Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Feeling sort of chatty lately about my little Japanese home ground of Kugayama. There are probably all sorts of conveniences and comforts lacking in the daily life of this wee town, but there are as well more than enough special qualities and advantages that we enjoy. I have mentioned in earlier blog posts that the area has many trees and abundant greenery. It’s also an express stop on the Inokashira train line, which means the center of Tokyo is no more than twelve minutes away. Overall, it is a desirable residential area for many people. But for a long time I have felt the one thing missing is a choice of good restaurants.

Tokyo in recent years has become a city where food or cuisine of all kinds can be found without much difficulty. Whatever your craving, be it Greek, Mexican, North African or American, you will find it somewhere in this great city. Unfortunately, none of those restaurants have made their way to Kugayama.

Not exactly a listing in the Michelin Guide, but Kugayama does have a splendid yakitori shop. For those unfamiliar with this traditional Japanese dish, yakitori is basically grilled chicken, but prepared and cooked in a variety of ways. Imagine slivers of chicken on wooden sticks or skewers cooking on an open grill—that’s what yakitori is.

Yakitori Ishii is situated near the train tracks on a busy street in Kugayama. It has no more than four employees, who work in the tiny shop Tuesday through Sunday. Eight years ago the small building housing the restaurant was a near-abandoned property before a local woman decided to renovate the building and open a yakitori shop. From the start it was a popular spot, and the owner never had to struggle to attract customers. With its tiny size, Yakitori Ishii is not a place where you can sit down for dinner; everything is made right in front of you, but for take-out only. But that has in no way stopped customers from lining up for the different types of yakitori on the menu. The end of the year is the busiest time because many people like to serve yakitori at parties.

I myself like this traditional Japanese dish and go to Yakitori Ishii fairly often, but I have to admit that my taste for it is somewhat picky. For me, the liver and chicken skin are not too appealing. Below is a list of the basic items on their menu.

tsukune — seasoned balls of chicken grilled on a skewer

negima — chunks of lean chicken and leek on a skewer

chicken livers — skewered and grilled

tebasaki — grilled chicken wings

roasted chicken thighs

deep fried chicken nuggets

kawa — roasted chicken skin

roasted sweet potato

Usually we can find several kinds of Japanese pickles on the menu, some of which are in the bottom photo.

As I said earlier, Kugayama is short of good restaurants, but we at least have Yakitori Ishii. Should you find yourself in the neighborhood one of these days, don’t pass it by.


  1. Thanks, Diane. Must be an accident, or maybe the iPhone camera engineers deserve a pay increase.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America