The Return Of The Kiichi-Kun I (as published in Burrn Magazine in Japan)


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The Return Of The Kiichi-Kun I

There's no place on Earth that I strive to be in more than Japan; no where I feel more at home (outside of my own home); no where that when I'm away from it, I miss like one misses loved ones on a trip far away in some remote part of the planet.

I was born in the Yamaguchi prefecture (Iwakuni) January 26, 1986. I consider myself to be half-Japanese (my mother's side), half-Marine (thanks to my military father). My family relocated to the USA when I was about 1, so I have zero recollection of ever being in Japan as a child. 

Thankfully - due to the band I am in, I am able to return once every year and a half or so. Lately - and unfortunately - Trivium only comes back for either a brief press run or one show in Tokyo. One show? That's torture! I'd prefer to have a year long tour there than one measly show. Either way, one is better than none. Trivium returned for Loud Park 2013 and we had the greatest Japanese show ever, and one of the greatest shows of our career even. But if you live in Japan, you probably already heard about that show. Let's go behind the scenes of everything else that happened on my visit.

My wife Ashley and I both have a strong love for all things Japan: the people, the art, the food, the architecture, the history, the language, the mythology, the religion, the music, the sub-cultures… basically any and everything Japanese is something we want and need to be fully immersed in. Ashley decided to join us on our one show stint, and we both decided we'd stay an extra 3 and a half days just to do whatever we want: eat, drink, sightsee, learn, and enjoy. 

I live a strict life on the road: no food 4 hours before a show, no food 3 hours before bed, no alcohol, no caffeine, rigorous exercise (yoga, weights, Jiu-Jitsu), and I ensure 8-10 hours of a sleep a night. In Japan? All rules are broken, cuz hey! It's Japan! After our long flight, we checked into the Tokyu Excel (one of my favorite hotels due to it's insanely centralized location within Shibuya (one of my favorite cities on the globe)) we all dropped our bags and headed down to go eat (the most important thing for me when in Japan). We then met up with one of our dearest friends in the entire world, Koji from Roadrunner. 

Koji is one of the first people I met in Japan, we've shared some of the best meals of our lives with him - Ash and I even invited him to our wedding; I consider Koji a "food soul-mate" of mine. So naturally, we knew he would know what's up for chow tonight. Hell… I even recall a night where he, Corey and I were at a bar till 6 am; me doing headstands, Koji fueling the shots, then CKB and I DJing "In Waves" before it was even out for anyone at the bar. Now that is very rare for ol' Kiichi-kun on the road.

We rallied up our entire band, most of our crew, Ashley, Tommie-san (Trivium Japan president), and headed to Rakuzou, an Izakaya spot. We tore into: the soft-bones of chicken; beautiful Japanese beer (the best in the world!); samma sashimi, karage; sashimi salad; yaki-tori of heart, skin, and other yummy-bits; bacon-wrapped asparagus; ebi-mayo (Koji's fave); a delicious packet of chicken prepared unlike anything I've had; fish fins and mayo; grilled beef; a few deserts (matcha affogato, and a custard); then grilled oni-giri (my mother always made me oni-giri, so while in Japan - I need this). Izakaya is a favorite of mine due to the fact that everyone gets to eat together, tasting the same things your dinner-friends taste; this is my favorite thing to do with loved ones: eat and share and just be. 

Calling it early due to the big show the next day, everyone slept quite hard; I managed to get about 11 hours of sleep that night.

The following morning was show-day; I awoke ready to get back to eating. A couple of us suited up to trek in the deserted early morning streets of Shibuya, where breakfast is a rarity. For a city and a country so obsessed with food, finding breakfast is a very daunting task. Lucky for us there was a new small chain, Kamukura.  

Ashley is more of a croissant and cafe' au lait kinda gal, so noodles and rice and beef for breakfast is a hard notion for her to swallow. I understand that ramen for breakfast is sort of crazy to a Japanese person, but I say ramen time is any time of the day. I had both a rice and beef bowl with a sunny-side up egg and ramen with pork and gyoza and rice balls. Man! Oiishi!  

Afterwords, it was time for yet another tradition of mine, the Starbucks matcha frappucino. We don't have this drink in the US of A; I drink a lot of these when in Japan - and yes, I prefer local buisiness and small local chain to global chains, but this matcha frapp can't be beat. I guzzled it down happily and headed to the hotel to pack up for the upcoming show.

Ichi The Kiichi (The Early Years) VI


Last Supper

(Tokyo. Day 4.)

The last day was a quick one - rested and revitalized, there was no press today. Just the impending cross-globe flight to NYC to hit the press trip over on that side of earth. Koji had some work to do, so after Corey and I packed our luggage - we decided to hit whatever we could find randomly.

In Shibuya, you can pretty much walk anywhere and eat really well. Avoid stuff that seems familiar - hit a place that you can’t read a single character of, or only mildly can make out the pictures of what you’re pointing at to order. I can speak enough Japanese to get by… in a restaurant… when the meal is over… so the point method works. I promise. 

The last restaurant meal for us was the place pictured. What’s really cool about a lot of the restaurants you’ll find in Shibuya that serve traditional foods, is that there’s a big vending machine where you just pump your money into it- and pick what you want by picture or name, not unlike picking a soda from a machine. 

My lunch was something like a mashup of things I’ve consumed past - with some twists. The noodles were texturally somewhere in between ramen andudon, but more spirally in look. The broth was a really thick miso based stock that had melted down butter in it - this sauce could have been a soup in itself; it was the best broth in a soup I think i’ve ever eaten. Really orange-yolked hard-boiled eggs, nori, some Japanese pickles, vegetables on top, a slice of pork, and the paradoxical American corn adorned the viscous broth - I loved it. Half way down, I was painfully stuffed. That was some serious broth.

