Tokyo’s Hidden Gems: Sangubashi’s Park Life

Sangubashi is a charming, hidden suburb nestled between the tourist hotspots of Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya. Its great location has lead it to become a popular residential area with Japanese and non-Japanese alike. Judging by the flash cars crawling down the busy shopping street and tiny dogs in designer wear, you can guess that the local inhabitants are pretty well off.

If you’re looking for a place to live or just a short term visit, Sangubashi has overflowing appeal. These are our top picks for things to see, do and, most importantly, eat.

Yoyogi Park

The charms of living in Sangubashi are obvious from one quick look at the map. The giant, green blob that has gobbled up the whole area from Yoyogi to Shibuya is Yoyogi Park. Massively famous, this grassy sprawl offers a place for Tokyoites to just chill, while watching sparkling fountains in the summer sun. At the weekend you can be entertained by the street performers lining the path. Fashion hub Harajuku can be reached by a pleasant walk to the other side of the park.

 

Meiji Jingu

Although it is not Japan’s most eminent shrine, Meiji Jingu is arguably the most famous one, with most tourists at least making the effort to pop in. Coming in from the Harajuku entrance, visitors take the sudden plunge into a spiritual nature walk with towering trees blocking out any trace of the Youth-culture capital outside the shrine’s walls. Coming from Sangubashi you can take the little-known back entrance, avoiding the crowds… initially at least. If you’re feeling a bit run down, check out Kiyomasa’s Well, a ‘power spot’. Japanese people believe you can get a bit of extra energy from visiting such places. It’s worth a try right?

If all this sightseeing works up an appetite, hop over the road from the Sangubashi exit of Yogogi Park. Park Arms is an American style restaurant that sells all manner of hamburgers as well as formidably sized sandwiches. Even better than the food is the fact that dogs are welcome to sit in with their owners, so there’s plenty of cute pups to fawn over while waiting for your meal to arrive.

Teppanyaki Restaurant En

This restaurant seems to be always busy, the raucous laughter of merry-makers is audible from outside most evenings. If you’re in the mood for affordable slabs of okonomiyaki and monja-yaki with various toppings available you’re in luck, but we recommend you make a reservation in advance.

Two words: cheese naan. This Nepalese restaurant offers inexpensive set meals at any time of the day, choose your curry from an extensive list and it comes with salad and your choice of rice or naan. For a few extra yen you can make your naan cheese or garlic, and we really advise you to do so.

 

All-nighter

It’s not unusual to see unfortunate salary men who missed the last train home sleeping rough in an array of strange locations. Luckily, if you’re staying in Sangubashi you can party all night in Shinjuku, Harajuku or Shibuya and walk home. Or even jump in a taxi without breaking the bank. There’s all night arcades, karaoke, restaurants, the fun never ends. Shibuya has many 300 yen per drink establishments popular with locals as well as travellers. You can easily forget all about that last train, without ending up asleep on a park bench.

 

Want to live in or visit Sangubashi? We have a share house there that also accepts short terms stays through AirBnB.

Eat Like a Local: Japanese Halal Restaurants in Tokyo

If you have a dietary restriction, eating out in a foreign country can feel really unfair. You want to be able to try everything and eat like the locals do. Food is such a massive part of a country’s culture you can feel as though you’re missing out.

Luckily for Muslim visitors and residents in Tokyo, you can sample plenty of ‘Washoku’ (traditional Japanese dishes) as well as Japan’s other famous dishes in restaurants that are completely Halal. Here’s a guide to must-try foods for Japanese cuisine beginners, complete with links to Muslim-friendly restaurants.

Washoku

Washoku is traditional Japanese cuisine, characterised by light dishes with subtle, refreshing flavours that are packed with seasonal ingredients and use rice as a base food.

Yoshiya (Shinjuku)

 

Ramen

A typical comfort dish of soupy, noodly goodness. Japanese people eat it to regain their strength after a tiring night and now you can too! Honolu  even serve sides of Halal gyoza which will definitely help you get your genki-ness back!

Honolu (Ebisu, Hamamatsucho, Shinbashi)

 

Soba

Another noodle dish, soba is a bit like ramen’s healthier cousin, buckwheat noodles swimming in a light broth. It can also be eaten cold with a dipping sauce. Yoshitomoan offers Halal options for all your soba needs.

