restaurants

A wild sushi chase: Our Japanese reporter tries Cuban sushi in a five-star Havana hotel

I mean, we have sushi here in Cuba, but it’s terrible. You’re better off eating it in Japan!” That was the advice our reporter Yuichiro got when, craving a taste of home, he asked a Cuban friend where he could find some tasty sushi in his home country.

But for some reason, his friend’s protestations made our intrepid reporter even more intrigued. “Looking back on it now though,” says Yuichiro, “I wish I’d quit while I was ahead…”

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No dinner plans for Wednesday night? Why not eat a camel hump in Tottori, like we just did?

Here at RocketNews24, every now and again we come across a restaurant or snack maker offering something that doesn’t sound at all appetizing, but is just too unique to pass up. In the past, my coworkers Steve and Amy have sampled wasp-filled rice crackers and bee larvae, and my own stomach and psyche are only now recovering from a dessert of not one, but two types of cakes made with chunks of tuna.

Now, it’s out intrepid Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato’s turn to pull up a chair to the crazy dining table, and camel hump is on the menu.

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This owl and kitten duo napping is the most adorable thing you will see today 【Photos】

When things aren’t going right in your life, there is bound to be something on the Internet that will make yoy feel better. Well, look no further. This is a public service announcement: The following pictures are so cute that they will melt your heart, no matter how cold or frozen it might be. See if you can make it to the bottom of this article without going “d’aww…”

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Karan Koron Shokudo proves meat-free doesn’t mean taste-free【Veg’n in Tokyo】

Unlike in some countries, where even a steak restaurant will offer at least one vegetarian option, it can be difficult to find meat-free meals in Japan. There are, however, some vegetarian restaurants to be found in the capital, and I’m making it my mission to go around trying them all.

Today I’d like to introduce Karan Koron Shokudo, located right next to Yoyogi Uehara Station.

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Japan’s 10 best restaurants, as chosen by foreign travelers

People travel to Japan for all sorts of different reasons. Many are seeking a taste of tradition and history, and plan visits to the country’s most important shrines and castles. Some are drawn by Japan’s natural beauty, heading for its mountains and forests, while still others come to throw themselves into its neon-soaked urban entertainment centers.

But no matter what’s on your itinerary, at some point you’re going to need to get something to eat, and when your stomach starts growling, you can rely on the experience of those who made the trip before you with TripAdvisor’s list of the 10 best restaurants in Japan.

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Does how you dress affect what a sushi restaurant serves you? We experiment in Ginza

Take a stroll down the streets of Ginza and you’ll have no trouble realizing it’s Tokyo’s epicenter of everything posh and luxurious. The neighborhood is packed with shop after shop boasting high-end fashion, jewelry, and dining, so it’s only natural to think that any sushi restaurants in the area cater to an upscale clientele.

That being said, three reporters from our Japanese-language sister site began to wonder what would happen if they went to a Ginza sushi restaurant dressed to varying degrees of formality and ordered a special o-makase (“leave it to the chef”) course.

Would they each be offered different menu items depending on how they were dressed? Would their bills come out to be significantly different? With these burning questions in mind (and the prospect of eating sushi in the guise of journalism), they decided to conduct a little experiment to find out for themselves!

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Four areas in which Japan needs to improve if it wants to attract more overseas travelers

Japan’s National Tourist Organization recently released its statistics on the number of overseas travelers who visited in the country in 2014, and we’re proud to say that 13,413,467 of you came to visit (though we’re also a little hurt that so few of you called us up to get ramen while you were here). That number represents almost a 30-percent increase from the number of foreign tourists Japan received in 2013, and a whopping 60-percent jump compared to 2012.

Still, Japan only ranks 27th globally in its ability to draw travelers from abroad, making it eighth in Asia, behind world-number 22 Korea and number four China.

So what’s holding Japan back from becoming an even more popular international travel destination? RocketNews24’s non-Japanese staff put our heads together, and after getting over the initial pain from our foreheads violently colliding, came up with the following list of areas Japan could do better in that foreign travelers would definitely appreciate.

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Celebrate Usagi-chan’s birthday at the Sailor Moon Crystal café that’s open for four days only!

