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 He was also quick to recognise a lot of the food available here was outdated in terms of popularity and quality so he decided to start his own import company.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

Four of the Best Japan Travel Guides in 2017

It’s always a good idea to buy a new travel guide if you’re itching to visit the Land of the Rising Sun or if you live in Japan and you want to explore more of the country. Take a look at these four Japan guidebooks below. Each guide will appeal to a certain type of traveller. Simply choose the one that’s right for you.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Japan published by DK Eyewitness Travel, flexibound £15.18, paperback £34.95, 408 pages

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Japan front coverEssential information is delivered in short paragraphs so this is perfect for travellers who don’t want to spend a lot of time reading but it’s the 875 stunning photos that make this guidebook so appealing. There’s also an emphasis on the cultural and historical aspects of Japan presented with 85 maps and 55 detailed illustrations. An added bonus is the durable flexibound cover which keeps the book clean and the pages protected from dog-earing.

Flipping through this guidebook, you’ll discover one page or two dedicated to aspects of the Japanese culture that require further explanation such as the differences between geisha, geiko and maiko in Kyoto, the inner-workings and the towers at Himeji Castle and the significance of the floating world of ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Realizing tourists are interested in exploring areas outside of central Tokyo there’s a great introduction to Kamakura as well as Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes. For those who want to travel even further afield, there’s in-depth information about surrounding areas like Takayama with corresponding illustrations. The depiction of a gassho-zukuri house, famous in the Shokawa Valley for its steep thatched roof built to represent praying hands, is well-worth examining.

Fashion lovers will appreciate the sections dedicated to shopping with information on how to pay, the sales tax, rights and refunds, tax-free shopping, and the differences between Western and Japanese sizes. If you’re interested in buying tea, ceramics or traditional washi paper you’ll love the summary of specialty souvenirs in Kyoto.

Foodies will zero in on A Gourmet Tour of Central Japan recommending the chestnut confectionery in Obuse or the sasamushi (eel steamed in rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) in Matsumoto, as well as other local delicacies. There’s also a focus on the differences between Edo and Kansai cuisine and the types of tea, sake, soft drinks and beer sold primarily in Japan.

A brief but excellent nine-page guide to the history of Japan at the beginning is enough for first-time travellers and you can expect a short but informative description for each area when a new part of Japan is introduced. Sections are also dedicated to Northern Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. These are colour-coded which makes it easy to turn to the area of your choice.

This guidebook also has lots of helpful hints and information on onsen (hot springs), the science-based, historical and foreign culture theme parks, as well as the popular amusement parks in Japan. There’s also a survival guide for travelling with children or if you’re visiting with a disability and a short section on how to be an environmentally responsible tourist.

Lonely Planet Guide Japan (Travel Guide) published by Lonely Planet, paperback £12.91, Kindle £12.91, 928 pages.
Lonely Planet Guide Japan front coverThis 2017 version with its pretty plum blossom cover is very comprehensive. It would make a fantastic reference book for hard-core visitors who plan to travel the length and breadth of the country. It would also appeal to niche travellers planning a skiing trip or travelling with children, hikers, adventure lovers who want to climb Mount Fuji and anyone who wants to know what’s new and interesting in Japan right now.

Fans of Lonely Planet Guides love their detailed maps and their insiders’ opinions on why a particular hotel or other form of accommodation is so appealing and you can expect the same from this Japan guide. There’s also a good-sized pull-out city and subway map at the back and lots of detailed maps inside to help you get around the different prefectures and towns.

Snippets of invaluable information are highlighted in yellow and red throughout the book with the titles Don’t miss, Worth a trip and Local knowledge. These are must-read sections to ensure you get the most out of every area you visit.

This Lonely Planet Guide certainly covers a lot of areas but it does go into more depth with several points of interest that deserve attention. The section on the Ainu, Hokkaido’s indigenous people, is particularly enlightening and the poignant descriptions of the atomic bomb explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki are essential reading.

The pages dedicated to the Northern Honshu, Tohoku region are also good. Train geeks will enjoy reading about the novelty trains in the area, you’ll want to make a note to visit the medieval town Yonezawa best known for its Yonezawa-gyū (local beef) and there’s a section dedicated to the famous music, arts and environmental Earth Celebration in Ogi.

A pocket-sized Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook and Dictionary is also available. It includes essential but very basic tips on speaking, pronouncing, reading and writing Japanese as well as a 350-word two-way dictionary.

 

Must-See Japan: The Complete Insider’s Guide to Seeing the Best of Japan in One Trip by Tom Fay, published by CreateSpace, paperback £5.79, Kindle £3.49, 174 pages.

Must-see Japan front coverPublished in 2016 but updated in 2017, Must-See Japan is a brief travel guide that focuses on the three main areas tourists want to visit: Tokyo, the Mount Fuji region and Kyoto. This guidebook is perfect for visitors planning a short stay, backpackers who don’t want to lug around a bulky guide and travellers who want a concise guide that will fit neatly into their handbag or carry-on.

This travel guide claims it’s an insider’s guide to Japan and it certainly delivers on this promise with lots of great recommendations throughout the book. Even regular visitors to Japan will discover lots of new and different experiences, great restaurants, and out-of-the-way places they’ve never heard of before.

Find out where you can eat tendon (tempura over rice) at the first restaurant in Japan to serve this dish, which travel pass you should buy if you’re in Osaka for only a couple of days, and the best time of the year to climb Mount Fuji. These tips and so many other helpful suggestions are all packed inside this short but very informative guidebook.

Although this travel guide concentrates on the three main areas in Japan, it does cover quite a few other major and well-known areas including Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. The information on these areas is limited but it’s still well-worth reading the insider tips if you want a more memorable stay in Japan.

If you skip to the back of the book you’ll find even more expert recommendations on must-eat foods, must-do activities, onsen, karaoke, shopping, hiking, sumo, ryokans (Japanese inns) and capsule hotels.

 

The Rough Guide to Japan published by Rough Guides, paperback £11.35, Kindle £13.67, 880 pages.

The Rough Guide to Japan front coverThis 2017 edition with 880 pages is nearly as thick as the Lonely Planet Guide and just as informative if you want to know a little bit about anything and everywhere in Japan. The sections on Kyoto and Nara, Buddhist and Shinto beliefs and pilgrimages would really appeal to travellers interested in history, culture and the spiritual elements that are very much a part of Japanese life.

There’s a list of 29 things not to miss at the beginning with corresponding page numbers so you can easily find that point of interest in the guidebook and you can expect entertaining and practical advice throughout. You’re urged to turn on the TV in your hotel room and enjoy the fairly easy to understand food programs just for a laugh and there’s excellent advice on earthquake safety procedures and how to call home if you want to contact your family.

You can also find out where to get the best coffee in Kyoto or for something different readers are advised to take the sake brewery tour in Kobe, join the Obubu Tea Farm tours in Uji or help the local community construct a giant snow sculpture in Odori Park at the Yuki Matsuri (snow festival) in Sapporo.

This guidebook also touches on current affairs in Japan such as the problem with Yasukuni and why this shrine is so controversial and the setbacks associated with relocating the Tsukiji fish market. There’s also a quick guide on who’s who in Sumo wrestling and information on renting a kimono in Asakusa, Harajuku or Shibuya.

The comment “I might as well be going to the ends of the earth” by the famous poet Matsuo Basho introduces the section on Northern Honshu where visitors can enjoy rural traditions and festivals. There’s also a very informative section on the three sacred mountains of Dewa and its shrines in Yamagata Prefecture where you can see the yamabushi (mountain priests) practising ancient rites as they summon the gods.

Travelers who want to take part in other ascetic experiences should read the sections on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage on Shikoku and the Kumano Kodo trail in the southern Kansai region, as well as information on shukubō (temple lodgings) and the monasteries and temples where you can stop to worship.

The section on Okinawa towards the end of the guidebook gives a lovely description of these islands and its beautiful beaches where you can dive, snorkel and appreciate the underwater wildlife. There’s also an interesting segment on the Ryukyu culture urging travelers to try the delicious Okinawan cuisine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018!

It’s the season to wish one another joy, love, peace and gratitude so I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has read my books and visited my Cherry Blossom Stories Blog in 2017. I hope you’ll continue to support me in 2018. Here’s a short Christmas video I put together for you to enjoy. Happy holidays, stay safe during the festive season and fill your hearts with warmth and love as we say goodbye to 2017 and welcome the new year.



Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner in Shibuya for Less Than ¥1,500!

Tokyo is an expensive place to visit and some restaurants can cost you an arm and a leg but there are also lots of cheap eateries located all over the metropolis and Shibuya is no exception. Nearly everyone who visits Tokyo will head to Shibuya – a town smack-bang in the middle of Tokyo where young, hip and cool people meet to dine out or hit the shops.

The mouth-watering and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes I’ve suggested below were chosen because so many people who adore Japan or live in Japan are raving about them on social media and you’ll love the fact you won’t have to pay more than ¥1,500 (about £10, $US13, $AUS17) for these meals. The places where you can eat these dishes are also very close to Shibuya Station. You can use a navigator app or ask a stranger for directions. You’ll be surprised how many people speak some English and how willing they are to help you get to where you want to go.

