Hungry as I was after arriving at the hostel, I decided to dive into the local cuisine immediately and thus asked the staff for a good local place around the corner.  Generally, one of the best strategies I followed throughout my trip to discover real treasures. It always went like:

What’s the local thing here in this city and which restaurant can you recommend me for it?

What seems to be typical Japanese, or at least I have not experienced in any other country I’ve visited is the fact that Japanese restaurants are 99% of the times specialised restaurants. Meaning that opposite to Western restaurants where you often get everything from Pizza, Pasta, Burger, Schnitzel… on the menu, in Japan you go to a Ramen, Sushi, Okonomiyaki or Yakiniku place. There are not other alternatives at the respective restaurant. Might be that this is the reason why the quality generally is so extremely high. Focus on quality rather than quantity on the menu.

Lunch at Yayoi-ken

First lunch in Japan at Yayoi-ken

So full of confidence I went to the recommended lunch place, Yayoi-ken, without any thought on how I’ll make myself order the meal I want to eat. So I enter the place, ignoring the two big machines in the entrance hall, and walk towards the waiters to be seated. After all I read that in Japan, like most places in Europe, you wait for the waiter to get a table assigned. Nobody seemed to recognize my arrival though or they were explicitly ignoring me. My only thought was, OK, I did something wrong. I must have managed to destroy some sort of etiquette directly at my first restaurant experience. So I turned back towards the exit. Only then did I realize what those machines were actually for. Or rather did I guess what they were for as the plain description was all Japanese to me.

I have to order my food from the machine.

How am I supposed to order on this machine? Easy, step aside and wait until the first local orders something. Then copy what he did. What should I order though? I cannot remember if there was an English version or not but if there was, the things listed didn’t hint to me at all what I was about to eat. Spoiler, I ended up with the nice selection you can see on the picture above. It was fantastic but besides the Miso soup and rice I do not exactly know what it was. Some sort of fish, maybe salmon. Some salad, something pickled, some chicken maybe and tofu. But hey, who needs to know what you eat if it tastes fantastic. Particularly after 16 hour travelling and the only meal served was by Scandinavian Airlines on the plane. Oh and yes, once you ordered and paid your meal on the machine you get a tiny little ticket (I’ll have an example when I talk about my breakfast experience) and THEN you get a seat assigned by the waitress and as usual free complementary green tea and still water. Having learned so much new things only to get something to eat I decided to head to the close-by Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for a stroll. It’s so beautiful and clean there.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden