Tokyo: It's All About the Food
What a great and interesting trip this was. Notice the story selection here…Sumo, Akihabra, Japanese Nutty Professor, exotic alternative lifestyles like La Carmina and her posse or our day with the Cos-play girls…No food stories here! Well this show was originally shot as an episode of Bizarre World, and the week we returned from the shoot we found out that we were going to be going back to making only Bizarre Foods episodes so this show is kind of a rare breed. A hybrid episode that I think is a great show. I wish you could have seen the original program in all its glory. For example, the theme restaurant act was not originally about the restaurants, it was about the people that I dined with. Cross dressing, fetish party going, club crazy, hipster chic and phenomenally great company, La Carmina and her friends adore Tokyo because it’s the world’s trend setting capital, a city where you can be whatever you want. Despite , or in spite of, its rep for being straight laced and narrow minded, Tokyo is a city that makes everyone comfortable, and there is no kink too exotic, no lifestyle too extreme. Tokyo 'accepts’ anyone and any way of life. Who knew? But that’s one of the things I love most about Tokyo.
But of course it’s all about the food for me…Nobu, Mizutani, Ishikawa, Quintessence, Hamadaya, Kanda, Koju, Sukiyabashi Jiro and about 100 tempura shops, yakitori bars, sukiayaki houses, shabu shabu dens and chankonabe taverns are what make the Tokyo food scene for me. BUT, and it’s a big but, I come home every night from a busy 17 hour shoot day and I don’t have the energy to do anything. Since I always stay at the same hotel in Shibuya I simply walk one block to Tokyo Food Show, a super sized food shop that lie beneath Shibuya Station. Many Japanese department stores offer an entire floor dedicated to food. Often located in basements, these markets are colloquially named depachika, taken from combining department store (depaato) and basement (chika). TFS is two city blocks in size, with plenty of treats for everyone in your family to choose from. TFS is the market I stop in every day when I am in Tokyo. I always stay in Shibuya, and TFS is in Shibuya Crossing, and unlike many markets in Asia, the Tokyo Food Show is laid out like the makeup floor at Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC; very easy to navigate. The place is filled with locals, all shopping on the way home or grabbing a bite for lunch or dinner. The staff is helpful and getting lost in TFS is the best advice I can give you. It’s a blast. The Japanese work ethic is hardcore, and many businessmen and women slave away well into the evening. The market caters to men and women on the go, serving up bento boxes and takeaway noodle dishes of every type of Japanese cookery. And I mean everything. If it can be eaten in Japan, it can be found at TFS in both the raw and cooked formats. Typically, eating local fare is the best route taken at markets. However, the Tokyo Food Show also offers a wide variety of exotic gourmet foods from around the globe. Check out the Belgian beer stalls, Vietnamese spring roll stands, French fromageries, and even stellar Indian curry shops. As a culture, the Japanese earn a reputation for envelope-pushing, often times serving up wacky experimentation when it comes to food. Expect to see square melons priced at $200 and single, perfect mangoes from teeny farms halfway across the world selling for 50 bucks apiece. Looking for 80 types of seaweed salad to squeeze in between a cluster of sweet French wine grapes and a piece of miso glazed wild salmon from Hokkaido? This is the place. Last month I bought Okinawan sea salt, dried natural shiso leaves for crumbling over rice, a pound of mixed pickles for the hotel fridge, small baskets of smoked shishamo (a teeny fish), several bottles of aged shoyu, chili-spiked salted cod roe, teeny skewers of roasted eel, ripe honey-sweet persimmons and gobs of chu-toro sashimi for eating on the walk back to the hotel. You’re shopping in a basement, but don’t expect bargains. But they are there. Some rice cracker stands are for art lovers with baskets of their wares costing a small fortune, but there are 40 other rice cracker vendors selling at reasonable prices. For a deal, hit up the market around closing time when vendors sell off items at a deep discount (especially the oyster shuckers and other seafood purveyors) and be sure to cruise through the massive supermarket located at the West end of the market.
Looking for a taste of Tokyo…head to TFS. You will love it.