I live in a town where they make the best yaki curry. Now, you might ask- “What is this yaki curry?” Yaki in this sense just means baked. Yaki curry is rice and curry with cheese on top baked in an oven to a warm perfection to satisfy and fill your belly. I live in Mojiko and a lot of restaurants here serve yaki curry and you can't really get it anywhere else. It's very Japanese to have each town to have their own mascot and signature food.
Mojiko Retro Plaza Photo by Kzaral on Flickr
I love sushi, gyudon, soba, tonkatsu and ramen- these are my absolute favorites. However, I have one more favorite Japanese food and it's one that not many people may have heard of or what really comes to mind when you say Japanese food and that is- yaki curry. There are many variations, you can get it with beef or pork or seafood in the curry. Most restaurants you can get double the cheese or double the size or both. If you haven’t tried it yet- you definitely should, even if it may sound strange in the beginning, it is awesome and oh-so-delicious. The price revolves around less of ¥1000 and it’s worth every yen. It is also Funky Tiger's best selling dish, theirs have pork, chicken and mushrooms.
It’s a big pirate-y looking ship owned by Yuki Akiyama, father of Robert Akiyama- a famous comedian you might’ve seen on TV. Yuki Akiyama is pretty well-known too and he also appears in various shows for his restaurant and also for his comedic stylings, I guess Robert must’ve gotten it from his father. He's a very nice and charismatic man and he's usually there helping out in the kitchen and for when people ask him for pictures. I got to ask him why he named his restaurant Funky Tiger- he says it's because he was born in the year of the tiger and 'funky' because his life is always funky. He laughed as he explained the latter. Because of the TV appearances they usually have quite a crowd there but even if you have to wait in line, it will be worth the wait. The inside's theme is Caribbean with lots of quirky decorations and autographs and pictures of famous people who have dined there.
Funky Tiger on a clear blue sky day
A life-sized cut out of the Mr. Akiyama himself
Funky Tiger's menu is composed of yaki curry, hamburger steak, curry rice and beef steaks. I actually like places like these, in my belief usually if a restaurant only has one or three things you can choose from it means it's their osusume
or their specialty so all of them should be good. I've tried all of them, and they are all star players in their own right. They also have drinks as lunch service so you can have soft drinks, tea or coffee for free up to 1PM on weekdays. It's also worth noting that they usually have at least one English-speaking staff member you can talk to if you don’t know any Japanese yet and that they are genuinely friendly and accommodating.
They also serve beef steaks
Funky Tiger it easily one of my favorite restaurants. I walk over there from my house and get my yaki curry fix. Or a burger steak when I feel like changing it up and they do their steaks really good. Day or night, it's got the right feel: relaxed, cool and casually romantic with a touch of island vacation vibes.
A Caribbean atmosphere while you dine and drink
Mojiko may be known as quite traditional, it's dubbed the retro town with its beautiful architecture and old small town feel but it doesn't mean they can't be quirky too in their own way and Funky Tiger definitely helps to bring on more of that spirit in this neighborhood. They definitely have the funk, in the best definition of that word. I love Mojiko and I love curry- add cheese into the mix? Magic. I especially love eating it in the winter. You feel it warming you up and fuelling your body for the rest of your day or for hibernation in your house, helping you cope with the harsh temperatures of winter like a nice big bowl of chicken soup, it has that homey 'just like how Mom used to make it' essence to it.
One thing you can’t miss when you visit Kitakyushu is going to Mojiko Retro, it’s the heart of small town Mojiko- a short train ride away from Kokura station. It’s quaint and the ambiance is light and beautiful, perfect for strolling and sitting on benches to enjoy the lovely views it has to offer. Have you ever dined inside a boat? Have you ever had baked curry? Japan has so much variety when it comes to food- you just have to keep exploring and you might stumble upon the wonderful discovery of a new dish. And dining experience. Yaki curry is definitely distinctive, it's inventive and it works. So, if you ever find yourself in this particular area in Japan, right smack in the middle of the plaza there is a big boat, you cannot miss it and I would have to say that for all it has to offer- it’s also something you might not want to miss out on.