10 best foods that we ate in Japan

This blog post was written by Emilee Hall, Jakob Rodriguez and Dylan Knight. They are best friends that went to Japan through a journalism study abroad program by Texas State University – San Marcos.

1. Chunky Chankonabe.

While on a quest to find sumo wrestlers in Tokyo, a small group of students tried this famous soup in Sumida – Yokoami. Chankonabe is a traditional sumo stew that consists of various vegetables and protein. It’s quite delicious, but don’t eat too much if you don’t want to gain any more weight. Traditionally, this meal is used by the wrestlers to “bulk up” so that they can be strong enough to take down their opponents in a match. Some of the students said that they could feel their muscles begin to grow like the Incredible Hulk after finishing the chankonabe (just kidding)!

Photo by Emilee Hall

2. Love that chicken from Tokyo.

I really hope that you read that subtitle in the tune from classic Popeye’s commercials. It was day three of the Japan trip, and I had gone too many days without eating fried chicken (meat that I consume almost every day in America). Morale was low without my fried chicken fix; I was on the hunt for the crispy, flaky, tender goodness. Luckily, in a small restaurant in a fancy corporate business building where my classmates and I toured The Wall Street Journal Japan, I found what my heart was longing for. I had the best, the tastiest fried chicken in all of Tokyo (I’m so dramatic, but please, believe me, this chicken was amazing). I still haven’t stopped thinking about it. The hot chicken sat on top of cold udon noodles. The noodles weren’t my favorite, but the chicken– now, that was a different story. Once you dipped the meat in some warm soy sauce, your tastebuds were practically in heaven. I highly recommend trying fried chicken in Japan.

Photo by Emilee Hall

3. Break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar.

If you didn’t know this already about Japan, well, now you do: Japan loves Kit-Kats! Luckily for me, I do too, and there was an abundance of this crispy, chocolaty candy bars! So, I decided to try a few different flavors while traveling in Tokyo and Kyoto: Sake, Matcha, Strawberry Cheesecake, and white chocolate. I immediately knew I was going to like the cheesecake and chocolate flavors because those aren’t too wild for my American tastebuds. I had no idea what the sake and matcha flavored Kit-Kats had in store for me. 

Spoiler alert, they were delicious. Sake was quite interesting because it had a faint taste of alcohol in the coating around the candy. I’m not sure if many people would like that, but the flavor wasn’t bad at all! In fact, it was really good. However, my favorite out of all four of the Japanese Kit-Kat bars had to be the matcha-flavored ones. They were SO DELICIOUS. I thought they were going to be gross, but they were sweet and almost reminded me of vanilla. If you can get your hands on a box of these amazing matcha treats, do so. 

Photo by Emilee Hall

4. Not too hot; not too cold. The perfect tempura.

I don’t know about you, but I love fried foods. Tempura is the Japanese version of deep-fried vegetables and seafood, and it’s mighty delicious. This might have been my all-time favorite meal in Japan. I had shrimp, sweet potatoes, other vegetables. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not quite sure what the names were of the other vegetables I was eating, but they were delicious.

Photo by Emilee Hall

5. Drinking coffee with a twist.

My favorite beverage that I had in Japan was a Cappuccino at the Nissan Crossing in Ginza. Grant Langford and I decided to visit the coffee shop as we shopped in the surrounding area. The barista takes a photo with an iPad and uploads it to a special espresso machine. Next thing we knew, bravo! Our faces on top of our beverage. It did feel a little strange drinking out of a glass that has my face on it though.

Photo by Dylan Knight.

6. Train station ramen noodles

My favorite meal that I ate in Japan was this bowl of (I think) pork ramen. Grant Langford and I found the restaurant as we walked through a train station near Ginza. The menus were entirely in Japanese, with no English counterpart. Grant and I pointed out what we wanted to eat, and hoped for the best. We were not disappointed!

Photo by Dylan Knight.

7. Tentacles from the market.

My strangest, yet favorite snack that I had on the Study Abroad trip was a skewer of Octopi. I shared the dish with other daring classmates in the Tsukiji Outer Market. The meat was chewy and seasoned heavily. I am typically not a fan of seafood, yet do not regret branching out while on this trip. The seafood was sensational. 

8. Hot Dogs in Kamakura

I had no idea that the land of the samurai would have such an iconic and authentically American food. Hanging out just in the store front after a day taking in the sights and wandering into shops in near the marketplace, you can find some beef franks dressed with mustard and ketchup. I had mine with a soda cream float to cool off on a hot day, it had what the menu called “soda” ice cream in it and a lemon-lime carbonated soda.

9. Udon noodles

This entire set –noodles, tea and rice – cost about 1500 Yen ~ $15 in the business district and anyone with us on our excursion will tell you that they probably would have spent 15 more yen on it. Sandwiched between the Tokyo Edelman Public Relations office Tour and The Wall Street Journal bureau tour, we hopped into this small shop with a line out the door so we knew it had to be good. Served in a pork broth, I licked my plate clean.

