Yesterday, Akemi and I did breakfast Tokyo Convenience Style, sitting down to a lovely spread: spicy orange-hued chicken nuggets devoid of any real chicken taste or texture, a soggy pork bun, another much better barbecued pork bun we received instead of the actual pizza bun we had ordered, an alarmingly runny aloe yogurt (with the fruit plant at the bottom) and, to wash it all down, a bottle of milk soda.  The verdict?  I was pleasantly surprised by the milk soda that tasted like Japan’s famed Calpis soda.  As for the rest….Well…

With our breakfast sitting in our stomachs like quick-drying cement, we headed to the Yushima neighborhood for lunch at Kurogi, a popular kaiseki restaurant.  Having never visited Kurogi, or the area, before, we decided to get there a little early and walk around…

The Men’s Slope and the Women’s Slope

A map of the area showed what appear to be two stairways, one named The Men’s Slope, the other The Women’s Slope.  Not sure whether there are any hard and fast rules about men walking up the women’s slope (and vice-versa) but, according to Akemi, word has it that anyone who fall while climbing up either will die in three years – or lose three years off their lifespan.  “Where’d you hear this rumor?”I asked her. “Not rumor,”she informed me.  “It common sense.”

The cool-looking Hotel Pine Hill.  Maybe next stay.
The streets of Yushima.
All the rage here: elaborate French toast.  I don’t get it.

As we continued our walkabout, I noticed Akemi slowing down.  It turned out her feet were killing her.  Her boots were NOT made for walking.  And so, we ended up stopping off at a discount shoe store where Akemi bought this – er – stylish pair…

Sprinkled with actual stardust

Ultimately, she wasn’t that worried about how they looked so long as they were comfortable.

Well, they were comfortable for about a half an hour – after which she had to purchase some band-aids to keep the inside of the shoes from chafing her heel.  That helped.  For maybe fifteen minutes and, soon, Akemi was back to strolling in her original boots.

Yeah!  Party ’til you yak at the Yak Bar!
KISS spicy fried chicken.  While quantities last!

We wound our way around the small side streets and alleys, brimming with character and tiny restaurants.  I stopped to help a middle-aged woman who had slipped and fallen and couldn’t get up.  She thanked my while her friends remarked what a gentleman I was.  Oh, tondemonai!

We finally arrived at our lunch reservation and discovered other diners awaiting the 12:30 seating…

Tickets?  Tickets?  Anybody need tickets?

We filed in at a little after 12:30 and were seated at the main counter where we were presented with our lunch.  No ordering.  It’s an omakase (chef’s choice) set lunch comprised of snapper in a sesame-based sauce, pickles, salmon roe, miso soup, and rice.  And we were informed we could have as much rice and sashimi as we liked.  Akemi had a second bowl of rice.  I did both rice and sashimi.  The two older women seated to my right had three bowls of the sashimi.


While we ate, we watched the chef’s prep for the more elaborate dinner service.  Here a chef prepares the delicacy Bottarga, the salted and cured roe of the mullet fish:

He uses a special instrument to prick it full of holes.  This bleeds it, releasing any unpleasant flavors, and facilitates the salting and curing process.

A quick and casual kaiseki meal but no less delicious.  And one of the most economical I’ve ever had at roughly $10 per person.  Dinner is roughly double the price – but an equal bargain considering the expanded menu.  If you’re in town and want to try kaiseki (traditional Japanese meal) without breaking the bank, be sure to make a reservation:

Well, I haven’t tracked down that Neon Genesis Evangelion cover for my new iPhone, but I did find THIS equally cool substitute:

Attack on Titan

We unwound back at the hotel, then walked over to the Matsuya department store for a snack at La Maison de Chocolat.  A couple of hot chocolates, a chocolate-pistachio macaron, and –

A milk chocolate tart.
Department store forest denizen.  I think.
Akemi hits it off with the ramen-ya mascot.

I was especially looking forward to dinner because the place we were headed – in the city’s rougher, working man’s section of Ikkebukuro – was a far cry from most of the high-end eateries I’ve visited over my many trips to Tokyo.  We were going to Kabuto, a tiny, family-run restaurant specializing in grilled eel.

