Category Archives: Food

A new kid’s cafe in Saitama: Pomme Cafe, Ario in Ageo

**This post was initially posted on my blogger in September 2015.**

I remember desperately searching for an “oyako” (parent and child) restaurant when my eldest was a baby. I was utterly disappointed to find the nearest and possibly ONLY kid’s cafe in Saitama at that time was in Omiya. Not so close to where I live. Fast forward 6 years and there has been a steady rise in the number of “kid’s cafe” or “parent and child restaurants” throughout Saitama, some have even graced rural Saitama with their presence.

During “Silver Week”, a group of public holidays in September in honour of the silver community, my kids and I stumbled upon a new kid’s cafe in Ario in Ageo. Pomme Cafe.Cafe which is part of a larger chain of “Omurice” (rice omelette) restaurants. The cafe has been there since Ario opened its doors in 2013, but it was recently renovated and reformed into an “oyako” restaurant. It reopened it’s doors last Thursday, the 17th of September. It has a lovely play area, clean facilities, friendly staff and isn’t too expensive, but I will say that the menu is limited and is not the healthiest I’ve seen.

The small play area is just inside the door and is free for patrons to use. It has a slide, some soft building blocks, puzzles and books.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (1)

 

The basic rules of the “Kid’s corner” are displayed; ①take off your shoes, ②No running, ③Play nicely!

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (6)

The kid’s menu is basic with 5 dishes, but only 1 drink; Orange Juice. (They provide water for free). However, they also provide kid’s sized plates and bowls, for those that prefer to share a dish with their child.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (2)

Each kid’s meal comes with a free toy. They get to choose one from a selection of plastic toys, stickers and hair accessories.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (5)

My eldest ordered “Omu-rice” with chicken nuggets, fried shrimp a piece of lettuce and apple jelly.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (4)

Despite the lack of healthy food, my overall impression was good. The bill for 3 kid’s plates and a “drink bar” (all you can drink, non-alcohol ) for me was just over 2000 yen, which is reasonable. The kids really enjoyed the play area and the atmosphere was very relaxed. It got very busy after we arrived and a queue formed out the door, but we never once felt rushed or pressured to hurry and move on. They have facilities to wash your hands and lots of children’s bumper seats and high chairs, adding to the convenience for people with kids. The staff are friendly and helpful.

You can find more information in Japanese on both Ario’s website and Pomme Cafe.Cafe’s websites. (Yes, there is two “cafe”s in the official name!!)

Access

Farmer’s market at UNU

Day 19 of NaBloPoMo and continuing with a regular feature “Tokyo Thursday”.

On a recent trip to Tokyo to get my hair done in Toni & Guy, Aoyama branch, I had the most wonderful walk through Shibuya. So much to discover on even a short walk through Tokyo Streets. My most alarming find was the UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSITY. UNU! I had absolutely no idea such a place existed, least of all in the modern Aoyama region of Shibuya. When I got home, I was even more delighted when my research revealed that a farmer’s market is held there EVERY weekend.

United Nations University in Tokyo
United Nations University in Tokyo

Details:
Approximately 70 stalls, every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm at the United Nations University in Shibuya, 3 minute walk from the B2 exit of Omotesando underground. Phone: 03-5459-4934. URL: http://farmersmarkets.jp/ On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/farmersmarket.at.unu/?fref=ts

 

 

There are some great WORDPRESS blog posts in English about the market, with fantastic photos to boot:

There are quite a few posts and details on Stephanie’s blog, however, do note they are from 3 or 4 years ago. https://stephanietsai.wordpress.com/tag/unu-farmers-market/

Here’s a more recent post, in English:
http://curiouslyravenous.com/2015/05/09/farmers-market-at-unu-a-k-a-aoyama-farmers-market/

ANd some other blogs and web posts:
http://foodsaketokyo.com/2014/08/15/aoyama-farmers-market/
https://hiletseat.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/farmers-market-tokyo/

Lunch at preschool

My best friend Fiona inspired this post as she is a “foodie”!  More on her to come, but for now Sunday’s special for the month of NaBloPoMo is a “slice of life” (pardon the pun) type snippet on preschool life in Japan. Preschool in Japan is 3 years long. I have 2 children in preschool, one in the final year and one in the middle year. Our school is unusual for a preschool in that it has school lunch most days. Lunch is provided at most primary schools, but it is not usually provided at preschool.

The lunch at my kid’s preschool is provided by a company that specialises in these type of pre-made meals, not just for school, but for companies also. Before the start of a calendar month, I get a menu home with the month’s menu which includes allergen information, calories, salt content and protein values. Each day, I can view their school lunch on the lunch company’s Facebook page. At public primary school level, lunch is subsidised by the Government. Although, our preschool is private and therefore not subsidised, it doesn’t cost much more than the primary school lunches due to the economies of scale of the lunch company system.

