MariCar – The Craziest Way to See Tokyo

MariCar – The Craziest Way to See Tokyo

There was chaos all around me. Colourful characters swerving and speeding through the streets of high-rise buildings and temples. Blinded by the neon lights and deafened by the roaring electronic soundtrack, I gathered all my focus towards pole position. Despite all the chaos and commotion, I remained calm. I was driven by the will to win. The finish line was mine for the taking. As I swerved and drifted around an incoming banana peel, I took a deep breath, aimed and fired a turtle shell at my opponent in front of me, sending him flying up into the air.

MariCar on the streets of Tokyo, Japan

MariCar – Tokyo’s crazy real-life Mario Kart

Ok, so that’s not exactly how it went down, but the adrenaline, excitement and craziness of driving a small go-kart through the streets of Tokyo, dressed in a Mario character onesie is nothing short of exhilarating. When I first heard about MariCar I thought it would be a fun and quirky experience to wrap up our amazing trip to Japan. I assumed that there would be some kind of cut-off section of the roads or footpaths where we would have somewhat of a token drive. I was wrong. Apart from the character costumes you can wear, there is nothing fantasy or token about it. You will drive a real, modified-for-road go-kart and you will drive it on the road, with all the rest of the traffic in Tokyo.

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Start your engines! Maricar in Tokyo
Ling getting ready to race in MariCar

That sounds dangerous?

By our road standards, it probably is. However, MariCar operate in line with the law and they are strict when it comes to Licences (you MUST present a valid International Licence, issued from your country of residence, to participate). Rest assured, we get taken through safety instructions, (which included, “Don’t hit the other cars”, “Don’t beep your horn unnecessarily”, “Follow the road rules like a normal driver” and “Follow my lead”), however it’s still pretty hard to believe this is actually allowed.

Our fearless leader explaining MariCar rules

Trying to avoid being hit by a merging bus or truck whilst driving 50kms an hour over a bridge really puts your vulnerability into perspective…. and it is brilliant for the adrenaline junkies. Whilst we had no issues, there have been a number of accidents – including go-karts crashing on top of another and others hitting parked cars and police boxes. These incidents have prompted concern from police and the government, even with talks of closing it down (but luckily for us, business is going strong and we got to do it!).

MariCar is a crazy way to see Tokyo
Go-karting with traffic in Tokyo Japan

If driving down the streets of Tokyo on a go-kart and dressed as a cartoon character excites you, how about fighting a sumo dressed in a sumo suit? Read about how you can Fight a Sumo here!

Make no mistake, this is NOT Mario Kart

After being taken to court in February 2017 by Nintendo, the owners have been quite adamant that this is not a copy of Mario Kart, but it’s hard not to find the similarities, especially when you see Mario, Luigi, Toad and Yoshi zoom down the street in go-karts. The owners of MariCar actually won the court case and can still operate, despite Nintendo’s attempts to shut them down. They do have a disclaimer on their website (which I found amusing), including the following:

  1. No racing each other on the streets.
  2. Do not throw banana peals or any other garbage on to the streets.
  3. Do not throw red turtle shells or any other objects to each other.
MariCar in Tokyo, Japan

So what’s MariCar actually like?

All joking aside, MariCar is super fun. When we rocked up to the storefront in Akihabara, we were handed forms to sign and directed to pick a character onesie from the huge selection. The store was abuzz with excited millennials, ready to race. Lockers are provided and if you want to hire go-pros and accessories, there is the option for that also. Once dressed, we were divided into small groups and went through the safety spiel with our fearless leader, before we headed to our go-karts.

Dress as your favourite hero with MariCar

A few practice revs, blinker tests and beeps later, and we were ready to hit the road… literally! It is quite surreal driving on the road in a small 50cc go-kart. You are lower to the ground and there is not much between you and the cars around you. Thankfully, drivers in Japan are sensible, so we didn’t have much to worry about. We followed the signals of our leader to slow down, speed up and drive in single or double file. The go-karts tend to embellish every bump and vibration on the road, so it was a nice relief to have a short pit stop at Odaiba and take the obligatory selfie and enjoy the wonderful views of the Rainbow Bridge and the Statue of Liberty replica.

MariCar's Pitt stop in Tokyo

But, a man (or woman) has got to ride, so back on the road we went! These babies are small, but still pack a punch. We almost hit 60kms/hr at some stages and really felt the adrenaline rush. In a city of 13 million people, we quickly became the attraction for tourists and locals alike, with many people waving at us from passing buses and even stopping in the middle of crossings to take photos of us. Every time we stopped at the lights, Guy and I would laugh in amusement at how crazy this actually was (and wonder how it could be legal!). All in all, it was an exhilarating experience and one we would definitely do again next time we are in Japan!

MariCar in the streets of Tokyo
Dress as your favourite character with MariCar Japan!

What more crazy things to see in Tokyo, Japan? Why not check out Robot Restaurant!?!

The deets

Where: Maricar operate from a few sites in Tokyo and Osaka. You can find details of their stores on their website.

When: MariCar offer a number of 2-hour and 3-hour laps around the city throughout the day and evening. Check their Facebook page for up-to-date times and to make a booking.

Cost: Prices start from ¥8,000

Important!

If this sounds like something you MUST do when in Japan, make sure you have your International Drivers’ Licence organised. They won’t let you participate if you don’t have one (and you have to organise it before you go to Japan).

Dressing up as characters with MariCar Japan
Ling and Guy doing MariCar in Tokyo

What do you think? Crazy, or a MUST-DO in Japan? But more importantly, what character would you dress up as? 

Let us know in the comments below!

Want more travel inspiration?

MariCar – The Craziest Way to See Tokyo

There was chaos all around me. Colourful characters swerving and speeding through the streets of high-rise buildings and temples. Blinded by the neon lights and deafened by the roaring electronic soundtrack, I gathered all my focus towards pole position. Despite all...

Robot Restaurant Review

If you didn’t think the neon lights of Tokyo could shine any brighter, then you haven’t been to Robot Restaurant. You can see the neon signs, wrapped around the building from a block away. Like a magnet, Robot Restaurant draws all the curious explorers in, with its...

How to travel light for two weeks in a carry-on [Packing tips and Cabin Zero backpack review]

How to travel light for two weeks in a carry-on [Packing tips and Cabin Zero backpack review]

I hate wandering through beautiful European streets, Asia’s packed markets or the concrete jungles of America while dragging around overloaded suitcases.

So on a recent trip to Japan we attempted to go for two weeks in just a carry-on with what we now believe is the BEST travel backpack. And it WORKED.

Magical sunsets Raja Ampat

How to pack for a trip (and how most people actually do)

When space is limited and comfort is at a premium, a strategy is a must. No emotion here, just cold hard prioritisation. This is what I found helpful.

Break down what you need into categories:

      • Underwear and socks
      • Daily outfits (preferably using jeans/pants/skirt as a base with rotating shirts, etc)
      • Sleeping gear (where possible save space, sleep in the nude, though not recommended for hostel dorm stays)
      • Swimming gear
      • Coats and cold-weather gear (wear these on the plane where possible)
      • Toiletries
      • Shoes (as few as you need for the activities you need to do)

Rule number 1 – Folding is out, rolling is in.

Rolling your clothes reduces the overall footprint of the stack of clothes and when every millimetre counts, this can really pay dividends. This works particularly well for t-shirts, shorts, dresses but not so much for thick denim jeans, continue to lay these ones flat.

Rule number 2 –   Using all available space

You would probably be surprised by how much extra you can fit inside you’re the little nooks and crannies when packing a bag. A tip we always use is to stuff socks, belts, etc into shoes within your bag. Also look to use the space in between your rolls – there will generally be decent space both above and below where the rolls will meet for you to stuff smaller items.

Rule number 3 – Bundle like items together

Taking shirts for example, they are all generally the same size, mostly the same shape, etc. So it makes sense to lay them out together, roll them up and pack them as one rather than rolling a mixture of jeans, skirts, shirts, and jackets. This will also make it easier when you need to get straight to something as you will know exactly where in which roll to find them.

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Paradise in Raja Ampat
Arborek Village, Raja Ampat

Choosing the right backpack for travel

How do you choose the best backpack for travel? Here are a few thoughts on the issue:

    • Durability – If you’re going half way around the world, then you’ll want to make sure that the bag you trust with your belongings is tough enough to take the hits on the road. Ideally, I look for large zippers, strong handles and straps (look at the stitching for this), and materials that won’t mark too easily.
    • Style – Because we are the millennial generation, ok?
    • Space – Must be able to fit enough stuff but still be able to get through most airline carry-on size checks (more on this below)
    • Wearability – Personally, I prefer to carry my bags on my back as it leaves my hand free and I hate, HATE carrying suitcases up or down staircases. Padded, adjustable shoulder straps are a must and I like travel backpacks that allow for some air to get to the small of your back as well.

When we got our hands on two of Cabin Zero’s most stylish travel bags, we decided to put them to test. We compared the Urban 42L and the Classic 44L styles during two weeks, 5 hotels, 4 flights, numerous trains and a bus trip through Japan. 

THESE BAGS ARE THE BEST TRAVEL BACKPACKS THAT WE HAVE FOUND!

I used the Urban and Kim-Ling took the Classic for our trip. First up, they are beautiful but in very different ways.

See our quick-look comparison between the Urban and Classic below!

The Urban 42L

For me, the Urban was the perfect mix of stylish, harwearing, waterproof (it was absolutely fine in the rain) and really easy to carry around with both a small side handle, slign shoulder strap AND traditional back straps. I was able to fit all of my clothers for 2 weeks in Japan in the Urban, AS WELL AS my laptop bag with laptop and GoPros x 2. I can’t rate it highly enough and you wouldn’t look out of place strolling down the coolest avenues of the world, including Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Broadway in New York or Shinjuku in Tokyo.

Raja Ampat sunsets

The Classic 44L

For Kim-ling, she LOVED the Classic. Not only because it was super lightweight, but because it came in a range of bright colours, including her favourite – purple. We wore it all around Tokyo, on and off trains, etc and it worked perfectly. Easy to wear, nicely distributing the weight across the shoulders and with a really useful front pocket to store some of the essentials. The beauty of the Classic is that it is has many useful pockets and the interior compartment setup is a little better suited to travel in our opinion.

I choose happiness

If you want to check out more of Japan, be sure to check out things to do before your trip to Japan or how to fight a sumo.

The key question that we had when they first arrived was: Will the CabinZero fit in carry on? My first impression was no, it just looked like a pretty big backpack and I have to admit, I had my doubts.

But the answer is yes, yes it will! We’ve done some digging, and from our own experience and that of other bloggers and travellers, the Classic 44L will fit into carry on with even the most obnoxious of airlines (you know who I’m talking about). We personally used it on ANA, Qantas and Jetstar without any problems whatsoever.

What is it like to travel for two weeks in a carry on?

To be honest, I loved it. I had just what I needed and literally nothing more. It made getting around Tokyo subway stations that much easier and quicker, particularly when running for trains (this happened often) or getting lost for an hour (only once).

It’s also great to have the peace of mind that IF you happen to misplace your Cabin Zero bag, they all have their unique Okoban identifier code that makes it easier to track down (provided you create an account and register your bag).

Conclusion

For us and our style of travel, these bags just worked so well and allowed us to travel through Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa for two weeks living out of just a carry on bag. The Urban is now my go to travel bag for anything longer than a few days, while Kim-Ling has used the Classic for everything from weekend trips to longer holidays.

If you’re looking for a versatile, roomy and stylish travel bag, we highly recommend the CabinZero Urban or Classic. Enjoy!

What are your best travel packing tips? Could you travel for up to two weeks with just a carry on?

Please leave a comment below!

A huge thanks to the guys at Cabin Zero for providing us with the Urban and Classic bags for our review. All views remain our own, of course. 

This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help us continue to bring you the best in travel content, so thank you in advance!