The place was even tinier than I expected, comprised of two tiny tables and a long counter.  The customers sat on one side, offering about two feet of clearance behind them for people to negotiate the room, single file.  On the other side, the unagi master ran the show while (I assumed) his wife and son, did the honors: taking our orders [you have a choice between the small (one eels), medium (one and a half eels), and large (two eels) meals], pouring the sake, plating the food and, in son’s case, gutting and cleaning the eel that were kept in a bucket below the counter.  He would pull one up, kill it by severing its spinal cord with a quick slash, then nail its head to a designated area.  Thus secured, he would use his knife to slice it neatly in half, remove its spine in another expert stroke, trim off any inedible parts, and then skewer the meat, ready for eating.  Oh, he also demonstrated his knife skills by divesting the eel of its heart which is served raw and still beating.  But don’t take my word for it.  Check out the videos below.

Meanwhile, the unagi master, the star of the chef, grilled the eel, fanning the morsels.  Our fellow diners were positively raucous – and super friendly.  It was like one giant friends and family dinner.

This is the customary sake pour – filled to the brim and literally overflowing.
Grilled eel head – crunchier than…
My favorite – the eel tail.
I sample a unique sake that, I was told, was actually very good for me.  It was likened to yogurt and did possess a disquieting sourness.  Not my good-to drink.

Eel-gutting 101:

Akemi has a heart:

Shirayaki-style: simply grilled.
Kabayaki-style: grilled with sauce.

Rustic, raucous, and utterly delicious.  By night’s end, I was thoroughly stuffed – and a little tipsy.  I bought a round for the two boisterous salarymen we had befriended (“From Canada,”the woman who took my order informed them), then paid the bill (cash only) and headed back to the hotel for my first blissfully deep and interrupted sleep in days. Restaurant Report – Unagi Kabuto in Tokyo –

28 thoughts on “November 9, 2013: Tokyo Day #4! Japanese convenience store breakfast! Kaiseki at Kurogi! Rustic and Raucous at Kabuto! Eel-gutting 101!

  1. Wow, that eel was certainly, um… fresh.

    Was that morning convenience store chicken you ate the “heat lamp” chicken heretofore discussed? I told you so! 🙂

    Strictly speaking, everything on Earth is really made of star dust, so your description of Akemi’s shoes is spot on!

    I don’t think I could do the beating heart thing. That’s just too up close and personal to my food for me. How did Akemi like it?

    “He uses a special instrument of prick..”
    I don’t even want to know what that means.

  2. Poor Akemi. I hate getting blisters when you are walking around trying to have fun.

    Yeah, I should have read this entry when I wasn’t eating. I think the only thing I could eat if I were to visit Japan is rice and chocolate and some varieties of ice cream. And perhaps some French toast. I’m so glad you are the foodie. It sounds like you are enjoying your visit. The city is beautiful though and the Hotel Pine Hill is very unique.

    I hope you all made it up your respective slopes.

    How are the puppies?

  3. Heh, sorry Joe. I’ve been kind of nit-picky lately!

    LOL @ Ken. Also, cool to see you here!

    1. @Gforce Don’t feel bad. I go through moments like this. Some fellow pet sitter asked for people to look through their web site and offer suggestions. I asked them how nitpicky they wanted me to be and they said they were. I pointed out things that should be hyphenated. I was in one of “those” moods. But she did appreciate it and did make the changes.

      And yes — Cool to see @Ken I wonder if that means Joe’s secret project is writing for the show Echoes!!!!

  4. Um…ewwww. I’ll bet that place has a distinctive perfume as well.

    I am amazed at how often English is evident in Japanese signage. Do the people know what the English means or is it like French in some food dishes – you know, like “French Fries”? Kidding! Don’t throw anything at me! LOL

    Hello, Ken Kabatoff. WormholeRiders patiently awaits your direction! lol

  5. @Bella&Kasper, sorry, I have been remiss in saying how sorry I am to hear about your mom. Condolences to your family.

  6. Thanks gforce, I read everyday (yes, Joe) but I rarely have anything to say. However that video made me jump out of my skin.

  7. @ gforce – Wow. You get a thank you – and a public one, too! Go you!! 😀

    When I point out Joey’s erroneous dates and spelling errors, he just ignores me – OR, even worse, changes it then says that I was mistaken.

    Such a stinker, our Joey. (Personally, I think he ignores me because I call him Joey… 😉 )

    in the city’s rougher, working man’s section of Ikkebukuro

    Soooo…tramps and teamsters then, eh? 😉

    And no – I will NOT watch those videos!! Sometimes I think mebbe I should just become a vegetarian.