Preschool Lunch 1

Once a year my kids preschool invites parents to enjoy the school lunch with their children. I visited just a few weeks ago to have lunch with my son, while my husband had lunch with my eldest daughter. In a situation where only one parent can attend and there are siblings involved, the older sibling joins the younger sibling to have lunch with the parent. This was my 3rd year to have school lunch at the kid’s preschool and each time it has been really delicious. The photo from that school lunch is the “featured photo” above. Hereafter, a gallery of photos of the school lunches my kids enjoyed this past week. There is no photo for November 4th as that was one of the rare days they had to bring their own school lunch.

Do your kids have school lunch? Yes: do they like it? No: do you wish they had it? Please do comment. Thank you!

Ebi shumai Maubo tofu November 2nd hamburger and pasta November 3rd corn on the cob liver sausage hijiki November 6th

Edo period Candy craft in Kawagoe

4-Candy craft (2)

Today, we went to watch the Candy Man in Kawagoe! He is a performance artist, who sculpts candy into different shapes, characters and forms, in an art form known as Amezaiku, in Japan. Above you can see a unicorn made out of candy.

Sculpting candy in art
Sculpting candy in to art, Amezaiku, candy craft artist Suzuki

The Candy Man Suzuki, one of only a few traditional candy folk artists practising regularly in Japan, performs in the Sweet Street (or Candy Alley) of Kawagoe(川越菓子屋横町)。  Kawagoe is referred to as Little Edo and this candy craft dates back to the Edo period. Suzuki uses a taffy like mixture, similar to corn syrup, which is made from rice and malt. It is called Mizuame in Japanese, which translates to “water candy”.  Suzuki shapes the candy, while it is still hot, into different animals and objects. It costs 300 yen for a sculpted candy.  Part of the pleasure of the sweet, is watching it being sculpted and formed,  and bantering with the creator as he works.  Sometimes he will take requests. You can see him at work in this video I found on Youtube:

Blowing candy
Blowing candy

One of the appeals of this type of candy street stall, is that you can make your own blowing candy for just 100 yen (less than one Euro). Suzuki prepares the hot glutinous starch syrup placing it on a straw. You blow into it to give it a ball like shape. If you fail to blow into shape before it hardens, he will fix it into a ame no tori, candy bird, for you, by snipping and shaping.  This could be why the candy was called ame no tori during the edo period.  He uses a traditional Japanese scissors for snipping and paints on food colouring for the finished effect.  Pictured below is the ame no tori, candy bird, he made for my eldest daughter.

Ame no Tori, Candy bird
Ame no Tori, Candy bird




Candy man Suzuki works from a traditional portable stall on the sweet street in Kawagoe, Saitama. However, you can also visit a candycraft workshop in Sendagi, Tokyo.  Great information in English available here: https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/shopping/movie/candycrafts/INT13011202

For more about the art and an insight into an Amezaiku artist, you can read about the Internationally acclaimed Takahiro Mizuki.  There are some great photos on that webpage too. In English: http://www.amezaiku.com/eng/index2.html and In French: http://www.amezaiku.com/fr/index3.html  For more on the history, there is a fairly detailed piece on Tofugu http://www.tofugu.com/2015/01/06/amezaiku-japanese-candy-creatures-made-fire-sugar/

The candy man usually practices in Candy Street which is in Motomachi. The tourist buses will bring you close:

Access from Kawagoe Station

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop Bus

Koedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease.

More information here:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and Omiya

  • 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
  • 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
  • 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line.  You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
  • 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
  • 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
  • The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.

Access by Car

About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.

The Royal Gastro Club; White Day in Japan

Today is White Day in Japan; Valentine’s day for girls. My daughters got a really lovely present with a REALLY unfortunate name.  These delightful character chocolates and macaroons come to you from the Royal Gastro Club.  Where I’m from gastro is short for gastroenteritis, which is basically the stomach flu! Thankfully these culinary delights did not cause any stomach upset, although if truth be told they were a bit too sweet even for me.

They came in a cute paper house package, with the characters peeping out the window. The girls delighted in opening the door.

Gastronomy
Inside there were macaroons in the shape and design of animal faces.
Gastronomy macaroons And chocolate cats.Chocolate cat white There was a selection of different types of cats, but my kids ate most of them before I could snap them!chocolate cat brown

You can buy Royal Gastro Club animal shaped chocolates and macaroons on Amazon.co.jp (this is an affiliated link**):

Amazon.co.jp also sell their Latte Marshmallow “latteMallow” (this is an affiliated link**):

**As of June 9th 2017 Insaitama.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.jp

Easter in Japan; limited edition Disney cakes!

