Saturday, April 5, 2014

Vegan in Tokyo: A Helpful List

It seems that with age I am getting increasingly snarky about the morality of eating animal products.While I am by no means 100% vegan yet, I have definitely tried to severely reduce the amount of milk products and eggs I eat.

Since I know many others have similar moral (or health) concerns, I started listing some of my favourite haunts across the city, where you can get cruelty free tastiness!

Lets start in Roppongi, of all places. A short stroll from Mori Tower you will find Chien Fu (which also has a sister restaurant in Kunitachi). They specialize in Taiwanese style vegan food, with the fake meat the country is so famous for. The sweet and sour 'pork' is a major favorite, and their huge teishoku sets are all around 900yen. You can buy bags and cans of fake meat, vegan ramen and tofu mayonnaise on your way out too!

Next up is Kagetsu, a major ramen chain. During the spring they have vegan ramen, gyoza and fried rice. Cheap and cheerful. 
(NB. This is the last year they will be serving it, although you can buy the gyoza and ramen from their online store!)
(I ❤ gyoza, can you tell?)
While not a restaurant, the health food store Natural House, which has branches across the city, usually has several choices of macrobiotic bento. They are a bit on the pricy side, but allow you to have the traditional bento experience minus the meat and fish. My favorite is the 'meat' stew Nagomi set.

A hidden gem, if you so happen to be between Azabujuban and Shirokanedai station, is King Falafel. This used to be a twice monthly treat, when I worked in the area. The owner is lovely, and the full sized sandwich is a serious meal, with freshly fried falafel. Serious yum, but only two little chairs outside for seating.
On the same lines, Shamaim near Nerima is a bit of a hike from central Tokyo (unless you live there, of course), but has a fabulous falafel set and hummus set.
For something with a more American flavor, Good Honest Grub (housed in what appears to have been a normal house, between Shibuya and Ebisu) has an excellent Mexican bean wrap and smoothies. 

I have already written extensively about Eat More Greens (near Azabujuban Station) here, where the menu changes with the seasons (and has the most amazing Valhrona chocolate vegan doughnuts).The same goes for Deva Deva in Kichijoji (info here).

There are several more places I wish to go, and there are definitely some that have slipped my mind at the moment. I really want to check out T's ramen (inside Tokyo station) as well as the larger T's Kitchen in Jiyugaoka. 

Any recommendations? I would love to hear from other veggies in Tokyo!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sakura Saturday in Shakujikoen

Yoyogi, Ueno and Nakameguro's sakura may be beautiful, but the crowds that come with them are not. Sitting on a tiny, crowded bit of plastic sheet, getting bumped into by drunken students and eating karage is not really my style.

So, as has now become tradition, I go in search of parks a bit out of the way, to enjoy the pink blossoms in peace.
This year's destination was Shakujikoen, all the way out in Nerima. The area around the station was already charming, with lots of little stores providing handmade genmai onigiri and other tasty things.

Although not all the sakura were out in force yet (as being away from the center of Tokyo means that it is a bit chillier), it was an excellent choice. Near the park there are a series of yashiki (fancy smancy homes), made even more beautiful by the flowers blooming around them.
Shakujikoen includes some protected marsh area, and several small shrines. While it was obviously not empty, there was no lack of seating. Matcha-kun and I found a lovely tree near the lake, and listened to a decent amateur violinist play Ghibli songs.
I hope you got a chance to enjoy the sakura before the rain! Next up will be ajisai time!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blossoms in the Chill

Plum trees bursting with color proudly announce that spring is (slowly) arriving to our fair city.

Right by my station there is a trio of very pink ume, which brighten up the landscape every March. They are so perfectly balanced that they almost look fake, and contrast beautifully with the light green stripes on the Toyoko line trains as they zip by.

I appreciate the ume blooming despite the cold winds, bringing the reminder that plum and sakura flavored goodies will soon crowd shelves and menus across Tokyo.

