Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu Review: Authentic Homespun Recipes Handed Down from One Generation to the Next

I’m not a food critic, a restaurateur, a professional chef nor a food blogger but I love Japanese food and I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen from a very young age so those are my credentials for reviewing this wonderful cookbook.

Japan cookbook

I’ve purchased several Japanese cookbooks in the past or I’ve printed recipes off the internet but they’re always the same type of popular Japanese recipes and I’ve often thought they were more suited to the type of dishes served up in Japanese restaurants outside of Japan rather than the good old Japanese cooking that grandmothers in Japan lovingly put on the table for their families to enjoy.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu is everything I expected and more. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been creating the kind of Japanese dishes I’ve always wanted to make and that’s regional dishes and home-style cooking that have never been translated into English until now. Food you could only expect to eat if you were travelling the length and breadth of Japan, staying with families along the way who really know how to cook healthy, delicious and wholesome Japanese food that’s been passed on from one generation to the next.

This cookbook is substantial. It includes over 400 recipes by Hachisu, you can easily find your favourite recipes because it’s broken into sections dedicated to each style of cooking, and there’s a fascinating section on the history of Japanese food towards the beginning. There are also over 50 recipes by famous chefs in the blue section at the back and several full-page photographs, but the lovely introduction at the very beginning by Nancy Singleton Hachisu is definitely well-worth reading before you start cooking.

In the intro, you’ll discover Hachisu has been living in Japan since 1988 as a Japanese farmer’s wife. Her husband Tadaaki is also an excellent cook but after they married Hachisu became the “resident bride” and enthusiastically took over the task of making tempura and the New Year’s soup. Hachisu has been developing her cooking skills for decades so she’s the perfect person to put a cookbook like this together.

You’ll also discover this author went to a lot of trouble to meet as many grandmothers as possible in her favourite regions in Japan so she could record a great number of recipes for this cookbook and then adapt these recipes to include her own individual twists. It’s this energy and authenticity which makes this cookbook so great. It was also interesting to discover a lot of the recipes in this book came from the writings of Harumi Kawaguchi, a Zen nun and a close friend of Hachisu. This has definitely influenced many of the simpler dishes and I certainly felt a degree of mindfulness when I prepared some of these meals. Although a lot of the dishes are natural, wholesome and modest in their presentation there are also many other dishes that do require some degree of skill in the kitchen and quite a bit of preparation and this includes several dishes that are full of rich ingredients that perfectly complement lighter dishes when served on the table.

I also really liked the way Hachisu shared an interesting fact in her introduction on page 13 about the Japanese “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) and how this applies to cooking in Japan:

Sa-shi-su-se-so is a mnemonic for the main flavouring ingredients of Japanese cuisine. Sa=sato [sugar or mirin], shi=shio [salt], su=su [vinegar], se=seu the archaic reading of shoyu [soy sauce], and so=miso. These are the only essential ingredients.”

I’ve already made seven meals from this cookbook, including sushi, rice and noodle dishes, and I was so impressed by how well everything turned out. I’ll definitely buy Hachisu’s other cookbook “Japanese Farm Food” in the near future because all these recipes were fabulous.

So, let’s get on to the recipes I’ve been making from this cookbook over the last few weeks. I really hope my review of each recipe will show you just how much my husband Roy and I enjoyed each and every dish.

ROLLED CRAB AND NORI OMELET (page 46)

crab and nori

This looks like a simple dish that’s easy to prepare but it was actually quite difficult for me to make. Reason being, I don’t own the recommended tamagoyaki nabe (Japanese omelette pan) so I had to make do with my small round frying pan and cut the rounded edges off into a square. You have to keep an eye on the egg omelette when you’re making it so you don’t overcook the egg and create brown patches. You want a nice pale yellow colour on all sides. Hachisu recommended six eggs and just 3oz (90g) of crabmeat but I would use quite a bit more crabmeat next time because I think the taste of the egg in this masked the flavour of the crabmeat. It did look really good in the end and you’ll definitely love this nori roll if you’re a big fan of tamago nigiri sushi.

