Monday, April 19, 2010

Tokyo Day 2 - Yasukuni Shrine Matsuri

We visited the Yasukuni Shrine cos it has a huge matsuri (festival) during spring. We walked into the shrine, and tried oden (something like Japanese yong tau foo) from this small stall near the pond. I've tried oden back in Singapore and didn't quite like it (perhaps I had lousy quality oden? Can't even remember where I had it) but after trying the oden in Japan, I have concluded that oden is pretty good. It comes with various combinations of fish cake, tofu, daikon (radish), konnyaku (this jelly like thing, the speckled grey triangle in the picture above) and a knot of kelp.
The oden we got was pretty expensive and costs 500yen (around sgd $7.50) for the portion above. It's delicious when eaten with mustard (something that I've recently learnt to appreciate). We were eating the warm, steaming oden under a canopy of cherry blossom trees, by the pond so it was really very relaxing. I'd have never imagine doing this one month ago! But it was really a very enjoyable and peaceful experience.Eating oden and drinking complimentary green tea
Pond behind the Yasukuni shrine with cherry blossom tress
We also had some more dango - this one has both (soya sauce) and anko (red bean) dango. Each piece of dango was around the size of a quail's egg. It wasn't as nice as the one we had at Inoshikara park cos it wasn't warm.Outside the shrine, we got waylaid by this really huge matsuri, with so many rows of food stalls, and the whole area was packed with people enjoying hanami. So we abandoned plans of walking through the Imperial Palace (which was about 30min away by foot because it was very crowded, according to this policeman) and the Diet building. We had the yaki soba (fried noodles) which came with lots of pickled ginger, crispy fried flour balls, bonito flakes, spring onions and mayonnaise, Hokkaido steamed potato with deliciously creamy butter, and takoyaki (octopus balls). It wasn't that cheap and most of the items cost around 300-500 yen, but everything tastes so much better in Japan, especially if you're eating it while viewing cherry blossoms.We also had the grilled corn, which was pretty disappointing compared to the Ishiya at Inoshikara park, cos it was pretty much tasteless and it was boiled before grilling so it didn't taste as sweet. The takoyaki (flour balls with octopus, ginger, spring onions, topped with bonito flakes, teriyaki sauce and mayonnaise) was very good with a huge chewy piece of tako embedded in the center of each ball. The Japanese use more pickled ginger in their takoyaki than the ones we have here. We also had the fried squid, which was very salty (I think the food in Japan is generally much more salty than the food in Singapore).Tsumomo (酸桃 / すもも)
It's a hugely common and popular snack in Japan and we saw it being sold with licorice at most of the matsuris. It's a type of plum, which is red and intensely sour and crispy. I don't quite like the taste tho.
An old school tsumomo stall where you pay 200yen to have a go at the pinball machine. The number of stick you can get will depend on where the ball lands, the maximum being 3, and the minimum being 1.
Charcoal grilled squid
The old guy can make pretty animals out of a heated lump of sugar - he's making a giraffe in this picture.
Kurobuta (black pig) okonomiyaki
Hanami dango which comes in 3 different flavours
grilled corn stall
Salted freshwater fish
The guy in the picture on the right is grilling dango, but by this time I was so full I couldn't eat anymore snacks...
The matsuri is only held in spring, and it's located right outside the Yasakuni Shrine. It so happened that when we were taking the train to Yasukuni Shrine, the train line which we were on stopped when we were one stop away from Kudanshita (because someone had apparently committed suicide by jumping off the tracks. It was a blessing in disguise cos we took a leisurely 10min walk to get to the Yasukuni shrine, and we passed this really pretty cherry blossom tree lined road, all the way to the shrine.Spotted this white lambo but too bad the van got into my picture :/

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