Cheap Restaurants in Japan – B-Class Gourmet

Learn what B-Kyu B-Class Gourmet isCheap Restaurants in Japan – B-Class Gourmet (B-きゅ)

Japan is certainly a culture who adores and appreciates all types of foods. In fact it’s said that Japan could certainly have the finest food in all the world. Many famous chefs have come to Japan from all over the world to learn the food culture in Japan, but to also bring their own cuisine. Over the years you get a melting pot of all types of foods that have in many ways been improved on and at times given that Asian flare!

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But when it comes to eating out, a lot of people of Japan are not always looking for that 5 star restaurant to eat at, in fact there are some stable favorites (meals) in Japan that the majority of the people of Japan enjoy and don’t mind if it’s from a cheap izakaya or restaurant.

The term B-Class Gourment (B-kyu – said like B-Q) is used for restaurants who make good affordable meals (it could also mean a term for someone who likes good affordable meals). People from around Japan will travel long distances to eat at an affordable BUT delicious restaurant. Perhaps you’ve heard that at times a certain ramen or izakaya shop will end up with lines going around block corners off and off into the sunset?

Well, it’s because these shops are offering amazing quality food for an unbelievable price. This happens even here in Popular Sushi Places can be B-Class Gourmet as long as the price is rightAmerica too, and I know the sign of a good restaurant. My wife and I live in Colorado and we shop at many of the Asian markets in Denver at times, and we would always go to this smaller Asian market to pick up tea, hot sauces and some Asian sweets that you can’t get from regular American grocery stores.

Every time we’d pull up to this place it the parking lot was packed because of an authentic Chinese restaurant called ‘Star Kitchen‘ next to it, and although for the most part it was purely individuals of Asian descent coming in and out of the restaurant I knew it was epic because it was just crawling with the older generation. There is one thing I’ve found for the most part, when a restaurant is PACKED and has a good amount of older folks going to it, it’s a winner.

So we tried it, and it was certainly different then I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant scene before, but it was certainly an eye opener on how other cultures enjoy a meal at a restaurant. But with that said, a line 95% of the time usually means there’s something on the menu that you’ll enjoy (even if it’s frog legs!). It’s said that if a B-Class Gourmet restaurant keeps up it’s reviews and can continue to handle their customer base in a somewhat timely manner, it will become a ‘trendy’ B-Class restaurant and will stay that way for a decade or longer. It’s basically like winning the restaurant lottery if you want to put it in other terms.

Many big hits in the B-Class Gourmet niche are usually ramen shops. Many of these shops will make their own noodles and soup bases, giving it their own distinct flavor which is what pulls in people from all around Japan and what creates those extra long lines. It’s said that a certain B-Class food restaurant will even increase local travel to the area. For example, Fukuoka which is the city I’ll be going to school in became extremely popular because of their local specialty Motsunabe, which is a beef and pork organ stew. Many different areas will gain attention because of their local specialties.

やきとり Yaki Tori SignHere is a list of some of the most popular B-Class Gourmet foods in Japan:

Yakisoba – Grilled Buckwheat Noodles
Sushi – High Quality and Cheap = Long Lines!
Gyoza – Chinese rice wrapped dumpling (Star Kitchen has famous Shrimp Gyoza! – and they’re really really good!!)
Okonomiyaki – It’s basically a whatever you want pancake
Yakitori – Grill Chicken, in fact a lot of the chouchin lanterns are famous for saying yakitori (やきとり) and ramen (ラーメン) on them. –>
Curry Rice – Vegetables, Meat and Curry around rice
Tongatsu – Fried Pork Meat Strips.

You can learn a bit more about some of these on this page too.

Of course this a small list and any type of food can make the list of B-Class gourmet as long as it’s delicious and CHEAP! You can see a couple more options of famous types of B-kyu foods here.

