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Yururi


During many visits to my aunt's house in Mejiro, she and I spent a lot of time in the neighboring Ikebukuro area. Seibu and Tobu, the two main department stores, were favorite destinations of ours, where we often grabbed a quick bite to eat after looking for dresses and shoes. Occasionaly, we ventured out to the small restaurants nearby.

Since then, Ikebukuro has grown into a huge shopping, dining and entertainment district, and was recently featured in the New York Times as one of the "up-and-coming" neighborhoods in Tokyo.

I recently returned to Ikebukuro to visit my cousin's (her son's) cozy restaurant on Romance-dori, Yururi. If it were not for my family connections, I wouldn't have found this place, as it is located on the lower level of this very busy neon-lit street.

Interior of Yururi
Sushi at Yururi
Clockwise from upper left: The sign for Yururi; the elegant interior; Simmered tai (sea bream) heads with ginger and komatsuna; Risa with her cousin Shinki; Fresh arrivals from the Chiba fish market; The ample sushi lunch special.

Likewise, most of Yururi's customers are regulars and people in the know: local businessmen, students and neighbors who enjoy the good food, elegant, yet relaxed atmosphere and great prices.The long-time staff — many of whom were employed at my aunt and uncle's other restaurants — are still there.

My cousin Shinki and his wife Ryoko often buys their seafood at the Chiba wholesale market. This is where much of the fish that winds up in Tsukiji is caught. Traveling an hour to Chiba means lower prices as well as fresher seafood. During our fantastic lunch, we enjoyed some of the days' catch, including big-eye tuna and aji (horse mackeral.)

Prices during lunch are especially low, almost to the point where I'm left wondering how my cousin manages to make a profit. The sushi specials are only 1,000 yen, and are HUGE. On previous visits I also tried the grilled melo, which was meltingly soft and mouth-wateringly succulent.

You may ask, what's in the Ikebukuro area that would warrant a special trip? Well, did you know there's a Frank Lloyd Wright building in Tokyo? That's right, and it's only 10 minutes away from Yururi. Built in 1921 by Wright and his assistant Arata Endo, the Prairie-style compound of wood and stucco was originally a school for girls called Jiyugakuen (School of the Free Spirit). It sits on an expansive, tree-shaded lot in a residential neighborhood, with an incongruous backdrop of skyscrapers. It went through a period of disrepair, but was fully restored in the early 2000s by a group of devoted preservationists. The building is now run as a cultural center called Myonichikan.

Yururi sashimi platter
Above: A seasonal sashimi platter at Yururi includes big-eye tuna and aji (horse mackerel) Below: Solo diners often grab a seat at the counter.
Counter seating at Yururi

Address: Daiyu bldg B1 1-37-16
Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
TEL: 03-3989-6886

website:http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g651401/

Getting there: Take the subway to Ikebukuro station. Walk out of the West exit. Pass the taxi stand and look straight ahead for an overhead sign that says "Romance Dori" in Japanese. After passing the first small street, look to the modern building on your left. The restaurant is on the lower level.

Myonichikan, a buidling by Frank Lloyd Wright in Tokyo

TIP: If you would like to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Myonichikan, I'd recommend hiring a guide to get the most out of your visit. Filmmakers Karen Severns and Koichi Mori, the team who created Magnificent Obsession — a film about Frank Lloyd Wright's time in Japan — are the perfect guides. Contact them at KiSMet Productions.

 
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