Lima Cafe

KIMG0126Lima Cafe happened because another place, called Milkland, didn’t.  That was our second instance of going to a restaurant during the supposed hours and finding it closed.

Lima cafe is around the corner from Milkland in Shinjuku, Tokyo,¹ and comparatively speaking, is spectacularly easy to find.

We both enjoyed the food, but didn’t enjoy that it came in Japanese portion sizes.  Lima appears to be entirely vegan.  It also has a small (but very expensive) store attached.  The food served in the cafe seemed reasonably priced to us.

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At first I didn’t want to seem lame by taking pictures of my food in a cafe, but I broke down when the dessert came.  This is ice cream made from brown rice milk.  The brown stuff on top is cinnamon.

It did not taste like ice cream, but it still tasted really good.

KIMG0128This is the chocolate cake.  It was a bit dry and unsweetened for our tastes.  We liked the cream sauce that came on the side.

 

 

¹ Shinjuku seems to have a high concentration of vegan and vegetarian restaurants.

“Really Hard to Find Land” or Milkland

Finding ミルクランド(Milkland) was an odyssey.  It’s located in the center of a block of buildings.  On google maps it appeared to have no streets or paths leading to it.

We circled this block and explored every alley until we sighted it through a hedge.  We climbed over a brick wall and down a ravine to get to it.  I suggest taking a more conventional route.

It’s in the ground floor of a building that has a gated parking lot which looks like an entrance to an apartment building (probably because it is).

Here’s the path that leads to Milkland:

KIMG0125The only landmark I can offer is the 7-11 just out of frame to the right of the driveway.  However, even the 7-11 is hard to find, since it’s in a small dark nook in what looks like an alley.

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This is what Milkland looks like on the outside.  This was taken shortly after the owner informed us that they were closed.  When asked when they were open, he proceeded to tell us when they were closed, which to me sounded something like, “We’re only closed on holidays, weekends, and week days.  Any other time is good.”

I’ll let you know.

Our First Middle-Eastern Food in Japan

shanaimIf you know Hebrew or if you can read the partially hidden text below the awning, you know that this is an Israeli restaurant.

One of the things I’m discovering about restaurants in Japan is that they don’t care about being open when people want food.  They tend to limit their hours, and the hours posted on the web don’t always match the hours that they’re open.

We arrived at Shamaim when Happy Cow said they’d be open and found out that we were an hour and fifteen minutes early.  Instead of finding another place to eat, we chose to wait.  We love our falafel.

The falafel was the best part of the meal.  The rest was not worth the wait.

The ingredients were good, but the flavors were dull.  This might be because we’d just left America, where one could argue that everything is either too sweet, too salty, or too fatty.  Either way, we both thought it was merely ok.

I’m also skeptical that it is as authentic as they claim, given that everyone working there was Japanese.  They were playing Israeli music, though.

It’s Really Not That Hard to be Vegan in Japan

I am vegan. Before I came to Japan a lot of people told me that they thought it was impossible to be vegan in Japan. After I got here, a lot of people told me that they thought it was impossible to be vegan in Japan.

This is preferable to the reaction I got when I told people that I was vegetarian in Wisconsin in 1995. Back then, they mostly cocked their heads and squinted at me as if they were trying to make out the outline of “vegetarian” in my blurry image. What did it all mean?

When I moved to Philadelphia in 2002 and told people the same thing, they reacted less severely, but they were still skeptical. Cheesesteaks¹ have been mentioned to me a lot, and I have often countered with scrapple.

Anyway, it’s really not that hard to be a vegan in Japan. Similarly, it really wasn’t that hard to be a vegetarian in Wisconsin in 1995 or a vegan in Philadelphia whatever year it was that I became vegan (sorry, I can’t remember).²

The only hard part is how skeptical people are that it’s really not that hard.

So, I’m starting a series called, “It’s really not that hard to be vegan in Japan.” I don’t know how many entries it will be or what it will contain.

In this post, I will start with three new posts on vegan-friendly restaurants I have gone so far in Japan.  FYI, I live just outside of Tokyo, so I have a little more access to special restaurants than most of Japan.

shanaimThis is my post on Shamaim.  Shamaim is not a vegan restaurant, but it’s vegan friendly.  We found this on Happy Cow.

 

 

 

KIMG0126Lima Cafe is a vegan cafe with a store attached.  I still don’t know if they are referring to the bean or the city.  Also found on Happy Cow.

 

 

KIMG0123We tried to go to Milkland or ミルクランド, but it ended up being closed, so my entry is incomplete.  I will update as soon as we eat there.

 

 

 

¹By the way, there are many different vegan cheesesteak vendors in Philadelphia. They are made with seitan.

²These days, Philadelphia is so vegan friendly that it’s possible to have an entirely vegan potluck and not have one person panic or get confused. Vegan friendly restaurants are so easy to find that it’s barely worth mentioning anymore.

Things Are About to Change Around Here

bonsai_treeOk, folks, I’m going to try to update more often. If I am going to update more often, entries will be a lot less polished, a lot less to the point, and contain a lot fewer links.

The reason for this is because my life has taken a 90 degree turn, and I am now living in Japan.

When I decided to move, it wasn’t so much that I desperately wanted to be in Japan, it was more that it was time for me to leave Philadelphia. My feelings about that have changed, but that’s because I’ve been in Japan for about six weeks now. My feelings about a lot of things have changed.

However, my feelings about Philadelphia haven’t changed. (It was a wonderful place for me for a long time, but I was getting the sense that it was time to move on. I’ll get to the wonderfulness of my time in Philadelphia in another entry.)

The contrast between Japan and Philadelphia was exactly what I’ve been craving.

Firstly, Japan is quiet. Even with a train stacked body-to-body with people during rush hour (rush hour in Japan is no joke, by the way), it is dead silent.

Unlike Philadelphia, train rides in Japan are sans the kid playing a game on his phone with the volume turned up, the couple arguing in the corner, and the three people talking loudly on their cellphones while sitting directly underneath the “this is a quiet car” sign. And, I only wished that the cacophony in Philadelphia ended with the train rides. Construction, mini-bikes, barking dogs, ancient heating/cooling systems grinding along, and people just generally being loud is the wallpaper in Philadelphia. I don’t miss it.

Japan moves.  While it’s crowded in Japan (much more so than Philadelphia), it’s an orderly crowd. Things may move slowly here, but they keep moving. People line up for the escalator without pushing, shoving, cursing, and jockeying for the best position.  Bureaucracy may keep things at a snail pace around here, but it’s a pace.

So much gets stalled in Philadelphia because something happened. Maybe it was a fight, maybe it was an accident, maybe it’s emergency construction on a crumbling bridge, but stuff in Philadelphia stops dead when something happens. That something was usually caused by someone who got impatient and made a bad judgment call.  In Philadelphia, you never know when that’s going to happen.

Japan has civility. For example, I observed four junior high boys share two seats on the train by simply trading when they were halfway through their journey. There was no pushing, shoving, or name calling, it was simply, “you sit for a while, and then we’ll sit for a while.”

I’m not even going to bother offering the Philadelphian contrast to this.  I think you know.

Japan has organization. I’ve heard of other foreigners coming to Japan and being irritated at the inconvenience of constantly dotting I’s and crossing T’s, but you know what? That organization is there to save your ass, as it did mine after I lost my train pass.

When I bought my train pass, I had to type my name and birth date into the machine before it would issue me a pass. That felt outrageously tedious and silly. This only matters because I now live in a civil society. When my train pass went missing, someone picked it up and returned it to the lost and found (instead of using it to go on a train riding spree until all of the credit was used up, which would obviously happen in the US). And, of course, when I went to the lost and found (while scoffing at the idea that someone would pick it up and take it to the lost and found), they ran my pass through the machine, looked at my ID, and said, “Yep, this is your lost train pass. Here you go.”

I’m sure you already know that there is nothing in Philadelphia that’s designed to save your ass.

So yes, while the grit of balls-out Philly has its charm, I’m ready for less. I’m ready to not feel like I’m taking my life into my hands every time I get on I-95. Heck, I’m ready to not feel like I’m taking my life into my hands while standing in line at the ATM. I’m not referring to muggers here. I’m talking about that no-nonsense native Philadelphian granny who thinks I just cut the line in front of her. Actually, she doesn’t care if I really did or not, but she’s going to give me the business, anyway, because it’s Philadelphia, and that’s what people do.

Like I said, Philadelphia was wonderful in many ways. I’ve been missing a lot of those things, lately, but that’s a natural part of transition. Obviously, I will have to redesign the website, but that will come in time. On top of moving countries, I have also moved jobs. Changes will come in time.