We got to the airport only to find - poof. 3 hour flight delay. We flew to Japan without a problem (aside from the puking girl next to me… see a few episodes earlier), and now that we were trying to leave - it was going to be tricky. The seats we wanted needed 2 hours to retrieve for some reason, so we went into the airport food mall… which was pretty impressive. 

We had maguro and otoro nigiri, then each picked a main: my dish was unagi-don (grilled eel on top of rice), soba, some Japanese pickles, and the sobacondiments and sauce. Normally, I will never eat anything from an airport terminal, plane, or anything near a restaurant - unless I’m: a. out of the stuff I packed to hold me over until a better meal, b. starving and sick of the healthy-crap I packed, or c. I know it’ll be real quality stuff. 

This was quite respectable for an airport restaurant - better than anything I’ve had in a US airport.

We had our final Matcha Frapps (probably around number 10 for me and Corey); Koji stuck with us till the bitter end - then it was NYC here we come.

Ichi The Kiichi (The Early Years) V



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(Tokyo. Day 3. Part 2.)

Shrimp-mayo again. Happy, little fried-nuggets of shrimpy-goodness; these were way smaller than the ones from the first night, but just as amazing nonetheless - the bed of greens and sprinkles of green onion were a good compliment. The duck (with the fat) skewered with wasabi was a good laugh. A good laugh in the sense that every person who took a bite (after about 3-5 seconds) was immediately invaded upward-nasal-style with a kick of some serious wasabi-ness. This is what I imagine Steve-o’ lines of wasabi felt like; every single person at the table had the same “Holy shit!- but I’m trying to maintain composure, red-as-a-beat face on.” Terrific.

Salted grilled beef, then karage (Japanese fried chicken) - which, is one of my favorites in Japan. The crunch and crisp on the outside was salty and hard; the inside was super juicy - having all spectrums of chicken meat inside. 

Several dishes before the karage and beef, we were all already full - Shochu-rocks and Kirin Heartland still flowing - then. more… food… Corey was half passed out against the wall (not from booze - but food); then there’s me wishing I were wearing a sweatsuit thanks to the ever-shrinking-waistband, choking my insides. 

A salad of what I think were some mix of (by this point difficult to distinguish) Japanese greens with oysters and sliced nori; then tuna tartare with sesame seeds, green onion, avocado, and Japanese cucumber that were terrific (our food comrades mixed the whole thing up into a delightful mush). I think this grilled fish we had next with daikon and lemon was Hokke? I definitely inquired - but running on minimal sleep and Japanese booze made the Swedish-sounding fish name… sound fuzzy to memory. 

The finale! I’ve had almost everything I think possible in Japan as far as styles of food go; with the exception of Soba. I’ve had homemade soba at home, andyaki-soba  in Japan and home - but never soba in Japan. 

Soba is served cold, with a very specific soba-dipping-sauce in a cup next to you. There are greens (green onions and other bits) and wasabi to mix into the cup. To eat traditionally, you pull out a small batch of noodles; dip and mix into the cup; then slurp (very loudly) to consume. The soba had everyone around the table delirious in over-stuffed, but still-eating delightful madness. It was so intensely good and simple. 

We hung a bit more, said our goodbyes to our friends and hosts - and hit the sack. 

Ichi The Kiichi (The Early Years) III


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day 2. part 2.

Lots and lots more great press… yadda yadda… 

We actually had all the head retailers of all the CD-retailers from all over Japan come in to have us demo our new album, videos, artwork, and basically be the salesmen of the new record: it went amazingly… but it made me hungry.

Dinner was a place that Koji told us had just opened a few months ago (which is pretty damn rad, considering we’ve always hit places that Koji was able to sample before (most of the time previously with us). It was a floor full of indoor kiosks. It was like a little indoor street food market you’d see somewhere like in south east Asia. Some of the tables were beer crates with little stools; some of the seats were mop buckets; there were all sorts of people in the place… families, people returning from work, fashionable rocker/cyberpunklooking japanese youth kids, and a waiter who removed his tattoo coverers to compare tattoos (tattoos are still looked down upon very much so in japan due to the association with the japanese mob - so it was cool the guy chanced being seen by his boss to compare ink.)

This was one of the coolest damn places i’ve seen in Japan. All these options! There were places that JUST did pork; only served chicken; yaki-tori spots; korean; okonamiyaki joints (which is one of the greatest japanese dishes there is… it can only be described as a japanese pizza - but it’s not even close to a pizza); and then… there was Meat Dojo. Unaji. A place known for it’s preparations of beef. 

We had proper Kirin (or maybe it was Sapporo… uh oh… there was lots of it… i think it was Sapporo- and yes. Japanese Sapporo. Not Toronto-Japanese-Beer) - lots of it. 

I excitedly decided… “hey. let’s eat some here… some over there (pointing)… some over there…” We were going to food hop till we dropped. 

The first dish was beef tartare with green onion, on top of Japanese mint. The beef was all japanese… all raw… and all fantastic. It had crunchy bits of (what i think was onion, or something onion flavored and textured) lined inside of it. It was prepared like Kofte would be… just prepped into that beautiful rectangle. 

My cohorts in crime: Koji and Corey.

Next was the second stomach of a cow. Koji told us that every single one apparently tastes completely different. This one… reminded me of al-dente gnocchi. I know some cringe at the thought of offal - but lemme tell you - this is the good stuff. In olden days, people utilized all parts of the animal; that’s the way it should be. If our poor cut critters on the earth gotta die for us - may as well utilize every bit, not waste anything. The texture had that gnocchi and tripe thing going on. Koji mentioned that the parts that look like tripe (like the kind you see in menudo) are called the “bee combs” in Japan. I like that. The sauce reminded me of okonamiyaki sauce - sweet and savory at the same time… the been sprouts and greens along with the stomach completed magically. 