Robot Restaurant Review

Robot Restaurant Review

If you didn’t think the neon lights of Tokyo could shine any brighter, then you haven’t been to Robot Restaurant. You can see the neon signs, wrapped around the building from a block away. Like a magnet, Robot Restaurant draws all the curious explorers in, with its catchy theme song (that’s right, there’s a theme song and it WILL get stuck in your head!) blaring from the speakers, colourful lights flashing and lighting up the street, oh and the huge fembots proudly displayed at the front.

Nightlife in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
What to see in Tokyo

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Robot Restaurant Tokyo review
Fembots at Robot Restaurant

What is Robot Restaurant?

If you are in Shinjuku, it’s hard to miss Robot Restaurant. The best way to describe Robot Restaurant is a cabaret show on LSD; 90 minutes (including intervals) of short 5-minute acts filled with dancing, singing, theatrics, laser lights and pyrotechnics.

Singing, dancing and theatrics at Robot Restaurant

Prefer to watch a video of the craziness that is Robot Restaurant? Check out our video on YouTube! Don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to our channel for more travel inspiration!

Opened in 2012, Robot Restaurant was originally created as a fun show for where locals can let down their hair. It didn’t take long to become a popular tourist attraction, and now attracts foreign visitors every night. Apparently the owner spent US$100 million on fit out, which is hard to put into words (nevertheless, money well spent, judging by the sell-out crowds!). The stairwells and “waiting room” are a spectacle in their own right and will intrigue all who enter. I’m talking over-the-top bling with futuristic elements and crazy pyschodelic stairwells that entice the audience to the stage underground. I felt like we had stepped into some crazy world of Willy Wonka, but with robots instead of candy.

The coolest waiting room you'll ever visit - Robot Restaurant
Even the walls are funky at Robot Restaurant, Tokyo
Dancers at Robot Restaurant, Japan

The craziest concert you will ever see

As soon as we booked our tickets to Japan, I knew we HAD to go see Robot Restaurant – and I wasn’t disappointed. Robot Restaurant is unlike any other show we’ve ever seen. It’s all the crazy stuff I love about Japan, wrapped into one colourful and eccentric package. The audience is seated in three tiers on two sides of a narrow room. It’s great, as no matter what row you are in, you will have a great view of the action. The seats are set in twos, joined by a small table, where you can store your drinks, popcorn and bento boxes (all at an extra cost).

Robots and lasers at Robot Restaurant, Japan
Robot Restaurant review - Tokyo, Japan

The performances range from mini rock concerts to theatrical robot wars. The singers and dancers have so much energy (I want whatever they’re having!) and the costumes are something out of a teenage boy’s manga dream. You can expect to see impressive robotic floats of sharks, dinosaurs, snakes and futuristic unicorns. Pyrotechnics and laser beams light up the space, and there’s even a dance number that I’m sure was inspired by Daft Punk.

It's all fun and games until someone is eaten by a Robot

Want to do other crazy things in Tokyo? Why not Fight a Sumo? Read about it here!

Crazy things to see in Tokyo, Japan
Electric performances at Robot Restaurant, Tokyo

It’s a Restaurant, so what about the food?

To be honest, people don’t generally come here for the food. Considering there are so many amazing foods on offer nearby, we decided to skip the food and just indulged in some show drinks and popcorn instead. I think I spotted one couple with the bento box, but it’s quite hard to truly enjoy the food, when you are distracted by the awesome spectacle going on right in front of you.

Robot Restaurant Review, Tokyo, Japan

Speaking of food, why not try making your own Udon Noodles? Read our recipe here!

The dancers at Robot Restaurant are full of energy

Why go?

Unlike many of the themed cafes and restaurants in Japan, Robot Restaurant stood out as a ‘must-do’ for us. Granted, the tickets aren’t as cheap as many of the entry fees for other themed places, but you get 90-minutes of an exhilarating, well-produced show. It’s over the top, tourisy and a little cheesy at times, but that’s part of its charm! It combines all the craziness you expect from Japan, right in the centre of Tokyo electrifying nightlife.

