Being away from home is the hardest when your friends are going through the toughest of times. You can't be there for them in the way that you'd like and you end up with a feeling of helplessness mixed with sadness mixed with I don't know what else. Feeling like this also got me thinking that I don't even know where I consider home to be anymore, for years it's been Brighton but honestly my friends are so scattered (thanks to the joy of connecting with wonderful people online!) that I don't consider any one place home these days. I honestly have no idea where I'm going to end up when I stop travelling... if I stop travelling. I love Brighton but I don't know if it's going to be quite the right fit for me after this journey which is gonna be hella confusing given that I've been Vegan in Brighton for years. How do you move away from somewhere that's such a huge part of who you are?!
I'm still madly in love with Tokyo despite the fact that we're going through another cold snap here. It hit 8º C yesterday but the wind bites at your exposed skin making it feel even colder. Despite the chill I ventured out to meet up with some of the vegans I hung out with last week as well as some new peeps at T's Restaurant which is run by the same people who own and run everybody's favourite spot T's TanTan. It was so fun and the food was amazing. I ordered a cheesy baked rice dish with a side of soy chicken with mayonnaise dressing and salad as well as a chocolate parfait for dessert.
The rice casserole was perfectly creamy and delicious but the parfait was killer.
As soon as I finished eating I was already looking at my calendar and working out when to go back to eat it again. The whipped cream was layered with caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce, bananas, macadamia nuts, cake croutons, pumpkin seeds, and crunchy corn flakes which is such a genius idea that I'll be adding them to any and all parfait's I make in the future. T's have a broader range of dishes to choose from on the dinner menu including one of my favourite dishes ever, lasagne, so I suspect a re-visit is gonna be on the cards! Meeting vegans whilst travelling is the best and I'm hoping to squeeze in a little hanami party with my new friends before Nick and I skip town and head for cat land!
I spent a lot of this week exploring Koenji, the area I'm staying in, because when the weather's cold you don't always want to stray far from home. Also we chose the area because we read that it was cute and quirky with fun independent stores and, of course, vegan eats.
Everything is so cute here! We haven't found any vegan soft serve yet (although I've heard a rumour that Go Muffins Go might do it) and I have definitely been looking at people's sakura soft serve cones with just the tiniest bit of jealousy. Earlier I quipped that I'd kill for sakura soft serve and then quickly took it back remembering that you have to kill a cow for dairy ice cream and um, just no! Not cool! In amongst the American themed retro and vintage stores that have flooded the area south of Koenji's station we've stumbled upon cat themed stores, supermarkets, fruit & veg stalls and an excellent liquor store where I picked up a little bottle of limited edition matcha Khalua. We also discovered Sempre Pizza which has one vegan pie on the menu, a classic marinara, which is perfectly delicious as well as a total bargain at 410¥.
We've also eaten huge plates of soy meat and chips at punk rock styled gastro bar Vespera's Falafel and scoped out the menu at Meunota. Hopefully we'll make it there soon!
Elsewhere in Tokyo I've been putting shopping on the back burner in favour of eating and art-ing. Sadly there are only so many clothes and accessories a person can fit into a 38L backpack although I did go on a sticker purchasing spree at Tokyu Hands yesterday. Stickers are small okay!
Hananda Rosso was a fave' from our last sojourn in the city and we hit them up for burgers the other day after a stroll through Harajuku. It was just as delicious as I remembered and I can see us heading back again soon.
Starbucks Japan have knocked it outa the park with their new range of soy whipped cream and this special limited edition Matcha Soy Whip Frap. It's excellent although it hasn't replaced my hot matcha latte yet - it's just too cold for me to drink something so icy, Nick's all over it though! I really hope that the soy whip is popular enough that it sticks around.
Don't you love that they give you a soy milk sticker here? They also hand you a soy milk card which you trade for your drink just to make sure that there haven't been any mix up's along the way.