 

SPINACH GRATIN (page 256)

spinach

spinach gratin

Roy loved this dish! He really liked the combination of spinach, bacon, scalloped potatoes, béchamel sauce, tomatoes and bread crumbs. I’ve already made it several times and I’m sure I’ll continue to make it again and again in the future. If you’ve never been to Japan you might be wondering why a gratin has been included in a Japanese cookbook but this is actually a very popular dish that is often made at home in modern Japan and it’s also included on menus at a lot of family restaurants. Hachisu says you should make a home-made béchamel sauce and I completely agree with her. It really is a lot better for you and a lot more scrumptious than the store-bought variety. Don’t overcook the bacon because this could easily affect the taste (and not in a good way) and be generous with the panko breadcrumbs.

 

ONE-POT SEAFOOD UDON (page 277)

One-pot seafood udon 1

“A cross between nabe (one-pot dish) and udon, unusually, this dish is baked in the oven.”

If you’re tired of eating kitsune udon all the time and you’re looking for a really tasty, healthy and low-calorie meal then this seafood udon dish is a great alternative and it only takes 25 minutes to prepare and cook! This recipe certainly has some delicious ingredients — prawns, crabmeat, maitake mushrooms (I used shiitake mushrooms because I couldn’t get the maitake variety), negi, spinach, and udon!

I did cheat a little bit. I used pre-cooked udon noodles, three sachets of udon soup stock powder which made about 1.3 litres of hot noodle broth and canned shredded crabmeat to save myself time and money. I wouldn’t use shredded crabmeat again. Instead, I’d add fresh crabmeat or canned chunks of crabmeat. Hachisu recommends fresh crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage.

I boiled the broth on the stove first before adding the noodles. I let them cook for five minutes which allowed the noodles to separate before adding the other ingredients. I cooked this all in my Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish which was perfect for cooking this on the stove and transferring it to the oven. Hachisu recommends adding a splash of ponzu at the end and we really thought the soup needed this. After we’d added this, the meal was absolutely delicious. In fact, Roy liked it so much, he finished all of the leftover soup at the bottom of the pot!

 

RICE BOWL WITH GROUND BEEF (page 304)

mince bowl

Hachisu recommends leftover rice for this dish as well as ground pork or chicken as well as egg threads, shiitake mushrooms and green beans but as she mentioned in the introduction you could use any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge. I replaced the beans with garden peas. This isn’t the fanciest dish and you certainly wouldn’t serve this to important guests but it’s a quick, easy and cheap meal to make and children would really love the easy-to-eat mince and the way you serve each topping in its own section. I had fun making the egg threads (the recipe for this is on page 222) but I’d definitely cut them finer next time.

 

GINGER-SOY CHICKEN RICE BOWL (page 314)

ginger soy

This is my favourite dish so far. As you can see in the photo, the chicken had a lovely sticky ginger-soy coating. One great fact about this cookbook is that Hachisu has given you exact quantities for each ingredient to be used in all her recipes and if you follow these instructions to a tee then you can’t go wrong. One exception I made was to add carrots because I had a packet of mixed vegetables in the freezer I wanted to use. If you love soy-glazed yakitori then you’ll love this dish.

 

SHRIMP AND PEA RICE (page 316)

shrimp pea rice

Hachisu says “A vehicle to use leftovers, hayashi rice is said to have developed in the southern island of Kita Kyushu. The owner of a small casual eatery needed to feed his customers quickly before they boarded the ship, so he put together this flavorful ketchup-based rice dish. While chicken is commonly used in this dish, here the shrimp reflects the seaside roots. Feel free to swap out diced leftover chicken or pork. In the same vein, any chopped vegetables such as carrot, green beans, or turnips can be substituted for the green peas.”

I followed Hachisu’s recipe and used green peas. Again, it might surprise you that Japanese people use quite a bit of ketchup in this dish and in their cooking but I assure you this is another popular dish, especially with children. You’ll really love this dish if you’re a fan of the filling in omurice (a Japanese omelette rice dish).