The last bad boy was grilled beef with japanese mushrooms. I’ve always been into mushrooms… but not like really into mushrooms; pretty much until the last few years. James Petrakis’ Ravenous Pig in Orlando, FL is one of the most fantastic food spots back home; i’d easily say it will go head to head with whatever NYC, Chicago, or SF could throw at it - and my friend Jason, who works there, is always recommending the best of the best at the Pig. Petrakis definitely got me into mushrooms; he uses some of the baddest-ass mushrooms i’ve ever eaten- and since James’ cooking: i’ve been a mushroom freak. (More on the Pig on a future blog, but back to Japan) 

So the beef was amazing. What i love about beef in Japan, is that it tastes like beef; it has the texture of beef (i know these seem like obvious statements, but let me explain) in the states, i feel beef and steak are made to overly soft; an almost hamburger-esque texture seems to be what we’re so trained to be used to for meat. Yeah, a filet is supposed to have a more delicate texture and all; but this beef: it feels like you’re eating beef - and it’s a beautiful thing. It has that nice chew to the fibrous-muscley-areas, and variations with fat, differing areas of the flesh - it’s not systematic - it’s natural. I love Japanese beef - it’s clean flavored of steak - it tastes like meat, and chews like meat. The mushrooms? There is no other description other than “awesome.”

Ichi The Kiichi (The Early Years) II



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(day 1 continued)


The next dish was (if in the USA it would be called this) Shrimp. 3 ways. It was shrimp covered in Japanese mayo (a completely different taste than our american mayo), deep fried shrimp heads (the best part of a shrimp to me; cooked the best way), and shrimp crackers. This dish was something special. The shrimp mayo was probably one of the best damn things we ate that night - Japanese mayo has a sweeter flavor than US-mayo, and it’s far lighter; fried shrimp heads… if you haven’t had them done right before - try it; it rules.Nigiri. Ofcourse - gotta have it. It’s done differently here; there aren’t mixed “memphis” and “hawaiian” rolls… it’s nigiri and sashimi. Served room temperature. Your sushi isn’t a boat, intended to float in a bath of soy sauce - here, it’s done right. A very thin layer of soy sauce is placed in the soy dish - you dip the nigiri upside down to only dab a small amount of soy on the fish (not the rice). The electric green wasabi that is handed in mountains in sushi bars all over the world are non-existant; the wasabi connects the sashimi to the rice (when the chef feels like it needs it.)

Grilled salmon takes me back to being a kid. My mom always made salmon, rice, and miso soup - THE japanese breakfast. This salmon was perfect.

Suntory is my favorite beer on earth. “Japanese” beer in the USA usually isn’t Japanese. It’s Canadian. Kirin? Sapporo? Brewed at Molson in Toronto. I think it’s the same with Asahi (i could be wrong on this one). Japanese beer does not taste Japanese to me in the USA - here… it is the best beer on the planet as far as i’m concerned. It’s light, but malty and strong at the same time; it is the perfect compliment to the delicate (and intricate) flavors that is Japanese food. Japanese food is about simplicity… it’s about the dish you’re eating. When you order Chicken cartilage fried; that’s what you get - with the recommended condiment - it’s not covered up by side dishes. (This texture may have scared some off - justifiably so though.)

The crab was fantastic - the artichoke mixture stuff was a mystery- but fantastic… very un-Japanese flavor there; almost reminded me of something you’d see in French cooking.

Yaki-tori could be a movement like sushi. It’s a whole different style; there are chefs that just make yaki-tori, restaurants that only serve yaki-tori. All meat… on a stick… grilled? Fantastic thing.

After the half a dozen Suntory Premium Malts a piece, we needed something warm. Ocha. Japanese green tea. Euphoric.

Our night-cap was Hobgoblin. A british pub. In Japan. Ha! I saw all sorts of British style pub grub on chalkboards written up on the walls; a pretty badass guitar player sang the Mississippi style blues - real cool stuff.

We drank Yebisus till it was time to get to sleep.

All in all… quite the homecoming.

Ichi The Kiichi (The Early Years) I


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Since being home and off-tour - I've found it very difficult to be able to type up new food adventures... so - to keep this bad boy alive, I will be posting old issues off my original tumblr food blog. I'm sure not everyone has had the chance to enjoy these original blogs. The writing ain't as good, I may be cruder, and the pictures are all iPhone... Guten Apetit. 


Day 1. Tokyo.

Having never done a blog based around my travels and gastro-adventuring, my friends and family have always encouraged me to start something like this up. All of these photos are iPhone photos in (obviously) some of the most un-photogenic lighting situations; so you’ll see the food pretty much as i did… in a semi-blurred haze (not unlike mine, which was induced by copious amounts of delicious japanese alcohol and jetlag).

As of right now, we are sitting in the ticketing area of the Narita airport in Tokyo - our flight is about 3 hours delayed, but the free wifi and ability to finally post some good food makes the weight a piece of… sushi.

I woke up at 4:00am on the first day (whichever day that was) to leave Orlando and my family to fly to NYC and connect into Narita. I DO NOT eat airplane food, or airplane restaurant food (with a few exceptions in certain places), so i always pack nuts, granola, granola bars, triscuits, and other uber-healthy-lame-food. The flying was long, tiresome… actually! funny story (for you, not me):

We were supposed to have extended legroom seats booked from our label due to a current knee injury i have; as all travel goes, ofcourse this didn’t happen- but i had two empty seats next to me.

Next thing i know, a mom and her daughter rush in; mom on the phone, frantic (i think they were late for something for some reason…) flight finally takes off. I take some sleep aid (you pretty much have to on these long flights when you have to get in and get working right away.) I pass out for about three hours and wake up to something odd. the daughter, sitting next to me, is half puking on the plane blanket that is on me. Hooray.

I look over in shock; see that her mother is still sleeping, i continue to quickly get all my stuff out of the way, rush to help find her an airsick bag (good job delta (who does not have any sort of entertainment or room on international flights (thanks cheap airlines)), i continue to help clean her up with wet-ones, sanitizer; push the bathroom line out of the way, and it’s pretty much done. The girl was embarrassed, but the mother never really seemed to come out of her glassy-eyed gaze (she was probably taking the same sleep aid as me.) Not so much as a thank you from mom. 

Oh well.

Fast-forward to Tokyo.

This was my sixth visit to Japan (excluding birth), and i requested to stay at the Tokyu Excel in Shibuya. I am very familiar with this area… it’s sort of what you’d picture of someone mentioned Tokyo to you: constant J-pop videos playing on massive video screens, incredibly well dressed men and women (who, on the very first visit to Shibuya, made me feel like a bum with how nice they were all dressed). The sheer volume of walking people, crossing the streets in impossibly orderly fashion is disorienting every time i come here. 

I am not a city boy, but i could certainly live in Shibuya. I love it there. It’s a mix of old and new (like Japan is), traditional restaurants serving all sorts of regional specialities from all across the country that people from other countries would never have the chance to eat at their non-Japanese-run-pseudosushi-bars. There’s still a plethora of styles of Japanese i have yet to try (and my mother is Japanese - and one of the best damn cooks on the planet). 

Koji from Roadrunner Japan has become a great friend of ours; we know (and he knows) when it’s time for us to hang out - it means an offensive amount of good food and lude amounts of flowing booze. 

Jetlagged, sleepy, and starving (from my last 24 hour diet of nuts and granola) - we knew just the cure. Warazi-Ya is a spot we’ve hit first on many of our Japan tours. It’s an Izakaya restaurant (a style now budding in foodier hotspots like LA, NYC, Melbourne, and others). Izakaya is a sort of less formal sit-down restaurant where you share tons of small bites of different things (not unlike tapas in spain). 

The private booths are lined with wallpaper of ancient Japanese porn-art. Apparently a very popular old art fashion (heck- look at how popular it is nowadays… just more artfully done by the Japanese masters of old), it definitely sets an informal tone when you sit in the traditional booths.

The first dish that showed up was Daikon pickles; something i’ve had a lot in my life, but these have a strong wasabi flavor. The giant beans (not sure on the name) were a cross between edamame flavor and a green bean; the mystery mix of “chicken innards” was a fun experience. Even Koji wasn’t entirely sure what each non-descript little bite was… but i tasted some liver, heart, and most likely some intestine. The sauce that was on it was fantastic. The yellow orbs? No idea what those were; they had the texture of a hard-boiled egg and a potato. Oh delicious innards (i love offal/getemono (the japanese offal… translates to “ugly food”.)

The fried squid was fantastic. I love the way japan does fried foods; very very different even than the way fried Japanese food is done in the USA. The pork and vegetable dish reminded me of an almost Chinese flavor (not in the szechuan sense), but it had that sesame oil/vegetable liquid translucent goodness that enveloped the meat and veg.

(part II to follow)

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Goh (bye bye).

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Goh (bye bye).


I typically require 7-10 hours or so of sleep to recuperate post-show; before a hellish flight lasting anywhere from 6-20-30 hours - I can pull it all off with like 4 or so hours; Japan - I don't care how much I sleep as long as I eat a lot

Waking up early once again, for my final meal in Japan - I collected Nick, Paolo and myself, and headed back to the alley ways of kindly-hollering Japanese women and mystery stalls with delicious meat-smells pouring out. We did a few passes of the mini-restaurant stalls, cruisin' that shit like creepers - and decided to go with the spot with the giant pot brewing meat-stew. 

The ceilings were low, the restaurant insanely small and absent of anything in English, it smelled of grilling meat and beer and business men smoking their cigarettes… this was heaven if only for an hour. The three of us took our spots, ordered some beers and began the "pointing ordering". 

A pickled salad of daikon radish greeted us first (a dish my mom makes a lot) - texturally imagine an almost-cooked potato - sweet and soy-tasting. Some more pickled "stuff" came about (not sure what it was… seemed to be a root or potato) that was a terrific starter. This place was jam-packed in bric-a-brac ala sake and birru and patrons - the cooking area was slightly depressed down into the ground, the counters that surrounded were where you stuff your face. 

I required a heaping bowl of whatever that medieval pot was cooking up: Nikomi. Stomach soup. So freakin' fantastic. No, stomach ain't creepy… stomach is good. No. Offal isn't gross… it's for the true lovers of food. It's hailed as the "good stuff" by chefs worldwide; Bourdain and Zimmern are always stoked on some organ meat. Nikomi is a very traditional soup in Japan - not unlike the concept of Menudo in Mexico - it's mainly stomach, a few other fun digestive bits, cooked for hours ion hours in a broth with veggies. It's a hang-over elixir to boot (I think). Sweet, spicy, tender, delicious. I faintly was reminded of the best Bloody Mary ever… but with stomach and Japanese flavors. Best I can do for a taste guide, friends. 

My "main" was the "special" set of yaki-tori. Ah - the simplicity of Japanese food; the delicate-nature of everything in Japanese food. Just some meat (or organs), skewered, lightly basted in the appropriate sauce, grilled to perfection, basted, eaten. Vegetarians. Vegans. Ya'll are missing out. Yaki-tori is something that ought to be enjoyed by all mammals possessing canine-incisors - that chicken heart wasn't going to become mayor, that beef tongue wasn't learning Portuguese. But naturally - I applaud your convictions, I drink your meat-shake… up. 

A final pint of Japanese beer, (another) final Matcha Frapp… it was off to Narita. Leaving Japan is like leaving your pet, your wife, your girlfriend, your mother… it hurts… and if it don't hurt - I don't wanna know that soulless, shadow of a human being you may be. 

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Shee.

(Trivium "Down From The Sky" live at Loud Park)

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Shee. 


I am a planner. I probably will get on your nerves if you're ever on a trip with me. I applaud my band mates and my wife for being such good sports when being down for my timings of things. We had the Loud Park show at night… but I planned out with Paolo the night before that we really ought to get into town for a badass Japanese breakfast before heading to the show. It was my goal after all to get as much food into my body in Japan as possible before flying back to the US of A.

We took the trek back into roughly what was the area of the first Izakaya spot we hit for first dinner the night previous, and began the wander. 

It's tricky… I can't exactly say that a wander into just any food spot even in culinary capitols will yield amazing food - you have to develop this extra sense to notice if a restaurant or food spot will have just what you need. Most things in Japan are not in English; most things in Japan are pretty inexplicable by definition to describe exactly what you're getting in to… If you can handle the latter, and you have a sharp sense of what will deliver good food - you will survive on the road as a food-freak.

I say some of the tips that come instantly to mind would be:

- If the restaurant has other features listed other than food… things like: "Great Function/Meeting Rooms," "Live Bands - Nightly!" "24 Games on 24 TVs," or it's multiple storied, or has a massive menu with 50-200 different items - those are some things to stay away from. Although I feel TVs playing sports in a New American spot are a soul-crush… in middle America, they are to be expected. In Britain though - if you think you found a delightful pub adorning the "noun and noun" title and you see a little "Wetherspoons" logo - it's a chain, go somewhere else.

- If the spot is totally empty when other spots around it are busy - probably a bad spot.

- Packed with tourists? Stay the fuck out. Novelty restaurant? "Oldest," "First," "Charmingest" - shitty-est.

- Chain or familiar smiling cartoon-mascot-restaurant from the States whilst in another country? You're lame if you go there when you're somewhere awesome. Live a little, break out of the norm. 

We wandered into a tiny alley - pretty Harry Potter-esque in it's shifting widths and heights, old stone walkway… the smell of grilling meat and hot soups wafting out in delicious clouds of euphoria. There were these Japanese women calling you in to come to their spot (that's a hard thing to refuse with me… they all remind me of my Mom - it usually makes me feel bad if I don't stop in and gorge); there were little temporary warehouse-storage container-sized pop up shops that would open up serving just one dish.

We saw what we needed. It resided at a tiny corner in the claustrophobic alley-way, two Japanese men dressed in white, running this completely packed little stall. The floors of their work-space were soaked in searing-hot liquid, the chefs wearing rubber flood-boots; one chef working the tempura station, one working the udon station. The tempura cakes were ultra-delicate cakes of mashed together, battered vegetables; the udon was hand made and boiled - giving off a beautiful noodle wave of smell. 

Business men sat at the stools that surrounded the corner food spot - quickly, efficiently, noisily sucking down their noodles. Keep it mind, it is polite and traditional to suck noodles in with a "sluuuurrrrppp". It's actually pretty fun once you get the hang of it. Patrons sucked that super heated udon down quick… me and Paolo and Corey ordered what everyone else was getting - and man were we in for a treat. 

The udon here is semi-similar to ramen, only thicker and non-coiling. It came in a ridiculously (temperature hot) hot broth that had a minor sweetness to it - reminiscent of normal udon broth. The veggie tempura cake had all the good stuff packed inside; then they'd crack a fresh egg with into the side of your soup. Japan loves it's raw eggs dropped into things by the way. I gotta say - this little spot was one of the best things I have ever eaten in Japan. 

Since it was a hot summer day in Japan, and the soup was so darn hot - I removed my over shirt, revealing my tattoos… the chefs all said something in Japanese, wide-eyed, and kind of staggered back. I apologized in Japanese and smiled - they were alright after that. Tattoos are still pretty taboo in Japan - which is unfortunate, because it initially began as a revered art form… then when the Yakuza adorned themselves in it - it got the bad-rap. Japan is one of the only places in the world that I really try to respect all their customs and peculiarities - but man was that soup hot…

Another Matcha Frapp from Starbucks was guzzled down… then we headed to hotel and to the festival site. 

Loud Park had roughly 10-15,000 of Japan's finest heavy music fans. Our show was ballistic… our signing had people rushing through fences and barricades… it was a damn fine night. We were able to catch up with many of our metal-band friends from around the globe, a ton of our Japanese friends (like the fine folks from the legendary Rock Rock Bar Osaka and Chopstick Tattoo Osaka) - we had some beers and headed back for a bite before the after party.

Rock Rock bar is an institution in the music world of Japan. If you tour Japan - you know about the spot. It's the size of maybe a 1 bedroom apartment, it's in Osaka - the people there treat musicians like family. Yoko and Seiji are some great friends of ours from there… Yasuo is a good buddy from Chopstick Tattoo (very close proximity to Rock Rock). We have had way too many late nights there, sometimes popping into the greasy-spoon Chinese diner across the street for 5 dollar, twenty dumpling plates and fried rice and cheap beer. 

