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cheap eats

Granted we're all on a a budget while being students, nevertheless there are times when we'll either need a good feed, want to sample some new taste sensations or just want to treat ourselves to a meal out with freinds. This can be done in so many different places in Okazaki and it won't mean breaking the budget.

I have taken it upon myself to set out to find places near the institute within a price range that I consider to be affordable for most.

Route 248

buffet

First on the list would have to be Baikingu or Viking. If it's quantity you're after, and let's face it, we've all been there at some stage, this place is without rival. It is also a very cheap introduction to many typical Japanese dishes. Naturally , the quality is not the best, but it is certainly not bad. It's on Route 248 (known as "ni yon pa"), which we all cross on our way to school so it is very handy. It's a white building on a corner on the same side of the road as Seiyu. On the corner opposite Atomu Boy and before Seiyu.

For 1100 Yen you can treat yourself to any amount of sushi, soups, yaki niku (meat which you cook on a grill at your own table),salads, noodles, fried appetizers such as squid, chicken age, takoyaki (octopus balls), frueit and desserts, icecream and fairy floss. It's hard not to get excited at the endless array of Japanese culinary delights!

If it's a challenge you're after - trying eating as much as you can in an hour. That's the deal. Stay longer and you're up for another 11000 YEN. If you want more of a challenge, try doing it in your 50 minute lunch break! (Make sure you've got health insurance first! More about this later..........) It's a very popular spot for Friday and Saturday lunch. Many teachers have been known to join their students on a Friday after classes. This is a lunch time deal that does not include Sundays. That's quite normal in Japan. Oh and yes, you also get a drink voucher when you pay your bill which you can use on your next visit. Personally, I prefer the green tea.

typical eatery

Relax in Okazaki Minami Park! (Click to enlarge)
Relax in Okazaki Minami Park!

Just before you get to Seiyu on the 248 you'll see Ishigawaya set back off the street. Although I've only been there once with my fellow class mates, Jason, Go and Chin, I want to mention this place, 1) because it's so close to the school, 2) because it's very cheap, and 3) because I really liked it. There's something very endearing and "everyman" about this shokudou. Nothing flash. Infact I'm sure no thought has been wasted on the decor. That's precisely what I like about it. The day we were there an elderly couple walked in pushing an old stroller with a toddler. Something funny about the baby. We took another look. Not a baby after all. A toddler-sized doll. I'm sure there was a perfecltly logical explanation for what appeared to be a couple playing grandparents. I prefer to think there wasn't.

american style

Tomi behind the bar  (Click to enlarge)
Tomi behind the bar

what will it be?  chicken or burger?(Click to enlarge)
Tomi behind the bar

Also close to the school and on Route 248 is Yellow Cab. Up fron the Aoi Bookstore corner in the direction of Minami Koen but on the other side of the road. Set back and with an image of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh painted on the side wall, you can't miss this place. It was recommended by my young next door neighbours who found the staff very obliging, especially when it came to getting help with their Japanese homework. In fact this resulted in quite a friendship, one that interrupted my sleep on more than one occasion! It wasn't so much the music as the high pitched laughter and screeching of the girl. Not wanting to become resentful, and not wanting to be the complaining, party-pooper neighbour, I, not without some embarrassment and hesitation, let Kevin know that I needed some sleep. I focused my complaint on the girl's irritating squeal. They were very apologetic - even used all the polite "mou shiwake goziamasen" on me and made a real effort after that for which I was very grateful. Having a unusual name means that people generally have trouble remembering it if they have to say it, but conversely , if they hear it they will recognize it. So, you can imagine my embarrassment the other night when introducing myself to the young girl behind the bar. No sooner had I said my name that the penny dropped! Oops! Happily, no hard feelings!

Enough preamble. The lunch special (11.30 - 2.30) is fantastic value is you eat chicken and very good value if you don't. An example:

soup, salad, rice, chicken katsu (cutlet) 490 Yen or

soup, salad, rice, hamburger 640 Yen with orange juice or coffee for an extra 2oo Yen.

All three of us, including Kitamura sensei (she has been very happy to acconpany us on ur search for cheap eats in Okazaki) were very satisfied with our meal. If you rode your bike you could probably make it in time for afternoon classes but I wouldn't count on it. For evening meals and drinks, it's open form 6.00 pm. to 12.00. On Fridays and Saturdays it's open until 2.00am. Alcoholic drinks start at 390 Yen for a glass of beer and there is an extensive cocktail list. At the time of writing Volume 13 of Chao magazine has a coupon which entitles you to a cocktail of your choice for half price sit at the bar and practise your Japanese with Tomi and Tetsuya. You wont have to explain where you are studying. There is a function room upstairs which was the site of some very drinking judging by the guy who shocked me by bumping violently into the back of my stool, then preceded to bump straight into a wooden support and then a glass door! Ouch! The barmen assured us this didn't happen often. Yeah. Well maybe not here, I thought, but I have to say that I never seen such obvious paralitic drunkenness as I have in Japan. Mainly men, and although not exclusively so, mainly the type known as sarariman. I'm sure that needs no explanation.

ramen

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Just up from Yellow Cab is Suihiro Ramen. It's a modern Japanese style bulding. Sleek slate grey colour with red trim. I rode past late one Sunday afternoon and wondered why there was a stream of teenagers lining up. Such is the popularity of this place. Young Tomoya kun enthusiastically told us you can get your order in less than 5 minutes. No sooner had I suggested we"d time then than his order arrived. Two minutes! Very impressive.