-Nihon Scope

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Nomihodai Meaning, Etiquette & Proper Precautions Before Ordering

Nomihodai Japanese Meaning and EtiquetteNomihodai – Meaning, Etiquette and Precautions Before Ordering

Nomihodai, what does it mean and why is it so important… mostly to foreigners? Nomihodai means “All you can drink” or in Japanese the literal translation is Nomi 飲み = “Drink” and Hodai 放題 = “all you can” or sometimes called “Free Drink System”. This is a sort of option you can have with certain izakaya to bars and restaurants. There is also all you can eat (tabehodai) that at times couples with this type of promotion. From what I know of nomihodai, is that it ranges from $5 to $20 for 1 hours to 2 hours of all you can drink face wrecking fun.

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Now many times you have to be aware of what you’re getting into, you may think that $5 is super cheap, and I’d say you’re right, especially to sit there for 1 hour to 2 hours sucking down alcohol. But you’ll find when you visit Japan that many of these places that offer nomihodai will also have some clauses in their “Terms of Service” which you should ask about before agreeing to nomihodai.

For example, you may enter into a bar and request nomihodai, you may actually have to pay an entrance fee and it can vary from place to place, which could range from $3 to $10 depending on where you go. Now, that’s not where it stops, you will want to also ask the greeter or host/hostess about the plate minimum. Now… what is a plate minimum? A plate minimum is a requirement to order X amount of dishes while you are drinking  per person (usually). But usually this shouldn’t be a problem I’d hope for most people. You’re sitting there drinking, you think you would want to eat too right? So as to not entirely punish your liver, this usually is a wise idea.

So the $5 to $20 all you can drink ends up many times for 2 people being more like $40-$50 for an all your can drink fiasco, I’d say still for 2 people to go all out and spend only say $40 to have a hell of a time and get a bite to eat is pretty cool.

Now let’s get into more nitty gritty about the infamous nomihodai!

One thing to note is if you’re planning on a night of sorrowful drinking because your ex left you, then think again, as generally nomihodai can ONLY be ordered when 2 or more people are par-taking in the fiasco of controlled liver destruction. Of course I’m sure if you REALLY wanted to slam it home, you could possibly negotiate for 1. But, the fun of nomihodai is to have that unsuspecting friend to ambush with your recent breakup. Although there are izakaya, restaurants and bars that offer nomihodai openly, there are also several places that reserve this right to people who RSVP for a larger group, just keep your eyes open.

A Few Etiquette Rules to Keep in Mind:

  1. Foreigners usually abuse the hell out of nomihodai, with that in mind at least have the courtesy to drink your current beverage all the way first before asking for more. About 20 minutes before your time is over you’ll be given last call, don’t be rude and order 5 drinks effectively wasting the drinks because your dead drunk on the floor.
  2. All drinking Etiquette applies here. A few rules are: Not beginning until your entire group/party is ready to sign on for the onslaught of their liver with a proud and forceful ‘KANPAI!’. So make sure you’re not holding people up! Another is pouring for others and not yourself, if you want more pour for someone else and they’ll pour for you and if you see anyone with a empty cup, be courtesy and refill their cup. But note leaving your cup full indicates your finished drinking. This is something you might want to take note of if you ever nomikai… your liver will thank you knowing this information.
  3. Loud drunkness is not only okay, it’s promoted as long as it’s within normal means, but outrageous drunken behavior that takes the joys of nomihodai from other customers is something to avoid, if you’re a straight out crazed maniac when you drink, perhaps you should buy a six pack and stay home.

What REALLY To Be Cautious of With Nomihodai or General Izakaya/Restaurants in Japan?

Now here comes my main concern to all you Eggs out there looking to have your first izakaya, nomihodai or nomikai experience. There is something YOU MUST be aware of, there is an imposter that lurks in the darkness, claiming to be something of great value to the lives of Japan, but it’s sneaky, it’s not what it claims to be. What is this mysterious imposter?