Every year on June 30 there’s one particular girl who receives birthday messages from thousands of people around the world. Rather than respond to them all personally on Facebook like most of us would, this young lady gives back the love by protecting the planet in the form of Sailor Moon.

This year, a special cafe will be opened in her honour for a four-day long birthday party featuring themed drinks, desserts and even a special birthday cake for visitors to enjoy. We take a look at what’s in store for Usagi-chan’s birthday party after the break.

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Our Japanese reporter asks for some authentic American food…but does he enjoy the experience?

The writers at our Japanese-language sister site are sometimes like kids after eating way too much candy: Adventurous and ambitious but rarely without any clear plans. And that’s why we love them! There’s nothing quite as fun as seeing something familiar through the eyes of someone whose never experienced it before.

As such, our globetrotting Go has proven to be an excellent guinea pig for testing classic Americana: He’s failed to impress at Area 51 and discovered that Denny’s in the US isn’t quite what it is in Japan. On the quest for “real American meat,” he decided to find a proper restaurant so he could ask for the chef’s choice. But would he enjoy what he found? Or would Nevada ultimately destroy our brave writer’s faith in American cuisine?

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We get lost in a world of steamy boy-on-boy fantasies at Ikebukuro’s BL cafe

Boys’ Love (BL) is a genre of fiction in Japan, usually taking the form of manga and anime, that depicts men in romantic relationships with one another. These homosexual stories are generally produced by and for women who want to fangirl over impossibly beautiful men getting frisky with each other.

Like with the maid cafes that cater to male otaku in Akihabara, it was only a matter of time until fictional fantasies started spilling over into the real world. My fellow reporter, Evie, and I went to visit a BL cafe near Otome Road in Ikebukuro, an area filled with stores catering to female otaku and fujoshi.

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Man arrested for buying beef bowl with bloodstained cash, might also like his steak extra-rare

One unique feature of the Japanese restaurant scene is what’s called the shokken, literally “meal ticket,” system. At a shokken system restaurant customers select their meal and pay in advance at a vending machine near the entrance. The machine spits out a slip of paper which is then handed to the restaurant staff in exchange for the food.

Shokken are especially common at restaurants that specialize in budget-friendly fare like ramen and beef bowls, because they allow the restaurants to operate with a smaller staff to keep costs, and in turn the prices they charge, low. The shokken system eliminates the need for workers to spend time taking orders, ringing customers up, and giving change.

There are other upsides too, in that it’s often speedier and more accurate than placing an order with a waiter. Plus, the reduced amount of human interaction makes it a lot easier to pay with bloodstained bills, at least for a few months until someone catches on and the police haul you in.

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Horse meat sushi restaurant opens up in Tokyo, becomes sushi’s latest craze 【Photos】

Those of you familiar with Japanese cuisine might have heard that horse meat, called basashi or sakura niku (cherry meat) due to its pink color, is a popular delicacy in Japan. Horse meat has been praised time and time again by many in the country for being low in calories and fat but also high in protein, all on top of a great taste.

Considering the meat’s popularity, and how more and more conveyor belt sushi, or kaitenzushi, restaurants have been adding non-traditional items like hamburger and roast beef sushi to their menus, you could say it was only matter of time before a horse meat option appeared.

Kagurazaka Nikusushi, a new trendy sushi restaurant between Shibuya and Ebisu in Tokyo, is now offering this new sushi sensation, and one of our Japanese writers, P.K., has the scoop!

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Who needs fast food? Tokyo restaurant has awesome cutlet lunch sets for less than five bucks

Given Tokyo’s reputation as one of the most expensive cities on the planet, you might think that dining out in Japan’s capital requires either a large fistful of yen or the fortitude to put up with a growling stomach after an undersized meal that leaves you only half-full. That’s not always the case, though, and it’s not like budget dining restricts your options to Yoshinoya or 7-Eleven, either.

We recently found a restaurant right in the heart of Tokyo that has filling, delicious lunches that are so cheap, we sort of felt guilty eating there.