BREAKFAST: SOUFFLÉ PANCAKES at HOSHINO COFFEE inside 109 MEN’S MALL

Overlooking the scramble crossing in Shibuya, Hoshino Coffee serves pancakes that get a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and if you look at the images below it’s easy to see why. The pancakes are very thick yet incredibly light and fluffy and the general consensus is they’re just “really awesome”. They’re served plain with maple syrup, with apple and caramel, banana and chocolate sauce, or even green tea ice-cream. You’ll also be pleased to know a serving of the double plain pancakes with maple syrup is just ¥700, leaving you enough money to order a cup of their popular “hand-drip” coffee!

A Japanese breakfast typically consists of steamed rice, miso soup, grilled fish and side dishes and this should be on the breakfast menu if you’re staying at a good four or five-star hotel or a ryokan. If you don’t have this option you should definitely head to Shibuya and try the pancakes. They’re not as healthy but so much more agreeable to the Western palate.

Hoshino plain pacakes with cofee

 

banana and chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUNCH: ICHIRAN RAMEN 

Some say Ichiran Ramen is the best ramen in the world so you have to try their famous noodles when you’re in Japan.

This is the description of Japanese ramen on Wikipedia: “Chinese-style noodles served in a meat or occasionally fish-based broth, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, menma, and green onions.”

Ichiran Ramen only serve pork/tonkotsu ramen but you can choose how spicy, rich and flavoursome you’d like the broth, how many pork slices you want, and how much garlic, spicy sauce and scallion you want added. If you’re eating by yourself you won’t feel self-conscious because Ichiran Ramen has a policy that reduces nearly all of the interactions between the staff and the customer. You buy your meal ticket from a vending machine and everyone sits in a private booth so you can concentrate on your meal without interruptions and distractions and thoroughly enjoy every mouthful.

ichiran

 

 

Ichiran ramen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DINNER OPTION (1): YOSHINOYA BEEF AND RICE BOWL (GYŪDON)

Rachel W. on TripAdvisor says “Yoshinoya in Japan blew our minds”! She also left a comment saying the ramen tastes much better and the menu is more varied than Yoshinoya in the US, so you can’t walk past this firm favourite. These Yoshinoya beef and rice gyūdon dishes are very popular with working-class Japanese. Therefore, some of your Japanese friends may not recommend it because it’s such a common food chain but I can assure you every Japanese person at one time or another has craved a beef bowl at Yoshinoya when they’re tired, hungry, strapped for cash and looking for the ideal comfort food. Even their regular gyūdon dish is completely satisfying and it’s only ¥380!

Yoshinoya

 

gyudon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DINNER OPTION (2): GENKI SUSHI (CONVEYOR BELT SUSHI)

This fun and enjoyable conveyor belt sushi restaurant is really popular with the tourists. You order on a touch screen and the monorail track shoots out your sushi dish within a couple of minutes. Although, the quality of the food is good and you’ll pay less than you would in your home country for conveyor belt sushi (plates start from just ¥100), this shouldn’t be the only restaurant you try when you’re in Japan because you’re not getting a purely Japanese experience. But if you live in Japan and you’re trying to save money or if you have kids and can’t take them to fancy restaurants, or if you’re just craving sushi and the 5-star sushi bars are right out of your price range then this is a cheap option.

genki sushi

 

genki screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESSERT OR SWEET TREAT: CREMIA SOFTCREAM at SILKREAM

Japanese people don’t say “soft serve”, they use the word “softcream”, and the softcream at Silkream is said to be the crème de la crème! The makers wanted to impress people all over the world when they created this delicious softcream and based on all the reactions on social media they’ve certainly achieved that. Everyone who has tried their premium softcream in Shibuya has been raving about the taste and they’ve been urging everyone to try a cone if they’re in Tokyo.

Most soft serve ice-cream has 8% milk fat content but this softcream has 12.5%. It’s made with Hokkaido milk and 25% is heavily whipped cream giving it a silky and creamy texture as well as a milky taste. Their cones are also incredibly good because they’re made from the same recipe as the buttery langues de chat cookies.

A single cone costs ¥515 but there are also dessert options such as their Chocolate Fondant, Mango and Passionfruit Parfait and Mascarpone Cheese and Espresso Crêpe. These decadent alternatives cost a little bit more but they’re also well-worth trying if you have a really sweet tooth.

cremiafondan cremia

 

 

 

 

silkream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos are courtesy of Yelp.