If there was a technical term for the study of noodle soup it may be the bad Greek translation minestraology. We decide to take a degree in the fine arts of soba, udon and other slippery numbers to find out more.
Inside the Shinjuku Station South Exit has one of the great glories of Japanese train travel - the train station noodle bar. You need a ticket to get through the gates of heaven and claim your reward.
First step is to choose your dish. Just look at these choices. When you are standing at the station starving and need a noodle fix, this represents a cruel 'Sophie's Choice'.
Then there's the second range to choose from, made by the rival noodle makers on the other side of the restaurant. Now we have to choose between two different vendors. Oh the humanity.
From a workspace perched a little higher than the floor (kind of like a pharmacy dispensary) these guys dish out steaming bowls of noodles and broth according to your final ticket selection.
Choose your style of slurpin' - sitting or standing. Note the neatly folded chux cloths to encourage you to clean up after yourself. Japan is chockas with excellent little touches like this that makes life a little better.
Soba noodles in broth with raw googie egg and chopped negi. When you get to the bottom the egg is cooked through and the broth has undergone a transformation.
Soba with poached egg, tempura sprinkles (kind of like rice bubbles) and seaweed. The poached egg is glory.
After your noodles, why not take a ride on the Romancecar?
We decide instead to head out to Kamakura on the Odakyu rail line, a little beach side place about an hour outside Tokyo that kind of resembles Byron Bay. The view from the train reminds us we are definitely not on the NSW North Coast.
For more sustenance and a zing to our morning, we try some vitamin water with Speed.
Train snackage consists of the most wonderful egg white bread sandwich, coupled with...
A CoCo Curry House sandwich, only 170yen for two pieces of squishy white bread goodness.
The egg one is by far the favourite.
Wash it all down with some sweat. Pocari Sweat has a funny name but it is the finest sports drink available to humanity. Japanese Pocari Sweat is far, far superior to other versions, less sweet, just right.
After changing trains, we ride on a cute little four carriage number along the coastal line to Kamakura. It's a popular day trip for young and old.
Riding the non existent waves. The sight of surfers made us double take.
One of the big attractions in the area is the Giant Buddha, and the streets on the way are festive.
The other big attraction in Hase on the way to the Buddha is crispy octopus wafers, it's what all the beautiful people are eating. And us.
Choose from the vendo. This style of transaction just makes things easier, especially with a cute octopus drawing to guide you.
First step is to take whole fresh octopus and mix it together with a floury sauce coating.
Next step is to squish it down in a powerful press.
Presto - squished crispy octopus. A word of caution, our first one flew away in the wind they are so light, so hold on carefully. They kindly replaced our wayward one for free, such nice people.
This is the star attraction, with a place to make an offering out the front and a public toilet out the back.
We wish we could take all of this group home.
Karma cola at Kamakura: Boss Coffee in a can from the Big Buddha giftshop.
Even Hello Kitty gets a make over as the Buddha.
And if it's too hot, how about an icecream? These vendos offer the best creamy ice cream in green tea, red bean, cheesecake and black sesame flavours.
After viewing the old people and the Buddha we head off for a walk in the hills, get lost, and make our way back to the train station. There are quite a few walks in little wooded areas outside of Tokyo, and they offer a little respite to the endless cityscape.
Most of the food options in Kamakura didn't really appeal, and we got ourselves into that weird food time warp where it is too late for a big lunch and too early for dinner. We change trains at Fujisawa and go out to find sustenance.
We find Tonkotsu Bento and our lunch time blues are sorted. This shop sold nothing but Tonkotsu in many ways.
We went for two packets of these glorious sandwiches - thick pork with brown sauce on crustless white bread, 560yen each and worth every dribbling moment. We sat in the street nearby and just chowed down we were so hungry.
Still starving, back at Fujisawa station though the Odakyu line entrance we spy another train station noodle bar. This one is doing an autumn ramen promotion and there's fifteen minutes until the train comes - why not?
This place appeared to be run by a mother and son team. Most noodle bars are run by small staff and the pay machine vendos help keep things running smoothly.
Tempura cake and soba noodles, crispy tempura vegetables and a raw egg.
The Autumn special with mushrooms, deep fried rice cake , grated radish, seaweed and soba.
The train trip back was a sleepy affair with both of us involuntarily offering our shoulders to some sleepy travellers. Alison read her Kindle on the one hour trip back to Shinjuku. As an avid reader she's a convert to this travellers friend. And to free advertising tissues.
It was a long day and after a little respite back at the hotel (cocktail hour was cans of Chu-hi, whisky highballs and snacks via the Family Mart convenience store) we headed out back to the bright lights.
We circumnavigated the whole of Shinjuku station and ended up at the Kabuki-cho. On our way we walked through the Keio department store right on closing. The experience of having all the staff bowing to you as you walked out of the store felt like you were the King and Queen. We decide to lend our royal assent to Hakata Tenjin noodles
We sat at the business end of the noodle bar, right near the big pots of stock and the trays of noodles.
The broth here is the more thin and milky style, Shawn's favourite, with a piece of roasted pork and a googie half for good measure.
Alison adds extra ginger (which stains the soup pink), a funky spicy relish and mooshed up garlic paste.
The view from the front tables leaves you in no doubt where you are. Or where you might be heading next.
The stacks of empty noodle trays give you an idea how many serves of noodles these guys must go through.
On our way home we pass a more traditional ramen master dishing up Tokyo style noodles. Even avid disciples of minestraology need to stop sometime, so we head home via Tower Records to buy some Polysics discs (our new favourite Japanese band), stop once more at the Family Mart for night time snacks (a japanese style rissole and plain sweet cake) and head home. Quote of the day "I'm not sure if that's an ATM or a fax machine" - Alison.
We love Japan. And Polysics.