10. Convenience store food

Being a broke college student in Japan does come with its advantages. As advertised the convenience market and vending machine capital of the world did not disappoint. Between a few late nights out and even later nights writing, this is where the majority of our in between meals and snacks came from to help us power through our days. Pictured below is a picnic I had in Kiba City Park with a small sandwich, chips and Kit-Kats!

From Old Main to New (to us) Tokyo

Company visits: Mass communication students learn about their prospective careers

TOKYO— On June 11, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication study abroad students visited The Wall Street Journal in Tokyo and heard from Texas State graduate Kosaku Narioka and his tales of trial, error and success during his journalism career. The students also had the privilege to meet the public relations professionals of the Tokyo office of Edelman, a global communications firm. To finish the day, the mass communication students toured the tall, mesmerizing Tokyo Tower.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: TOKYO BUREAU 

Kosaku Narioka

Coming from the countryside in Japan, Kosaku Narioka never imagined he would be where he is today at the Tokyo bureau of The Wall Street Journal, one of the most prestigious, business-focused daily newspapers in the world. The Texas State alumnus said he didn’t come from wealth or anything special, but with his hard work and his thirst for knowledge, Kosaku said that any goal is achievable.

“If you just know a little bit more than everyone else in the room, people are going to notice,” Kosaku said. “People will look at you in a different way.”

Kosaku recalled his days at Texas State. He talked fondly of his past instructors at Old Main, in the SJMC, such as Senior Lecturers Gilbert D. Martinez and Charles Kaufman. Kosaku smiled as he remembered his first day working at The University Star.

“My first assignment was a movie review,” Kosaku said chuckling. “I decided I did not want to do that anymore. I wanted to do more reporting.”

Jakob Rodriguez, a senior on the SJMC trip, loved hearing Kosaku’s stories about Texas State and working for the school newspaper. Jakob was recently selected to be The University Star’s editor-in-chief. He said that his favorite part of the entire day was listening to the stories of the journalists from the Wall Street Journal Tokyo branch.

“I got perspective about life in the big industry (of journalism),” Jakob said. “I guess I didn’t really realize how many bigger parts of it there were. So, it’s really cool to hear from an international editorial perspective.”

Kosaku plans to move to Singapore to continue his journalism career. He loves Tokyo, but said he’s ready for a change.

“I’m excited,” Kosaku said. “A new place; new people.”

EDELMAN

As all mass communication fields are unique and have their own special values, there’s one field that really tugs on the consumers’ heartstrings by carefully crafting a person’s or brand’s story in the right way: public relations. Edelman is an international firm with an office in Tokyo that has helped clients determine their core values and find their purpose since 2005. The SJMC study abroad students had the chance to sit down with director Geoff Dosser and copywriter and editor Katheryn Tanquary to learn about the ins and outs of the PR industry.

“Trust and brand go hand in hand,” Geoff said. “Edelman has three main (missions): Protect, evolve and promote. Those three things can change (order).”

Geoff explained to the students that PR has changed dramatically over the past three to four years. New generations are setting new standards in the hierarchy. Companies have faced a huge vocal backlash for the way they have been presenting themselves to the public through stereotypical and misogynistic advertisement.

“Traditionally, Japanese advertisers focused on sex and stereotypes,” Geoff said. “You know the saying ‘sex sells’?”

With more and more brands becoming equally good, consumers can be turned off by brands very quickly. So, companies must find a way to cut through the clutter, he said, adding that the answer to this is public relations.

“Brands come to us and say ‘we need a purpose,” Geoff said. Students also learned from Edelman that Japan is generally a distrustful society, More people in Japan believe that businesses can incite change rather than the government. They showed students the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer to back up these conclusions.

“I liked Edelman because they were trying to figure out ways for advertisement in Japan because the culture is kind of different here,” sophomore Tyra Williams said. “So, I liked that they were talking about learning about businesses and how, sometimes, (Japanese people) trust businesses more than the government. I thought that was interesting, because (in America), we don’t like businesses and government combining like that; we want them to be separate.”

TOKYO TOWER

The SJMC students stood in disbelief as they stepped off the elevator onto the main deck of the Tokyo Tower. A man, with a bright pink cone attached to his head, was dancing and gleefully shouting “happy tower” and “konnichiwa!” Just behind the interesting, gleeful man was the most beautiful view the students had seen of the three days of being in Tokyo thus far.

“I looked out of the window and saw just how high we were and looked down and realized we were protruding from the tower itself which was kind of scary.” junior Dylan Knight said. “You could see the legs of the tower clearly and everyone looked like little ants.”

After looking through the windows that wrapped around the middle of the tower, the students frequently visited the energetic tour guide once again. He made the students laugh hysterically because of his funny faces and quirky dance moves.

“He was the perfect man for that job,” Senior Lecturer Jon Zmikly said. “His facial structure was structurally sound like just like the [Tokyo] tower is. His eyebrows were very animated and very expressive.”

