietness of the mountain.

We made our way down the mountain on Trail 6, which was a bit more wet than our hike up, due to the water running along (and sometimes on) the path. There are certain places you can stop and sit, to look out across the mountain or just to chat. We were definitely slower hiking back down but then again it’s not every day you get to discuss life with your best friend on a mountain, so you can bet we took full advantage of that. It was great 🙂

So my advice? Go on a week day and you may have the hiking trails all to yourself! x

Here are some photos:

At Shinjuku Station, ready to get away from the crowds of people.
Mount Takao is part of the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park.
My love of moss is eternal.

Nature’s gradations are the best.
There were several different bridges along the trail.

Breathing in the greenery.
So many lush views, like this.
Aren’t the shades of blue gorgeous?

Our lunch break at the peak!

All the while, this huge spider was sitting right above us…eek!
These kids were just too cute!
Our path down from the peak began like this.
It was pretty wet in some places.
Shades of fall beginning to appear!

Taking in the mountain air by the a river.
Have you ever hiked Mount Takao?

The Reunion at D47 Shokudo

I love D47 Shokudo.

When my friend from university mentioned she was going to be in town with her husband (they were here on their honeymoon!), we decided to meet up in our old stomping ground, Shibuya. And for dinner, we settled on this restaurant.

It’s spacious and the menu is full of specialty dishes from all over Japan. D47 Shokudo focuses on utilizing local domestic products, which is always a plus.

It’s been ten years since we all graduated university and for M, who was an exchange student from San Diego, this was her first time coming back to Tokyo. It was interesting hearing about all the differences she noticed from back then. Like how the food portions are getting larger, or the massive amount of travelers.

We had a good laugh over old memories and had a great time getting to know her husband. It was a great way to end a really long week. Yay for mini reunions! 🙂

Here are some photos:

D47 SHOKUDO (d47 食堂)
Hikarie 8th floor, 2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都渋谷区渋谷2-21-1 ヒカリエ8階
TEL: 03 6427 2303
HOURS: 11:30am-10:30pm

The Day by the Waves of Kamakura

What is summer without the ocean?

There was a beach volleyball tournament at the beach in Shonan, which we went to see. Kugenuma Beach is the super popular spot where everyone comes to swim, surf and party in the summer. As you can imagine, it’s pretty darn crowded.

After some time watching the volleyball games, we headed down the coast towards Kamakura.

Now Shichiri-ga-hama Beach is more my style. There aren’t as many people, due to the lack of shower facilities. Just local surfers and an occasional bbq going on. The sand is almost black and the waves are strong and constant. I’ve always loved this spot to look out to sea.

Did I also mention that you can see Mount Fuji from the beach? It looks incredibility close from here, which I love.

Which beach is more your style?

Here are some photos:

PACIFIC DRIVE-IN
2-1-12 Shichiri-ga-hama, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa JAPAN
神奈川県鎌倉市七里ガ浜東2-1-12
TEL: 0467 32 9777
HOURS: 8:00am-8:00pm (10am-8pm on week days in the winter)

The Star Spangled Afternoon with Friends

It’s not very often I get to celebrate Fourth of July in Japan (for obvious reasons).
Growing up in rural Michigan though, it was one of my favorite holidays. Independence Day meant an afternoon at the beach or a picnic by the river, unless you were in the local town parade, followed by fireworks at night.
The fireworks show was fantastic! (Well, I hadn’t seen Japanese fireworks yet.) Most of the townfolk would be there. Kids running around with glow sticks, teenagers hanging out in groups (way too cool to sit with their parents), and adults chatting away with neighbors while passing out food and drinks. It was always truley a blast! 😉
I wasn’t planning on doing anything special this year, until my friends decided to get together on the 4th. Then I could not help myself. I had to make a patriotic pie (technically a cheesecake) to celebrate! (I made a fruit stick side dish, too…but whatever, in my head it goes with the pie.)
Let me tell you, I was not the only one excited for Fourth of July. Our lovely hosts E and M just had a darling daughter two months ago and she was totally on top of things. Look at her awesome stars and stripes tshirt! She is just the cutest. I’m sure you can tell from the pictures, this girl has got spunk. We were completely charmed by her the entire day!
And how can you not be when she smiles even in her sleep? So sweet!
I love that we all got to celebrate Independence Day together. We got to catch up on what everyone has been up to, all the while eating delicious homemade pizza, macaroni & cheese, and pie (i.e. cheesecake). It doesn’t get much more American than that, right?
Hope you all had an amazing weekend, too! x

The night ended with a big ole yawn! 😀

The Afternoon with the Sweetest Dog Ever

I’m no dog whisperer…but I know a sweet dog when I see one!
I went over to my friend’s place last weekend for a housewarming get-together. But we all ended up oohing and ahhing over the newest member of their family, Chocolat (pronounced the French way, of course!).
She is just two months old and absolutely darling, falling asleep on my feet one minute, jumping around to play the next. I nearly passed out from cuteness overload.
On my way back home, I actually looked up apartments in my neighborhood that allow pets. I even checked to see what kind of dogs were at my local pound. But I’m barely home long enough to take care of my plants, much less a real live animal. And I never ever want to be an irresponsible parent that neglects their pets. So for the time being, I’m going to have to be satisfied with being Auntie Kaori to all my friend’s dogs.
Personally, I don’t mind being the fun aunt that gets to spoil them at all 😀
Here are some photos of Chocolat:

Do you have a dog? Or are you an auntie/uncle like me?