This is my stop during the blog tour for the Nogiku series by SJ Pajonas. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from January 20 till February 2, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.
So far this series contains two book: Removed (Nogiku series #1) and Released (Nogiku series #2).
For my part of the tour, I asked author S.J. Pajonas to talk about Japanese food, and she chose to focus on izakayas, which are equal to pubs in Japan.
When the work day is over, and it’s time to take a load off, grab a beer and get a bite to eat, the English have their pubs, and the Japanese have izakayas. Izakayas are a staple business in Japan. Every town has at least one, and Tokyo has thousands of them. Usually small and dark, out-of-the-way, tucked into a side alley or even in the back corner of a metro station, izakayas seat a small clientele every night. Their owners are sometimes the only staff, catering to a seated bar of maybe 8 to 10 customers. The larger izakayas will hold a few dozen people, but they are few and far between in Tokyo where there are over 160,000 restaurants.
I’m not going to lie to you, one of my life goals is to live in Tokyo and have the perfect neighborhood izakaya right downstairs where the owner knows my name, and I can get preferred seating. What a dream! That’s probably why for REMOVED and RELEASED, I made Sanaa’s best friend, Miko, the heiress of a well-known izakaya. I wanted a place where Sanaa could gather with her friends and family, a neutral spot that would be theirs until it was time to pick up and leave. A family-owned izakaya was my best idea, and Izakaya Tanaka was born of my many nights dreaming in bed of my own such place.
What is an izakaya like in Japan?
As I mentioned above, many izakayas can range in size from tiny little nooks to larger restaurant chains. The typical menu situation is usually nomihodai (all you can drink) or tabehodai (all you can eat). You eat or drink all you want for a set number of hours, then the bill is tallied and you leave. It’s not a pop-in and pop-out type meal.
Sitting in an izakaya for a meal means being there for a few hours. When you find an izakaya you like, you grab a seat and prepare for greatness. A wet, hot towel is first provided so that you can slough off the dirt of your day at work. You start your meal with beer and a lighter sushi, moving onto fried items and possibly some shochu (the Japanese equivalent of vodka), and finishing up with rice or noodles to fill your belly before heading home.
Some izakayas specialize in food like yakitori (grilled items including chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetables) or house-made tofu or pickles or ramen. The variety is staggering which is why this tradition of izakayas thrives so well in Japan. Many izakayas can exist in one town and not have an overlapping menu or clientele. When you factor in specialty drinks or cocktails, every izakaya becomes a gem.
What makes an izakaya special?
Sometimes it’s hard to pin down what makes a place special, you know? Maybe it’s the owner of the izakaya, an old woman who has owned the place for 45 years and knows what you like. Maybe it’s the decor? In one of my favorite parts of REMOVED, I describe Izakaya Tanaka…
“Miko’s family has been running this place for three generations. It is one of the few places in Ku 7 that’s been around for almost seventy years. Her great-great-grandmother hand-painted the menu signs hanging along the front of the bar, and the family’s collection of golden maneki-neko line the walls above the booths. If I stay till close with Miko, I often take down the noren curtains out front before we lock the place up. They were also painted in a large flowing script by her great-great-grandmother. She was a master with the brush.”
I looked at photos of izakayas for weeks and pinned down all of the elements that I loved about them before deciding on how Izakaya Tanaka should look. I guess I have my own izakaya already!
But the many people that I have known to live in Japan always talk about their favorite izakaya with glassed-over eyes and wistful expressions, remembering every meal and every drink they ever had there. I believe it’s a combination of things that makes an izakaya special to any one person. It’s the food, the atmosphere, the conversations exchanged there, and the jokes laughed over as each person pays their bills and stumbles into the streets home.
Need some izakaya at home?
I have this fantastic book called Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook that is full of delicious recipes and photographs of izakaya too. It’s a great introduction to izakayas and their food. If you can stop by an Asian grocery store and pick up some speciality ingredients, you’re good to go. But the best part of izakayas is really the atmosphere, so you also may want to look at this Pinterest board I put together of Izakayas not only in Japan but around the world. There may even be one in your town that you can go to! New York City has several, and I have friends across the country that report in to me about their favorites. My friend, Cori, loves Zen Box Izakaya in Minneapolis, and really, if you can get good izakayas in the middle of the Midwest, I’m sure there’s one nearby you can try out.
Check out my Pinterest board here: http://www.pinterest.com/spajonas/japanese-izakayas-izakaya-food/
Hopefully it’ll inspire you to Google nearby and try something out locally. Happy eating! Itadakimasu!
About her books:
Removed (The Nogiku series #1)
by SJ Pajonas
Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Post-apocalyptic
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: September 11, 2013
Duty knows no family. Love has no price. Secrets can cost you everything. Twenty-year-old Sanaa Griffin, a sweet and smart half-Japanese girl, is about to get more than she bargained for when she wishes for love and excitement on New Year’s Eve 3103. Mark Sakai, who knows more about her than any stranger should, thinks Sanaa is the perfect person to spy on the heads of the three biggest Japanese clan leaders in Nishikyo. He wants her to gather enough evidence to keep them from going to war when they land on Earth’s colonization planet, Yusei. Nishikyo, built by the Japanese 300 years ago to house the rest of mankind, is failing and everyone is preparing to leave. Sakai has known Sanaa’s family all her life but she knows nothing of him! And despite all the time they spend together, he keeps his distance from her. Then one day, he brings her to Jiro, his nephew, to learn sword fighting, and it changes her life irrevocably. Between falling in love with Jiro and the information she is gathering on the clans, Sanaa realizes Sakai is holding back secrets about her family and her deceased parents, secrets as to why she was chosen for this job, and learning the truth puts her and all of Nishikyo in danger.
