Tokyofoodcast is a great source for a whole range of Japanese food and sake tales. If you want to learn more about these two mouth watering subjects then a visit to this fantastic blog is a must! In addition to the main blog, they also have a Flickr stream which is where the majority of the photos on this page came from. The photo of Et-chan for question 6, however, is courtesy of another photographer, Joy Fajardo.
1. What is Tokyofoodcast all about? How did you get started?
Et-chan: Tokyofoodcast is all about food and sake, two things we love the most! We have several online presences as Tokyofoodcast where we write about the two subjects and organize sake tasting events.
The Tokyofoodcast website has gone through several phases, but our posts are mostly regional food in Japan, sake, and occasional Tokyo restaurant reviews. I was first so inspired by Ruth Reichel in 2005 and wanted to run a restaurant review site focusing on chefs and people working here! Also, we had this vision to create a food and sake forum covering many areas in both Japanese and English using simple blog posts to podcasts. Eventually, we settled on the current format.
2. Who is involved in Tokyofoodcast?
Et-chan: Tokyofoodcast is updated by a married couple, Et-chan and Te-chan. We both tweet and organize sake events. Et-chan does most of the writing for the web site. Te-chan helps out, does most of the web admin stuff, and additional blog posts. You may wonder how we got such dorky nicknames, but that's thanks to our friends. Especially for me, Et-chan, that's been my nickname since I was little and even today, my friends, or even occasional strangers and business associates call me by the nick name.
Te-chan: Te-chan is just a dorky nickname!
3. Tell us about you. Have you always lived in Japan?
Et-chan: I grew up in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture, lived in Nagoya for a while for school and a few years after college. Then I moved to California. Te-chan is originally from Massachusetts, but spent time in Miyazaki and Nagoya along the way to California and now Tokyo. Although we've both lived in Japan before, we moved to Tokyo for the first time 7 years ago.
4. You give some great info about sake on your site. How did you get started learning about this traditional Japanese drink?
Et-chan: Sake to me is not just about the drink, but it's really about people, tradition and local culture which I am so fascinated to.
My sake enlightenment was when I had Kaiun from Shizuoka at a restaurant in Akasaka, oh, about six or seven years ago. Just like many people who've had a bad sake experience in college, I did not care for sake at all before that. Kaiun was not anything like what I'd had before and I realized I was missing out a great thing.
Since then, we have been involved in a lot of things such as going to a sake monthly study group, organizing our own Tokyo Sake Meetup group or visiting breweries all over Japan. We also met some new friends thanks to our fascination with sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Urbansake, Shizuoka Sake, Sakaya NYC, and You, Madam, Are No Ambrose Bierce.
On a professional side, I assisted John Gauntner with his Sake Professional Course, which I found a great way for anyone to really learn about sake.
Te-chan: I've been an enthusiastic sake supporter since shortly after moving to Tokyo. After some punishing shochu experiences in Miyazaki, I was a bit put off, but gave sake a try one day in Yokosula after a long hike in the summer heat. Looking for a cold beer in a local liquor shop, we stumbled across a real gem in Kakeda Shoten. The owner let us taste some excellent bottles, and I was hooked. Since then, I've gotten far enough into it that I spent a week working in a brewery in Osaka this spring.
5. I've personally found your Tokyo grocery guide to be really useful! How did you find out about all these places? Any recommendations for newcomers?
Et-chan: Thank you! When I first moved to Tokyo in 2002, I was really frustrated by not finding what I wanted - simple things like parsnips, some spices, or corn tortillas. Just from the sheer desire to find what I was looking for, I did research through magazines and online, went to cooking classes held by expats, or asked people I met through work where they shopped. Then, I went to each shop to check it out for myself.
I think it is a bit easier to find international ingredients everywhere around Tokyo now, except for Pillsbury dough!
6. What's your top recommendation for eating out in Tokyo?
Et-chan: Oh, that's a tough question! I would recommend to keep an open minded attitude and try as many places as possible to find the style fits you. It's fun to go to cheap yakitori places in Hamamatsu-cho and hang out with a bunch of salaryman after work just as much as going to an elaborate kaiseki restaurant or serious sushi joint.
Also, ask local friends where they eat or what they eat!
7. What if people are worried about their lack of Japanese but really want to visit a local Japanese restaurant? Any ideas?
Et-chan: If you do not speak the language, going to a local restaurant where you find no English menu can be intimidating. Also, it's hard to figure out what's good. I started guide services to visitors to Japan focusing on food and sake to assist guests to experience more and feel comfortable at the same time.
Aside from that, even for someone like me who speaks the language, some local restaurants can be intimidating. Some places do not put prices on their menus or some require unspoken protocols you are supposed to follow.
If you know locals, it's best to ask them where to go or what to eat.
8. How would you like to see Tokyofoodcast evolve in the future?
Et-chan: I really hope to share some wonderful food and sake moments I love to some extent, to entice readers to try them out themselves! In a way, I want to be a gateway to Japanese regional culture by hosting sake and food events and writing about the experience.
Te-chan: Yes, I'd say that encouraging other people to give things a try is at the heart of it. Just this morning at work I found myself trying to defend pickled fugu ovaries to some disbelieving coworkers from the UK and Oz. I'm confident they'll come around eventually.
9. Please share one top tip for people visiting Tokyo for the first time.
Et-chan: Tokyo offers so much, so knowing what you want to do is important. Either a lot of research by reading travel sites such as your own TokyoTopia, or having someone as your trusted local guide will make the experience more fun and memorable.
Te-chan: I'll take the complete opposite approach. Bring some good shoes, pick a funky station area, and spend an afternoon wandering side-streets. That is, after you've seen the things on your list that you've got to see.
10. Do you think of yourselves as being Tokyoites?
Et-chan & Te-chan: Yes, most definitely. We love Tokyo!
With thanks to Et-chan and Te-chan for sharing their experience with us and our readers. We love what you do!
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