A Week In Japan: Part III (The Cuisine And Travel Tips)
The FOOD – That was my answer when asked what I was most excited about Japan. Isn’t that why anyone goes to Japan in the first place?
It’s amazing how such a small country has so much variety. Japan is a food lover’s paradise and I enjoyed it very much. Each city has its own style. Some of the dishes I’ve tried are quite unique to describe but I am going to try my best.
Everything in Japan is very visual. All the restaurants have a display of the dishes served – a very “real looking” display made out of wax and plastic. At times, I could not tell the difference between fake and real. Look at these pictures and you’ll know what I mean! I probably shot more pics of the “fake” foods than the real ones! 😀
Apparently, it is a huge industry in Japan.
Japan is not all about Ramen and Sushi. I tried many other styles that were just as tasty! I could smell delicious goodness on every street corner of Tokyo! This post will surely make you drool! 😉
Chinese: Yes! We had Chinese food in Japan and it was incredible. All the courses were delicious and probably the best Chinese food I had. Think about “haute cuisine” in chinese style! The dinner consisted of an 8 course meal including shark fin soup (a delicacy, apparently!), giant prawn, scallops with delicious japanese vegetables, melt-in-the-mouth dim sum and equally delicious fried rice paired with yummy shochu. Oh, I also had one of the best desserts – cantaloupe pudding – Oh so good!
Okonomi-yaki: Probably my favorite of all Japanese foods! Seafood or meat pancake topped with yummy sweet bbq style sauce, Japanese mayo and bonito. Yummy! It is a street food famous in Osaka but other cities have their own style like the Hiroshima style where the pancake is filled with noodles.
Soba (hot and cold) with tempura:
Soba is nothing but noodles made of buckwheat. One might argue it is a healthier version of regular noodles. I fell in love with the hot soba in a cute town called Kamakura. And then I had cold soba in the Harajuku area of Tokyo and was blown away. The cold noodles are dipped in mentsuyu sauce and eaten with tempura. Oishi (Delicious!)
I also recreated the cold soba at home and it turned out quite delicious and close to the Japanese version!
Sukiyaki: Our hosts took us to a high end restaurant that served Sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a one pot dish that consists of meat, tofu slowly cooked in a sauce. It is then dipped in raw beaten eggs and eaten with rice. I do not care for raw eggs but figured when in Japan why not try it and boy, was I impressed. It was so good without the ‘eggy’ smell that is usually associated with raw eggs.
Shabu shabu: You select sauces, meat and veggies. They are brought to your table and you cook them yourself on the table. It was scrumptious. I don’t think I’ve had as much meat in my whole life as I had in Japan! I wonder why everything tasted so much better in Japan! 🙂
Sushi: What is there to say? Fresh, clean and delicious! The Japanese are very hygienic so there is no need to worry about the handling of fish.
Tofu: We went to a fancy restaurant in Kyoto that served vegetarian. Yes – mostly vegetarian food in the form of different kinds of tofu from soft to firm to grilled and sesame tofu. Sesame tofu – OMG it was tasty! The best kind of tofu I’ve had, I have no words to describe it! That restaurant changed my mindset about tofu and how tasty it can be if made fresh and right. Funny thing is I do not even know the name of a lot of the restaurants I have been to!
Izakaya: Not a cuisine but more of a pub like place with greasy food and booze. Cool place to hang out and have some drinks after work. The Japanese are very particular about timings – not just being on time but leaving on time as well. We were kicked out of an Izakaya and a restaurant during our week’s stay.
Japanese curry: Your typical Japanese comfort food served with deep fried meat or seafood! Yumm!
Fruits: Have you ever heard of these expensive fruits sold in Japan – like one cantaloupe that costs $300?! Yes, the best, perfectly sized, juiciest and tastiest fruits carefully selected and sold for a small fortune – like this small grape basket that costs ~ $20!
Japanese breakfast: It needs a special mention because of the kind of food the Japanese eat for breakfast. Breakfast is mostly comprised of steamed vegetables, salmon, miso soup, pickled veggies and some rice, all in small portions. All the healthy stuff!
Vending machines: They are everywhere and you can buy a myriad of stuff, including but not limited to hot and cold drinks, food, hot tea, beer, sodas AND cigarettes (yes, I saw one in an office).
Bento boxes: We know that Japan is famous for its bento boxes and they are also everywhere. There is a wide variety to choose from that it takes some serious thought.
Desserts: Matcha (powdered green tea) based desserts and green tea! My home is filled with these green tea based treats! I was surprised by the amount of bakeries and western style desserts in Japan.
I wish I had a few more days to visit other parts of Japan and try their delicacies. One week is definitely not enough!
Based on my travel, here are a few tips on traveling to Japan.
- Learn some basic Japanese or download lots of apps. I was lucky to have Japanese speaking coworkers otherwise I would’ve been lost!
- Be open to trying all kinds of food because they are so freaking delicious!
- Shopping shopping shopping. Many unique items that you don’t find anywhere else, especially kids’ toys, accessories, kitchen, makeup, stationery and many more!
- The service is extraordinary but NO tipping in restaurants or taxis. I was told they run after you and return the cash if you leave one.
- Be punctual – arrive and leave on time. Trains, buses arrive on the dot +/- 15 seconds!
- Dressing – formal to semi-formal everywhere. If you like dressing up, Japan is the place to be.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk a lot.
- Transportation takes some time to get used to but very convenient.
- Carry cash. Japan is very safe and a big cash country.
- Standing in lines – get used to it!
Japan has a lot to offer if you keep an open mind. It was quite a unique and fascinating experience for me. Hope I get to visit you again and arigatou gozaimasu (thank you) for your hospitality Japan!
I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.