Marche Japon Farmers' Market - UNU Omotesando

This past weekend in late February, the sun was shining and there was a definite feeling of Spring in the air. I had read about some farmers' markets in Tokyo and could not think of a better day to get outside and explore a new side of the city. Marche Japon Farmers' Market is held at the United Nations University most weekends, and brings together fresh produce, amazing samples, and freshly made juice and pizzas from around Greater Tokyo.

Although there are not a huge amount of stalls, there are a variety of vegetables, fruits, freshly made breads and teas to tickle the taste-buds, as well as gorgeous flowers at about half the cost you would pay at one of Tokyo's exorbitantly expensive florists.

In a city where there is a clear lack of space for greenery, let alone farming, the farmers' market brings a fresh touch to the sprawling urban landscape. There is no doubt that self-sustainability is a buzz word of current times, and the Japanese government is jumping on board with initiatives to encourage the purchase of sustainable goods. Go along, browse the stalls, order yourself a freshly made pizza and mixed fruit juice, and watch a lazy Saturday run by.

From Omotesando station, take the B3 exit and walk down Aoyama-dori towards Shibuya (map).


Tokyo Food: 'Life' Italian Yoyogi-koen

Wandering around Tokyo's suburbs you will find spaghetti chains with cartoon tomato characters, and pizza places surrounded by Miami palm trees, but it is often hard to come across low-key, delicious and authentic Italian fare.

I discovered this little Italian joint tucked away on Tomigaya street, just a few steps from Yoyogi-Koen station. Called "Life and Slow Food Restaurant", one may be tempted to keep on walking at the prospect of waiting 2 hours for a meal. Yet ironically, when we orded our prosciutto and rocket pizza, the waitress apologised that it would take 15 minutes to come! As my friend and I were enjoying 'slowing down' for a bit, of course we were more than happy to wait, and enjoyed a perfectly cooked duck salad in the mean time.

The restaurant feels like you have walked in to a shabby chic house, with LIFE magazines on the walls and pot plants around the room. The single exception to this is the open kitchen from which you can enjoy glimpses of the chef's at work, and the lofting smell of garlic and olive oil.

Final point. If you go to 'Life' Italian in Tokyo, you cannot leave without trying the chocolate pudding.

The restaurant has a cute website, complete with online store!

For English directions click here.


When in Nagano...

This weekend I spent what I would consider the perfect winter escape from Tokyo.
Nagano can be reached from Tokyo within 4 hours, and comes complete with world class ski resorts, and some of the cutest monkeys you will ever see!

I joined a Tokyo Gaijin's tour, and boarded the bus late Friday night for the winding trip to Nagano. Saturday was spent cruising down the powder dusted slopes of Shiga Kogen. We got lucky with clear blue skies, and only a slight snow shower in the afternoon. Skiing was followed by an early evening of bathing my ski-weary limbs at the hotel onsen, and a delicious traditional style Japanese meal, complete with tempura apple! (Apples being a specialty in Nagano).


Another Nagano highlight is getting up close and personal with the wild monkeys at Jigokudani Yaenkoen.
The story goes that the local monkeys use to venture in to the town in winter to find warmth and food. In order to prevent this, the townspeople created an area of hot-spring onsens for the monkeys to relax in and escape the cold (similar to what I had done the previous day). There are bathing monkeys, baby monkeys, and monkeys of all sizes which will walk through your legs, and apparently attack if you stare at them!

Old-man monkey, chilling in his natural hot tub 

Family pics 
Beautiful photos courtesy of Giles Tuck.


Turducken in Tokyo

I haven't been to this restaurant, nor am I sure if I will ever go, but thought it was worth a mention as one of Tokyo's to watch in 2011.

Aptly named FATGROOVE; the restaurant claims to be the first to ever offer turducken in Tokyo (A chicken, inside a duck, inside a turkey).

Click here for the website.

If anyone goes, please fill me in all on the gory details.