Sadly… Osaka wasn't close enough that night - thankfully - our partners in binge-drinking all commandeered a local Rock bar and we all were planning on filtering in once the fest wrapped up. 

A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned that "yes, there is bad food in good places." My band was starving… as was I - but I wanted to do a bit more research before going just anywhere. My band mates' impatience gave us one of the worst meals I've had in Japan.

It was a random sushi spot (I find sushi hard to find in Japan) and man did it suck. Service sucked, prices sucked, food sucked. We wasted a lot of time and money and valuable stomach-real-estate on that spot. By that point, we were back with band and Koji and Tommie - when we left unsatisfied, Koji and I were determined… "Fuck it. We're full of shit food - let's get something good anyway." Best decision of the night. 

Some of the group went to the after party, and the true Japanese people went for ramen at what looked like an amazing spot. There is no ramen spot in the States like Japan. I've done all the "best" ramen places at some of our "best" cities. Pales in comparison. This place was again, testament to the fact that Japan is the best food spot in the universe. 

Humble, tiny, quick ramen-joint. You pick your order out of a vending machine once you walk through the automatic-sliding door… a couple bucks gets you a ticket - you pass it to the cooks and you are delivered your meal. Miso ramen is always the way to go when talking Ramen or Miso Ramen. Miso ramen has all that thick, viscous, salty, fermenty miso paste you'd have in miso soup… but it's your broth. The miso ramen here came with bean sprouts, scallions, an egg, pork, and a very few other bits - mother fuckin' fantastic. You just can't beat ramen in Japan… the gyoza? Ha! Amazing. Miso ya hachiroshoten - suki desu. 

Gyoza, ramen, fried rice - there are a few of the keys to making my heart pump hot-blood into my erect-stomach. 

Our souls were replenished from the failure-sushi, and our stomachs had a nice landing pad for the booze-skulling that soon followed. Did I say I love Japan yet?

(to be continued…)

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Sahn.

(The Trivs eatin' Yasui)

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Sahn. 


Amazingly, it was still the arrival day. Pretty much instantly when we finished dinner, we walked to another dinner. That's how I do it in my home-land - if I'm there for only a few 24-hour chunks… I am going to eat that town like Godzilla. I think in that 1.5-2 day time frame, I consumed somewhere are 30 or 40 different dishes… probably guzzled down a gallon or two of Japanese beer to boot. I do not fuck around when it comes to my food in Japan.

Koji is someone who I consider a dear friend. I don't often get to see him or chat and such due to being on polar opposite ends of the earth - but when we're together, we're on the same brain waves. This dude even came to my engagement party in Florida when I first got engaged to Ashley. With Koji, I have eaten some of the greatest meals of my life… I have stayed out later with that dude than anyone I know… I've done headstands in rock clubs at 5:50am with him… we've eaten some insane shit too. Koji and I are cut from the same cloth: two dudes who put family and friends above all else… then food in second place… then metal and music in a not-too-distant third place. 

We rounded up Corey, Nick, Paolo, myself, Koji and a few other Roadrunner/Warner Japan folks and wandered to find a spot for dinner. We all agreed that this are was a little trickier than our normal haunt… but Koji had a plan as always. 

Koji took us to a spot called Tekke Tekke. The name is supposed to be the literal sound that a chicken makes when it walks - Tekke Tekke pretty much mainly focuses on doing dishes made of chicken. When we first came in, we saw several people crowded around one of those little private booths: passed out business man. 

The Japanese work hard. Japanese people are probably some of the hardest workers on the planet. They get up early as hell… commute pretty far distances… work and work and work - till they (sometimes literally) collapse. My mom made a joke on my first visit to Japan, when I was astonished how almost everyone in Japan smokes… "A cigarette is the only break we get on a work day." I commend the Japanese too for their work and party-duality-effort. They work their frickin' asses off… then get bombed as all-holy-hell - then show up to work the next day whether hung over or not and deliver 110%. Ol' oh-gee-chan here probably hit the work week a little hard. Thankfully for his impending hangover - it was Friday.

Cabbage and miso dip came up first. Miso dip is a semi-thick viscous sauce that makes a true Ramen into a miso Ramen. This two ingredient little starter was so damn good for being just cabbage and fermented soy bean paste… insane. Suntory? Yes please. The super-crunchy sweet beans were better than any late night bar food could be; the spicy fish egg and radish salad with Japanese mayo (Japanese mayo is another thing of beauty… crushes even Amsterdam's kebab-shop chip mayo… and that is saying a lot) - fantastic.

Chicken skin and onions in some kind of sauce came up - not unlike delicious pork rinds; Japanese wings came up next with black pepper and spice - fuckin' groovy (to quote Cassidy from Preacher). Karage is something you need to order if you're in a legit Japanese place with Japanese cooks. It's boneless, fried chicken. Salty, crispy, greasy - drizzle some lemon on and fall in love. Any time I am somewhere legit that his Karage, and I'm with beginner-Sushi level friends, this is always a favorite.

We had chicken breast, chicken yaki-tori (with all sorts of offal-good parts), fish fins (with sweet Japanese mayo) - these guys were chewy and crispy - Corey hated it, I loved it. Clams with wasabi, ebi mayo (Koji's favorite dish in Japan), minced chicken in salt, cheese with mayo… then chicken ham. Yes, chicken ham. It was like any other terrine I've had - only with chicken - salty… good… similar to a really soft pork-ham. 

And then… the cameras came out.