 

CRAB AND EGG YOLK RICE BOWL WITH AONORI SALT AND KINOME (A RECIPE BY MARTIN BENN OF SEPIA RESTAURANT IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA) (page 407)

egg and butter dish

I mentioned above there are over 50 recipes from well-known Japanese and Western chefs at the back of the book in the blue section. I decided to make this particular recipe and I’m so glad I did!

Martin Benn is the chef/owner of Sepia Restaurant in Sydney. He started his career in London before relocating to Australia in 1996 where he gained a position at Tetsuya’s under the famous Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. He was made head chef at this restaurant at just 25 years old!

I knew this dish was going to be full on but I still wanted to try it even though I thought it looked a bit risky and I was worried I wouldn’t get it right. I thought, at first, I was setting myself up for a challenge and it might be a bit sickly because it included 14 tablespoons of butter and 16 egg yolks!! Yes, you read that right. That’s a hell of a lot of butter and I thought our cholesterol levels would skyrocket with all those eggs.

Boy, was I wrong about the taste! I can now see why Benn is such a respected and accomplished chef. This dish was an absolute delight to the taste buds. It reminded me of the rich and creamy dishes you pay through the nose for at fine French restaurants. I’d still warn anyone over the age of 65 to go easy on this dish but both my husband and I really enjoyed it and we were able to eat a full bowl each. I didn’t have any kinome sprigs to place on top of the dish at the end as recommended but the aonori salt (a combination of sea salt crystals and powdered green nori) was a great addition.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t serve it as a rice bowl again. I think it’s just too much. I’d serve up just three tablespoons of this next to a pan-fried or poached piece of salmon with some green beans sautéed with a little garlic and grated ginger and a dash of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.

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I’d like to thank Phaidon for sending me a copy of this cookbook and I’d also like to send out a huge thank you to Nancy Singleton Hachisu for putting together this culinary masterpiece.

I’ll definitely be making a lot more recipes from this cookbook in the future and posting photos of these recipes on my favourite social media platform Twitter so please follow me @RenaeLucasHall for these updates.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
470 pp, Phaidon. £29.95.

Get your copy on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Kyoto Journal – An Elegant Appreciation of Culture and Creativity

I’ve read quite a few Japan-related magazines and I’ve always learned a little bit more about the Land of the Rising Sun from each one of Kyoto Journalthem but Kyoto Journal is the most insightful and beautifully presented magazine I’ve read so far. The stylish front cover, the glossy pages with stunning photographs and the thought-provoking essays, projects and reviews from a selection of writers, poets, artists, photographers, and designers from Japan and the Pan-Asian region will leave you spellbound. Each page really does give you pause for thought and contemplation.

It was very nice to see how every part of the journal had been brought together to make you feel like you’re making a personal connection with each one of the contributing creative individuals. There’s definitely a focus on Japan, and especially Kyoto, but the editors have also included works from all over Asia and this creates an even balance. After you’ve finished reading each page you feel like you’ve cultivated your mind, heart, spirit and soul. You’re left with a feeling of completeness, inclusion, and a better understanding of Kyoto and the wider world.

I’ve only ever lived in Tokyo and I’ve visited Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Osaka several times in the past but now I regret the fact I’ve never had the opportunity to live in the Kansai region, especially Kyoto. Frankly, I’ve always thought this ancient capital was a bit too mysterious and esoteric for my Western mind and nature. An enchanting place with a history I could never fully understand or appreciate because I wasn’t born in Japan. However, I now feel Kyoto is much more accessible after reading just one edition of Kyoto Journal.

KJ logo

Founded in 1986, Kyoto Journal (KJ) is a Kyoto-based non-profit, volunteer-driven quarterly magazine and the longest-established independent English publication in Japan. Every part of this journal is well-worth reading, even the advertisements and promotions are beautifully composed with stunning photos and images. Do take your time to appreciate each paragraph as you read each one. There’s a lot to take in and you’re bound to have more than one naruhodo moment!

