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 Afternoon in Chichibu

Chichibu may be famous for their matsuri and Shibazakura, but there is much more to this region.

Even if just around the train station.

On my way back from Hitsuji-yama Park, I had a little time to wander. I discovered a city surrounded by mountains, filled with interesting temples and local shops. The streets were quiet but full of charm.

The temple I stumbled upon was Nosaka-ji (野坂寺), which is the twelfth temple in the Chichibu 34 sacred temple pilgrimage. This temple may be one of my all time favorites because it was so quirky.

Right at the entrance, you come face to face with a lovely Azukari Kannon (預かり観音), a Kannon that will gather your worries, anger, sickness, and whatever else may be burdening you. There is also a gorgeous wood carving of the Mountain God. I won’t mention everything but there was just a lot of interesting things to see, you’ll have to go discover for yourself.

A piece of advice. If you ever discover a temple with a cemetery on the side of a mountain, climb to the highest grave. You won’t regret it. I loved seeing the view from above. My ancestors on both my parents sides have a great view from the family grave, which we took full advantage of this new years. I’m sure they won’t mind sharing a view with you for a while, especially if they haven’t had visitors in a while.

I passed by a beautiful shelf of white wisteria (which I didn’t even know existed), a large elementary school with a great view of Mount Buko, and retro shops that were so cute that I had to stop and snap photos of.

Then I discovered an amazing local bakery, where I ended up buying much more than I could eat. The bakery prides itself in using natural yeast, domestic flour and other organic produce. If you, unlike me, have self restraint and only get one thing, I would suggest the Aosa Bagel. I didn’t even know this existed but it was delicious!

I’m already looking forward to my next time in Chichibu. x

Have you been to Chichibu? Isn’t it charming?
NOSAKA TEMPLE (野坂寺)
2-12-25 Nosaka-machi Chichibu-shi, Saitama JAPAN
埼玉県秩父市野坂町2-12-25
1-18-12 Nosaka-machi Chichibu-shi, Saitama JAPAN
埼玉県秩父市野坂町1-18-12
TEL: 0494 25 7373
HOURS: 10:00am-6:30pm (Closed Tuesdays/Fridays)

The Afternoon in Kagurazaka

I have always liked the Kagurazaka neighborhood.
A couple weekends ago, my friend F and I went exploring! We wanted to check out the new bookstore, Kamome Books, which opened at the end of last year. It’s not just a bookstore with a great selection of books and magazines. It also has a cafe (with an open terrace in warmer weather!) and an art gallery in the back
This spot was previously also a bookstore, that suddenly closed in the spring of 2014. The owner of a manuscript proofreading company walked passed and realized the bookstore was closing. He decided then and there to do something about it so he opened Kamome Books for people to enjoy “off-line” time in this age where everyone seems to always be online. 
F and I browsed the whole bookstore before settling down for a latte. It was a really warm day and a great place to sit down and chat. With La Kagu right across the street, it’s also a really great place to people watch!

After coffee time, we walked down the street to Akagi Shrine.
It’s a very modern shrine designed by the ever famous architect, Kengo Kuma. I really like it, despite the huge condo right next to it on the property. I’m sure the beautiful shrine is what sold those condos because if it were an old run down shrine with a graveyard behind it, I don’t think I would buy a condo next to that. I mean, I don’t really believe in ghosts. But I am definitely scared of them (if they’re real…you never know!)
You can read more about the shrine here.
We also bumped into a crowd of people wearing kimonos at the shrine. Kagurazaka is one of those places where it’s not unusual to see people wearing them. Kimonos are not the most easiest thing to wear but I love wearing it. It makes the day special, in my opinion. This crowd seemed excited to be walking around Kagurazaka wearing kimonos, too.

We also passed by Mugimaru2, the quirkiest manju cafe.
I knew they had cats inside the cafe. I did not know they had fish outside. Am I the only one worried about this combination? Hopefully the cats are well fed.
My favorite here is the Yomogi Cheese manju (140 yen!).
F and I were too full for a manju…but you can never be too full for gelato! We stopped by Gelateria Theobroma, a tiny gelato shop that F discovered while we were exploring the backstreets of Kagurazaka. Her gelato radar is spot on!

One of the best things about Kagurazaka is that there are various shops located in areas that you would think is a residential area. So it’s a great place to just randomly roam because you never know what you will discover.
Like this pretty park with gorgeous wisteria!
It was in full bloom and you could smell the fragrance of the flowers instantly as you step into the park grounds. It’s a local park, nothing special. But a fun discovery just the same.

You can’t come to Kagurazaka without stopping by Le Bretagne to try their delicious galette, a traditional Bretagne crepe made from buckwheat flour.
They have many restaurants in Tokyo but this was the first one to open. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, which I think will be great once it gets warm. From the cobblestone path that leads to the restaurant, the lovely interior and friendly staff welcoming you in French…it takes you away from Japan, if only during your meal.
I had a great time catching up with F over dinner! It was delicious and we definitely left Kagurazaka full and happy 😀

Have you been to Kagurazaka? Do you have any recommendations?