Taiko performances at Robot Restaurant

The details

Robot Restaurant is located in Shinjuku: 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo,Japan. It’s pretty hard to miss, with the bright neon signage out the front (you will likely hear it before you see it too!).

There are up to four shows per day at 4PM, 5:55pm, 7:50pm and 9:45pm. See the website for up-to-date times. Note that you have to be there 40 minutes before the show to pick up the tickets (and there’s normally a decent line).

Tickets are ¥8,000 per person, however we’ve teamed up with G’Day Japan to offer all of our readers discounted tickets here!  We recommend booking in advance, as the shows often sell out.

Colourful performances at Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant is a must-see in Tokyo, Japan
Robot Restaurant performances, Tokyo, Japan

Have you been to Robot Restaurant? What did you think? Is this the kind of crazy thing you’d love to see in Japan? Comment below!

A huge thanks to Robot Restaurant and G’Day Japan for an awesome night! As always, our opinions are our own.

The Ultimate way to explore Kyoto… in a Kimono

The Ultimate way to explore Kyoto… in a Kimono

Couples who kimono together, stay together, right?

Kyoto is known for its exquisite temples and beautifully adorned geishas, dressed in colourful kimonos and yukatas (a lighter and cooler version of the kimono for summer). It also happens to be somewhere where it’s completely normal for tourists to dress up in said kimonos and yukatas and wander the city. Not one to ever turn down an opportunity to play dress up, I was excited to be made over by Kyoto Kimono Wargo in a yukata and walk the walk, clogs and all!

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Kimono love in Kyoto
What to do in Kyoto

Seeing the sights and being the sights in Kyoto

Although somewhat gimmicky, renting a kimono, or in our case a yukata, and doing sightseeing is a fun way to explore Kyoto. It gave us the opportunity to really embrace a part of Japanese culture. There is something undeniably romantic about wandering through picturesque streets, lined with traditional wooden merchant houses in full Japanese dress-up. It’s a perfect way to immersive yourself and find a connection to the place. And before you know it, you are part of the sights, and for many passers by, the perfect feature in their keepsake Kyoto photos.

Kyoto kimono photos

Heading to Japan soon?

Check out our checklist of things to do before you go!

Where to hire a Kimono / Yukata

Kyoto Kimono Wargo conveniently have nine stores spotted around Kyoto, and also stores in Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa and Kanazawa. We visited the Gion store in Kyoto, as it was only a 5-minute walk from where we were staying. It also happens to be located near Hanamikoji Dori, one of the prettiest streets in Kyoto (and Geisha central).

Colourful yukatas in Kyoto

Kyoto Kimono Wargo

Walking inside, we are greeted by very friendly staff and shown to the racks of colourful yukatas. Suddenly I was engulfed in a textile rainbow of colour and floral patterns. After choosing a yukata, we are presented with an array of bright obi (the fabric belt) and accessories before being taken to our change rooms to be dressed.

Kyoto Kimono Wargo Gion
Hiring kimonos and accessories in Kyoto
Kimono packages in Kyoto, Japan
Renting a yukata in Kyoto, Japan

Wearing the Yukata

There’s actually quite a bit to wearing a kimono or yukata, with layers of undergarments and special ways of tying everything together. I was wrapped with padding around my stomach (like I needed more!) and a frame before the yukata was added and the obi was meticulously tied in a way to look like a work of art. It felt like I was being wrapped up as a present with the bow on top!

Dressing up in Kyoto

Hair Styling

Then comes the hair styling. You can opt for a hairstyle as an extra, and if you want the full experience, it’s worth it. There are plenty of intricate styles to choose from, and the stylist whipped up something gorgeous in a matter of minutes!

Hairstyle options in kimono rental
Yukata and Kimono packages, Kyoto

Package options

Kyoto Kimono Wargo provide a variety of options to cater to different budgets and tastes, starting from only ¥2,500 (online price). We opted for the Couples Premium Yukata (with the Premium Hairdo as an extra) and really enjoyed the experience. Each yukata plan includes the Yukata, Obi (belt), Kincyaku (bag) and Geta (thongs/clogs).