A challenge. Gete-mono. You may have heard me mention before that I will try anything that is actually eaten by a culture. You may have heard me ask many-a-time to get some gete-mono. Gete-mono translates to "ugly food." It is Japan's offal… only usually far more intense than America's offal. Out came a brick… in wrapped paper - I thought they were busting out a couple kilos of heroine or something… nope. Bugs. Biblical plague bugs. Locust. Yasui. I, for most of my life have been somewhat… terrified… of bugs. Not snakes or bears or the unknown… little bugs. 

Lemme tell ya somethin' toss enough of those little sugary/salty/crispy bar-snack-esque buddies down your gullet - and you'll become a fan of bugs. This stuff was good. Pretty darn good. I couldn't believe it.

The locust were chased with some delicate, sweet almond tofus with fruit and a hot ocha. Wanna talk best tea on earth? Wanna guess my answer?

With enough locust in my gut to make my own miniature Jeff Goldblum… we were off to bed. Finally. 

(to be continued…)

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Knee.

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Knee. 


It's a hike from Narita airport to any point in Tokyo… you just gotta be aware of the fact that it's gonna take a minute. But just like the plane ride to Japan, the cab ride to Toyko isn't long mentally. From? That's a whole 'nother story.

I wasn't fully aware we weren't gong to be staying in Shibuya itself - needless to say… I was pretty bummed. I know Shibuya. I love Shibuya. I'd live there in a heartbeat if it were accomplishable. But hell - I can't speak Japanesea… so. I may not fit in. English is more of a rarity in Japan than you'd expect.

We were in the financial district… sigh… but it's still Japan! Let's face it - financial districts are typically culinary deadzones, so it just requires a little more digging. Thankfully I have quite a few buddies in Japan that have always been my food buddies… since even before knowing I was a food addict (well - a good food addict). Tommie is a dear friend who lives in Japan who runs our Trivium Japan fansite. We've known her for years and years… she even stayed at my parents house back in my late teens - so we've known each other for a bit.

Me and P quickly dropped bags, quickly showered and got straight back out.

The rest of my guys… were corpses. They wussed out for the arrival meal (the first dinner of the night). Tommie took us on a bus ride, to more of the center of the part of town we resided by - then we took the voyage to foot. Paolo and I swear by the fact that the best thing you can do when you get into anywhere post-hell-flight is get some exercise. Whether that's walking or yoga or going to a gym. Our walk gave us a glimpse of more of what I like to see in Japan - big lights, lots of people, lots of restaurants and things to do. 

If you get the chance, I always recommend staying at the Tokyu Excel in Shibuya. It isn't expensive and it's in the heart of everything. walk to the lobby, take the elevator down, and walk sort of left and straight… towards the Starbucks, then immediately left or right at it - that'll take you to the good stuff. The hotel is no frills though. But it doesn't matter - it's a clean room in an insanely good city.

Izakaya is probably my favorite style of Japanese food. It's essentially the same idea as Tapas. It's small dishes of amazing stuff that is meant to be enjoyed with copious quantities of booze. The first spot was a style of regional Japanese styled food… I believe it was possibly Okinawan style? The place was Kyo-something or Koishigure. Even Tommie wasn't entirely clear on it. 

Most Izakaya spots in Japan give you your own private little booth - and you're typically left undisturbed until you hit the little buzzer than sends a Kimono-adorned, super-polite young lady coming by to get your order. Our booth was covered in amazing vintage photos of Japanese actors and actresses from several decades back - we started with my personal favorite beer when in Japan: Suntory Premium Malts. 

Suntory is the good stuff. It is light and be drank like water… it comes in pitchers… this is how you cure jetlag - Japanese Beer. Damn is that stuff good. It's somewhere in the realm of the ease-of-drinkability of a great German or Czech or Polish pilsner - just with this softer flavor and even easier drinkability. 

We start with some seaweed salads and pickles; a vegetable and egg salad covered by yuba; grilled smelt and sashimi. The Aliens-esque globe that encompassed the veggie/egg salad was unlike any salad I've ever come across - but hot damn was the crispiness of the interior great. All little grilled fishies are something of a passion of mine… the sashimi was as perfect as can be. Liquidy soft to the chew. 

The tempura here was meant to simply be eaten with some sea salt and lemon - the flaky delicateness of the tempura was artful and reminiscent of childhood for me. Chopped tamago (that's egg mixed lightly with salt and sugar, delicately cooked super thin, then rolled and rolled and rolled) was perfect - served slightly chilled; the yaki-tori was fantastic. I think we had some hearts, some butts, some other bits… Japanese yaki-tori utilizes all the good stuff, done damn well. Some of the pieces had chopped garlic, some fresh wasabi. You hand sprinkle some salt or pepper and lemon on top and eat as is… versus the typical sauce dipping i've seen. A welcome change. 

We polish off several more pints of that golden elixir… and wander back in a comatose euphoria. 

I know I've stated it previously… and I shall again. Starbucks, like all things in Japan - is better in Japan. They have a Matcha green tea Frappucino there. It is liquid crack to me. Throughout this one and a half day excursion of Japan, I probably sucked down 10-15 of those things. No, the green tea one isn't the same; no, the Australian Matcha one isn't the same. This is it's own beast. 

We headed back to the hotel real quick to meet up with the rest of the band and Koji from Warner Japan. 

(to be continued…)

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Echee.

Toe Kyo Whoa Oh. Echee. 


I don't care what anyone says - Japan is the greatest place on Earth. Wait a second… what am I talkin' about? Who the hell would disagree with that?! Japan is the greatest place on Earth. 

Once again, in the usual Trivium-fashion - we have decided to do something that probably isn't in the best interest of health, safety and sanity. In the middle of the Dream Theater support tour, we were confirmed to play NYC, then to fly to Tokyo for about a day and a half to play one show… then fly back immediately to re-join the tour we were on. If you were flying us somewhere else in the world… maybe we'da bitched a little more… but this is Japan we're talkin' about!