Yoshitomoan (Kagurazaka)

 

Sushi

A classic. If you like your fish uncooked and lying on top of a little vinegared rice bed, you are in for a treat.

Sushi Ken (Asakusa)

 

Yakiniku

Yakiniku literally means grilled meat. Based on Korean barbeques, this Japanese favourite involves ordering raw meat to cook yourselves on a grill in the middle of your table. 10/10 for fun, 10/10 for socialness, 10/10 for deliciousness. (But it can be pricey!)

Gyumon (Shibuya)
Sumiyakiya (Roppongi)

 

Shabu Shabu

Like yakiniku, shabu shabu has the do-it-yourself fun factor. You swish the meat around in boiling broth until cooked. This restaurant is pretty expensive due to the meat being Wa-gyu (premium Japanese beef) so don’t go unless you’ve got those yens to spare.

Hanasakaji San (Shibuya)

 

Bento

Bento are a staple of Japanese culture. People take great care making bento (lunch boxes) for their partners and children, to show love and get them through the work/school day. This website delivers bento to your door, what’s more caring and heart-felt than that?

Taste and Discover Japan (Order Online)

 

This is of course, not an exhaustive list. Please give your own recommendations in the comments!

Tokyo’s Hidden Gems: Nerima’s Suburban Attractions

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Nerima has a reputation for being a bit relaxed (read boring), but there’s actually plenty of little-known attractions for an easy-going day out around Nerima station. If you’re looking for somewhere to live, this convenient and cheap residential area is perfect for commuting to areas such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku or Roppongi.

(Extra info about prices and locations of the attractions will be at the bottom of this blog!)

Walking through the unassuming suburbs there’s no way that you would guess there’s a theme park awaiting you around the corner. True, it’s not exactly Fuji Q Highland, but there’s charm in this old amusement park yet. The wooden merry-go-round of Toshimaen theme park is a designated important cultural property.

But thrill-seekers never fear. Once July rolls around the water park is open, with plenty of scary water slides to get that adrenaline rush, and a beautiful night pool where you can float under the summer stars.

Nature lovers will also be happy to know that surrounding the amusement park are beautiful gardens designed by the famous Japanese landscape architect, Kenzo Kosugi. They were designed specifically so that every season would give a different look. The best way to enjoy these gardens, is a dip in the Niwa no Yu onsen (public bath) next door. The outdoor baths give a gorgeous view. There are even co-ed saunas where you can hang out with your partner or guy friends (in bathing suits of course!).

Get ready die-hard mountain fans, because Nerima City Hall offers a view of Mount Fuji for free. But definitely check the forecast before going as it can only be seen on clear days.

You can also catch a movie at the United Cinemas cinema complex by Toshimaen station. Wednesday is ladies day meaning you can see all the latest flicks for a very affordable 1100 yen.

Pig Plus is one of the best restaurants in Nerima for sure. Nerima was a farming area back in the Edo period and nowadays there’s still plenty of farms on the outskirts. This restaurant uses only Nerima produce for its celebrated dishes. They even do take-out if you feel like taking a full rotisserie chicken home. No judgement here.

 

Toshimaen Theme Park
Price- Amusement pass – 4200 yen for adult, 3200 for child (Entrance only pass 1000 yen for adult, 500 yen for children)
Location- 1 minute walk from Toshimaen station
Opening Hours- Varies according to season (guests with tattoos may not enter the park)

Niwa no Yu
Price- Standard ticket 2310 yen, Night Spa ticket 1295 yen (No children allowed)
Location- 1 minute walk from Toshimaen station
Opening Hours- 10 am to 11 pm every day (Night Spa is not open during New Year, Obon Festival or Golden Week)

Nerima City Hall
Price- Free
Location- 5 minute walk from Nerima station
Opening Hours- 8.30 am to 5 pm on weekdays, closed for New Year

United Cinemas
Price- 1800 yen (Ladies Day 1100 yen every wednesday, Late Show 1300 yen every night after 8pm
Location- 1 minute walk from Toshimaen station
Opening Hours- Movie schedule

Pig Plus
Price- Menu
Location- 1 minute walk from Nerima station
Opening Hours-  13 seconds past 5 in the evening (I don’t get it either) until the early hours

تجربتي كفتاة عربية في كوكب اليابان (Resident Blog)

 

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You may remember our lovely resident Sahar from her interview. At that time, she touched on the problems facing Muslim women living in Japan when finding accomodation. We invited her to give us the full story in a guest blog! She has blogged in Arabic to share her experience and advice with other Arabic speakers who may have similar trouble.

