My Gastronomic Adventure through the Land of the Rising Sun
The write is about my food journey on my trip to Japan. The food culture that I experienced there and the different kinds of food experience that I had there.
We may visit the most pristine beaches, gorgeous mountains, peppy cities or serene countryside but there is one common thread that binds all these travel experiences and that is the food from these places. Every vacation and every trip bring us a new and unique food experience. Some of these experiences are easily forgotten while some are etched in our minds forever. One such unforgettable food experience and journey for me was on my trip to Japan.
Japanese food for me was just Sushi and Ramen before I visited Japan in the summer of 2018. It was such an eyeopener for me and I realized how ignorant and uninformed I was about the rich and unique food culture of Japan.
Japan is a beautiful country with lovely people but their food culture is exceptional (much like their cleanliness and toilets????). I travelled to Japan with my husband and two-year-old daughter and unfortunately, she got really sick there which made our trip very stressful. But the only thing that kept us upbeat and lifted up our spirits was our food adventures. And mind you the food experiences were not just restaurants but their supermarkets, vending machines and street stalls were all surreal.
My first tryst with their food was at their supermarkets. Since people in Japan live in really tiny apartments with practically no kitchens and have really busy lifestyles, most of their meals are either on the go or in offices and park benches. So, their supermarkets are completely equipped to provide you with every kind of meal. The vast variety of different kinds of food right from sushi to candies is mind-blowing. But the most interesting of all was the vast collection of different flavors of KitKat at these supermarkets. There were hundreds of them right from five types of Macha flavors to every fruit flavor to whatnots.
Then we came across their vending machines. And I have seen nothing like that before. You can find everything there. They are not like the other ones we have seen where we can buy only food and beverages. Here you can get any kind of food and beverage, hot or cold and any product you can practically think of. They can be found all over the city almost everywhere. This culture again points at the busy lifestyles that people in Japan have.
The street food in Japan is just as amazing as the rest. I especially remember the food street in the city of Osaka. As the sun went down the street starts waking up with bustling people and food stalls and the smell of food fills up the air. It was a dreamlike experience where you are transported to this world of food and frolic. I had my first taste of Kobe Beef in one of the stalls here. The Kobe beef steak was grilled and cut up in pieces and served with a stick. I have never eaten anything so satisfying from a street food stall. I just bit into these juicy bits of beef and they just melted in my mouth. It was so simple and delicious. Now I know what all the fuss about Kobe Beef is. Although I didn’t get a chance to dig into a huge Kobe beef steak in a fine dining restaurant but that has gone into my bucket list for the future.
And now my final bit is about the truly unique experiences that I had at various restaurants in Japan. These experiences included eating from a hot plate on the table, grilling our meat on a fire on our table and cooking our meats from a hot pot. Sounds bizarre right! Seemed the same to us but we thoroughly enjoyed each of these experiences. The first one for us was a small restaurant in the city of Kyoto which said that it served Okonomiyaki which is a Japanese pancake made from cabbage. We knew about it and wanted to try so we went ahead. Once we were inside, we saw every table had this hot plate kind of thing and the waiters were putting all the food on that instead of a bowl or plate. We were really curious. We seated us on such a table with a hot plate in the middle. The waiter came and placed the noodles meat and fresh veggies all on the hot plate. We were amazed and soon came to know this restaurant concept was called Teppanyaki. This helps keep your food hot and fresh. Although I hated the Okonomiyaki (Cabbage pancake) but loved everything else and most of all the dining style.
Then we went to another tiny restaurant in Osaka. Mind you most of the restaurants in Japan are really cramped and tiny because of the space crunch. Here we were exploring the food street when we came across a restaurant where we saw fire coming off each table. It got us really intrigued and we decided to give it a try. We went in and found out that every table had its own grill. The menu had options for different sets of cured meat which included chicken, lamb, pork and beef and we had to choose from them. They served us the cured meat and the sauces. We had to light up the grill, cook our meats as per our liking, dunk them in the sauces and eat them. This was the most satisfying experience we had as our meats were fresh, hot, juicy and full of flavor. I had never had something so good before. This concept of dining is known as Yakiniku and it is really an interesting one.
Our last experience was another new concept of Japanese dining known as Shabu Shabu. This restaurant we went to had a cabin for every table like a cubicle. So we couldn’t see what was happening at other tables. But the waiter took great effort to explain us what Shabu shabu was all about. We were given to choose different flavors of water along with the kind of meat and veggies we wanted. We were served with a hot pot and the types of water in it that we had chosen (normal and spicy for us). We were explained that we had to put in the meat and veggies in this boiling water which cooked them then remove the food, dunk them in the sauces given and eat them. I love this minimalistic technique of Japanese cooking which keeps the flavors and texture of the meats intact.
We had the usual Sushi and Ramen too which were equally delicious and much superior to what we get here. All my experiences were strictly fish and meat and I have no idea how vegetarian food works there.
Food in Japan holds a different meaning. It is not just the food that is tasty and different but the experiences that come with them are also one of a kind. My food journey through Japan was a memorable one and I know there is much more left to explore. I hope to be back there again soon and to share with you all a brand-new story.