Not far from my house there is a secret bairin (plum orchard), which I wrote about for Deep Japan. Check it out from here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nagoya Women's Marathon

After a several year hiatus from marathon running, 6 months ago I decided to get back into it.... not entirely sure what came over me, but I am so glad I did it!
Nagoya is almost perfectly flat, making it an ideal marathon for first timers or injured runners. The fact that it was women-only was also very nice, as we got to avoid the spitting, cup throwing and elbowing that male runners seem to indulge in so frequently.

The prevalence of the colour pink was a bit overwhelming, however.
It was my first time in Nagoya, so after picking up my race chip, Matcha-kun (who came along as crew) and I went off looking for kishimen (flat noodles in a miso-heavy broth) and a walk around Nagoya Castle. It is surrounded by lovely gardens, and we even got to see the plum trees in bloom.

The race itself was very well organized. I started off running with a couple of ladies introduced by a mutual friend, which helped me keep a steady pace for the first half. Eventually I pulled away, aiming for a quicker pace until the 35km point, where a bemused (as he doesn't quite get the point of running 42km) Matcha-kun awaited with Pocari and chocolate.

Eventually I finished in 5:13:47, and received the Tiffany's necklace (which they give in place of medals) from a adorable tuxedo-suited gentleman, along with a (thankfully!) purple t-shirt, towel, bottle of expensive face lotion and enough drinks and food for three people.

Thank goddess for Matcha-kun, who carried my bags and helped me hobble back to the station! Before leaving we both refueled at Komeda Coffee (a very famous coffee chain in Nagoya), and scarfed down a 'shironoire', a glorious croissant-like pastry topped with ice cream and maple syrup.

I am so proud of myself, as I hoped to finish in 5:30ish, and totally crushed that time. This has really boosted my running confidence, and am now already looking for the next event to sign up for!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Children and the Workplace

My stance on progeny (aka nope!), is pretty well known amongst my friends, but at work I have not discussed it, besides a oblique comment during my interview that quitting work to be a shufu is not one of my life goals.

Also, I know that my direct managers all have or want children. It is a fact that many of those who have kids can get very defensive if someone mentions that they don't want them, and last thing I want to do is antagonize the people I work so closely with. 

Keeping this balance can be very difficult. 
I was at a work dinner, when one of our clients asked: 'What will you do about your vegetarianism when you have kids?'.

I froze. My usual 'uuuhm, nah' is not going to cut it, especially since the gentleman in question is a father. I did my best with 'ohh, I've never thought of it, どうでしょうね' but for some reason they got stuck on it, with me getting progressively uncomfortable. 

Even in my relatively young area of tech, the female = mother monolith is alive and well.

How does one deal with this? I don't want to lie, but the truth is a maaaajor conversation stopper!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Advice site!

Hey, check it out! Some of my advice for fun things to do in Tokyo and Yokohama is now on Deep Japan!

This is a neat website, and also a gret way to meet new people, as they have regular meet ups :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow, Coffee and other Loosely Related Things

Snow in Tokyo is always a big deal. Each year they proclaim that it is the 'first major snowstorm in 13/20/100 years', when I perfectly recall that it snowed last year (and the year before) as well. Is it city-wide selective amnesia?

One thing snows means, for me, is a considerable uptick in the amount of time spent in cafe's, keeping out of the cold wind while also being out of the house.

I wish I could blame my increased coffee consumption on the weather, however it is much more closely linked with work (which has improved quite a bit, as I have gotten more used to busting out keigo at a moments' notice). The tech world is fueled by coffee and sugar, and I love both.

Bakeshop in Jiyugaoka remains one of my favorite places for brunch and a giant cappuccino on a cold Sunday morning. The fact that you can usually get a table is also a major plus (as are their really mouthwateringly delicious baked goods).

While exploring Sangenjaya, Matcha-kun and I came across Cafe Obscura, a charmingly tiny concrete bunker with a selection of interesting books and really top notch coffee. I also recommend their chiffon cake, which more closely resembles springy American-style angel food cake.

Keep warm, and watch out for the next storm tomorrow!