Tag Archives: food

Hochi Bochi – Restaurant review

Hochi Bochi restaurant

Sometimes restaurants deliver in some unexpected ways and I react in different ways to how I imagined I would.

Like when I went to Hochi Bochi restaurant in Chiba recently.

I was lured in by the varied Okonimiyaki on offer restaurant. The restaurant has a very unique atmosphere With low level tables where we sat on cushions in front of a polished steel grill,  which was where the okonomiyaki were cooked. Monje yakki was raw vegetables (tuna, cabbage and sweetcorn) which we combined with the batter to  make our very own okonomiyaki.

To my delight the staff were nearly all female, with many of them young students. I started to focus more on them than on the food. They were wearing red bandanas with  t-shirts with what looked like the restaurant logo.

I went back a second time the following evening. The restaurant has a great atmosphere where staff call out each order as they go back to the kitchen. In traditional Japanese style the servers greet each customer loudly and this happened on both occasions when I went there with my girlfriend.


Photo of Ayume, my girlfriend Mihi and me. I got so sidetracked by the female staff that my interest was moved away from the food and onto other appetites.

The atmosphere was warm and very inviting. The smoke rising from the grill greeted us as we entered, and the interior was so warm and cosy that we didn’t want to leave.

Ayume served us on both occasions and she was an absolute delight. Watching her sit down to scrub one of the grills in her bare feet was an experience I won’t forget in a long time.

She posed for photos, laughing as she did so. She works there every night from seven. I’d like to go back in a few months time to find out if she and any of the other cute girls are still there.

Restaurant information: Hochi Bochi, Chiba.


Making waves in Matsuyama

My most recent trip to Japan to Japan took me to some new and interesting places.

There was the small city of Matusyama. It’s actually the largest city of Ehime prefecture. As well as having Japan’s oldest onsen (bath house), it’s famous for a beautiful white castle high on the hill.

I arrived in Matsuyama just after dark, as the residents (and a few tourists) were getting ready for their evening bath. The view of the Onsen is very impressive, lit up by lanterns and street 20180421_170807.jpglamps. To add to this peaceful mood, you will see many visitors walking to the spring wearing brightly-coloured yukatas (a lightweight version of a kimono). Just outside the Dogo station is an old electric train and there is a robot clock that comes to life every hour.

The tram running from the main JR station connects the city’s main areas of interest. Taking line 5 allows you to pass the city’s main shopping area. Right outside Matsuyama City station is the Takeshimaya Shopping centre. The roof is home to a 50 metre illuminated ferris wheel (moved a few year’s ago from Hiroshima). In a lovely gesture of good will, the city allows foreign passport holders the opportunity to ride it for free (normal price is 700 yen). It’s 15 minutes for it to make one turn, and the views are as impressive as the structure of the wheel itself.


The city is famous for udon noodles, slightly chewy and very thick soup noodles made from wheat flour. At about 400 yen for a medium bowl of ‘dons in a light seafood broth, they were some of the best value food I had here.

If you want something more fancy, the Michelin guide has for the first time published it’s ratings for the city. It covers most of the city’s expensive restaurant, but a few cheaper options are recommended. With everything from ramen places (Shiosoba Maeda) to very expensive Kaiseki restaurants, it admittedly favours places at the latter end of the price scale. But reading the guide does at least give a good indication of the range of food available.


Although famous, due its age, and also its connection with the Studio Ghibli film Sprited Away, the Dogo Onsen is actually has very little options for bathing, with only one bath. There’s a much more impressive onsen near the JR station (Hibiski). There are several different waters including foaming baths. Walk around naked, but put your pants on if you’re getting a massage.

If it sounds like Matsuyama is a bit of a sleepy place (bathhouses, trams and castles) there’s a large red light area in Okkaido where you can go if you’re feeling sexy. And with some of the best looking women in the whole of Japan , this might be the number one reason to come here.

Getting there 

I flew with Jetstar, a budget airline from Narita airport.

There are many alternative ways to get here; for example by bus, train, or across the cycleway from Hiroshima.

Little Forest

Director: Yim Soonrye

In a nutshell: a lyrical ode to the charms of the Korean countryside and a mother-daughter relationship. 


It begins with young Hye-won (Kim Taeri) entering an old Korean country home (Hanok) in the middle of winter. She is hungry and trying to scrape together some food from the scraps left in the kitchen. It’s a beautiful wooden house with an open courtyard and a traditional tiled roof. As the seasons change we see the food being harvested from a nearby farm. This is the Little Forest of the title, an incredible rural landscape where Hyewon learns how to live in the country, becoming self-sufficient.

As she learns to fend for herself with only a Jindo dog for company she starts to remember the occasions when her mother cooked for her. Her mother is played by Moon So-ri, one of the veterans of modern Korean cinema. Her early roles include some of the most celebrated Korean films – “Peppermint Candy” and “Oasis.” By now she is in her forties, a time when many Korean actresses often quit the business. But in this film she is positively radiant as a loving, earth mother type who can make the most incredible Korean food from anything she can find growing on her small farm. Her previous role was in The Handmaiden, a very different and much darker film that also happened to feature Kim Taeri.

Many Korean movies take place in the busy urban centres of Seoul and Busan. This is one of the few recent films I have watched to be set almost entirely in the countryside. The young Hye-won is soon joined on the small farm by two city friends Jae-ha and Eun-sook. It’s soon clear that life in the city is no picnic and we see them happily leave their unfulfilling jobs to work with their friend.  As so many young Koreans are having difficulty finding any of the main necessities of life (family, work, a house), they are moving to the countryside, where – although life is much slower – it is much easier to live a simple yet content life.

It’s where they can find the peace they need. The landscapes are beautiful and the night stars are crystal clear. The changing seasons are demarcated by the different food the characters eat: melons in summer, apples in autumn and dried persimmons in winter. Seen in close-up, it looks absolutely mouthwatering. There is a large red-bean rice cake that Hye-won lovingly makes at the beginning of the year. An earlier meal of hand torn soup noodles (sujebi) looks incredible too. There’s a crème brulee that she makes for her friend that shatters crisply, and leads to another mother and daughter scene where she remembers when her mother made the same dish for her.

This is not food porn (how I hate that term!). It’s done because Hyewon wants to recreate the dishes her mother lovingly made for her. The reason the food is given so many close-ups is, I think, due to the importance it has for the characters themselves.  It’s also because she watched her mother that she is able to cook with such skill and finesse.

I was waiting for someone to eat Korean barbecue but there’s no meat here, which is nothing short of incredible for a country that seems to  ind a way to eat any living creature they can find. The only animals we see are a white dog (a Jindo puppy) and a chicken, which lays an egg which is used to make an Okonomiyaki pancake.

The film leads to no particular grand climax, and the relaxed pace might lead some viewers to start to lose interest. But when the film reaches the final winter scene, the result is  heartwarming.