For Japan - I can overlook the herds of overweight, mouth-breathing, fanny-pack-wearing, waddling imbeciles that infest all airports in the US of A; I can stomach sticking to my handy, self-packed meals of Triscuits, Kashi granola, Clif Bars and maybe the occasional safe air-port chain (Potbelly's (rare), Subway (less rare), Pret A Manger (U.K. exclusive), Starbucks (pretty common)); stockpiling bottled water to ward off my 1.5 - 2 gallon-a-day thirst aboard the fart-tube. Fart Tube? Yes. That's every airplane in existence once they hit their 10,000 ft. altitude or whatever.

The human intestinal system starts to pressurize on an airplane… and all that nuclear-fallout-safe Micky D's that all the aforementioned cattle just shoveled down their gullet? Well - you're going to be eating that toxic-dump-air for the next 12-20 hours - think about that next time you think my fellow home-countrymen and women are nuts for wearing those (half creepy) little surgical-protection masks. That shit is to prevent doo doo air from asphyxiating your throat (and obviously… courteously prevent further spreading of illness). I digress.

Airline travel gets more insane every year. Those who tried to mess life in America up for good… well all they did was make our lines a little longer, our TSA far bitchier and people-who-travel-for-a-living's lives far more difficult. If you want to see the most accurate representation of what the TSA is in actuality, watch South Park's episode "Reverse Cowgirl." They nailed what the TSA is.

It hurts me deep inside to see the ever-shrining intellect of our populous represented at the airport. People at the airport… those clueless ones… they have zero regard for all other human life aside from their own. Slow moving, illiterate, rude, foul-smelling out of all ends, always accompanied by an equally grotesque partner and offspring - why can't people just be a little quicker: "Yes. In the USA - shoes come off, computers out, no - your gun can't come through security." Common sense, America.

Rant complete. Thanks for listening.

But yeah - that's a fraction of my feelings for traveling. But when you're talkin' flyin' to Japan - I can overlook all that. 

A couple of my tricks to make intensely long flights easy:

1. Have everything ready to be dumped into it's appropriate spot ASAP. Know which bag is going up, which down, what you need plopped on your seat. Do it quickly. Don't do it in the aisle… get the fuuuuckkkk out the way of the aisle and let those waddlers get their exercise.

2. Once sat, switch all your watches to the time you're going. It's not about "oh - but it's this time at home." That doesn't exist. As soon as you sit - convince your brain; then get on schedule.

3. By schedule… I mean if it's bed time… do what you do. Granted - I know I am of "a higher maintenance" level than the average bear - but thankfully I am independent enough to pack accordingly for that. I have a micro travel version of my bathroom bag, snacks, entertainment… I prep as if I were a a child. And lemme tell you - it helps. So if it's "almost bed time" where I'm heading to, it's a Clif bar for dinner or fruit; floss, listerine, tooth brush, face wash and "Heafy plane suit" time. I avoid all airplane food at all costs. I'll get it in the terminal if it's a must… but airplane food is disgusting. I'll fast or eat seeds and grains till I can get something that didn't arrive in a tin-foil sheet, out of a frozen box… cooked in some factory.

4. Heafy plane suit: comfortable (hopefully still semi-fashionable) outfit, hoodie, bandana around mouth (fart fumes, remember?), eye mask, ear plugs, doctor-safe sleeping pills, back pillow (McKenzie lower-back lumbar pillow), any other pillows I can scrounge up - sleep. I recently picked up two new additions… my good buddy from high school and middle school Rajiv (about to become an M.D.) says loading up on an Airborne vitamin before a flight acts as a shield if you're not sick yet. One of my recent vocal coaches recommended a thing bit of Neosporin at all your orifices to prevent illness getting in as well. 

If ever a film completely, accurately depicted the exact feeling of an arrival into Japan via a long flight - it was Lost In Translation. Bill Murray arrives in the plane completely exhausted-looking, justifiably beat from the 10-16 or so hour flight… even in the cab it's a haze. However, once the lights of Shibuya start to encircle the cab, Bill is awoken from his comatose-state… he enters a full state of consciousness and wonderment as he takes in the sights. It's as if childhood innocence has come back to him for the first time since adolescence. 

Shibuya does it to me every time. It's another planet in Japan… especially in areas more so like Shibuya. It's a testament to everything Japan: extremes. So many people… so much technological, futuristic lights flashing away some of the biggest (and oddest looking) J-Pop and J-Rock videos; the restaurants look traditional and classic and maintained as if warped in from the Edo-period… but oh wait - there's an arcade with a giant Pikachu vomiting out light-balls and kids playing pachinko inside of it's stomach. It's a mix of ultra traditional and ultra modern. There's nothing in the universe like that first trip into the lights of Shibuya… it changes you.

My first flight to Japan ever, I didn't sleep a wink in about 48 hours, my nose kept spouting blood every 2-3 hours, I was starving, scared, depressed, homesick… When I took my first proper wander into town… it was like reemerging from the womb. I felt like I had never really lived till that moment. It hurt at first… then it was beauty. Not unlike being tattooed and enjoying the end result when it's healed… or being in your first (not creepy) Turkish wet sauna at 195 degrees, then pouring freezing ice water on your head. That kind of awakening. Thankfully after 10 or so times… all that painful stuff doesn't happen anymore. It's like the awkwardness of being a virgin all over again that first time you hit Japan. 

Unfortunately… (anti-climactic right)… this festival didn't put us in Shibuya!!! Blast!

(to be continued…)