Another day in Japan, another bowl of ramen for breakfast!

Today's ramen-venture brought us to AFURI, a ramen chain with nine locations in Tokyo and even a restaurant in Portland, OR! AFURI's namesake derives from Mt. Afuri, a mountain located in Kanagawa prefecture. The mountain is considered sacred, well known for its spring water and as a symbol of good harvest.

We visited AFURI's Harajuku branch, which is located within easy walking distance of the train station. We were still a little early before opening time so rather than loitering, we wandered around the area before making our way back. We were the first customers of the day and had the whole restaurant to ourselves up until the moment we were finished eating.

Vending machine ordering seems to be the norm when it comes to ramen shops. Although it's not a personable experience, I'm all for the efficiency. As an owner, you can cut back on staff and reduce mistakes when it comes to preparing and expediting customer's orders. And equally best for the diner, you can leave once you're done since you've already paid. Once we got our tickets from the machine, we took a seat at the U-shaped counter surrounding the open kitchen.

What sets AFURI apart from its competitors is their signature yuzu ramen. Their broth is classified as chintan ("clear soup"), with a base made from chicken and dashi. A clear soup is accomplished by boiling ingredients at a lower temperature, allowing fats to be separated and removed. This method produces a lighter and more delicate soup in comparison to paitans ("white soup"), which are thick, cloudy, and creamy thanks to emulsified fats formed from a rolling boil. AFURI also adds yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, to its chintan, bringing a refreshing quality to its flavour profile.

My mom's shoyu ramen, pictured at the start, came adorned with a half marinated egg, chashu that had been seared over charcoal, bamboo shoots, nori, and mizuna, a Japanese mustard green. She was also asked her soup richness preference -- tanrei or maroaji. The former is their classic recipe and the latter having more Chi-yu, or chicken oil, added to it.

Instead of hot soup, I went for their ama-tsuyu tsukemen. Tsukemen, or dipping ramen, consists of cold noodles served separately from the soup. A perfect ramen option for hot summer months, tsukemen is eaten by taking the noodles and dipping it into a bowl of broth before slurping it up.

AFURI's tsukemen was similar to their traditional ramen as it was topped with some of the same ingredients: half a marinated egg, bamboo shoots, and mizuna. Some of the bigger differences were the noodles, which were thicker and wavier, an ideal surface ratio for picking up more soup. The chashu was also prepared differently. Rather than slices that were charcoal-seared, the chashu was cooked in a braising liquid of ginger, garlic, and leeks. And the broth, served in a separate bowl, wasn't a broth as much as it was a sauce. It was a chicken and dashi-based sweet dipping Tare

We ate some great food while we were in Japan (I don't think we ever had a bad meal), but this was probably the best thing I ate on the trip. The bouncy noodles, the tender pork, the perfectly cooked egg, and the sweet and tangy sauce. So much flavour going on with every bite. The meal was also satisfying but you weren't left with a heavy, "too full" feeling. Weirdly enough, I felt refreshed. And who says that after eating a bowl of ramen? 

After we were done eating, we walked back to Harajuku's main attraction: Takeshita-Dori! This pedestrian shopping street is where youth culture thrives.

As a kid/teen, I've always wanted to visit Harajuku. I may have outgrown the target demographic now but it was still an amazing place to visit and see firsthand. The street is jam-packed with wacky fashions, boutiques, thrift stores, and accessories.

We visited on a weekday and although this picture makes it look really crowded and jam-packed, the weekends are apparently worse. Sundays are when the street really comes alive, with teens and youths descending into the street dressed in lolita or other crazy fashions.

A popular snack in Harajuku: crepes! Multiple stands are set up with mouthwatering displays of their wares. Countless flavour options that include ice cream, fruits, syrups, and copious amounts of whipped cream. 

We walked through Takeshita-Dori pretty quickly since none of the stores really appealed to us. All of the walking that we had done in the last few days was quickly catching up with us so we decided to take a break off our feet. One thing that I didn't understand about Tokyo was the lack of public seating anywhere. People are so on the go all the time that I guess benches are unnecessary.