The second full day in Japan was filled with educational lessons from The Wall Street Journal and Edelman. The students really enjoyed hearing from both companies and said that both places were extremely friendly. The last stop for the group, the Tokyo Tower, was a fun way for the students to finish their day.

The students look forward to day three, which will be an unstructured day, meaning that students will be free to choose the activities that they want to do.



10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Tokyo

If you’re traveling to Tokyo, one of the main challenges that you’re going to face (besides jet lag, perhaps a language barrier, etc.) will be trying to see all that you can. You’ll be walking a lot, but fear not; Tokyo has a fast, immaculate subway system that’s not difficult to navigate (if I can do it, so can you).

Instead of thumbing through paper brochures and scrolling through #Japan on Instagram, I’ve made a guide of the 10 most Instagrammable spots that you must see in Tokyo.

1. Tokyo Tower

France may have the Eiffel Tower, but Japan has the Tokyo Tower, and it is just as picture worthy! The structure was built in 1957 and its top level is 250 meters above sea level. You can take a picture from the bottom of the tower to capture the jaw-dropping height and the eye-capturing colors or you can snap photos from the inside of the main deck or the top deck. Inside, you can see for miles into the beautiful sites of Tokyo.  For admission pricing, click here.

2. The Giant Sky Wheel – Palette Town

Forget about the London Eye because for only $10, you can take a ride with your pals on a gigantic sky wheel. This attraction was Japan’s largest Ferris wheel when it was first built. Here, you can capture a beautiful view of Tokyo from one of the multicolored carts. If you’re wanting your Instagram trip pictures to give off a fun and carefree vibe, come here. Also in this area. there is a live music venue and a go-kart track — not to mention a lot of shops!

3. Akihabara

Akihabara is pretty much the anime capital of the world. Not to mention, there’s so much technology and arcades around. You will be able to find all of your favorite anime, video game and superhero characters in this location. You could get lost in this buzzing hub of electronics and anime culture for hours. It truly is a fun place. Walk the colorful streets or adventure into the neon lights of the arcades.

Tip: Whatever you do, do not spend too much money on the “claw machines” in the arcades, because no matter how many times you try, you will not win the Pikachu plushie. Trust me.

4. Tsukiji Outer Market

Tsukiji Outer Market is a big market featuring various vendors from food to souvenirs to more food. There is a lot of raw fish in this area. Locals come here for fresh meat and produce. Take a stroll through the market and try some tender wagyu beef. It is a special type of Japanese beef that will immediately melt in your mouth!

5. Meiji Shrine

The Meiji Shrine is perfect for a beautiful, peaceful walk. This shrine dedicates itself to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. From the entrances, it will be about a 10-minute walk to get to the main complex of the shrine. On the short walk, enjoy the birds chirping in the tranquil forest trees and stop to take a picture of the historical, magical entrance gates.

Tip: Be respectful and do not take pictures in the part of the shrine where people are praying. If you would like to make a prayer, there is a special ritual you have to do which involves throwing a coin into the donation box, bowing twice, clapping twice, praying and bowing when you have finished.

6. Takeshita Street

For the full experience of the kawaii (cute) culture of Japan, Takeshita Street is a must-see experience. Shop along this street for the cutest stuffed animals and Japanese fashion. You can knock out most of your souvenir shopping here, too, since this street has so many places with small gifts. Along the street sides, you will find colorful boutiques, restaurants and vendors. All of the quirky businesses make for great photo opportunities.

Tip: This is a very crowded place. Try to avoid going on weekends.

7. Shinjuku

This part of Tokyo is perfect for experiencing night life in the city. This ward in Tokyo is often compared to New York City’s Times Square because of the buzzing neon lights of commercial advertisements and the amount of people in the area. Go here at night and karaoke with your best buds– you won’t regret it!

Tip: Most bars close at midnight. The subways also close at this time. So, plan accordingly.

8. Animal Cafés

Missing your furry friend back at home? No worries! Japan has many animal cafes you can visit that feature dogs, cats and owls — oh my! Tokyo has an overwhelming population, and because of limited space in apartments and lack of parks for animals, there are not a lot of pet owners. However, this culture does love animals so they have many animal cafes. For example, you pay a small fee such as ¥800 yen (about $8 USD), and you can hang out with the animals of your choice for 30 minutes.

9. Ginza

If you love to shop, stop by the Ginza district of Tokyo. This is a great location for upscale shopping and fine dining. You could capture a perfect #foodie picture for your Instagram here. Definitely bring your walking shoes. It seems like the shops never end!

Tip: Many department stores offer tax exemption for tourists. Make sure to bring your passport just in case!

10. Ryogoku in Sumida

Ryogoku is the spot to go to if you have ever wanted to see a real-life sumo wrestler. If you linger long enough outside of the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, you’ll see many of these tall, broad men decked out in kimonos as they casually walk inside the sporting arena. Luckily enough, when I went with a group of my friends, we got to see at least five wrestlers.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to approach one because they are usually very nice. However, be very respectful when you want to talk to sumos. These are busy men, and if they take time out of their day to greet you, that’s truly special. Make sure to say doomo arigato and bow.