I read the winter/summer 2018 edition with the theme “Old roads, revisited”. There’s a wonderful introduction to this issue on their website:

KJ’s 90th issue celebrates those roads that, since prehistory, have carried not only travelers and trade, but also the seeds of new cultural flowerings. Passing through both time and terrain, roads lead to that ongoing reinvention, the future—and back into the past.
Climb aboard; let’s make tracks…

I’d like to share with you some of the highlights of this journal. . .

I enjoyed reading the interview with the professional Noh actor, teacher and Noh mask carver Udaka Michishige (pictured below performing “Nonomiya” at Kyoto Kanze Kaikan Noh Theater wearing his Magojirō mask). He’s the only performer still making Noh masks in Japan. I now know the word Sarugaku is the ancient name for Noh (yes, even if you’re an expert on Japan you’re still going to learn all sorts of cultural titbits from this journal) and it was wonderful to read about the ways Mr Udaka is trying to transform the educational system in Japan. He believes in teaching children the importance of spirituality and philosophy. He says we should all question why we were born, live and die just as one does in Noh theatre. He insists these subjects should be taught alongside factual knowledge in order to create more well-rounded individuals and I agree with him.

Nonomiya

There are also extracts in the journal from Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella Bird as well as a very well-written review of Pachinko by the author Min Jin Lee. I’ve read these two books and I recommend both of them but I thought Bird’s non-fiction account of Japan in 1878 was a bit tedious to read at times and sometimes it felt like the text was too heavy in its descriptions (I’m talking about the complete book, not these excerpts).

Back to the journal, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the extract from the travel journal The Kaidōki which was written by a 12th-century monk (name unknown) and translated by Meredith McKinney. The inclusion of tanka poetry and the photo (see below) of this monk in an area not far from Kamakura makes these pages a delight to read.

Yamabushi01 copy

The narrative of a Zen monk called Fukume on a mission from the Shogun in 1832 to deliver a white horse to the Emperor in Kyoto will also make you smile. What amused me the most was how Fukume and Hayashi were repeatedly trying but failing to recite a poem on their journey in just one breath because it was said if you could do this “while giving proper attention to its sense you would have happiness and success in love for the rest of your life”!

Hiroshige print

Andrew Thomas moved to Kyoto after spending 15 years in Setagaya, Tokyo. Interestingly enough, I lived in Yōga in Setagaya when I was teaching English in Japan. If I’d continued my life in Japan I probably would have followed suit and moved to Kyoto myself. Don’t you think his photo below of the Shimenawa torii gate at Hibara Jinja, featured in Kyoto Journal, is absolutely mesmerising?

Haibara Shrine, Yamanobe Road by Andrew Thjomas

I very much enjoyed reading about how Yamada Akihiro developed the Kamo River Promenade in Kyoto. He embraced the concepts of continuity and unity in his designs because he wanted everyone in the area to enjoy the promenade. Now people can walk, stand, sit and lie down along the river bank and take time for contemplation thanks to Yamada’s well thought out designs. His philosophy in life is “kindness must be the basis for all human activity”.

If Yamada Akihiro happens to meet the photographer Yoshida Shigeru, whose ethereal photos also feature in this journal (see photo below), I’m sure they’ll get along. Yoshida began his photographic project ‘Border’ after visiting the area stricken by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. When he saw the people praying towards the sea he knew exactly what he wanted to capture in his photos and he remembered these words the Dalai Lama once said: “This place doesn’t need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” Inspirational words from both gentlemen, don’t you think?

Yoshida Shigeru

If you’re interested in Japan it’s more than likely you’ve heard of Matsuo Bashō, considered the most famous poet of the Edo period, but have you ever seen a picture of the man himself? You’ll have to order a copy of this edition of Kyoto Journal if you’re interested in seeing what is said to be the most authentic portrait of Bashō to date.

Nearly everyone who visits Japan is filled with awe by the beauty of the aesthetics which apply to design, physical objects or daily principles and they never forget the kindness they’ve received from the Japanese people. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the traditional culture is to stay at a ryokan inn or a hotel that prides itself on providing exemplary customer service. In ‘Going off road: a home away from home in Japan’ Lucinda Cowing introduces four hotels where omotenashi is a prerequisite for a restful stay. You’ll want to book at least one of these fine establishments after reading this and if you do I’m pretty sure you can look forward to being pampered and spoiled by their staff who all seem to understand the true meaning of omotenashi.

Although it’s a hotel rather than a ryokan, I’d love to stay at L’Hôtel du Lac which was highly recommended by Cowing. It’s situated on the shores of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. This retreat boasts both lake and mountain views, it sits in a forest thriving with birds and local wildlife, and in early April cherry trees stretch for 8km alongside the property (see photo below). The Director of L’Hôtel du Lac, Tanaka Hidekazu, explains why his hotel has so much to offer. “Our hotel’s location, together with its sumptuous cuisine, is the highlight of staying here. It is a special place, yet it is important to us to make guests feel that they are ‘coming home’ and to be an approachable and reliable presence for them.

L'hotel du Lac

There’s also a selection of poignant and very touching poetry throughout the magazine for you to read over and over again. One poem, in particular, really moved me from A House of Itself, Selected Haiku by Masaoka Shiki:

Autumn departs
for me
no gods no buddhas

行く秋の我に神無し佛無なし
yuku aki no ware ni kami nashi hotoke nashi
Masaoka Shiki

There was a lot to learn about Masaoka Shiki, pictured below (image via Wikipedia), in this journal. He was a traditionalist and an innovator in the Meiji period who wrote over 25,000 haiku poems in his short life. He used seasonal references as well as shasei (sketching from life) and makoto (poetic truthfulness) in his haiku but unfortunately he died at age of 35 from tuberculosis, a disease he contracted when he was just 13. As you can see above his poetry is deeply influenced by his sense of mortality.



I also want to draw your attention to the Hailstone Haiku Circle. I’d never heard of this club before but I discovered they have members all over the world. If you’re interested in joining this circle there’s no need to feel intimidated and you don’t need to be a haiku master to get involved. Their latest anthology Persimmon was reviewed by Susan Pavloska. The haiku below is a perfect example of what you can expect:

An orange colour
rises in the moonlight
ripe persimmons
Mayumi Kawaharada

The number of people who enjoy reading Japanese manga comics in the West, especially in Britain, has multiplied exponentially since the 1970s and now this art form has become a hugely lucrative export for Japan. Fumio Obata, a Japanese comic artist living in the UK, has been working on a 200-page graphic novel dedicated to comic reportages of the 2011 tsunami, earthquake, and the consequential nuclear accident in Fukushima. Kyoto Journal has dedicated four pages to her comics. Prepare yourself to be enthralled by Obata’s artistic accomplishments but also saddened by the subject matter.

Fumio Obata_cartoon_010

If you’re a foodie you’ll also enjoy ‘Gourmet Biking in Tohoku’ by Lianca Van Der Merwe, if you’re a fan of kimono you’ll be interested in the article explaining how the textile artist/kimono-maker/tonya (creative director) Tange Yusuke is exhibiting artwork alongside his stunning kimono dyed with the same imagery, and if you’ve ever lived in suburban Nara in Japan or Oxfordshire in England you’ll relate to Pico Iyer’s ‘The Gingkos along Park Dori’.

There’s also a heart-wrenching but life-affirming short story called ‘Mother beyond the border’ by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan (with wonderful artwork by Venantius J Pinto) that needs to be read to be believed. I can assure you it will leave you with eyes wide open.

Just as springtime is drawing to a close in Japan this edition of Kyoto Journal ends with a very sweet haiku:

High on the cherry tree—
one last blossom
remembers

I wasn’t brought up to be a Buddhist or a Shintoist (although I agree with some of the principles from both religions) so I tend to believe we only have one life and this life passes incredibly quickly. Following this train of thought, we only have a certain amount of time to do what we wish to do, absorb ourselves in our passions, and follow our dreams. I’m really looking forward to reading more editions of Kyoto Journal in the future. I feel that the content in this magazine will accelerate my understanding of this ancient capital and many other facets of the Japanese culture.