Rental packages for yukata and kimono
Step out in style in a yukata
The thing I loved about Kyoto Kimono Wargo is that you can return the clothes at any time before the store closes, so you can really make the most of wearing the yukatas around town… which we did…
Riding pubic transport in a yukata be like...
Where to visit in Kyoto
Sightseeing in Kyoto in kimonos
Dressing up in Kyoto
We caught a bus out to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) and walked through the beautiful grounds before heading back to Nishiki Market for lunch. Then we spent the rest of the day wandering through the picturesque streets of Gion at leisure, but not before taking some fun photos…
Who else loves Kyoto?
Sightseeing in Gion, Kyoto
Exploring the Gion district, Kyoto

Is it comfy?

Honestly, it was comfier than I expected. It was a steamy summer day in Kyoto and the yukatas were light and breathable. We also did A LOT of walking, so our feet were sore by the end of the day (but whether or not it was from wearing the Geta, or just the 24,000 steps we did, I can’t say).

 

Japan has some of THE tastiest food!

Here’s what to eat when you are there!

We saw so many tourists dress up in kimonos and yukatas when we were in Kyoto, almost to the point that tourists stood out more if they weren’t dressed up! It’s especially fun to do as a couple or group of friends. I mean, nothing says ‘I love you’ more than dressing up in couples kimonos and spending a day exploring Kyoto’s beautiful sites and having a bit of fun along the way. If you are in Kyoto and want to really treat yourself to a cultural experience, check out Kyoto Kimono Wargo.

The ultimate way to explore Kyoto
Kimono rental in Kyoto, Japan
Exploring Kyoto in a kimono

Would you dress up in traditional costume and explore a city? Tell us below!

A warm thank you to Kyoto Kimono Wargo for dressing us up for the day. As always, our opinions and cheesy photos are our own.

Buddha Bellies Cooking School – Stomping on Udon

Buddha Bellies Cooking School – Stomping on Udon

“Alright everyone, the timer has been set to 5 minutes. Time to start stomping!”

I never thought I’d be making udon noodles with our feet, and yet there we were, at Buddha Bellies Cooking School in Tokyo, on our first 5 minute round (of 3 rounds total) stomping away on our clear plastic bags filled with dough. It certainly is an unforgettable way to learn how to cook. Because sharing is caring, we’re going to share with you what it’s like to do a cooking class at Buddha Bellies and give you the most outstanding Udon noodle recipe as well!

Back to the noodles. As we did our best Flashdance moves on our little bags of dough, our patient teacher Ayuko gave us the history of Udon noodles. Unlike pasta, udon does not contain eggs, and grew in popularity from one of Japan’s southern islands where they couldn’t grow rice, so they grew wheat and created noodles instead.

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Pinterest Udon Noodles
Buddha Bellies Cooking School, Tokyo

Buddha Bellies Cooking School

Ayuko is the founder and chef of Buddha Bellies Cooking School. As a teenager, she studied in the UK and speaks excellent English. She was a teacher, but her love for food and cooking took her on a different path, where she studied to become a professional sushi instructor, Sake sommelier and professional cook. But rather than open up a restaurant, her love of teaching and meeting people lead her to open Buddha Bellies Cooking School, and how lucky for us she did!

Cooking classes, Tokyo

The Udon Workout

We started the day with what I now like to refer to as the Udon workout – 3 x 5 minutes of stomping on the spot, mixing and kneading the flour and water into a smooth malleable dough. Then came out the udon machine (similar to a pasta machine) to roll and cut the noodles. We also learnt a bit about simple Japanese ingredients that can transform a dish. The simple sesame paste we made was out of this world and a recipe we will be attempting to recreate when we get home!

How to make Udon Noodles
Cooking udon noodles in Tokyo
Buddha Bellies Cooking Classes

Teriyaki and Udon = The perfect combo

We then whipped together a teriyaki sauce and fried our chicken for what I can confidently say was the best chicken teriyaki we’ve ever tasted. And then came the udon. Boiled in water and then served in a warm, full-flavoured broth with mushrooms and tofu, these udon noodles were as good as any we had tried in a restaurant.

