La Vista Daisetsuzan: A Serene Onsen in Japan’s Largest National Park

View of Mount Asahidake from our Room at La Vista Daisetsuzan

View of Mount Asahidake from Our Room at La Vista Daisetsuzan

Imagine waking up and sipping handground coffee while looking out the window of a mountain lodge at a beautiful alpine forest. Imagine sitting in an open-air hot spring listening to the calming sounds of nature. Imagine ending your day with a delicious multicourse meal featuring regional ingredients, artfully presented by attentive servers. You can experience all this and more at La Vista Daisetsuzan.

La Vista Daisetsuzan is a relaxing onsen hotel in Japan’s largest national park, Daisetsuzan National Park, and is situated at the base of Mount Asahidake—the largest mountain in Hokkaido. La Vista Daisetsuzan provides a luxurious natural respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life, as well as quick access to the Japanese wilderness. read more

Coffee Jelly: The Perfect After-Dinner Dessert

Coffee Jelly Dessert with Sweetened Condensed Milk and Whipped Cream

Coffee Jelly Dessert with Sweetened Condensed Milk and Whipped Cream

Coffee jelly makes the perfect after-dinner dessert as it combines your dessert and coffee in one. Coffee jelly consists of coffee gelatin mixed with sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream. This combination of ingredients and textures—strong coffee gelatin, light and airy whipped cream, and luscious sweetened condensed milk—marry together to create a delicious dessert.

I first encountered coffee jelly through meal sharing—a website that allows you to meet up with others to share a home cooked meal. Krishna invited me into her home and prepared a lovely Japanese brunch reminiscent of her time traveling in Japan. She served traditional miso soup with tofu and wakame seaweed, cold buckwheat noodles with a soy dipping sauce, and savory rice porridge with salmon and pickled plum. To my delight, she ended the meal with coffee jelly. read more

Visit Tsukiji Market and Eat Fresh Sushi at Iwasa Sushi

Omakase Set at Iwasa SushiOmakase Set at Iwasa Sushi

If you’re a foodie traveling in Tokyo, you must visit Tsukiji Market—the world’s largest seafood market. It’s a mad rush of activity, especially in the early morning when most of the commercial purchasing takes place. Forklifts and small trucks whiz back and forth, workers stack enormous piles of empty Styrofoam containers for recycling, and every type of seafood imaginable is on display. The sheer volume of seafood sold daily is astounding—over 5 million pounds! read more

Experience Japanese-Homestyle Cooking in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Japanese-Homestyle Cooking Class in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Japanese-Homestyle Cooking Class in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Whenever I travel, I try to immerse myself in the culture and experience local cuisine. I enjoy dining out, visiting markets and cafés, and tasting different regional specialties and styles of cooking. But I also like to see how the locals cook, as restaurant cooking usually differs significantly from what’s prepared in the home. That led me to Mayuko’s Little Kitchen.

Mayuko is a young Japanese woman, who quit her job as a cosmetics manager to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a cooking teacher. She teaches out of her small Tokyo apartment located on the border of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in a quiet residential area just off the main bustle. Her classes give an intimate glimpse into Japanese cooking. read more

Eating Tonkatsu at Katsukura Shinjuku Restaurant

Tonkatsu Pork Filet and Prawn at Katsukura Shinjuku

Tonkatsu Pork Filet and Prawn at Katsukura Shinjuku

Katsukura Restaurant is located on the 14th floor of the Takashimaya Mall in Shinjuku, a short walk from Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens.  Katsukura specializes in tonkatsu—a Japanese dish consisting of pork that has been coated in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs, and then deep fried. This preparation produces delicately airy pork with a crispy exterior. If you visit Japan, you must try tonkatsu at least once!

Katsukura is a tourist-friendly restaurant. Upon arrival, they brought us cold barley tea (commonly served in the summertime in Japan) and offered us English menus. Fans of Japanese whiskey will be happy to see that you can order a high-ball of Yamazaki or Hakushu for around ¥650 (~$5-$6 USD). This is not bad at all given the price of Japanese whiskey in the States! read more