KAMOME BOOKS (かもめブックス)
Daiichi Yarai Bldg, 123 Yarai-cho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区矢来町123 第一矢来ビル1階
TEL: 03 5228 5490
HOURS: Mon-Sat 10:00am-10:00pm, Sun 11:00am-8:00pm

AKAGI SHRINE (赤城神社)
1-10 Akagi-motomachi, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区赤城元町1-10
TEL: 03 3260 5071

MUGIMARU2
5-20 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区神楽坂5-20
TEL: 03 5228 6393
HOURS: 12:00pm-9:00pm (closed Wednesdays)

GELATORIA THEOBROMA
Borgo Oojime, 6-8 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区神楽坂6-8 Borgo Oojime
TEL: 03 5206 5195
HOURS: 10:30am-7:30pm

NAKAMACHI PARK (中町公園)
5 Naka-cho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区中町5

LE BRETAGNE
4-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo JAPAN
東京都新宿区神楽坂4-2
TEL: 03 3235 3001
HOURS: Tue-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm, Sun 11:30am-10:00pm (closed Mondays)

The Super Everyday Ordinary Exhibit by Grace Lee

I was lucky enough to stop by the happiest little gallery in all the land!
After our afternoon sakura hunt through Yoyogi, my friend F and I headed over to L’illustre Galerie LE MONDE, a small gallery in Harajuku that specializes in illustrations. F just happened to be friends with Grace Lee, who’s exhibit Super Everyday Ordinary was ending that day. And I am so happy we made it there in time to see everything!
Grace was the most charming person ever and she showed us around the gallery. This gallery was actually a photo-friendly place, so I started snapping away! Her drawings are so quirky but also wonderfully relatable, just like her. And I mean that in the best way possible, she is a gem!
F and I almost fell over from delight when we spotted an illustration of a striped tshirt, just like the one we were wearing! So of course we had to take a photo with it! ;D 
By the time we were done browsing through everything and chatting with Grace, it was time for the gallery to close. And because we were there and didn’t have any plans, F and I stayed behind to help Grace and the gallery owner Yoshi (who is an illustrator himself) clear the gallery.
As I’m not an artist, I wouldn’t know how it feels to take down your art at an gallery…but I can imagine it would be bittersweet. Everything was so perfectly placed that it was hard even for me to take down the artwork. How I wanted it to stay just as it was!
After everything was done, we all went out to eat delicious Thai food down the street to celebrate a successful exhibit. The great thing about having a Thai friend is that they know where the good Thai restaurants around town are! F even spoke to the staff to ask for “regular” spiciness. Yum yum!
Both Grace and F are artists and it’s always really interesting, not to mention inspiring, to learn how they bring to life their creativeness. Kudos to these girls for going doing what they love! xx
Here are some photos:

(photo by Grace Lee)
(Left photo by Fai)
201 Dormi Harajuku, 6-35-5 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区神宮前6-32-5 ドルミ原宿201
TEL: 03 6433 5699
HOURS: 12:00pm-8:00pm (Closed Mondays)
2nd Floor, 6-1-5 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区神宮前6-1-5 2F
TEL: 03 3400 2918
HOURS: 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:30pm-11:00pm

The Plain Vanilla Bakery in Singapore

What is better than finding an amazing bookstore?
Finding an amazing bookstore, walking out with your new book, and stumbling upon a bakery with a mouth-watering selection of cupcakes! The Plain Vanilla Bakery on Yong Siak Street, I later found out, is quite popular. They had nine basic cupcakes and a couple more seasonal ones. I was very tempted to try all of them but somehow manage to limit myself to just one, the carrot flavor.
It was so good.
There was a seating area right outside of the bakery. It wasn’t a very large space (just two large tables) but I loved the simple and rustic decor. It was the perfect place to just sit and relax while reading my new book. And I have to say it again, the cupcakes were delicious!
Here are some photos:
1D Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168641
TEL: +65 6465 5942
OPEN: Tue-Fri 11:00am-8:00pm
             Sat 9:00am-8:00pm
             Sun 9:00am-6:00pm (closed Mondays)