I now feel like I can enrich my knowledge of matters I once thought were incomprehensible and when I return to Kyoto I’ll have a much better understanding and appreciation of this captivating city and Japan as a whole. Reading personal accounts from both Japanese and Western people, past and present, who now live or have lived in Kyoto, I really feel drawn towards this area of Japan. You can certainly feel the warmth, kindness and compassion for others when you read the contributions from those who have a real connection with this charming city.

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A Few of My Favourite Cherry Blossom Photos on Twitter in 2018!

Obviously, I love cherry blossoms, so every year I look forward to admiring their fleeting beauty. I’m actually brimming with excitement when photos of these beautiful blossoms start to appear on Twitter and other social media platforms.

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know my husband and I visited Japan last year in September and you’re probably wondering why we didn’t go to Tokyo in March/April this year to see my favourite flower. The truth is I used to live in Japan and I’ve travelled to Japan many times in the past for short periods so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the cherry blossoms on quite a few occasions. Another reason we went in September is that my husband wanted to travel to Japan when the weather was still warm. We also thought there would be fewer tourists and I was doing research for my writing and we didn’t want to wait for several hours to get into an attraction or a well-known restaurant.

We discovered later we were right! The number of tourists visiting Japan in the last couple of years has increased dramatically thanks to international media coverage and promotions by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). Apparently, there were long queues and crowds at customs, all over Tokyo, and especially at Ueno Park, which is one of the most popular destinations to see the pretty pink and white petals. According to Euronews, 85,000 people a day visit this 540,500 square meter park (133 acres) over the nine days when the cherry blossoms bloom. So, if you’re planning to visit Japan during hanami (flower viewing) season be prepared to face huge crowds or do what we did and admire them on my blog or on Twitter!

 

cherry blossom 6 @hawaiimomtravel

Photo by @hawaiimomtravel

Cherry blossom 1 @erikochiai

Photo by @erikochiai

cherryblossom 3 @erikochiai

Photo by @erikochiai

cherry blossom 5 @HTravelism

Photo by @HTravelism

cherryblossom 6 @namasteablend

Photo by @namasteablend

cherry blossom 4 last of cherryblossoms @tcmyles

Photo by @tcmyles

Cherry blossom sho

Photo by @ShoFrex

Cherry blossom 10 @Tokyonobo

Photo by @Tokyonobo

cherry blossom 12 @Tokyonobo

Photo by @Tokyonobo

Sarah Hodge 1

Photo by @MRGSuperfan

Sarah Hodge 2

Photo by @MRGSuperfan

JOnelle 2

@jonellepatrick

Jonelle 1

@jonellepatrick

Toshi 4

@Toshi_Asaka

Toshi 3

@Toshi_Asaka

Kazuhiko 2

@alqudshilwa

cherry blossom local

@localbitesjp

cherry blossom 7 @centauri333

Photo by @centauri333

Below are a few 2017 cherry blossom photos taken by one of my favourite photographers Nathalie April Lim

cherry blossom Nathalie 3

cherry blossom Nathalie 1

Cherry blossom Nathalie 2

Treat Yourself to Unique, Delicious and Trendy Japanese Food and Lifestyle Products from Tokyo Direct

I live in the UK so sometimes I miss all the delicious Japanese food I could eat to my heart’s content when I lived in Tokyo. There are a few Japanese food suppliers in England so now and again I can get my Japanese food fix through their home delivery services but they all seem to offer the same items and I never get the chance to try anything different, that is up until now, thanks to Tokyo Direct. This is a new company in the UK offering unique and high-quality Japanese food and sweets, kawaii goods and lifestyle products.

I love the fact I can finally get my hands on delicious and unique Japanese food items that are trending in Japan right now. I can order instant ramen from Tokyo Direct that tastes better than some of the ramen noodles served in restaurants in Japan. I can now get Japanese cereals that are so delicious I can’t wait to get up in the morning. I can also order new varieties of chocolate biscuits or other snacks imported straight from Japan that go perfectly with a cup of PG Tips tea or Earl Grey if I’m feeling fancy!

The Managing Director of Tokyo Direct is Mr. Akira Soeda. He has been living in the UK for many years and he too was disappointed with the limited range of Japanese food and sweets available in the UK. He was also quick to recognise a lot of the food available here was outdated in terms of popularity and quality so he decided to start his own import company. Mr. Soeda knew from the get-go he wanted to introduce the finest Japanese food and lifestyle products. He also knew, right from the start, these products had to be unique and a cut above the rest when compared with the items offered by his competitors in terms of taste, quality, and packaging.

You really need to visit the Tokyo Direct online shop to see what’s available. While you’re there make sure you check out each and every page. There’s a selection of general food, ramen, sweets and snacks, matcha and tea, sake, stationery, and also kitchen and lifestyle products. Don’t be put off by the prices. You’re not buying your average ramen or curries from Tokyo Direct. You’re buying high-quality items that are incredibly tasty and a lot more delicious than any other food products you’ve tried before. If you do have a limited budget you can still afford the less expensive items such as the Ginza Curry for £4.50 or the Raoh Ramen Noodles for just £2.50.

I was lucky enough to try four different products sent directly to my home from Tokyo Direct. Everything was packaged really well and I was honestly blown away by the superior quality and taste of all the items I received.

1. Raoh Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles 1pcs 日清ラ王 豚骨 1袋 (£2.50 per packet)

Tonkotsu Ramen

I’ve never tasted ramen noodles in a packet that have been so good. I added some pork and sliced spring onions and each mouthful was divine. I’ll definitely be ordering some more of these Raoh ramen noodles in the future for quick and easy meals.

2. Matcha Granola (500g) 抹茶グラノーラ (£12.00 per packet)

Matcha granola

This packet is huge so you won’t have to buy cereal for a couple of weeks as long as you don’t end up eating this granola for breakfast, lunch, and dinner which you may very well do when you taste this variety. The granola is crunchy but it’s really fresh so it won’t break your teeth. I would never have thought a matcha-flavoured cereal could be this tasty but it really is! It’s like having a Zen moment in the morning with its subtle matcha flavour and of course, there are the health benefits because it contains wheat, milk and soybeans. Honestly, you have to try this cereal. You’ll love it and even if you’re not a matcha fan I promise this granola will convert you.

3. Shiroi Koibito -white lover chocolate cookie 白い恋人 (were £13.00 but now just £11.00 on sale)



These cookies are for the ladies! When I used to visit the homes of my Japanese friends in Tokyo they’d serve me English tea in Wedgwood cups and saucers with a dainty biscuit on the side in the most exquisite packaging. These cookies remind me of those times. Enjoy a sliver of white chocolate placed between two slices of langues de chat (light but crunchy French biscuits). It’s a winning combination and something you’ve probably never tried before so do yourself a favour and order these for sure. They’re the perfect accompaniment for a more refined afternoon tea with your Japanese or British friends and your Grandmother will love them as well!

4. KitKat Matcha (12 pieces) 抹茶キットカット 12枚 (were £10.00 but now just £5.00 on sale)

Matcha kitkat

There are lots of Kitkat lovers out there who have already tried this matcha flavoured variety but if you haven’t then you’re missing out. This lovely chocolate snack just melts in your mouth, they’re really creamy, and you’re going to find it difficult to eat just one so it’s lucky you get 12 small individually wrapped Kitkats in one packet!

Make sure you visit the Tokyo Direct online shop on a regular basis because new and exciting products are being added every day. You can also put in a request for any items you’ve seen in Japan that you’d like to enjoy in the UK and Akira Soeda will go above and beyond to get these for you and have the items delivered straight to your home.

Tokyo Direct