He had Ten Shin Nan - a bowl of rice covered with a omolette and a sauce which had a strong sesame aroma for 550 Yen. Tania had Shio Butter Corn Ramen. (There are several ramen soup bases - shoyu {soy}, shio {salt}, miso, and butter.) Hers cost 600 Yen. Most dishes cost about 650 - 800 and the servings are more than generous. This place is great value if you are hungry. They always have specials which are clearly advertised on the full colour picture laminated menus that are on every table. Beers start at 450 Yen but iced water is free and plentiful as they leave a big pitcher on the table. Of course there are all the usuals - gyoza and shuu mai which are good for starters, particularly if you're there with some friends. Michio, who goes there regularly, says you can even order a bowl and share between two. I guess you can always try. There is also a mochi kaeri (take out) menu.

The characteristic colour scheme is continued indoors with low black tables on tatami , tan cushions , slate tiles with red highlights. In short, a contemporary traditonal Japanese feel. It's closed Thursdays, open weekdays between 11.00am and 3.00pm, then reopens at 5.00pm until 9.00pm. Weekends it's open from 11.00am until 9.00 pm.

traditional japanese

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Tourakuen is a treasure. I'd often ridden past on my bike thinking what a beautiful house it was until one day Cory suggested we go here for lunch. Walk into Tourakuen and you step back in time to the Taisho period (1912 - 1926). The decor is the Japanese equivalent of what I would consider Arts and Crafts Movement. Stained glass windows and lots of dark wood, nestled in the fairy tale surroundings of an enchanted garden that overlooks the Ooike (appropriately named big pond).
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There are a few intimate small rooms and a main area. This is a hanagohan (specially presented rice dishes) and mini kaiseki ( a selection of small, very delicate and exquisite morsels) restaurant.

It's not particularly cheap but the lunch special is affordable and delicious - excellent value for the experience alone. For 1000 Yen we chose from a pork or prawn rice bowl which came with nimono (stewed vegetables, a chawan mushi (a type of savury egg custard in a small cup), tsukemono (pickles), and miso soup with very fine white somen noodles floating in it. To finish was a mosaic of coffee jelly cubes with a spoonful of yoghurt and some thin slices of banana gracefully arranged - all on lovely Japanese crockery and laquerware. Not only was it a feast for the taste buds, it was a feast for the eyes. At the mention of Yamasa and the owner fondly remembered a French man who used to study there who still sends her postcards from different parts of the world.

Tourakuen is open for lunch from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and for dinner from 6.00 pm to 9.00 pm. It"s closed on Tuesdays and every second Monday of the month.

not just beef

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You don't have to have been in Japan long to know Yoshinoya. Famous for its unbeatable value Gyuu Don which starts at 400 Yen which can never be too unattainable as there are outlets everywhere open 24 hours a day! Of course there are lots of other things to chose from on the menu and they have regular specials such as the meat/fish teishoku (set meal)for 490 Yen which comes with miso soup, some picles, rice, some stir fried beef and onion as well as a piece of grilled salmon. Salads start at 140 Yen. You can get extra rice by paying a bit more. The pickled ginger is free, but you'll have to pay 50 Yen if you want raw egg for your Gyuu Don. Yum. Everyone should try this at least once. You are given a cup of green tea soon after sitting at the counter. Some people jsut love Yoshinoya. Euan does and so does Nina. They're both from England. That's not the only reason why I want to introduce them to each other.

Yoshinoya is further along the Route 248 - just before Minmai Koen. Breakfast after some morning exercise?

off the Route 248

oodles of noodles

If you're in the mood for soba or udon noodles then Menkoudou is the place to go. Not the closest place but worth checking out as this is in itself another little hub of eateries of various sorts. The nearest landmark is Domii. Coming from Route 248 turn right into the road that takes you to Domy Super Centre. (There's a men's clothing shop on the corner with a big elephant on the roof. The Japanese are particularly fond of animal mascots. They are by no means a rare sight. Especially outside of drug stores.) Then take a left hand turn at the gas station just before Domii. Go straight ahead past the first intersection and you'll eventually see it on the right hand side.

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There are teishoku specials that include a small serve of noodles of your choice plus salad, tsukemono (Japanese pickles), Rice.

Or you can order from the ippin (one dish) category. Dishes such as tempura soba, miso soup base noodles with egg, tempura, mountain vegetables, etc., etc. Prices start at 450 Yen. We were given a voucher each when we paid our bill. A 250 Yen discount on a 500 glass of beer for use on a subsequent visit.

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You can either sit on a stool at the bench or at low tables for four. Don't worry about having to sit seiza - there's the sunken bit in the middle so you let your legs hang down. A great place to go when you're feeling the cold!

Opening hours 11.00am to 8.00pm. Closed Mondays.

thai

If you're living in Residene U Chaio is your local Thai restaurant. If you're not, then take a walk to the greener side of town. That's what Midorigaoka means, afterall. (By the way, learning the kanji for place names really helps reinforce some kanji basics as well as helps you remember the name itself).

It is situated after the Route 1 intersection in an area which includes a cake shop, bar and other restaurants. Look for an incongrous modern concrete building with an even more incongruous camel lieing at the front. On the other side there's a very colourful mobile phone shop.

What I like most about Chaio is its clean, modern atmosphere. With white walls, articulated with curves and decorated with interesting wall hangings, the main room has a big wooden host's table and mustard coloured upholsterd chairs. It's a very relaxed mood which I haven't come accross a lot in Okazaki. The higawari lunch special (or daily special) when I went was :

cha han (fried rice) set 850 Yen or curry set 950 Yen

both included : salad, soup, agemono (this means something that has been fried and here it was a prawn cracker and a spicy fried toast), choice of fried rice (tomato/pineapple) or curry (red beef/ green chicken with a limitless bowl of rice), a cube of iced coconut and lemongrass tea. I chose the unusual sweet pineapple fried rice which was very delicious athough it left me feeling like I hadn't eaten a main dish yet. The cocunut ice was refreshing and unusual end to the meal. This is not a place for a big feed, and not the most typical Thai cuisine. The site of one prawn chip left me somewhat bemused. Dishes are served one at a time rather than all at once. Keiko, one of my Japanese friends raves about the (suupu nashi ramen) dry noodles served with a variety of condiments.

pizza and pasta

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There are 2 New York Papa restaurants in Okazaki. One is just up the road from Seiyu on the hill. A landmark in itself. It is a bistro feel they've gone for here with elegant rattan chairs and big posters on the walls. There's even a grand piano. In a modern concrete building surrounded by greenery, it's spacious, cool and relaxed. New york Papa is a pasta, pizza and gratin restaurant. They pride themselves on cooking healthy food and only use pure olive oil.

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Pasta dishes start at 750 Yen, pizzas at 700 Yen, and gratins at 850 Yen. Better value are the lunch time specials. For 900 Yen the pasta/gratin special offers a choice from 3 pastas and 1 gratin, a salad, baguettte roll, a drink from the drink bar and a dessert. Don't be expecting a huge slice of cake. When I went, the dessert was a miniscule mouse. Apart from that the rest of the meal was satisfying. Unlike many retaurants here, the meal wasn't over in a flash. It's such a big place that you don't feel you have to rush out as soon as you've finished eating. Theres's also the weekly special which usually includes a meat dish/ pasta choice, salad, bread or rice and drink for 850 Yen.

indian

I miss Indian food. I miss Indian cooking. That's no doubt why I was so excited to go to Paneeru with the people who reccommended it - my students at the YES English School. It feels and looks like any other Indian restaurant - with images of Indian deities on the wall, soft lighting and enticing aromas coming from the kitchen. In a country where most ethnic cuisine is changed to suit the Japanese palette, the food at Paneeru is what I consider authentic Inadian cooking.

There is an extensive curry list (lamb, chicken, beef, prawn, vegetarian) with a key to indicate their varying degres of spicyness, all ranging from 800 to 880 Yen. There are dry curries, banquet menus, appetizers such as pakoras, samosas, etc., salads, and drinks such as lassies, chai tea, juices as well as beer from India and other more usual types.

The lunch special costs 900 Yen. It's great value. You get your choice of curry (there are 10 on the list), a salad, your choice of 2 loaves of nan or rice, and your choice of drink (from lassie, coffee, tea, mango juice). Japanese people don't eat much lamb unless they're from Hokkaido....... or so I've been told. Australians do. So I went for the Indian lamb curry. It was rated 3 out of 4 in the spiciness scale and true to scale, did leave me with a tingling after sensation.

It's closed on Mondays and the day after a public holiday. Lunch time hours are 11.30 - 3pm. Dinner is 5.00 - 10.00pm. Most Japanese restaurants have the last order time set at half to one hour before close time so watch out. In this case 2.30pm amd 9.00pm respectively.

How to get there: It"s about a 10 to 15 minute bike ride from the school. The address is Tonya Danchinai in Tatsumigaoka. Go up towards Tatsumigaoka (beautiful dragon mound), from Seiyu - that's up to the right; go past New York Papa and turn left at the intersection with the two pachinko parlours. After a little while you'll turn right opposite a group of shops. Follow the road to the right, veer left before crashing into the coffee shop and you'll see the signpost.

chinese

A quick mention -Jouhokuhanten is considered the best and one of the cheapest Chinese restaurants in town. It's in the down town area. My home stay family took me there the first time (they are discerning types!) A group of us went most recently after watching Tania and Ayako in the yukata competition. There are all sorts of dishes to choose from - everything you'd expect, plus more. We certainly weren't expecting to see Sai! He's in C class and a recent addition to our staff at the YES English School! In the kitchen! That made our night. We paid about 1400 Yen each, having shared a variety of dishes.

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Sai happy to see us

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Tania and John after the yukata competition

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