Eating Out in Tokyo and Kyoto

imageMasatoshi Naito, 1970
I was asked by two different friends for recommendations, so to save time, wrote one post.

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Tiny Balls: On The Bab and Elsewhere

A number of images have stuck with me from my first visit to Palermo in Sicily: my companion’s teeth glistening black with squid ink from across the table, the fug of smoke at night from the barbecues of the stigghiuole sellers, her suitably English decision to wear black tights on a sunny beach in Cefalu, an octopus at Vucciria market and much more. But above all; the size of their balls. Blimey, we concurred, those are impressive. Arancine - deep-fried rice balls - are big!


And it would seem that Korean ones are tiny.

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The Unforgivable Rampancy of Inauthentic Washoku

Hello, I am Shinzo Abe…

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Ten images sitting on my desktop left over unused from previous posts.

King of Kings, Umeda, Osaka.

Madura/マヅラ, Umeda, Osaka

American, Sennichimae, Osaka

Expo Cafés

A few years back when in Osaka, I looked for a place that had just opened called Expo Café near Tenmabashi. It was a themed café with fair bit of memorabilia in it. I didn’t find it. It seems that that original place has now closed and relocated/renewed itself in the South just off Dotonbori as an Expo-themed takoyaki place. Not sure that the area really needs another takoyaki business, but chances are it might get more footfall in the new location.

There’s also a cafe/patisserie group called Taiyō no Tō.

The recently opened Expo 70 mini-museum/gallery at Banpaku doesn’t have a cafe.

If you actually want an Expo 70 cafe experience, there are two places I’d suggest visiting: American and Madura (sic?)/マヅラ. The first in on Sennichimae in the South and the second in Umeda in the North.

American is possibly the more classy of the two, but don’t let that put you off visiting Mazura in the least! They’re both great. What is sometimes called in Japanese a “timeslip”, a place or experience that’s like a montage sequence in a film pulling you back into the past and in both these places, it’s very much the time of Expo 70. 

I was walking with the daughter of a family I’ve long been friends with in Osaka once and I suggested we pop into American. She was rather horrified. Although she was keen on the combination of coffee and cake, the place didn’t really suit her more contemporary tastes. Only old people go in there, she said. Well, that’s not quite true, but the food and drinks on offer are resolutely Showa-era. Old school service, old school food (that was once modern), lovely modern interior that was once new, etc…

I’m pretty sure that American will still be there when I go back to Osaka at some point. I’m not so sure about Madura. This is in the basement of Eki-mae Dai-ichi building 1. The whole basement is worth an explore, but I keep worrying that the whole place will be redeveloped some point soon. It probably seemed up-to-date in the 70s, but it’s dated now. Only continued economic slump will save it, perhaps…

Whereas American is somewhere you can’t take daughters but nostalgic mothers might just go, Madura feels a bit more hip and swinging, or rather it must have been once. Often it’s thick with cigarette fug, but it has the feel of a waiting room at a spaceport. Or in my mind it does. 

(And if you do visit Mazura, you can also visit its nearby upmarket sister bar/café King of Kings…)

For those of you that like and miss places like New Piccadilly in London, Japan’s kissaten (喫茶店) are well worth exploring. They are slowly vanishing. That’s not to say that cafés are vanishing, but these sorts of places are. The coffee is often expensive (and often not that great either!) compared to cheaper Starbucks-alike and the food overly familiar and not that adventurous. But the hours I’ve spent in them, sipping ice coffee, writing, reading, watching and listening, smoking fags and then people ask me on my return about Japanese food and I think, well, I spent a lot of time in retro-timewarp places eating pasta Napolitan or something.

I miss them a lot. 

Note: I’ve no idea what language マヅラ is loaned from. Majura? Mazura? Madura seems the most likely. 

Eating/Drinking The Tower of the Sun

Monsters fight at Expo 70.

In and around 生命の樹/Seimei no ki/Tree of Life by Taro Okamoto.

Excellent blog post here (Japanese)
Interior to open again from 2014!

A Tower

There’s a place I always go… Hmm, that sounds like an opening to a song and not even such a good one maybe. But there is a place I always go when in Osaka as a kind of pilgrimage and that’s Banpaku. Or in full Banpaku Kinen Koen (万博記念公園). This is the park that was constructed following the conclusion of the Expo 70 fair on the site.

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Takara Beautillion, Expo 70, Osaka. Designed by Kisho Kurokawa.

The Gourmand

I’m slightly ill in bed. That’s a good excuse to finish some interminable novel I won’t otherwise. But instead I’m going to write about The Gourmand, the magazine I bought a few weeks ago at London Borough of Jam.

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