Learning to cook in Tokyo

 

Love Japanese food? Check out our other post on what to eat in Japan.

Ayuko is not only a fantastic teacher, with a wealth of knowledge of Japanese cuisine and flavours, she’s a great host, who made sure we were comfortable throughout the day, topping up our water, answering any questions we had and even serving us beer and wine once our food was ready to be eaten!
Japanese Food, Tokyo

Heading to Japan soon? Make sure you read our Checklist on things to do before you go!

Do homemade udon noodles live up to the hype?

So does the udon live up to the hype? Yes. Yes it does. But don’t take my word for it; you can try it yourself! Ayuko has kindly shared her recipe with all our readers, so have a go and let us know how it turned out! Remember, as Ayuko says, “Fresh is best!”.

If you are in Tokyo and would love to learn how to make delicious Japanese food, book a class with Ayuko at Buddha Bellies Cooking School, Tokyo – your tastebuds will thank you!

Recipe: Udon Noodles

Cooking Udon in Tokyo

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 50g Plain Flour
  • 50g bread flour (this has more gluten, and will provide the right texture)
  • 50g water
  • 1tsp salt
  • Clear cooking bags or freezer bags (you will need multiple, as they often split during the rounds)

Method

  1. In a bowl, sift the flour well. In a separate bowl, stir the salt in the water until completely dissolved. Add water to flour and mix well.
  2. When the flour begins to form pieces of dough, stop mixing. Gather all of the flour and form into a ball.
  3. Place dough into a plastic bag. Put it in an additional bag to avoid mess. Make sure there are no air bubbles before doing your best flashdance routine (continuous stomping) on it for 5 minutes.
  4. After first 5 minutes of stepping, gather the udon dough into a ball again. Repeat steps 2 – 3 two more times (15 minutes of stepping total). If bag has broken, replace bag.
  5. Rest the udon dough ball in cling wrap for 30 minutes
  6. Spread the udon dough with a pasta machine (or rolling pin). Make sure the dough is 5mm thick. Use a little flour, fold and cut the rolled out dough into noodles.
  7. Put the udon in a pot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes (or until it’s at the texture you like).
  8. Strain the udon and wash well with water to remove starch.

After more fun things to do in Tokyo? Why not Fight a Sumo? Read about that crazy experience on our blog!

Mentsuyu (Broth)

Udon Noodle Recipe

Ingredients

  • 100ml Mirin
  • 100ml Soy Sauce
  • 400ml Water
  • 4cm x 4cm Kombu (dried seaweed)
  • 10g Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

Method

  1. Bring the mirin to boil in a pot
  2. Add the soy sauce, water and kombu all together and bring to boil again.
  3. Add katsuobushi and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain the sauce with a strainer.
    NB: If you are using this as a dipping sauce, you can use as is, however if it’s for hot soup udon, add more water to taste (to reduce saltiness)
  4. Add mushrooms, tofu and whatever else you like to the mix.
Delicious food of Japan

And it’s that simple! If you love udon as much as we do, have a go and let us know how yours turned out!

A huge thanks to Ayuko for having us as guests at Buddha Bellies Cooking SchoolAs always, our opinions, terrible jokes and cooking results are our own.

Tokyo: The day I fought a Sumo

Tokyo: The day I fought a Sumo

I’ve been fascinated by sumo for years now.

Their strength, flexibility, the many traditions that go along with it. And how gents that large can move so fast, I will never quite understand.

So when I had the chance to wrestle a real sumo while visiting Tokyo, Japan, it’s safe to say that I was excited. REALLY excited. This is the story of how it went down.

Pre-fight preparation

In prep for our Japan vacation, I was pretty keen to try and do some quintessentially Japanese experiences, like dress up as Mario characters and drive go-karts through the streets of Tokyo, go to a cooking school, or soak in a traditional onsen (hot bath house).

So it was with some glee that we stumbled across the Asakusa Sumo Experience which offers just such a cool experience – the opportunity to wrestle a sumo and find out all about their training and lifestyles. This was just too good to pass up and I had to do it!

