Battle the holiday bulge with Shabu Shabu

Shabu Shabu HouseWith the holiday season in full swing, you might be battling the bulge, and in dire need of a detox or cleanse. With most Americans gaining a pound to two per holiday, healthy holiday eating can be almost impossible. But if you love Shabu Shabu, this could very well be just what the doctor ordered.

Shabu Shabu House new owner Kazuyo Makita

Shabu Shabu House new owner Kazuyo Makita

We were both recently invited to try out a couple of new menu items at Shabu Shabu House. New owner Kazuyo Makita is a yogi and advocate of healthy eating, and she’s selected ingredients that are fresh, full of antioxidants and vitamins. These two new dishes, although not a magic bullet when it comes to preventing weight gain or fat reduction, would do well as a hangover helper or a healthy alternative when seeking a filling and hot meal.

It’s been a bit chilly lately, by Hawaii standards, and a nice soothing hot pot soup sounds good right now. Here’s a look at the new Shabu Shabu House “Veggie Detox Set” and “Yosenabe Set.”

Shabu Shabu House

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The "Vegetable Detox" set "($23.95): Kale, dandelion, mushrooms, onions, watercress and bell peppers, depending on availability. Most of these veggies are organic and from local farmers they were also chosen for their antioxidant, detoxification, cancer prevention, anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting qualities.

Here’s how they use the leftover broth at the end of the meal. You can opt for ramen or rice, and this is a comforting way to finish the night.

Tokyo: the insanity of Namja Town

With Ritsuko (left) and Naomi at Kyushu Jangara Ramen.

With Ritsuko (left) and Naomi at Kyushu Jangara Ramen.

If you have the time, one way to really experience the extreme quirkiness of modern Japanese culture is to visit Namja Town in Sunshine City. We had to go there because we wanted to visit the gyoza museum, which is inside, but the cat-oriented indoor theme park is totally worth the time for a very good laugh.

My friend, blogger Ritsuko Kukonu (@Poohko_Hawaii) was in the area to visit her family and had a free day. I met up with her and her classmate, Naomi Yokosaka, for a day-o-fun. We met at Ikebukuro Station and started with Kyushu Jangara Ramen, which is a famous chain that serves up tonkotsu ramen — and other broths with distinct flavors. From there, we headed out to Ikebukuro, a popular shopping district, to get to Namja Town in a huge mall called Sunshine City.

Aloha Tokyo!If you’re looking for good shopping, Sunshine City has it all, and you could easily spend a day there. In fact, you could spend half a day in Namja town itself, as we did. The indoor theme park was created by Namco, a video game company, but they don’t focus on the games here. You pay 500 yen to get in (with a turnstile that meows as you insert your ticket) and from there you can check out the activities, cat displays, games, and more. Food is an extra cost, of course.

We had some time to visit a large cat cafe nearby, which I have to show you from every trip to Japan as I try to convince our editor, Diane Seo, to open one.

Aloha Tokyo!

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When you get to Ikebukuro Station, look for the Kyushu Jangara Ramen restaurant. There is almost always a line.


These were just the highlights. To see all photos from my trip, click here.

Up next: Going behind the scenes at TBS, an uni-themed restaurant, and a mall made of shipping containers! Then wrapping up the trip with Tokyo tips.

Something new: Chai’s Market & Cafe

Chai in front of his market section.

Chai in front of his market section.

Renowned chef Chai Chaowasaree has opened a new restaurant in Waikiki, and it’s quite different from his usual high-end, high-service venues. Chai’s Market & Bistro, located in Canterbury Place, is his new casual, take-out concept.

I’m probably like most people and thought that I was headed to a fine dining restaurant, so it was a nice surprise to find Chai had created a more approachable way to enjoy his style of cooking, with a local twist. He’s still uncomfortable with it, though — it pains him to see his food served in styrofoam and with plastic forks.

Still, he knew he had to do it. When Chai opened Singha Thai 25 years ago, Thai food was like high fashion. Now, with the abundance of Thai restaurants in Hawaii, it’s lost its appeal as a “special” cuisine (although Chai only used high quality ingredients for it). So, he took the space and created this new concept, since there are no local-style restaurants in Waikiki other than Wailana.