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Tower Records celebrates Super Mario Bros.’ 30th anniversary with cafe and sale

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Nintendo first unveiled Super Mario Bros. on the original Japanese NES, or Famicon as it’s known in Japan. With over 200 games and counting, Super Mario has become the best selling video game franchise of all time. We’ve seen the video game icon get sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach on countless occasions, and become a legendary go-kart racer and sports athlete, as recapped here.

Mario’s been used to sell everything from Mercedes to Converse, and this time, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the industry-changing Super Mario Bros. video game, Tower Records is teaming up with Mario for a special limited edition cafe and summer sale at participating stores.

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Taiwan’s Ice Monster brings monster shaved ice, monster lines, and monster brain freeze to Tokyo

Popular Taiwanese kakigori (shaved ice) chain Ice Monster opened on Omotesando, the main boulevard of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku neighborhood, at the end of April to five-hour waits. Even now, waits regularly extend over an hour, but the scuttlebutt was that it was worth it for the mountains of delicious, delicious shaved ice.

We braved the lines and the brain freeze to find out the truth for you, dear readers.

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Looking for great sushi near Sapporo? Try this hidden restaurant in an airport souvenir shop

Even in a country of unabashedly passionate foodies, Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s major islands, holds a special place in diners’ hearts and appetites. No trip to Hokkaido is complete without sampling some of its famous seafood, but most travelers arrive by plane. That means having to get to the airport ahead of time for your flight home, and between that and taking care of any last-minute souvenir shopping, sometimes you have to make the heart-wrenching decision to give up on one last Hokkaido sushi meal.

Unless, of course, you hit this amazing sushi restaurant that’s not only inside Hokkaido’s principal airport, but also inside a souvenir shop!

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Naruto themed cafe in Akihabara is where all the ninjas eat

Time and time again we have professed the end of Naruto. While the original manga has certainly finished, there always seems to be something new for Masashi Kishimoto’s ninja clans. If you haven’t gotten your fill of Naruto yet with the new manga featuring Naruto’s son or the live-action theater production of the series, you should ninja run to the Adores building in Tokyo’s Akihabara. Their collaboration cafe is currently featuring the boisterous boy ninja and all his sneaky pals, but you better get there quick before the whole cafe ninja vanishes!

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Our writers show you how to have the most fun at the new Hooters in Tokyo 【Pics】

Spring is a time for new beginnings as well as a great time to open new shops and businesses, and people are eager to escape from their apartments where they spent most of the winter season. Luckily, there are plenty of grand openings everywhere you turn this time of year, which is why our intrepid writers were met with a 100-plus-person line at the new Hooters location near the West Entrance of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station on May 18.

They couldn’t make it into the restaurant on opening day, so they decided to go back the next day, with a twist! What better way to enjoy the newest Hooters restaurant in Japan than by cosplaying the Hooters costume?

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Japanese restaurant in Thailand hangs lanterns announcing “I love boobies” and other philosophes

Even after living in Japan for more than a decade, I still get excited when I see a restaurant with paper lanterns hanging out in front of it. The mix of vibrant colors and bold calligraphy is just so uniquely Japanese that it instantly fills me with a sense of excitement.

Of course, just a bit of the eroticism has faded over time, especially now that I can read the calligraphy and tell that it usually doesn’t say anything more dramatic than “draft beer” or “grilled chicken skewers.” But while those lanterns are usually giving the menu highlights in Japan, at this Japanese restaurant in Thailand, they’re instead plastered with non sequiturs, gags, and the occasional philosophical declaration and/or love letter to women’s breasts.

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Halal ramen comes to Tokyo with Asakusa restaurant, and it’s so good anyone will enjoy it

For decades, the international perception of ramen was that it was something for lazy college students to buy in bulk for when they wanted a quick, hot meal, with only minimal thought given to flavor or presentation. And while ramen does sometimes take that form, assuming it’s all like that is sort of like basing your whole image of pizza on microwavable frozen varieties.

Thankfully, there’s a ramen renaissance going on, as the rest of the world is getting onboard with just how delicious Japan’s favorite noodle dish can be. In response, some restaurants in Japan are adapting to make their food more accessible to foreign visitors, such as this restaurant in Tokyo that serves halal ramen.

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