|Day Two (Mon):||Shinjuku - Sanrio Puroland (Tama Centre) - Kichijoji - Mitaka no Mori Ghibli Museum - Kichijoji - Shinjuku|
|Breakfast:||Salmon and Mentaiko Onigiri|
Purchased at some convenience store in the subway
|Lunch:||A5 rank Matsuzaka steak at a butcher shop/steak house|
Steak House Satou, Kichijoji
|Dinner:||Yakitori and Shumai at an 80-year-old izakaya|
Iseya Honten, Kichijoji
Our first breakfast in Tokyo followed the tradition of typical Tokyoites -- convenience store Onigiri (rice balls) eaten at a train station. Both the salmon and the mentaiko was quite good at 147 yen each.
This was a day for touring our own childhood. At 8:30AM We took the Keio train to Tama Centre to see the Sanrio Puroland (home of the Hello Kitty, at my wife's request). The tickets (or rather, vouchers for the tickets) were purchased the previous night at a ticket vendor for 2500 yen each, quite a deal compared with 4400 yen at the gate.
The morning commute in the Shinjuku underground was much better than I expected (really nothing compared with the chaotic Admiralty station in Hong Kong). We got to Tama Centre almost AN HOUR early and went for some light shopping.
I'm not going to describe Hello Kitty's home in much detail since there are tons of travel journals doing just that. It's not a huge place, but I can appreciate the attractiveness to Hello Kitty fans. The selection of the licensed merchandises is probably one of the largest in the world. My wife would certainly agree that the three hours of entertainment was more than worth the 2500 yen ticket for her. And for me, the entertainment was watching her eyes light up. Although, the full price of 4400 yen would have been too stiff.
The next stop would complete another THING TO DO BEFORE I DIE. The famed Matsuzaka Beef.
Gourmet Spot #2: A5 Rank Matsuzaka Beef Teppanyaki - Steak House Satou, Kichijoji
Ever heard of Kobe beef? Kobe, Matsuzaka and Oumi are considered to be the three most prestigious cattle-producing regions in Japan. Not that other regions can't produce top quality cattles, but traditionally these three were the more well-known and commanded the top prices.
I can go on and on about Kuroge Wagyu (black-haired Japanese cattle), but the important part is: Japanese beef are typically ranked according to their marbling content and distribution using two systems. At fine steak or shabu shabu restaurants, you would typically find the prestigious A5 ranked Kuroge Wagyu. And A5 Kuroge Wagyu produced in Matsuzaka would usually command very high prices (think 15000+ yen meals). But hey, I said this is a once in a lifetime trip remember?
With some research we ended up getting our top quality Matsuzaka steak at a fraction of the price. There is a place in Kichijoji where the ground floor is a store selling fine meats, including certified Matsuzaka beef. It's difficult to miss it since the lineup for their deep fried minced beef patty (150 yen) is half a block long. And the 2nd floor is a small, slightly cramped restaurant serving the meat sold downstairs. Welcome to Steak House Satou.
Multiple readers have asked for better directions to this popular restaurant. I hope this is better...
Kichijoji is in the western part of Tokyo. The easiest way is to go to Shinjuku's JR station, and take the "Chuo Line" westbound (towards Takao). It's about 8 stations (if you happen to get on a "Local" train -- less stations if you get on a "Kaisoku" (fast train)), you should get there in about 15 minutes.
Once you get to Kichijoji Station, exit the station from the North Exit. Then follow the map in the following link:
The crosshair in the map is the location. It's less than 5 minutes walking distance. Not everyone knows about the steak house upstairs, but everyone in Kichijoji knows about the meat shop downstairs. Grab a younger guy and ask about "Satou Nikuya" (Satou meat shop) if you can't find it. If you see a big lineup in front of a meat shop, that's the place.
When you get there, there's a narrow, steep staircase on the right side of the store. That's the entrance to the Steak House. Chances are you'll line up for 30 minutes or more. Good luck!