You can opt to eat in or take out, but all orders are taken at the counter; there’s a refrigerator with grab-and-go items, as well as fruits from Frankie’s Nursery. He also has an extensive gift shop area, featuring local products like honey, dried fruits, coffee, chocolate and pecans. The big seller will probably be his pineapple tea cakes, which were developed from his mother’s recipe.

Chai's Market & Cafe

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Chai's new restaurant is in the former Singha Thai space in Canterbury Place.

Chai’s Market & Cafe
1910 Ala Moana Blvd. in the Canterbury (parking is $4 for up to three hours)

Tokyo: Akihabara and Narukiyo

Aloha Tokyo!I gotta say, Japanese culture — especially in Tokyo — is over the top on so many fronts. You’ll find a lot of hysterically bizarre sights, objects, and activities for people of every age, and some of these things don’t even make sense to Japanese people. I’ll show you some of that in today’s and tomorrow’s blogs.

Another thing that was prevalent in Tokyo was the openness and abundance of (for lack of better words) pervs, kinks, and fetishes. There are clubs for every kind of fetish you know, and ones you haven’t even thought of. Someone commented that the department store Don Quijote is “where you can buy lunch and s*x toys in the same place.” For conservative types, this can be shocking. For me and Deb, it was just really funny!

Here’s a look at Don Quijote in Tokyo, which is vastly different from the ones in Hawaii. I found a lot of things that are not suitable for work (NSFW), so you’ll have to visit my Flickr album to see the rest. We really went there to get snacks, an iPhone case, and a suitcase, but got sucked in to all the amazing fun things they offer. After shopping, we headed to Akihabara, which is a nerd’s paradise. Christopher Butcher, who owns a comic store, gave us a little tour.

Aloha Tokyo!

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Our day started by running into Mr. Jelly Belly in Shibuya. Okay, this isn't a normal trip pic, but I thought it was fun to share.

Aloha Tokyo!I hope that you’ll be able to find Narukiyo, a very local izakaya that is tucked away in the back streets of Aoyama Dori. I tried GPS’ing it on my computer and phone, only to have the maps tell me they couldn’t find it. We went with Ross Mihara, who is a regular, and Kel Ide (both of whom were featured in previous Tokyo blogs). You won’t find a lot written about him because according to Ross, Narukiyo doesn’t allow Japanese media to interview him. But I promise, the place is well worth the hunt.

Narukiyo has been open since 2003 and is a favorite with those who know it. The menu features seasonal, local ingredients, cooked (or not) to perfection by Narukiyo Yoshida himself. We paid about $100 each, including drinks, which we agreed was a good price for what we got. Like Morio’s here in Honolulu, it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience — the chef is quite a character and you’ll find phallic symbols everywhere, even hidden under food. Again, some photos and video are NSFW, so you’ll have to click here to see the rest.

Hidden izakaya: Narukiyo

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I'm not going to lie: Narukiyo is not easy to find. But I think now that I've found it, I can find it again. It is located in Shibuya near Aoyama Gakuin University, somewhere in a back road where you can also find a hula studio. Then you have to find the stairs that take you down into the bar.

B1F, 2-7-14 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
03 5485 2223

These are just the highlights. To see all photos from the trip, which I’m still adding, click here.

Up next: The insanity of Namja Town!

Tokyo: Takarazuka and Andy’s Shin Hinomoto

It was jarring to come back from the serene surroundings of Obuse and Niigata to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. When the train doors opened at Tokyo Station, it was like being yanked back to reality with all the noise, movement and people. The contrast was quite amazing.

We had to leave our suitcases at the station and rush to Takarazuka Theatre to meet Deb’s friends, who were in from all over the world to attend the International Manga Festa happening that week. They were all connected to the manga industry in some way, whether as artists, bloggers, translators, editors, or comic book shop owners. Seeing an over-the-top, Vegas-style, all-female revue was an ideal way to bring everyone together. (More photos and descriptions, below.)

After the show, we headed to Andy’s Shin Hinomoto, a famous local izakaya located under the tracks at Yurakucho. To be honest, I don’t think you’d be able to find it if I just gave you the address, so click this link to get the directions. Reservations are highly recommended as I understand it’s usually hard to get in.

Aloha Tokyo!

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If you want to see a statue honoring Godzilla, head to the Takarazuka Theatre near Yurakucho Station. Make sure he doesn't attack!

These are just the highlights. To see all photos from this trip, click here.

Up next: Kinky Akihabara and another super hidden local izakaya!