Sometime on that rainy Wednesday afternoon I arrived in Japan and made my way across Tokyo to my hostel, somewhere North of Ueno. I immediately trundled to the other other side of Tokyo and spent a couple of hours in Shibuya. Unfortunately, jet lag hit me pretty hard, and I was exhausted by 4:00 pm.
So I went back across Tokyo. Again. By the time I hit Ueno, I had gotten hungry, so I started to look for something to eat. Just outside the station, off of Showa Dori, I stumbled across a small, quiet restaurant. Not being able to speak or read Japanese at the time, I had no idea what kind of food it was. I know now that it was a yakiniku, or grilled meat, restaurant, where you get your own charcoal grill and cook your own meat.
However, being oblivious to all of this, I ordered something off of the lunch menu that looked good, but still not entirely sure what it was. I literally pointed at the menu and smiled.
Now what I got, was pretty impressive. It was a large bowl of lamb noodle stew, with tofu, mixed green vegetables and sesame seeds (sorry that I can’t go into more detail, I couldn’t read the menu at the time and I’m remembering this from over two years ago), with a large bowl of steamed white rice on the side, a light lettuce and sesame salad, a small portion of kimchi and what I think was pickled cabbage. And a large bottle of Asahi Super Dry:
A meal like that in England would set you back at least ￥2,000 to ￥3,000 (somewhere between £15 and £25, depending on where you go). I got all this, at lunch time in the center of Tokyo, for a mere ￥700 (£5-£6). Probably the best value meal I have ever had.
The atmosphere, though quiet at the time, was nice and relaxing, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets outside. The food was absolutely delicious as well. And of course, who could complain with a price like that. I liked the place so much that when I was in Tokyo again two months later, I took a friend there on my recommendation.
And that’s the story of the first thing that I ever ate in Japan. And what a great start it was.