Happoshu….  はっぽ酒

What is happoshu you may ask? Well to shine a light from heaven on to the sin of what happoshu is, it’s simply pretend beer. What do I mean by that? I mean that it’s light beers 2nd removed cousin, and it’s not just light it’s LIGHT beer. It’s considered a diet beer many times and has been quoted by some to taste like ‘weasel urine’ (you’ll see what I mean). The reason this wannabe beer… or rather alcoholic drink exists is to avoid tax margins that are imposed by the government of Japan. By either brewing the beer with non traditional ingredients like corn, soy, rice and potato’s they can effectively sell their beer for much much less as well effectively ruin your liver twice as quickly. The rule is that if there is less then 67% malt used in the beer it can then apply for tax cuts, and if there is NO malt, it’s consider a 3rd Tier Beer, I believe imported beer can also fall into this tax cut category as it’s not brewed in Japan so they can avoid this tax altogether (don’t quote me on that though).

Who drinks 3rd Tier Beers? Find out in Tokyo Desu’s article about Japan’s Gretest Faux Beers. I believe you should get an idea of why you should avoid these beers altogether, but more importantly you’ll discover useful reasons why you would even want to drink these ‘beverages’.

So when you go out to a restaurant or izakaya, make sure you ask if they have draft beer (nama biiru). If they act funny afterward, you know it’s for sure a sign to respect the liver god has given you and carry forth to the next possible choice. To really shine a light on the horrible-ness of these beverages take a look at the general rating (if you have not already) of the fake beers at beer advocate, you’ll notice only 3 out of the 65 listed ‘beers’ have a rating of 4/5 (80%) then quickly it buckles down into the high 1’s. For the most part, they’re pretty bad. But to be fair those ‘top’ rated happoshu beers only had 1 or 2 reviews.

The idea of nomihodai was take from the ‘All you can eat’ buffet restaurant types that were inspired originally by the Swedish back in the 1950’s in Tokyo… So you can certainly play this stuff your face attitude with nomihodai, but I’d say in ending have fun but know for the majority of Japan, nomihodai is not a place to smash your face in with a beer bottle, Japanese people actually are well known to keep it to a threshold they can manage (for the most part), so enjoy yourself but just know you might get a ‘yappari’ or ‘baka gaijin’ throw your way if you make an ass of yourself.

-Nathan Scheer

 

 

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Salaryman in Japan: Karoshi, Working Poor and More

Karoshi Salaryman and the Japanese EconomyThe Dark Life of the Salaryman in Japan

Discover what life is like and the dangers of being apart or disconnected of the Japanese work force.

As I continue my studies of Japanese lifestyles and culture the more I’m inclined to look behind the curtains and see what’s on the other side of the golden do no harm view of Japan. In this case I decided to do some digging on the homeless, the working poor and salarymen of Japan and what the dangers and connections are to these challenges.

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The more I read and watch about these challenges of Japan the more I’m able to see what the personal and social truths are to these choices (or to some a forced hand) and with that I see a little bit more of what is really happening inside the heart of Japan. Besides the loss of jobs and the economic decline of Japan, we see the shame society coming to play. There seems to be almost a double edge sword when it comes to either being homeless, a working poor or a salaryman in Japan. On one hand having a stable job and wage to maintain your living standard is what most people hope for, there is also some of the culture who says that it’s not always the best thing to strive for. In fact many of the younger generation are looking at full time work as something to avoid and instead are grouping up together to take care of each other in numbers. This younger generation is still working as part-timers, but they are finding much more freedom to pursue their interests while still being able to live comfortably and securely.


Working Poor
Japan: A Story of Love and Hate

Song of the Salaryman

Youth Poverty And Death From Overwork In Japan

But on the other side of this we see those who want to maintain their honor by not burdening society, these people either fall one of two ways. They’re either greeted with an opportunity to work as a Salaryman or they will eventually slip through the cracks to part-time work or eventually homelessness. The more I dug through personal testimonies of people who were either salarymen, part-timers or homeless I couldn’t help see the disaster brewing behind all these options. The pressure to have full-time work from family and society is a rather heavy load to hold, but when one can not perform and gain themselves employment they feel shameful in front of these audiences. Eventually these people will fall into the part-timer, and many see these jobs as roads to no where. So more shame is felt because of this option in work, and with that becoming a part-timer quickly will lead to what is now called in Japan ‘The Working Poor’, because many times unless with help, these people are unable to pay for food, rent and essentials of living. Since these people shun asking for help because of honor, they’ll eventually lead themselves straight to living on the streets to avoid being a burden.

Many of these working poor will actually find themselves staying the night at manga cafe’s for a small fee for the night, only to wake up the next day to go search for work. Then you have your homeless, which mainly consist of the older generation, from before the economic bubble popped. Many of these people feel that once you’re laid off, taking a part-time job is basically signing your own occupational death, as it’s extremely hard to get back on your feet (so they say). So many of them fought for awhile but eventually resigned to be homeless as the fight for work in Japan raged on. But on the farthest side of this challenge we have those with work, and these people are also finding that they are sacrificing much for the opportunity to be a full-time worker. The day in and day out working between 12-18 hours or more a day is not uncommon in Japan. It’s been said that once hired in Japan that you’ll be taken care of as you join the company family, and that may be sort of true still today, but at what costs? As seen in this short film, one literally will give up their life for their work.

More often then not these salaryman never get to see their children born as they’ll be in another city or at work, then when these children grow up they hardly get to know their father as he’ll often be at work before the child wakes up and he’ll come home long after they’ve been asleep, but since he’s the primary breadwinner he can not stop otherwise he’ll risk hurting his families life style and more importantly he’s children’s future. There is great pride in maintaining a family in Japan, but with that comes a great amount of mental fatigue and stress that is put on these people to perform. With that the overworked people of Japan known as salaryman also have dangers that occur while working to the brink of collapse and it’s called karoshi and it means ‘death from over work’.

Karoshi is an ever growing challenge in Japan. Between those who commit suicide and accidentally die after over working are all people considered to have succumb to karoshi. It said that about 300 deaths occur every year from karoshi, but this number which has been supplied by the Ministry of Labor is completely wrong. The Japanese government says that it’s more into the 1000’s, but again they skew the numbers. It said that the main causes of karoshi (‘death from over work’) comes from heart attack, stroke and a starvation diet, but they lack to count the deaths that occur after overworking, such as falling down stairs, getting hit by cars and even at times stumbling on to train tracks, and of course the list goes on and on. So what would the real numbers be?

Of course the definition of karoshi is not seen as the same by all parties. It’s said that with all definition in place of what karoshi is, there is more then 10,000 deaths by karoshi every single year. But the Japanese government continues to keep that on the down low as they much rather take only %10 of this into account. Be it as it may, the challenges of the Japanese economy, specifically of their work force or lack there of has a lot of shaping up to do. On the lighter side of things, there are happy and successful people in all 3 of these categories, so it really comes down to attitude and the state of mind these people are in, and not all salaryman have it to these extremes, but it’s something you will certainly see if you ever visit Japan.

But as I further unravel the Japanese culture I can clearly see how drinking at izakaya’s (bars), pachinko parlors, manga cafes, religion and many other services found in Japan are used to decompress the stresses of every day life in Japan. You can even say that the stress that’s quite normal to an everyday salaryman is also a cause for the lack of sex inside relationships and many times having a relationship to begin with. So as population declines in Japan, we should not just blame the hikikomori’s we must also come to face a growing problem with people literally not getting it on in Japan because of the stressful work conditions. The sex scene throughout Japan is actually declining and many places in Japan which were only available for citizens of the area are now having to open their doors to foreigners… but that’s another story.

For those who thought Japan had no faults think again #brokenfantasy. I find those who really feel this way, are usually hardcore otaku who consume all parts of the entertainment industry of Japan without taking a second look at the people of Japan when considering their next anime fix. But, with that said, I’ll shine through some of my own otakuness and share with you an anime movie called ‘Tokyo Godfather’s” which is a story of a group of homeless that end up taking care of a baby.

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