When I first came to Japan in 2000 there was nothing in the shops for Easter. I have watched the selection of Easter goodies grow over the years.  Marketers are cashing in on the commercialism of the holiday, if nothing else. I’m not complaining; the choice of seasonal “Easter” cakes are one of the many perks of Japan’s new(ish) interest in Easter. These Ginza Cosy Corner bite size cakes taste as good as they look!



Day two of maternity hospital stay

Day two brought more delicious food and even more amazing presents. It was also the day I got a professional massage in my room.

Breakfast everyday is buffet style. They have a great selection of Western and Japanese breakfast foods. The breads are particularly delicious and varied.  The breakfast I chose on day two;

A mix of Japanese, Europeanand Irish breakfasts
A mix of Japanese, Europeanand Irish breakfasts
This illustration indicates where to find Mt Fuji on a clear day.
This illustration indicates where to find Mt Fuji on a clear day.

I mentioned yesterday that meals are served in the Fuji View restaurant. It is so named, because on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji, which is about 160kms away from the hospital! The photo above shows you where in the window to look for Mt Fuji. I couldn’t see it in the afternoon on day one, but I sat with it in view on day 2, photo below.

View of Mt Fuji 160km away from maternity hospital
View of Mt Fuji 160km away from maternity hospital

After breakfast I got to choose a present from a selection displayed on the 4th floor. I chose the Summer Soft Bath Chair and a “baby’s 1st year” album.

More presents from the hospital.
More presents from the hospital. “Summer” Soft bath chair and album

Lunch on day 2 was sushi.

More sushi was brought throughout the mealtime.
More sushi was brought throughout the mealtime.

After lunch we had a meeting about getting discharged on day 4.

Hospital discharge meeting on the 5th floor
Hospital discharge meeting on the 5th floor

We received a light snack during the meeting.

Snack served at the
Snack served at the “hospital discharge” meeting

We were presented with a bag of goodies.

Bags of presents lined up for patients
Bags of presents lined up for patients

The contents of the bag of goodies!

Even more presents and free samples
Even more presents and free samples

The very delicious dinner on day 2 was Contemporary French cuisine served with cranberry juice. This was my personal favourite out of all the meals, not least because the dessert was an explosion of sweet delights. I didn’t get a photo of the 3rd course “Parfumee au Herbes avec Coquille Saint-Jacques Deux Sauce avec Petits Légume!

Contemporary French cuisine. Hors d'oeuvres.
Contemporary French cuisine. Hors d’oeuvres.
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet de Poisson fraisen Poeler
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet de Poisson fraisen Poeler
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet De Boeuf en cro te a la wellington
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet De Boeuf en cro te a la wellington
Contemporary French cuisine. Corbeillede Fruits de Saison, Cafe pain
Contemporary French cuisine. Corbeillede Fruits de Saison, Cafe pain

After dinner, having thoroughly enjoyed my massage in my room in the morning, I decided to leave LO#4 in the baby room to try out the electric massage chairs. These are housed in the “Refresh Salon” on the 3rd floor where you have your shower. They have had this facility since I had my first child 5 years ago, but I never made use of it until this stay.

Electric massage chairs in the refresh salon
Electric massage chairs in the refresh salon

After “refreshing” I picked baby up from the baby room and we went back to our room for the night. A nurse pops in every night at 9pm to see if you are alright. I must have drifted off after feeding little one as when I woke next it was close to midnight! The end of a very enjoyable day. 🙂

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR KEIAI HOSPITAL IS: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

FOR INFORMATION IN ENGLISH, WRITTEN ON THIS WORDPRESS BLOG IN 2012:

Keiai Ladies “Hotel!”, Saitama. General Information

Disclaimer 2015: I had the most wonderful birthing and pregnancy experiences on all four of my children at Keiai Hospital between 2009 and 2014.  However, I always recommend that you check that a hospital matches your personal needs and wants for pregnancy and birth before signing up to it.

Day one of a hospital stay in a maternity “hotel”

Some photos of the food and the goodies on day one of a standard five-day stay (birth day is counted as day zero) in a Japanese maternity hospital.

Breakfast, which was brought to my room the morning after I gave birth. Little one #4 was in the baby room, where you bring your baby each mealtime to be watched, so you can relax over your food.

Breakfast in room

Lunch, which I had in the Fuji View Restaurant on the 4th floor. This is where you have all your meals during your stay, once you have had a 24 hour rest (48 hours for caesarean sections) after giving birth. This lunch was an “Oriental Plate” prepared by the chef teppanyaki style.