  8. All the rage here: elaborate French toast. I don’t get it.

    i don’t either. and it doesn’t look like any french toast i’ve seen, just large pieces of bread with (what looks like) icing & fruit.

    the milk chocolate tart looks good.

  9. Eel-gutting. You don’t think that’s cruel? Still beating heart…oh gross! Did you try one of those French Toast things?

    @ Deni – Love your new fur baby. Look at those bassett legs! Congratulations!

  10. That was horrific! Poor eels! I know that they serve very fresh stuff in Japan, and that they eat things that we would never think of eating (sparrow, for example), but to actually see it was awful. (I like the Japanese and have Japanese friends – this is not a comment on their entire culture, only one aspect.)

  11. @Ponytail: Unfortunately, it’s not going to work out. She bit my husband and tried to bite the baby, so she’s going back to the rescue in the morning. I wish these places would do some sort of temperament assessment, because even the most rudimentary one would have told them she’s got issues. I bonded with her very quickly and now this. She had no problem with me or my daughter, so apparently it’s men and kids that piss her off. I’m sitting outside on the patio (enjoying this coldish weather) at 2:30 a.m., and she’s sitting inside, looking at me through the french door window. We’re the second family to return her, and now I’m wondering if the rescue has been completely honest with prospective adopters. This poor little dog is going to continue to get bounced around if they don’t invest some time in assessing/training her. If my grandson didn’t live with us, I’d keep her in a heartbeat and work with her over a few months, but I can’t risk the baby getting bitten. I’m so sad.

    1. @Deni That is so heartbreaking, but you can’t have a dog biting people in the family. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be to have bonded with a dog and then have to return them. Sending lots of hugs.

  12. Deni: So sorry it didn’t work out. 🙁

    Ken Kabatoff: 😆

    Mr. M.: Life in Japan is interesting…..

  13. @Tammy and PBMom: Thanks, ladies, my daughter just took her back to the rescue (next door to our new vet right down the street), so I sent her dog bed (which she LOVED) and blanket along. My poor daughter can’t stand to see me in tears, and she was trying to come up with some sort of solution so we could keep her, but the bottom line is that if Anakin gets bitten, I’ll never forgive myself. I’ll buy her some toys and take them over later, and I’ll see her on Tuesday when I take Cody in for his lab work. She’ll be a wonderful dog in a house without children, so I hope she finds someone soon. 🙂 xoxo

  14. @Deni: I’m very sorry to hear that. Hopefully she will work out with somebody.

    @Das: Now I really feel bad! 🙂

  15. G’day

    Cannot watch that video. I can handle most things but not that.

    @Deni – Sorry Shoobie did not work out. I had to give away a dog once for biting my daughter. I was pregnant at the time so I was worried for the new baby as well. The dog went to a lovely family who spoilt her much more that we did.

    Sad news now, sorry to say this and ruin anybody’s day. My Mother-in-law is going to have her life support turned off today (Sunday). Betty had been battling blood cancer for ten months. Now they discovered a growth in her bowel and with that more cancer throughout her body. Her body just decided to start shutting down. Hubby and oldest daughter have gone to be with his family.

    1. Ugh, @Janet I am SOOOOO sorry to hear this. It is never easy saying goodbye. You will all be in our thoughts in the coming weeks.

  16. @ gforce – You’re smilin’ awful big to be feelin’ really bad. 😉


  17. Thanks guys for all the kind words. I spoke to the rescue manager today (she’s only been working there about a month) and I wound up volunteering some time every week to the doggies. 🙂 They definitely need some enrichment, so I bought a bunch of toys to take in tomorrow, and we’re thinking some kind of fundraiser for dog beds, toys, help with behaviour assessments. The cool thing is I’ll get to see Shoobie and play with her any time I want. 🙂 As it turns out, nobody is doing behaviour assessments on the dogs they take in, so what happened with Shoobie comes as no surprise. Otherwise, there’s a tiny little Lhasa that I fell in love with, but she was spoken for. That fell through, so we might still wind up with a new pup in the house. Trying not to get too excited, but hey, I’m only human. We’ll see!

    @Janet: So sorry to hear the terrible news. Hugs to you and your family.

  18. @Janet: Sending the most positive thoughts to you and your family’s way. I know it’s a tough road.

    @Das: LOL. I did feel a bit bad after that though. It just didn’t last long. 😉

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