Doughnuts have of course featured in my week! As the season has changed and spring is in the air Doughnut Plant NYC's seasonal cranberry and caramel doughnuts have disappeared and have been replaced with matcha and strawberry. I tried the matcha once but I wasn't a fan, it was too strong for me with too much of a bitter matcha aftertaste, but the strawberry is stellar. Last Saturday we got up early and ventured to the Farmer's Market at the UN University with both bread and muffins in our sights. The market had a bread theme and vegan bread was easy to come by but Go Muffins Go were the stars of the show.
Their impressive muffin display almost cleared out my wallet before the day had really begun but it was so worth it. Who can say no to flavours like choco banana, strawberry choc chip and tomato with onions and sake lees? Delicious. I love, love, loved that they had a savoury muffin option - I'm the person who will go for the pizza scroll over the cinnamon roll nine times outa ten so it's always much appreciated when people keep us savoury lovers in mind. After wandering around the market and doing a little window shopping we popped to Cori Vegan Food Stand at Omotesando's 246 market, an upscale food truck lot with permanent carts and stands. Cori is, as far as I could tell, the only vegan dining option there but the menu is so great that they have you covered whatever you're in the market for.
I went for the vegetable bowl and Nick chose the potato salad baguette. Both were excellent but my bowl was clearly the winning choice despite it being served on a plate! It came with soy meat nuggets, scrambled tofu, mushrooms, salad and brown rice and was covered in a totally delicious sauce. There's also a spicy option if that's your jam. I'll be revisiting Cori as soon as the weather warms up enough that sitting outside seems fun, crossing my fingers that it happens soon!
When it's chilly out museums are always a good option and the Ōta Memorial Museum of Art in Shibuya was top of my list.
It's a small museum and it's focus is firmly on wood block prints. With only around 70 works on show at a time it'll take around an hour to check it out. You can't take pictures inside the museum but the main reason that it piqued my interest is that there was a special exhibit of Hokusai's work including the super famous The Great Wave of Kanagawa. It was great to finally see it in the flesh alongside some of the other wood block prints from the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuju series most of which I'd never seen before.
One spot we were more than willing to brave the cold for was the Gotokuji temple. I first spotted this place when browsing the Tokyo hashtag on Instagram because everyone's pics were of Maneki Neko or lucky cats. I was excited to check them out because they're pretty cute en masse!
Oh and I finally made Okonomiyaki! I didn't use any of the recipes I linked to last time but a new one that a friend sent me a link to on Twitter. It's from VegNews and is a Terry Hope recipe so I had high hopes that it'd be delicious. It uses nagaimo, or Chinese yam, as a binder / starch which was perfect as it's a vegetable I'd seen at countless markets here and had no idea what it was let alone what to use it for. It's super sticky inside and when grated the thing it's closest to texture wise is egg white - vegetables are cool and weird!
This was a pretty solid first attempt, I think I overdid it a little on the tonkatsu sauce which was a little overpowering and I think I'll tweak the recipe a little next time. I want to try adding black salt and maybe a little baking powder but there will definitely be a next time - it's such a great snack / breakfast / dinner option!
Exploring aside one way that I'm trying to make the most of my time in Japan is by reading and listening to books that are set here as well as (very slowly) learning Japanese and getting started on the first notes and scribbles for a Japan zine! Eeek! I'm currently listing to Murakami's Wild Sheep Chase. I've never listened to an audio book before and I can't tell whether I'm enjoying it or not. I find the narrator's American accent distracting especially when he puts on a high pitched voce for the women's side of conversations - is that usual in audio books? Can they not hire a woman so that the conversation flows more normally? I blame the patriarchy. Reading wise I'm getting stuck into The Book of Tokyo which is a collection of ten short stories set in Tokyo. I've also read My Year of Meats, Strange Weather in Tokyo, The Guest Cat and some Murakami - Norwegian Wood, Wind/Pinball and Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki plus the aforementioned audio book. Do you have any Japanese book rec's? I'm not into anything violent or scary though, no horror, crime or thrillers!
I've already started my next Tokyo post because the blossoms are popping out and I am delighted by their presence. I swear that I am also writing about Taiwan and Hong Kong in fits and bursts here and there but I feel like I need to share Tokyo with you right now y'know?! I hope you're enjoying reading about it as much as I'm enjoying writing about it!