We arrived way past the typical lunch hour and still ended up in the lineup slowly advancing up the steep stairwell for 30 minutes. It was well spent as we were seated at the counter right in front of the chef. The menu choices were:
|Matsuzaka Beef Oil Yaki||870 yen|
|Wagyu steak||2500 yen|
|A bigger Wagyu steak||3500 yen|
|Chef Omakase Set||5000 yen|
Remembering the purpose of our trip, we had to order the most expensive set. 180 grams of Chef's select Matsuzaka steak, served with a choice of red, white or Japanese wine. We also ordered the Oil Yaki set, just to see how the cheaper Matsuzaka cuts compares to the steak.
Here comes the Matsuzaka Beef Oil Yaki. Pretty good portion for a measly price. It turned out to be very thin slices of probably bits and pieces of the Matsuzaka cattle. And now the taste...
... was incredible! The slices contained such a balance of meat and fat that the softness and oiliness filled every bite. After a couple bites came the steak we were waiting for.
We actually watched the chef taking this steak (actually two steaks) out of the huge fridge and cut it into cubes as the beef sizzled on the Teppan. I ordered medium rare and waited as the smoky smell of oil and red meat filled the room. I don't know how I managed the patience to finish the salad before taking my first bite of the steak cubes.
Sugoi! So much oil and juice flowed down the tongue even before the bite. And upon the bite, the cube practically disintegrated. Like the cube was composed of many bits and slices of meat and was gently held together by the marbling fat. I can't describe it but it was certainly one of the best meals of my life.
Incredible juiciness and texture. Coupled with the dipping sauce it was heaven.
One last note that the glass of wine, the silky smooth Koshi no Kambai, was quite an excellent match for the texture of the Wagyu. Everything was top quality.
|Bill for two persons:|
|Matsuzaka Beef Oil Yaki||870 yen|
|Chef Omakase Matsuzaka Steak Set||5000 yen|
Mitaka no Mori Ghibli Museum
What can I say, it's a museum of all things Miyazaki Hayao, complete with a reconstruction of his working studio and a rather complete (and fun) explanation of the animation production process. And for the real Miyazaki fans, a whole library of his complete scene-by-scene sketches from Totoro to Howl's Moving Castle and more. Too bad photos aren't allowed.
There was also a limited time display of Alps no Shojo Heidi, and the short film on display on that day was Kujiratori, a story of elementary school kids' imaginary whale hunt.
How come adults aren't allowed to enter the Neko Bus plush toy?
Gourmet Spot #3: Cheap 80-year-old Yakitori Joint - Iseya Honten, Kichijoji
I've heard about this place a lot over the web, a neighborhood drinking place serving 80 yen (yes, that's correct) yakitori skewers in Kichijoji for generations. That's as Japanese as it gets, I thought, and had to go visit.
And it was worth the trip, as long as cleanliness and seating comfort was no object. Naturally my wife enjoyed the place less than I did, but it was quite a cultural experience. We shared a small wobbly folding table with a young couple, who finished a large bottle of beer and a pile of yakitoris and other dishes and were gone within twenty minutes.
There's a paper menu, but for the large salarymen crowd the menu was right overhead. Notice the smokey fume inside this place. You could smell the yakitori from a block away.
An order of Kushi Mix and 2 draft beers to sample the place. 320 yen for 4 sticks. I think that was one yakitori, one liver, one heart, and one skin. It was worth the 80 yen but not spetacular, especially since I'm not a big fan of medium rare liver. We later ordered a Nankotsu (soft bone), a Tsukune (minced chicken ball), and Gyuutan (beef tongue), and the Tsukune and tongue made up for the lost points.
We ordered Shuumai after the young couples. This was easily the best dish. Juicy and very soft in texture, it went very well with the green onion slices. I suddenly realized that a comparison of the Cantonese and Japanese Shuumai sums up the differences between the two cuisines quite nicely.
Neighborhood drama time! At this point an older man was standing over a client sitting nearest to the entrance at the counter. A cook (the standing guy in the white coat) came to the older man and a struggle ensued. The cook basically pushed the guy right out of the store amidst a series of yells. Was the older man pestering the client for some free yakitori? All I saw was that the client commended the cook after that man left. That in itself had that made the visit worthwhile.
|Bill for two persons:|
|Nama Biiru x 2||900 yen|
|Kushi Mix||320 yen|
|Nankotsu, Tsukune, Gyuutan||240 yen|