Despite everyone still wearing down jackets and freezing their asses off, it’s technically spring in Japan. That means food and drinks companies are in overdrive promoting products that look ‘sunny.’ I don’t generally drink soft drinks but I couldn’t resist trying this Strawberry & Cream flavoured Fanta. I’m sure the fruit content of this bad boy is debatable, but at least it keeps the chemical companies in business. (It tastes like a melted down version of those strawberry & cream boiled sweets you used to get as a kid.)
Saying that, there was an unusually warm day a few weeks back that allowed my friend Cate and I to sit in Shinjuku gyoen and have an impromptu picnic. 99.9% of the time the bentos you buy at the convenience stores here are crap, but if you go down into the food hall of a fancy department store such as ISETAN you can get some really beaut stuff. (On a side note, seeing the food halls of these stores is an attraction in itself, you’ll never see more beautifully presented food in all your life.) This bento was 900yen / £5.
Actually, most lunches in Japan cost between 900-1100 yen (£5-£6). It’s somewhat of a myth that this country is expensive to live in – some things certainly break the bank (apartment moving-in costs; concert tickets; fresh vegetables) but if you want to eat out it’s so much cheaper than the UK. The quality is so much better too. This is a small place called Tunnel Kitchen on my street in Shimokitazawa: 800yen for a set that includes rice, miso soup, two side dishes and a main. They only cook one thing every day so you get what you’re given. Under £5 for a full homecooked meal – and you literally eat it in the kitchen where it was cooked. (Four seats. Bento is even cheaper: 600yen.)
Continuing on with the strawberry theme here is a strawberry and custard sandwich. Would you like to try it?
Finally, here is the aftermath from last night. I went out to an izakaya with 12 girls from work and we all squeezed round one sunken table. Nomihodai (all you can drink) for two hours was 1,400yen (£8). Food in izakayas can range from greasy junk food to upscale Japanese cuisine: this one was higher end of the market with good sashimi and yakitori. Before eating, Japanese people say “itadakimasu,” a polite phrase meaning “I receive this food.” After eating, people once again express their thanks for the meal by saying “gochiso sama deshita,” which literally means “it was quite a feast.” And a feast it was.