The Kama-age Udon at Nagata in Kanoka

Kagawa prefecture is known as the “Udon Prefecture” in Japan.
The people of Kagawa eat more udon than any other place in Japan. Their annual consumption of udon is said to be 230 servings per person, which means an average of one serving every 1.5 days. This is almost twice the amount of the national average.
They also eating udon for breakfast and many of the udon shops open early in the morning. And did I also mention they have sanuki udon soft serve? And sanuki udon burger? That’s probably mostly for tourists…but you get the idea. They really love their udon.
After our week at my parents place in Ehime, my sister and I headed towards Okayama airport to fly back to Tokyo. On our way there, we stopped by Kagawa to see our friends and try out a local sanuki udon shop ourselves!
Our friends took us to Nagata in Kanoka, which I later found out is one of the most popular udon shops in Kagawa at the moment. There was already a looooong line when we got there. (Not that that would deter us.) Nagata in Kanoka is a kamaage udon specialty shop. Kamaage is a type of dish where the udon is taken straight from the udon boiler. It is usually in a bowl of its own and you eat it by dipping the udon into a separate bowl filled with tsuyu (broth).
It was a very hot day and you might think we were crazy to eat at a udon shop that only serves hot bowls. But once we got inside the building, the air conditioning was working in full force and it actually felt really good eating something warm! We were chatting away while waiting for our udon to come, but once it came…there was no conversation until the bowl was empty! It was that good!
Our friends actually don’t live in Kagawa either (they just come back for the holidays like me), so we’ve started this tradition of going to a different udon shop everytime we’re both in the area, which I love! This place is my favorite at the moment but I can’t wait to try a different place next time. So many udon shops in Kagawa…and so little time!
Do you have a favorite udon shop? Or a favorite type of udon? I’d love to know! x
Here are some photos:
Standing in the long line and getting more hungry by the minute!
My sister with our friends, D and K, in front of the entrance.
The place was packed…and of course the summer koshien is on tv this season!
The tsuyu (broth) for the udon was in this crafty pitcher.
We put sliced scallion and ginger in our individual tsuyu bowls.
Excited that the udon is here and also trying to pour the tsuyu without spilling.
A few seconds before we all dug in to the bowl of kamaage udon! Yum yum!
Here is our kamaage bowl after we all finished! Gochiso-sama-desu!
When we came out the line had gotten even longer and the parking space was packed!
We had a great time catching up with D and K, who drove us all the way to Utatsu Station.
At Okayama Airport, checking out our airplanes. My sister flies JAL and I fly ANA 🙂
Had to force myself away from watching Koshien to board the plane at the bottom of the eighth!
Above the clouds, heading back to Tokyo.


1180 Motomura, Konzoji-machi Zentsuji-shi, Kagawa
香川県善通寺市金蔵寺町本村1180
TEL: 0877 63 5921
OPEN: 9am-5pm (closed Wed/Thu unless holiday)

The Tunisian Restaurant Cafe Chameau in Kobe

Did you know you can find a tiny piece of Tunisia in Kobe?
One of the things I love about conversation with my friends in Kobe is that our topics are far and wide. It goes from toddlers to Irish law…and in this case, couscous! I happened to mention that I’ve only had it once and didn’t know how to prepare couscous. Apparently V’s sister makes an amazing couscous dish and one thing led to another and we ended up having lunch at Cafe Chameau.
How much do you know about Tunisia?
I personally didn’t know very much about Tunisia, except that they have a soccer team that Japan has played in a past World Cup. So I did a little research (i.e. google) and learned that Tunisia is a North African country that sits snug between Algeria and Libya. Previously part of the French colony, they became independent in 1956. And despite political turmoil at times, their gorgeous beach resorts seem to remain a favorite destination among many Europeans (I can see why!). Obviously, this is like saying Japan is an island and Tokyo is the capital city…but we all have to start somewhere, right?
The friendly Tunisian owner of Cafe Chameau welcomed us into the restaurant. Because my friends are French, that is what they spoke. Later he switched over to English for me and showed me pictures of his daughter who also already speaks Arabic and Japanese. So many languages…I love it.
For lunch, I of course chose the couscous set, which was full of delicious spice and vegetables. So good! Also, perfect dish for a vegetarian (especially if you have a friend like V, who ate the meat for me!). Oh and can I tell you how much I loved the sweet mint tea? Mmm! I’m definitely coming here again next time I’m back in Kobe.
Have you ever tried a Tunisian dish before? What do you think? x
Look for the Tunisia flag and this restaurant sign!
Loved this little corner filled with various Tunisian goods, some of which you can buy.
This is the lentil soup and pita bread with a bit of mechouia, part of the couscous lunch set.
The flavorful couscous dish! It was super filling, too!
Not only is the food delicious, the dish itself is gorgeous as well.
My first time trying the sweet mint tea…I’m still craving it right now!
There are two table seats as well as counter seats…so stop by when you’re in Kobe!

Yale Yamate Bldg 104, 2-13-9 Naka-yamate-dori, Chuo-ku Kobe-shi, Hyogo JAPAN
兵庫県神戸市中央区中山手通2-13-9  エール山手ビル104号
TEL: 078-242-0807
OPEN: 11:30am-10:00pm
CLOSED: Mondays (unless holiday)