We sample the tastiest street food from around Asia without leaving Japan!

While Japan isn’t currently under any corona-related states of emergency, leaving the country for a vacation is still heavily restricted. As a result, a new trend has popped up, called tokan-gokko — a trend where people travel within the country whilst pretending they’re vacationing abroad.

Our Japanese language reporter Saya Togashi was looking for somewhere to do a spot of tokan-gokko recently, and was surprised when she came across the perfect place in the middle of Kyoto. Arguably, Kyoto is the place with the most ‘Japanese’ vibe in the whole country, but Saya had managed to come across a restaurant that didn’t feel like Japan at all.

The restaurant is called Impassioned Night Market and promises to let customers experience an Asian street market without stepping foot on a plane. Located on the corner of Ayanokoji Street near Shijo subway station, the outside alone gives off a retro night-market vibe.

▼ The neon sign and faded bus stop sign add to the ambience.

▼ As Saya entered the restaurant, she saw a metal table with a newspaper on it.

▼ She opened up the newspaper to find a menu full of delicious treats inside!

The restaurant offers a variety of street food from all over Asia, with dishes from countries like South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam available to try. As well as famous dishes like gapao rice, nasi goreng and xiaolongbao, there were also some items unfamiliar to Saya, such as the Taiwanese fried chicken steak dà jī pái, which promised to be as ‘big as a person’s face’. The menu item spicy fried frog also caught Saya’s attention.

▼ As for the drinks, they are mostly self-service, and lined up in a showcase refrigerator.

All of the drinks are from outside of Japan too, like this apple cider from Taiwan, adding to the authentic ‘travelling abroad’ vibe.

The inside of the restaurant isn’t particularly spacious, but looks and feels very much like food markets found in other countries.

▼ This mock-up of the interior gives you an idea of the vibe inside.

▼ Even the bold coloured plastic stools really help create a feeling that you’re abroad.

▼ Saya had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming and she was still in Japan!

But while the atmosphere was very ‘Asian street market’, it wouldn’t mean a thing if the food didn’t match the vibe, so Saya was keen to try out what was on offer.

First up was this pineapple fried rice, which cost 880 yen (US$7.60). When it comes to dishes that use pineapple in Japan, you’d probably only find it in sweet and sour pork or on top of pizza, which, by the way, is as divisive a choice in Japan as it is in the rest of the world. Thailand, however, uses the fruit in a popular pineapple rice dish.

A large volume of fried rice was crammed into a ‘bowl’ (a pineapple with the middle scooped out) and the rice was nice and juicy with big chunks of pineapple in it. The pineapple wasn’t just a subtle accent to the meal — it was the star of the whole meal! 

▼ The sweet and sour taste was really refreshing, and it got two thumbs up from Saya.

Next up was a ‘trip’ to South Korea, where Saya tried out sotteok, a skewer made up of hot dogs and rice cakes smothered in a spicy sauce.

▼ One skewer cost 220 yen ($1.90)

The sotteok was delicious and spicy, and while Saya had originally planned to try out a whole bunch of different food, the sheer volume of pineapple rice mixed with the spicy sotteok meant her culinary trip was coming to an end.

▼ She finished her food journey with some fruit cake (330 yen), and it was a sweet way to round off her whirlwind trip.

Empty drinks cans are placed in the plastic crate by your feet and checked when you pay for your meal, which you do by calling the staff to your table.

So if you’re keen to try out some dishes from other Asian countries (like the spicy fried frog Saya spotted on the menu) or just have a massive craving for a certain dish, check out the Impassioned Night Market in Kyoto. Saya managed to eat three dishes, but she is already feeling food FOMO and is looking forward to trying out Singapore chicken rice, juicy xiaolongbao and pho the next time she visits.

The restaurant is still relatively new, having just opened back in September, but it was almost full when Saya visited on a weekday afternoon, so if you’re looking to go on a culinary tour of Asia at Impassioned Night Market, we recommend making a reservation beforehand.

And while Impassioned Night Market is the perfect spot to do a bit of pretend travelling, we can’t wait until it’s safe to visit other countries for real, so we can enjoy all the sights travelling can bring.

Restaurant Information
Impassioned Night Market / 熱烈観光夜市
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Ayazaimoku-cho 207-1
Hours: 4:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m. (weekdays) 3:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m. (weekends and holidays)
Holidays: None

Photos ©SoraNews24, PR Times
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