You can find Removed on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18366156-removed
Want to view some inspirational images for Removed, visit the Removed inspirational Pinterest board: http://pinterest.com/spajonas/removed-nogiku-series-1-inspiration/
You can buy Removed here:
- Amazon (Paperback): http://amzn.com/1940599032
- Amazon (Kindle): http://amzn.com/B00F4IE978
- Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940148646532\
- iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id737065984
- Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/removed
- Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/story/9758834-removed
You can watch the trailer for Removed on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPzShpFemIg
Released (Nogiku series #2)
by SJ Pajonas
Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Post-apocalyptic
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: December 17, 2013
**Contains spoilers for those who have not read REMOVED (Book 1) Left in the desert to recuperate from her injuries, Sanaa Itami paces the floors and contemplates her mistakes. She trusted too easily, and now people she loved are dead, killed at the hands of men coming to assassinate her. Sanaa feels beaten, but life awaits her at home. While Nishikyo recovers from the earthquake, negotiations for Sanaa’s eventual rule on Yusei continue. New allies must be made, new friendships brokered, new skills acquired — at all costs. Life at the top of the chain is complicated and lonely, though. With relations in Sakai clan rocky and uncertain, Sanaa must learn to trust others again more than she’s willing. Who amongst the clans is left holding a grudge? And will the new family Sanaa has found with Jiro support or betray her? From Nishikyo to Yusei, RELEASED, Book TWO of the Nogiku Series, is the second book in a captivating New Adult post-apocalyptic romance series that harnesses the cultures and traditions of Japan and sweeps them into the future between Earth and a faraway land.
You can find Released on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18674881-released
You can buy Released here:
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HAR43MC/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_wjXRsb18JJ3RK
- Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/released-s-j-pajonas/1117673223
- Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/released-4
And an excerpt of RELEASED:
“Itami-sama, I’m glad to see you’re feeling better. Sakai-san tells me you were injured during the earthquake. How unfortunate.”
What a supremely cunning liar Minamoto is. I’m sure he knows everything about the fight, my injuries, my recovery, and my near death again in the hospital at the hands of an assassin. He has spies. We have spies. If only we all just told each other everything, but instead we do this dance. To men like Minamoto, the dance is everything, and if I don’t want to offend him, I will have to step lightly.
“I am quite well now, thank you, Minamoto-san.” I rise from seiza to lean forward and lift my cup of tea from the table between us. Jiro is sitting silently to my left, Usagi standing behind me, and Sakai is on my right.
I sit back on my heels and take the time to sum up Kentaro Minamoto. He’s twenty-two, the same age as Jiro. He’s lean, fit, and possibly a little wiry under his gray kimono. He has a thin face, long forehead, and short spiky hair. If I had seen him out and about, I definitely would have thought, “Not my type.” He has yet to utter a word, but he is watching me while I watch him.
“Minamoto-san, you said you had business to discuss,” Sakai says, setting his tea cup down and placing his hands on his upper thighs. I continue to sip at the genmaicha. Hmmm, this tea is not as bad as I remember it being.
Kentaro lightly shakes his head at Minamoto. Violences flashes over Minamoto’s eyes as Kentaro turns towards me.
“Itami-sama, before the earthquake, I was prepared to get back to you about my support. I am willing to throw the full weight of my house behind you, but I ask one thing in return.”
I keep my face as passive as possible. Here it comes.
“You currently have no consort. You are twenty and of the age that such things are permissible. It would be advantageous for both our families if you were to take my son, Kentaro.”
About the Author:
S. J. Pajonas loves all things Asian and has been in love with Japan for as long as she can remember. Writing about Asia and Japan came naturally after studying the culture and language for over fifteen years. She studied film and screenwriting first and eventually segued into fiction once she was no longer working a full-time job.
Released is S. J. Pajonas’s second work, book two of four in the Nogiku Series. The first book in the series, Removed, is described as “a wonderful story” with “engaging characters, seamless world building, and an action packed plot.” It’s an “up-til-3am-because-I-read-it-in-one-sitting book.” She also writes contemporary romance and her upcoming first book in the Love in the Digital Age series will be published in 2014.
S. J. lives with her husband and two children just outside of New York City. She loves reading, writing, film, J- and K-dramas, knitting, and astrology. Her favorite author is Haruki Murakami and favorite book is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
You can find and contact her here:
- Website: http://www.spajonas.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SJPajonas
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/spajonas
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7233209.S_J_Pajonas
- Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/spajonas/
- Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gleek/
- Instagram: http://instagram.com/spajonas#
- Tumblr: http://spajonas.tumblr.com/
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of the Nogiku series. These are the prizes you can win: Amazon Gift Cards, copies of REMOVED, and eBook copies of two fantastic Japanese books: JAPANESE SOUL COOKING and THE SAKE HANDBOOK. Both will be gifted through either Amazon (kindle) or Barnes&Noble (nook).
Here are the links to both books on Amazon:
Sake Handbook on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sake-Handbook-John-Gauntner-ebook/dp/B007H9GVMI/
Japanese Soul Cooking: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BVJG5GC/
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