The event is held in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighbourhood, one of the nicest areas that we had the pleasure of exploring. Right across the road from the train station you will find the restaurant where the sumo experience is held on the second floor, where you will meet the other participants and Japanese hosts. No equipment or training necessary, they provide everything you need.

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Sumo training tours in Tokyo

Fight day

 

Training for sumo wrestling

Once we had entered and swapped our shoes for slippers, we managed to score front row seats to a carpeted wrestling area and a long table full of other guests stretched out behind us. Our host discussed many interesting details of sumo training and life while we awaited the arrival of the sumos, such as:

  1. The first formal sumo tournament was conducted 400 years ago, but sumo matches have occurred for well over 1000 years
  2. Sumo generally start serious training from the age of 15
  3. Sumo will normally train for 5 hours per day
  4. Sumo tournaments are held in every odd-numbered month, but the main ones in Tokyo are in January, May and September
  5. A grand champion, or Yokozuna, can earn up to US$5 million per year!

With the introductions complete, out walked the two sumo who would be our guides for the experience. They. Were. Huge. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise, being sumo wrestlers and all, but up close and personal these boys are absolute man-mountains.

Japanese sumo wrestlers

Over the next half hour, our two sumo guides explained to us some of the traditions and rituals of sumo tournaments, some of the basic techniques that sumo are taught, and what not to do (my game plan went out the window here). They also showed us a mini sumo match, pitting themselves against each other in what was a pretty even match. When they hit each other it was like two planets colliding and the sound up close was something to remember.

Finally, it was out turn. Our hosts called for volunteers (both male and females are encouraged to give it a go) and I strategically waited for a few other challengers to come forward before putting my hand up. All the better for me to test my game strategy, I told myself.

Loving Japan? If you want more, read the things to do before your trip and what to eat in Japan.

Wrestling a sumo in Tokyo, Japan

When my time came, I suited up in a mock sumo costume and faced off with a real sumo. We completed the initial rituals, I threw in some cocky smack talk to calm my nerves (it didn’t work) and we were off.

Now I should say here, I’m not a small person. I mean, I lift a few weights, like to think that I am reasonably strong and could at least make some kind of an impact, right? Wrong. I didn’t hold back in the opening hit…. and it didn’t matter at all. He didn’t budge. Not even a shudder. This was going to be a long match.

Wrestling a sumo in Tokyo, Japan

We tussled for a little bit and I made some embarrassing noises as I tried to lift his belt up to see if I could unbalance him at all. He obviously didn’t move one bit, and at one point, my feet lifted off of the floor and my sumo opponent, in complete control by this stage, twirled me around like I was a ballerina.

Having thoroughly ruined any chance of me thinking that I could out-compete a sumo, he casually gave me an opening and allowed me to push him out of the ring. Which, mind you, still took a bit of effort!

Wrestling a sumo in Asakusa Tokyo

Post-Fight

 

Chankonabe in Tokyo, Japan

After our mini-tournaments, all participants got served a generous bento box with tonkatsu, rice, etc and we also got to try the sumo meal of choice – chanko-nabe. It’s a delicious, thick soupy dish of vegetables, tofu and balls of chicken and pork, which is very filling.

Chankonabe in Tokyo, Japan

We also got to interact with the sumos, taking pictures with them, asking questions about their careers and learning more about the training regimes of sumos and they were happy to oblige us as many questions as we wanted on any topics.

Conclusion

This was one of most fun experiences that we had in Tokyo. It’s not often that you get the chance, as an Australian, to wrestle a sumo, have lunch with them and find out about this fascinating aspect of Japanese society. Although sadly my dreams of world sumo domination now appear shaky, I’m super glad that I took the opportunity to do this, as it really is a one of a kind experience.

Would you get in the ring with a Japanese sumo? Or would you rather check them out in a tournament? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to Beauty of Japan for providing us with this experience. If you want to test your strength, skill and, let’s be honest, pride, you can book your Sumo Experience through them here.

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