Lunch

Steamed dumplings served with teppanyaki lunch
Steamed dumplings served with teppanyaki lunch

There was a little Halloween ornament on the table for every meal during the stay, which I thought was a nice touch. Here it is pictured with the delicious dessert.

Lunch (1)

Dinner was Kyoto style food. Kyoto is a region in Japan.

Dinner (2)

Dinner (3)

I don’t normally like Wagashi , but this was absolutely gorgeous, not to mention beautifully presented.

Dessert of dinner on day 1
Dessert of dinner on day 1

Meanwhile back in the room, I was enjoying more freebies. These goods are for the baby. Everyone is provided baby milk powder, a bottle, a brush to wash the bottle, milton tablets and other bits and pieces so you can prepare a formula bottle if you choose to bottle feed or supplement for the first few days. Second photo shows the vanity area where the goods were presented. The large milton sterilising box, the bottle keep, the kettle, the pot and the washing up liquid belong to the hospital, but are provided in each room throughout your stay.

Some of the baby goods gifted from the hospital
Some of the baby goods gifted from the hospital
Vanity area
Vanity area

Thanks to the various freebies, the delicious food, the restaurant ambience, the friendly staff and chatty patients, day one was as relaxing as it was enjoyable. Before bed I had a power shower in the “refresh salon” while the staff watched Little One #4 in the baby room.

DISCLAIMER: I had a wonderful experience at this hospital, 4 times, but it is always worth checking early on that any maternity hospital is suited to your personal needs.

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR KEIAI HOSPITAL IS: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

FOR INFORMATION IN ENGLISH ON THIS BLOG:
http://insaitama.com/?s=keiai

I did it; I followed a recipe.

It is not the first time I have said this publicly, and probably not the last, but I am super culinary challenged. Thankfully, my husband is a particularly good cook. Part of my struggle with cooking is that for the longest time I had no interest in it, the other part is for most of my adult life I enjoyed dining out. However, since having children, I have tried to learn and increase my repertoire of recipes. I find cooking healthily for children is easy, but I have yet to cross that over to more generic type cooking.

Meanwhile, my best friend is an amazing cook with an expansive collection of recipes suitable for all ages and tastes. So much so, she is frequently asked to do demos, participate in food events and teach classes, she’s even won an award. All resulting from the success of her wonderful blog Fiona’s Japanese cooking. Her most recent recipe grabbed my eye immediately as it is for mackerel, one of my favourite fish and my most favourite sushi. As always, Fiona presents the recipe in a very easy to follow manner, that even the likes of me can follow. To boot, the ingredients are easy to come by and the cooking time is short. So, with New Year pledges tolling in my ear, I decided this was one I had to try.

It got its test run today. It passed with flying colours. My son was at kindergarten, but my daughters and husband were here for lunch and they loved it. I have never seen my middle child enjoy fish so much. She couldn’t get enough of it. She is usually a slow eater, but she devoured her mackerel in minutes. Below a photo with the ingredients I used; sea salt and vegetable oil. I was delighted with myself that something so easy could taste so well and please so easily. It has definitely encouraged me to try out more of Fiona’s recipes on a regular basis.
1-P1005939

2-P1005940

For this particular recipe and lots of Japanese dishes explained easily, with tips on where to buy ingredients for people in Ireland, please see Fiona’s blog. This recipe and its original post for proper instructions and even better photos for this dish can be viewed by following this link;

Fiona’s Japanese Cooking.

Alice in Wonderland theme restaurant, Ginza branch | TOKYO

I was very excited to visit Alice in a Labyrinth, the Ginza branch of the Alice in Wonderland Japan restaurants earlier in the year. I was sorely disappointed. I had a great night, but that was due to the company of wonderful friends and little to do with the quality or atmosphere of the restaurant. The lighting is very dark, the space is very cramped and the food is bordering on awful. However, the presentation of the food, the character dressed staff and the decor are fun and something different and the desserts are the only delicious thing on the menu.

I had hoped that it might be suitable to bring the kids for a fun dining experience, but it is not suited to young children. There is no room for a buggy (stroller), there are no changing facilities and as far as I am aware they don’t have high-chairs. Older primary school and junior high school children might enjoy it though. There is a big tea-cup booth in the main section of the restaurant.  There are a few private booths and the rest are regular tables. I don’t have much else to say, except the website is fairly horrendous too. You can check it out for yourself here;
http://www.alice-restaurant.com/

Here are some photos we took that night;

4-Salad with dressing in a tea cup 3-Cat ice-cream from the front2-Cat ice-cream 1-Alice waiting staff 5-Chesire cat pasta 1-Mouse Ice-cream


Themed restaurants in Tokyo. Tokyo 2020 Olympics