I had heard there was a Starbucks on the rooftop terrace of Tokyu Plaza with a pretty nice view of Harajuku so we decided to go there. Entering Tokyu Plaza was an experience in itself. Mirrors everywhere. Looking at it was pretty trippy. 

I can't remember exactly what drinks we ordered but Starbucks does offer some food and drink creations unique to Japan. Mine was a mango frappuccino of some sort while LT got a more basic coffee frap. At the time we visited, they were also offering an American cherry pie frappuccino complete with a pie crust top!

Another unique menu item they were selling were pudding cups! I'm not sure if it was just a promotion or if it's a permanent menu item but they come in two flavours -- matcha and custard. The pudding was smooth, silky and creamy, the perfect light snack or dessert.

And as mentioned, here is the awesome view from the rooftop.

You can see the start of Omotesando on the right. Omotesando is a kilometre long shopping street lined with trees. If Takeshita-Dori is for teens, Omotesando is for the mature, wealthier crowd as evidenced by the number of designer flagship stores.

I'm too much of a peasant to actually shop down Omotesando but there was one store that I had to visit. Kiddy Land!

Kiddy Land is five floors big, carrying every single character and toy possible. Entire sections dedicated to Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma, Snoopy, Totoro, Doraemon, etc etc. You name it, they got it. And for a shop called Kiddy Land, there was a lot more adults in there... which means we're all kids at heart. I myself could have spent the entire day inside the shop but I practiced enough self-control to leave with just two items.

With shopping bags in hand, we finally walked over to another Harajuku landmark: Meiji Shrine! It wasn't the smartest idea to visit at the end of our shopping day since we were so tired from walking in addition to carrying our bags. I had originally planned to visit Meiji Shrine in the morning but I completely forgot about it as we were lured down Takeshita Street. So lesson learned. Sights first, shopping later.

Meiji Shrine is located right beside Harajuku station, within a densely forested area. As you're walking the ten minutes to get to the actual shrine, you almost forget that you're in the middle of a bustling city. It's so serene and tranquil.

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji and his wife, Express Shoken. The emperor is credited for introducing Japan to the West.

It started raining pretty heavily at this point so we weren't able to appreciate the shrine as much as we had hoped. There were also sections that were under construction as they prepare to celebrate the shrine's 100th anniversary in 2020.

Since we didn't have any umbrellas with us, we decided to just head back to the Airbnb to drop off our belongings and rest a bit before heading back out again. For a quick dinner, we ended up at the golden arches!

You're probably thinking why we went to McDonalds when we're in the food oasis that is Japan. We didn't want to stray too far for dinner and the McDonalds was conveniently located right by our Airbnb. Plus, have you really been to Japan if you haven't had their exclusive McDonalds items? Some of the items we tried included their Teriyaki McBurger and their Ebi Filet-o. Also, did you know you can order chicken nuggets as a side instead of fries?! Mind-blown.

The next and last item on our day's itinerary included going to Shibuya to see the infamous Shibuya scramble crossing. This famous intersection is located right in front of the Hachiko Exit of the station and has been compared to New York's Time Square due to all the flashing neon advertisements.

As soon as the crossing lights turn green, the street is flooded by pedestrians walking in every direction. We walked through the crossing quite a few times and can say that it's organized chaos at its finest.

Other famous landmarks in Shibuya that we visited --

On the left, Shibuya 109, a women's fashion mall with more than 100 boutiques spanning 10 floors. We made it up to maybe five floors before calling it quits.

On the right, HachikĊ! This statue carries a lovely story of a dog and his owner. Apparently, the dog would wait for his owner everyday in front of Shibuya station. He continued to do so for years even after his master passed away. Thanks to his efforts, he has become a symbol in Japan of unwavering loyalty and fidelity.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, bring us to the end of day 3!


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CT is a 20-something Edmontonian who started blogging as an excuse for taking pictures of her food.

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf