Have you made any plans on what you are going to do this coming Christmas 2016? If you happen to be in Tokyo (東京), there are many illuminations to check out, nice Christmas dinners offered at restaurants to savor, and plenty of fun activities which you can engage in. However, if you want to do something out of the ordinary, why not consider the following places and activities which you can visit and participate in this Christmas weekend?
If you have spent Christmas in Japan before, you will probably notice that it’s an occasion when many couples come out to spend a special evening together enjoying nice dinners at restaurants with lovely evening views. As such, it is not surprising to see many articles featuring the best places to have this special dinner of the year online or in magazines. However, the downside to this phenomenon is that if you happen to be alone or with a group of friends wanting to have a decent dinner but have not made any reservations beforehand, chances are you will be literally left out in the cold.
I had a taste of this personally when I was traveling alone and happened to be in Odaiba (お台場), Tokyo on Christmas Eve. Having totally underestimated the scale of the Christmas crowd turnout, I was very surprised to see queues forming at almost every restaurant, particularly those offering western-style cuisine. Just when I thought of going to a Japanese-style restaurant where there were visibly shorter queues, I still had to overcome various “obstacles” during the meal, such as being restricted to sit at the bar counter rather than the row of seats along the window which offered a panoramic view of the Rainbow Bridge, having to promise to finish my food and leave the restaurant in 40 minutes, and being unable to order anything than the Christmas set. Of course, it was my fault for not being prepared in advance for the occasion but to be honest, I had the nagging feeling that I was somehow penalized for being on my own and seen as a nuisance for taking up a seat which could have been given to couples on their Christmas date.
If you happen to be in Tokyo this Christmas 2016 and have to eat out on your own or would like to have a cozy gathering with your friends instead of a romantic date, look no further than the izakaya chain NIJYU-MARU (ニジュウマル)! In Tokyo alone, NIJYU-MARU has branches in 19 locations (Japanese only) such as in Akihabara (秋葉原), Ueno (上野), Shibuya (渋谷), Shinjuku (新宿), Ikebukuro (池袋), and Kichijoji (吉祥寺). Even if you are outside of Tokyo, you can find their restaurants in Saitama (埼玉), Chiba (千葉), Kanagawa (神奈川), Shizuoka (静岡), and Aichi (愛知) prefectures.
NIJYU-MARU offers special meal sets which are titled “Kurisumasu Kankeinaize Setto (クリスマス関係ないぜセット)” i.e. “Nothing-to-do-with-Christmas Set” on Christmas Eve, and “Kurisumasu Kutteyaruze Setto (クリスマス食ってやるぜセット)” i.e. “Eating Christmas Set” on Christmas Day. These course menus are priced at 1,224 yen and 1,225 yen per person, respectively (excluding sales tax).
For the Christmas Eve Set, it includes a small fish radish salad, grilled smelt, chicken thigh sticks, ice cream bars, and two drinks below 490 yen. As for the Christmas Day Set, it consists of the Caesar salad, salmon carpaccio, grilled chicken with fries, a mini roll cake tower, and a drink below 490 yen. If you would like to enjoy an unlimited supply of drinks, you can top up your meal set with an additional 777 yen.
According to a survey conducted by Anniversaire (Japanese only), which is a company managing wedding halls, about 70 percent of the 600 single men and women respondents from the ages of 23 to 39 answered that they are going to spend Christmas either alone or with people other than their lovers this 2016.
In a bid to attract such people who would like to get away from the lovey-dovey couples and have a decent meal on Christmas without being too self-conscious, NIJYU-MARU will be introducing the “kin-ai seki (禁愛席)” i.e. “love forbidden seats” which are not accessible to couples and frowns on open displays of affection in full view of the other customers who might feel uncomfortable about it. If you would like to be seated in the kin-ai seki area, do mention this to the staff when you make your reservation and before entering the restaurant. As for the couples, don’t worry about being left out since you are still very much welcome to have a hearty meal here with your significant other!
Although we tend to feast on many delicacies during Christmas, there is an alternative way of eating a healthier Christmas meal at this vegan restaurant named Mirai Shoku Cafe Restaurant TUBU TUBU (未来食カフェレストランつぶつぶ) which is located in Shinjuku. The dishes here do not use any animal products, sugar, nor chemical seasoning, thus making it a suitable location for those who are health-conscious or wish to try something different.
From 16 December to 25 December 2016, TUBU TUBU will be providing the Christmas Party Plan (minimum of 2 persons) during their dinner hours from 6 pm to 9 pm. For the price of 8,000 yen (exclusive of tax), you can enjoy the following dishes:
- Sake lees crackers
- Millet stuffed in steamed radish
- Mini tomato and eringi mushrooms pincho
- Millet powder and lotus root chowder
- Fresh green three-colored seaweed salad
- Radish, Koya tofu, and winter vegetable fritters
- Porcino mushroom and millet cream linguine
- Millet hamburger with gravy sauce and potato spread
- Millet and corn rice
- Set of three desserts: jelly and fruits parfait, millet powder pound cake, and cereals with amazake vanilla ice cream
- Domestically produced red tea
If you are keen on checking out the Christmas set here, take the Toei Oedo Line (大江戸線) and alight at Ushigome-yanagicho Station (牛込柳町駅) and walk for 5 minutes. Alternatively, take the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line (東京メトロ東西線) and alight at Waseda Station (早稲田駅) before walking for another 10 minutes. As the restaurant only has 40 seats, you might wish to call 03-3202-2093 for reservations in advance. Note that TUBU TUBU is closed on Tuesdays and during dinner time on Mondays.
If you are looking for a Christmas dining experience different from the norm this 2016, how about giving these places a try while in Tokyo?
・100 Things to Do in Shibuya, Tokyo’s Fashionable Metropolis, in 2018
・98 Things to Do in Shinjuku, the Party District of Tokyo, in 2018!
・50 Things to Do in Kichijoji, Tokyo’s Hip and Arty Neighbourhood, in 2018