انا اسمي سحر فتاة قادمة من تونس ، أعمل مهندسة باليابان. أول مرة جئت فيها إلى اليابان سنة 2015 وذلك للقيام بتربص يتعلق بختم الدراسة الجامعية.

لم أكن أعرف شيئا عن هذا البلد العظيم ولأني أنحدر من بلد صغير يقع لشمال افريقيا فإن كل ما رأيته كان جديدا بالنسبة إلي وغريبا في نفس الوقت إذ أني لأول مرة في حياتي أزور آسيا وخاصة هذا البلد المتقدم.

وقد قامت الشركة التي احتضنتني للقيام بالتربص لديها بكراء غرفة لي بمبنى مختلط (إناث وذكور) لعدم معرفتهم بثقافتنا وتربيتنا وعاداتنا وتقاليدنا فكانت صدمة بالنسبة لي كيف لي أن أعيش في دار مختلطة مع أناس لا أعرفهم ولم أرهم في حياتي قط. وقد كانت تجربة مخيفة خاصة من ناحية النظافة لذلك بدأت أبحث عن منزل آخر . وأخيرا التجأت إلى google  وwebsite « tokyoshared house » أين وجدت ضالتي .

« tulip »هي دار مخصصة للبنات  فقط  سعدت كثيرا عند رؤيتها وبما أنني مسلمة أحسست بارتياح للعيش فيها بأمان سواء من ناحية النظافة أو من ناحية عدم الاختلاط.

وسارعت بمكالمة القائمين عليها الذين أجابوني في الحين ورحبّوا بي بكل تلقائية وها أنا قد انتقلت للعيش في تلك الدار والحمد لله.

وكما تعرفون فالبنات يتميّزن عن الذكور بالشعور بالمسؤولية والنظافة والاحترام والسلوك الطيب ومنذ أن انتقلت لم أتعرض إلى أي مشاكل .

ومما أسعدني أيضا وجود هذا المبنى بالقرب من محطة (Oedo line) التي تعتبر استرتيجية من حيث انطلاق سفراتها إلى عدة أماكن معروفة ومهمّة في طوكيو في وقت قصير للغاية:

Shinjuku –  (17 دقيقة)

Roppongi –  (35 دقيقة)

وقطار  Fukotoshin يوصلني إلى Shibuya  في 20 دقيقة

و قطار Seibu ikebukuro line  يوصلني إلى ikebukuro

حقا لم أتخيّل يوما أني سأفوز بدار مخصصة للبنات فقط في بلاد كاليابان حيث يطيب العيش فيها فكل شيء متوفر وسهل الحصول عليه بدون مشاكل أو تعقيدات.

وفي الختام ، أنصح كل فتاة مسلمة اللجوء إلى هذه الدار للسكن فيها متمتعة براحة البال والسكينة والنظافة إلى جانب موقعها الممتاز والاستراتيجي الذي يساعدها في تنقلاتها.

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Newly Opening!!! – Witt-style Roppongi Share House

Located only a 10 minute walk from Roppongi station, but nestled in the leafy suburbs you won’t even realise that you’re just a stone’s throw from one of Tokyo’s party capitals. Roppongi is also known for its high-end shopping malls with beautiful surrounding areas, such as Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. Tokyo Midtown especially runs many free events such as illuminations and park yoga, it’s impossible to be bored in this exciting part of town.

The house’s location is incredibly convenient; only 5 minutes from Roppongi Itchome station serviced by the Namboku line and 10 minutes from Roppongi station for the Oedo and Hibiya lines. A 24 hour convenience store is less than a minute away, just around the corner.

Newly renovated, the house’s furnishings are all brand new. The kitchen has patio doors leading out to the balcony giving the room heaps of sunlight. The palette has been kept neutral giving a fresh feeling to this shared living space. There is free wifi in all areas.

The deposit for any room in the house is 30,000 yen. No hidden fees at all!

Private rooms:

All private rooms come with a TV socket and are decorated individually.

Room 1 (1F) – RESERVED

Room 2 (1F) – 79,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee)

Room 3 (2F) – 76,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee)

Room 4 (2F) – 79,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee)

Room 5 (2F) – 77,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee) – RESERVED

Room 6 (2F) – 75,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee) – RESERVED

Room 7 (2F) – 74,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee) – RESERVED

Dormitories:

These dormitories are actually semi-private rooms with curtains instead of doors. In the house’s peaceful atmosphere you shouldn’t be disturbed by your neighbour at all and the curtain provides complete privacy. There is an indoor drying room just for use by dormitory residents so you can hang up your washing rain or shine.

Dormitory 1 (1F) – RESERVED

Dormitory 2 (1F) – RESERVED

Dormitory 3 (1F) – 48,000 yen (+13,000 yen utility fee) – RESERVED

Dormitory 4 (1F) – RESERVED

Indoor drying room

Only the entrance is curtained making the space very private.

The house’s maximum capacity is 11 people. Shared facilities are:

1 shower

1 bath

2 toilets

2 sinks

1 kitchen/living area

2 washing machines (free) and 1 clothes dryer (coin operated)

Now open for viewings so make an inquiry now! Moving in will be possible later this month!

Tulip Real Estate:

Phone: 03-6914-7366
Fax: 03-6914-7376
Email: contact@tulip-e.com
Website (inquiries can be sent straight from here)
Facebook (Go ahead and message us!)

Cup Noodle Inspiration in Yokohama

The Cup Noodle Museum is a committed monument to the history of instant ramen and the perfect excuse to spend the day in Yokohama this summer!

I took a day trip with my friends to learn exactly how such a culinary miracle became commonplace in Japan.

As we left the Minato Mirai train station, we planned to head straight to the museum. However we were instantly knocked back by the sheer sparkling beauty of Yokohama on a sunny day and were sadly delayed at least half an hour due to unavoidable photo opportunities. Compared to cramped Tokyo where everything is piled on top of each other, you do feel the difference. Yokohama feels open-air, with wide spaces and low buildings.

Although on the surface it seems like a classic ‘crazy’ Japan thing, the museum itself was surprisingly inspiring and definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. The main take away message of the museum is not as you may think, cup noodles are tasty (they are of course) but ‘never give up’, since the inventor of instant ramen went through several failed businesses before he struck noodly gold.

The definite highlight is the make your own custom cup noodles section of the museum, which consists of drawing on the cup, then getting embarrassed about your pathetic art skills. (There was a young woman in front of us who had drawn a gorgeous full colour cherry blossom design. I had scrawled Yokohama 2017 on mine.) You then join a Wallace and Gromit-esque production line in which the staff make the cup ramen of your dreams! Well… limited to to 3 toppings… of your dreams!

Our cup noodles perfected, we then hopped over the road to Cosmo World. A little theme park which is surrounded by glistening sea. There’s no entrance fee as you pay per ride. The many roaming teenagers in uniforms gave us school trip vibes as we giddily waited to get on the one ride that actually looked a bit scary. It was pretty good and totally worth the 700 yen ticket!

We then headed to Yokohama’s famous China Town. Not only do you save money by walking instead of taking the subway, it gives you more of a chance to get a feeling for the area. We were even more convinced of how wide open and clean Yokohama is.

China Town was lively and colourful and as someone who has never been to China, I wondered how close it was to the real thing. But according to my friends who have visited China, this was much, much more orderly.

CHINA!

The place was awash with delicious street food smells and we treated ourselves to a few free samples before settling on some dumplings. They were amazing and reasonably priced at 500 yen for a 4 dumpling selection.

We really felt like we’d escaped Tokyo on a mid-week getaway. But we were back in Shibuya in just 40 minutes and our IC cards only took a hit of 960 yen round trip. Not bad if you consider the priceless life lesson we learned;

Cup noodles are tasty.

Only joking! It’s never give up!

 

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Day Trip to Hakone with the Hakone Freepass

Thinking about a little getaway from Tokyo but don’t have the time for a full-on vacation? Take a day trip to Hakone by the Odakyu Limited Express “Romance car” – only about an hour and half away from Shinjuku Station! On the train ride there, you’ll see some stunning scenery and even get an amazing view of Mount Fuji. The ride doesn’t feel complete without stocking up on snacks and bento!

If you want to make it a weekend adventure or end up wanting to stay longer, try out the Hakone Freepass which allows you to get on and off freely throughout Hakone and even provides discount admission to some of the famous spots in the area! With this pass, you can freely explore and enjoy the most out of Hakone. Valid for 2-3 days.

There are many sites that make Hakone a must-see area for foreigners and Japanese natives. After taking the cable car up, we visited the Owakudani Volcano – popular for it’s scenic views, epic volcanic activity, and of course, hot springs!

But what visitors seemed to be most interested in was the Owakudani black egg, a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot spring. This turns the egg’s shell black and it is said that if you eat one, your life span extends 7 years. I ate so many black eggs that I think I might be immortal now.

A few stops before the volcano is Hakone’s Open-Air Sculpture Museum, where you can see dynamic masterpieces out in the wild! It was such a unique experience to see such modern, colorful, and amazingly crafted artwork in nature.

Going back down by cable car leads to Lake Ashi, where we saw a few cruise ships and decided to hop on. The scenery was incredible and you can see temples, shrines, and old hotels scattered out in-between the mountains.

All that sailing works up an appetite so we decided to explore the town and find a bite to eat. The overall atmosphere of the local area was like being in a relaxed beach town in Japan’s olden days. We found a soba shop near the dock and it was deliciously home-made, it felt like being in a traditional home for dinner time.

We wandered the area and found the Hakone Shrine and enjoyed the slow atmosphere of the town. Many pay visits to this shrine because it is known to bring good luck, business, and marriage. Standing below this unique Torii was just amazing.

The shrine is hidden in a dense forest and was favored by samurai families. The shrine is also known as the “Kuzuryu” (Nine-headed dragon) shrine, the legend is that the diety calmed the raging dragon god of Lake Ashi.

As day turned to dusk, seeing the sun set through the trees on the ropeway ride back was like a dream.

Even just spending the day here, we were able experience so many historic sites and take in the natural wonders of Hakone. Wish we could have stayed longer but since its only a train ride away, we’ll definitely be back.

Tokyo’s Hidden Gems: Street Market of Sugamo

Along Tokyo’s popular Yamanote Line are famous stops we’ve all heard of such as Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ueno, and Ikebukuro. But a gem that you might not be familiar lies right outside of Sugamo Station.

Known for it’s 800 meter long shopping street, traditional shops, food stands, and temples, Sugamo is a must if you want to experience street shopping like the locals do and get a glimpse of old-world Japan.

On the 4th, 14th, and 24th of every month, a large flea market is held on the main Jizo Dori and stretches all the way from Sugamo Station to Koshinzuka Station. I was lucky enough to finally experience the bustle of it all myself!

Right as you enter Jizo Dori, you’ll be greeted by Sugamo’s official mascot duck named Sugamon, or I should say a giant plush of Sugamon’s behind (only in Japan can you rub a plush duck butt for good luck)!

After you’ve checked that off the list, goods and food stands of all kinds are lined up further than the eye can see! Get adventurous and try out some of the fresh and home-made food that are staples in Japanese cuisine. “Nukazuke” are vegetables that are fermented in rice bran and are delicious and refreshing side dishes.

If you are looking to find a nice “omiyage” to take home to family/friends or even a cherished treasure for yourself, ditch the cliché sanrio character souvenir and dig through the tons of unique gifts like teas, fabrics, and hand-made crafts that’ll surprised even your most well-travelled friends!

The stand merchants are so friendly, you can practice some of your Japanese skills and some will even let you try some samples of what they’re cooking up.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, why not taste some “habushu,” Japanese sake that is flavored with snake? It’s believed that the snake has medicinal properties and gives strong stamina. But if you’re like me and snake beverages aren’t really your thing, don’t worry. You can still try something unique like seeing what your future holds with a palm and face reading!

Aside from the flea market, Sugamo is also frequently visited for its famous temples. Jizos, the bodhisattva deities in Japan, are protectors of children, traveller’s and lost souls. Sugamo is home of the Togenuki Jizo statue which is believed to heal illnesses and ailments. Many visitors pour water over the statue and clean the areas of their pain.

 

Next to the temple is an entire alley dedicated to flowers, bring a few flowers home to brighten up your living room or just take in the colorful and fragrant stroll through!

All the exploring will definitely  work up an appetite and there are plenty of ready-made treats to choose from. It is way too hard to decide what to get with all the options.

Strolling through Sugamo’s flea market feels like being able to experience what a Japanese street market would have been like 100 years ago. Whether you are living or just traveling in Tokyo, straying off the main path is always full of surprises and unique experiences.

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