There are some things that just plain cannot be found in the Japanese countryside. Delicious spicy food is one of them. You have to travel to larger cities to find things like Indian, Korean, or Mexican that is spicy, or even to find these cuisines at all. Most red-hot food lovers resort to scouring the land for specialty import shops that sell hot sauce for use in home cooked dishes. Some (*cough* me *cough*) even might occasionally bring hot sauce from home to restaurants in preparation for a would-be bland meal. That is why Kariju must have been sent from spice heaven by the Habanero gods. The spicy option is not unbearably hot; it is actually a fantastic balance of flavor and strength (although the French fries from the bottom of the bag do indeed pack considerable heat). Spicy fried chicken is something no longer to be longed for: it is here in Saijo.
Kariju is a 'karage-ya-san'. A vague way of saying, 'chicken shop'. What its fare and size resemble, though, is much more like a festival stand. Its a treat that seems to be reserved for Matsuri season only. The menu is written on chalkboard at the front of the restaurant. The menu consists of chicken, croquette potatoes, and fries.
Chicken is obviously the main event. Like typical Japanese-style fried chicken, it's fried with the skin. However delicious this may be, health conscious patrons can ask Yuichi-san to remove the skin (kawa nashi) before frying and he doesn't mind. There are four options. No spice, spice, boneless no spice, boneless spice. (honetsuki karage, karai honetsuki karage, honenashi karage, karai honenashikarage is how it is written on the menu). Usually, he has wings and drumsticks as well. The chicken is here delicious: now you can avoid the KFC chain located close to Route 13. For spice lovers, this is simply a dream come true.
Next up are the non-chicken fried items. The croquettes are large, well-made, and a steal at one hundred yen. The French fries are simply delicious. They are better than your average restaurant and a strong contender with the best of places. At two hundred yen an order, there is no reason not to get some. On the other hand, the spicy French fries are in a league of their own, soaring above and beyond the competition. If given the option of any French fries from any restaurant or stand in all of Japan, I don't think I could ever choose anything but these spicy French fries from little Kariju in Saijo. Thank you Habanero Gods! Thank you Yuichi Iio! Thank you Kariju!