Food in Japan have always been healthy. Japanese people were originally vegetable eating hippies. Visits from other countries changed all that and introduced meat in their dishes. Japanese tend to make dishes according to the season. Which is great and makes things very fresh. As they are abundant in fish, this is their main source of protein, followed by poultry and a little bit of red meat. They really don’t like beef. I don’t know why, because wagyu is the best breed in the world. Soft, tender and when cooked and flavored right, O MY GOD! It’s like an explosion of umami in your mouth.
The typical seasonings they mainly use are soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, salt, sake, mirin, and dashi. Before, you cannot buy these ingredients from your typical grocers like Woolworths or Coles. It was only available from asian shops. Now, they have a special section for them. To make dashi, you need kombu which is now banned here in Australia. It was banned because a woman died from having too much of it. She didn’t know that Kombu has high amount of iodine and when ingested in high amounts, it can be fatal. Japanese uses dashi everyday in their cooking, breakfast, lunch and dinner. You don’t see them dropping dead anytime soon, they even live longer than most of us. Some stores still sell it though, if you look hard enough.
We ate so much food in Japan
My first ever dinner was a noodle in a packet from one of the shop inside the hotel we stayed in at Narita. It wasn’t really the best but hey it got me through the night. A little bit of Asahi beer to make my beer drinking sister in law very jealous.
Narita Gateway Buffet
This is the buffet we had at our brief stay in this hotel. Seaweed for breakfast, to be honest I didn’t like it. This is their typical breakfast, I am not used to it. I did like the sausages and hard boiled egg, but, seaweed was just too early in the morning. The dried fish, pickles, cabbage for breakfast upset my stomach. I didn’t have a great time eating here. Japanese food for breakfast is not for me.
Karaage is basically a deep fried chicken, covered in wheat flour or potato starch. This is just one of the many restaurants located in this area. We are inside the subway and we couldn’t decide what to eat. Finally decided on this one and it turned out to be an alright place to eat. First of all, we were just waiting outside to be seated. After a few minutes, one of the servers came out and said something about a machine. I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. I just went by her hand gestures. Which, she pointed us to a machine beside the shop. This machine is where to order and pay. This was the first time I have ever seen something like this.
So I ordered the karaage chicken. It was one of the best karaage chicken I had ever had in my entire life. The seasonings was perfect, crispy and the chicken was so moist! That was some serious karaage.
I don’t really know the location of the place but I will link the closest shop that I could find. Best karaage chicken!
Our Wa-Ta-Mi experiences wasn’t the best. We went to three Wa-Ta-Mi Japanese Dining restaurants. It is a popular chain restaurant in Japan. Upon entering the place, we were greeted by nobody. Two hundred years later, someone came up to the desk. We had to take our shoes off, get a locker and put our shoes in there. I’m asian, I’m used to taking off shoes before entering people’s house. Not restaurants though, so again this is a new experience for me us. We were actually just looking at each other, asking if we were being pranked.
We were seated and ordered. To my dismay, the food was just average and there was no live squid that I could eat. Wa-ta-mi is a casual dining place which serves average food. The price is between expensive and average. Would I go to another Wa-ta-mi joint? No. There are better restaurants that serves better Japanese food to throw your money. It did have an English menu. Some restaurants in Japan doesn’t cater for the non Japanese speaking people. So you could sit there and scratch your head all night looking at the menu.
We were headed to Osaka’s Aquarium and we were so hungry. We just wanted to eat and decided to go to the first one we see on the way. Five restaurants later we decided to go back to the first one we saw. It wasn’t as busy as we would have liked as this would be a good indication that a restaurant is a good one. Luckily the one we went to was a good choice. After being seated, locals started to fill up the restaurant. This restaurant is called Kadoya, I think. I can’t really get the exact address in Google Map but this is the closest. It is just next to this place, just around the corner, on the main road.
After walking around one of the largest aquariums in the world, it was epic. It’s a must visit, specially if you love marine life and aquariums. We were so hungry after that epic aquarium. We didn’t want to go back to Kadoya as we wanted to try different restaurants. Got to experience new things. Just near the station is a yakitori place. Yakitori is basically a grilled chicken skewers. Again, using google map and my rusty memory, it’s very hard to pin point the exact location. I know there is a restaurant next to it, which looks more fancy. Here is the link of the restaurant next to the yakitori joint.
This yakitori bbq is where locals go. We found out as we walked in. Greeted by drunk old men sitting by the bar eating their skewers. There is a family of four sitting next to us, with the father enjoying his cigarette in front of his kids. This place is raw, people. It might not be a good idea to take children with you. We were pretty much the attraction, it felt like, they weren’t use to foreigners. This place is kind of tucked away from the main road. That is maybe the reason why not much foreigners venture into this restaurant.
Yakitori is great eaten with beer by the way. This is how Japanese eat their chicken skewers. It is usually with beer, accompanied by friends and colleagues. We opted for a warm sake, it was freezing!
BAMBOO GROVE, ARASHIYAMA
On our way to Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama I saw a lady selling these sticky rice on sticks just outside her house maybe. Bamboo Grove is a very popular tourist spot and it is very pack. Anyway the sticky rice was delish, I did ask the lady what it was called and she said something that I could not understand. But it is basically a mochi with the filling on to. There were other two flavors that you can choose from. My memory isn’t great but I think it is peanut and sesame. You guys should try some, it’s along the way to the Bamboo Grove.
WORST TEMPURA I’VE EVER HAD
Ok so, we stopped at this joint called うとんや ごりあん. Yeah, too much kanji for me. It was in Japanese writing so we just matched the letters and voila, Facebook link.
This was our lunch after walking around in Fukuoka. We just went into any restaurant we saw. Again, there was no English menu and had to rely on pictures. You must be wondering how can you have the worst tempura ever. I mean, how can you make a tempura taste so bad. It wasn’t the taste I had problems with. It was well seasoned, but they left it swimming in the soup where it gets soggy. All the textures, crispiness of it has vanished. It was soft, dull and boring. Everything else was nice, just that soggy bit. Bad, bad bad.
Our experience in this city was great. First of all, there was hardly anyone here. No tourists, not much people on the road. It was a good break from all the busy cities we have visited. This is where we had the best food experience. After a long train ride, we were famished. We checked into our hotel and went out for lunch. We found a place where it is near this hotel/pub.
There were only two people in the restaurant and it looked average. Luckily I was wrong, it turned out to be better than expected. The service was on point, was greeted at the door with a smile. Seated and were asked what to have. The waitress explained everything, tried to anyway in English. She almost had a nose bleed looking for words. The effort she put into it though, dedication.
The food came out quick, albeit, there was only us in the restaurant by now. The other two has vanished. I don’t know how they would handle a good volume of orders. We had udon with tempura, the tempura was not swimming in the broth this time. Deep fried crispy bits should not be put in soups. It will lose all the texture. I had the udon with egg, seaweed and on top two tempuras. This time they are not swimming in the ocean.
We also had warm sake, it’s really great for cold weather. It just brings a different taste when it is warm. I can finish one whole bottle by myself, but drink moderately guys. So we opted to share one bottle. Sharing is caring boys and girls.
JAPANESE FOOD IN TRAINS
People here tend to bring sushi and beer during their long train ride. This is what I’ve just noticed.
Depending on where you are going, travelling by trains can be less than an hour to forever. It is wise to bring along entertainment and food. I knew it was going to be a long ride from Kagoshima back to Tokyo so I bought some light snacks. Beer, sushi and trains go well together.
SICK OF SUSHI
Multiculturalism in Australia brings variety of international dishes. You have a lot of choices in this regard. My friends, including my partner, seem to have had enough of Japanese food in the last leg of our journey. There really aren’t many varieties in Japan when it comes to food. It’s either Japanese, fast food or Japanese. I didn’t mind really, because I still haven’t eaten my live octopus.
If you are in Nagoya and are sick of sushi, ramen or tempura. Why not try INPAL, this place has the biggest naan bread, ever. It’s freshly made too and price were reasonable. This place has different level of spices in their menu. I tried the minimum which was 1 star. Hardly felt the chili. Go for the medium chili guys if you are like me. Just gives it a little bit more kick.
FRESH SUSHI IN HARAJUKU
There are probably lots of restaurants serving fresh sushi in Harajuku. This one is just around the corner of the AirBnB place we rented. Takamaru Sengyoten 4 serves the freshest sushi. All the locals come here as we found out once we entered. All tables was occupied and had to wait a little bit. We got seated with two Japanese men and they were friendly. They looked serious but quite happy to be seating next to us. They were nodding their heads, giving us their serviettes.
There were no English menu again. Luckily they had a waitress that could speak a little English. We wanted to ask for more, like a live squid but the language barrier is really hard. We just settled for a medium sized sashimi for 4000Yen which I think is quite cheap. Again, I could not eat a live squid.
What came out was the freshest, biggest chunks of sashimi I had ever seen. I was thinking how do I put that in my mouth. It had varieties of fish including salmon, tuna and also prawn. We actually asked the chef to cook the prawns because we couldn’t eat it raw. The chef was more than happy to do so. I’m sure there are more dishes here than just sashimi. Really need to learn Japanese.
Our Japanese food experience in this restaurant was a good one. Everyone was so friendly including an old lady. She gave my friend’s daughter a stuff toy. The price was reasonable, big servings, clean toilet, always a good sign and good service. It would really help if you had someone speak Japanese or read. If you are travelling with a baby then you might consider that they don’t have a high chair. The place is quite cramped too, specially when it’s packed.
If you love sashimi, give Takamaru Sengyoten 4 in Harajuku a try.
Not really food, some may think so though. It is probably the most well known rice wine ever. None Asians seem to think that only Japanese make rice wines. No, every Asian country have their own version of rice wine, Japanese call theirs, sake. I love their rice wine, if you order, make sure you opt for the warm sake. It tastes much better in the freezing winter of Japan. Every restaurant we visited, warm sake was always on the table.
We filipinos also make rice wine and we call it tapuy. Everyone makes this different, but the best tapuy I have ever had is where my grandparents originated from, Lon-oy. It is fermented for months in a clay pot. It was a little bit on the sweet side but not so much, it was just right.
JAPANESE FOOD, VERY GOOD.
To summarize my Japanese food experience is not too exotic. I still want to eat a live fresh squid, wriggling in my mouth, eww. I wouldn’t mind trying it, only once though. Always try something new. There aren’t really much to choose from in terms of different cuisines. I was surprise that I didn’t see so much American chain junk food. Which is a good thing for Japan, not so good for junk food lovers visiting. Expect to eat Japanese food everyday during your visit. I will jokingly say, I can’t wait to come back and eat some living things.