Japanese cuisine is pretty unique and sampling the various styles is one of the delights of a visit here, although inevitably some will appeal more than others. It helps if you like fish, which is an integral part of the Japanese diet – morning, noon and night. But we had one person in our group who didn’t like fish at all, and Chris who is not a big fan, and neither of them starved – there are plenty of other options! It also helps if you like rice as that is the staple food and it will be served, usually simply boiled, at most meals whatever the style of cuisine.
The main styles you will encounter are:
Sushi: any dish that contains sushi rice, cooked white rice flavoured with seasoned rice vinegar. There are various kinds of sushi dishes, such as nigirizushi (hand formed sushi), makizushi (rolled sushi), and chirashi (sushi rice topped with raw fish). We enjoyed some excellent and reasonably priced sushi at a kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant in Kyoto.
Sashimi: thin slices of raw fish which are usually dipped in a mix of soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese mustard). This is often sold in sushi restaurants, but I particularly enjoyed the sashimi at the marvellous dinners served at our guesthouse in Kamikochi.
Udon: thick noodles made of wheat flour which can be served hot or cold – we had excellent udon in a cheesy sauce at a small udon restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Soba: thinner noodles (about the thickness of spaghetti) made from buckwheat flour, which like udon can be served hot or cold, which I enjoyed for lunch in a number of places including Hakone and Kamikochi.
Ramen: noodles which originated in China but are now thoroughly Japanese, served usually in a soup with various toppings. We had some great ramen in an unpretentious café in Hiroshima.
Shabu Shabu: a sort of meat hot pot where pieces of thinly sliced meat, seafood, vegetables, mushrooms and tofu, are cooked at the table by dipping them into a hot soup. We didn’t get round to trying shabu shabu, unfortunately.
Yakitori: grilled chicken skewers which can be made with any part of the chicken – you have been warned! This is another dish we didn’t get round to trying though I had hoped to.
Tonkatsu: deep-fried bread-crumbed pork cutlets which I didn’t try but Chris enjoyed on a couple of occasions.
Tempura: seafood or vegetables (or more rarely, meat) coated in batter and deep-fried, and dipped in a sauce before eating. We had some disappointing tempura in Asakusa, but some wonderful salmon tempura in Osaka to compensate.
There are also lots of regional specialities, some of which we were able to try as we travelled around Honshu. These included:
Okonomiyaki: a dish popular in Osaka and Hiroshima which is usually described as a pancake but which seemed to us more like omelette when we tried it in Osaka
Yuba: a Nikko speciality consisting of the thin sheets of bean curd which form when tofu is made. We had this in several dishes there including an interesting “yuba and prawns gratinée” dish that Chris had one evening.
Some regions are also known for their excellent beef. Kobe is the most famous of these but Hida beef runs it a close second and we enjoyed this a lot in Takayama, served in both traditional (grilled on a hot plate at the table) and modern (in a burger) styles.
Many Japanese restaurants specialise in one particular type of food, so it helps to have an idea what you fancy before choosing where to eat. The downside to this is that if there are two or more of you in the group you have to all agree! If that’s a problem you might like to visit an izakaya (a Japanese pub) which has a more general selection. We enjoyed a great meal in Asakusa’s branch of the popular Watami chain, on Asakusa Dori.
Of the many different meals and dishes we enjoyed in Japan (and just a few that we didn’t), my favourites were the Hida beef in Takayama (both meals), the sashimi and some of the other dishes at the meals in Kamikochi, the salmon tempura Chris and I had in Osaka, the okonomiyaki also in Osaka, the sushi in Kyoto and the cheese udon noodles in Shinjuku on our last evening with the group.
Next tip: an invaluable travel pass
On our longer train journeys in Japan it made sense to eat en route to leave more time for sightseeing on arrival in our destination. And the best meal to eat on a train here is a bento box. These may be simply described as a take-away meal, but this being Japan, they are beautifully presented. Small portions of fish, seafood, meat, pickles, vegetables etc . each have their own section in the box, and there will also be rice, naturally, perhaps in the form of onigiri or rice balls wrapped in seaweed.
Every station has several shops and counters where a selection of bento boxes can be bought. There are usually plastic versions displayed for you to choose by number. Many have fish but some are vegetables only and some meat. Most of the boxes are nicely wrapped too and are a delight to eat not only for their variety of flavours but also this beautiful presentation. And if you have room in your luggage (we didn’t!), I reckon the boxes would even make a neat desk or drawer tidy if cleaned up.
Next tip: starting the tour, in Tokyo
it's an australian resto,they are famous with their beef steak.the place is quite cozy..they also have a wine bar for guests who wanted to go for a drink..and i love their restaurant ambiance,kinda romantic with mellow lights on..and of course they have an unlimited bushman bread with creamy butter and it's for free..awesome:)
Favorite Dish: Aside from the free bushman bread,i love their "Ribs on the Barbie" and calamares.Their pineaple juice is heavenly..I also tried their crab recipe with a melted cheese on it,so delicious,I forgot the name though..
Japanese ramen is a popular lunch or late night snack for Japanese business men after hours whose origins came from China, unlike soba or udon which originated here in Japan. There are many kinds of broths used in Japanese ramen. Miso, soy sauce (shouyu), or salt (shio) are some of the regular kinds of ramen broths offered at ramen restaurants throughout Japan.
It's also important to be aware of how many (if not most) Japanese consume their ramen at high speed in a slurping 'race' of sorts. This vacuum cleaner approach can be a bit of a social shock for foreigners who aren't use to the (some might say 'obnoxious') sounds adults slurping down their food and trying to do it all at break neck speeds.
Of course, there's the adage: When in Rome do as the Romans do. But, I personally don't recommend copying the Japanese in this respect. There is a particular correlation between Japanese who develop stomach cancer and other cancers (such as that of the esophagus) and a high level of ramen consumption. The primary factor for such cancer has most to do with downing the ramen while it is too hot. The ramen burns both the esophagus and the inner linings of the stomach causing the development of scar tissue formation which eventually leads to cancer. Ramen also has the double whammy of being salty and this also contributes to high levels of stomach cancer in Japan (particularly Niigata, Akita, and Aomori (where people tend to consume more sodium on average than the rest of Japan)).
However, for those on a tight budget, ramen is relatively cheap when compared to other types of Japanese cuisine.
Favorite Dish: I really prefer the ramen with soy sauce broth (shouyu) chashumen (tender grilled pork).
The main reason why inbound planes to Japan fly with more speed rests with the utterly healthy diet of the Japanese. Upon our table there is a bowl. This bowl is a starter - like a bowl of nachos or a bowl of crisps or a bowl of partially formed chicken eggs - imagine it to be a bowl filled with a snack in your respective country.
What's in this bowl? Crispy, raw cabbage leaves. Totally delicious.
Again, note that CCS has crept across ethnic lines and also pay attention to the couple who are recoiling in fear! Upon the counter you can see my favourite summer tipple - cold sake. They are poured to deliberately overflow into the saucer below. I always try to get them to replace the small saucer with a dinner plate but have yet to strike success in that endeavor.
The man with the beard is my mentor.
Favorite Dish: Fish and Chips.
My homestay family took me to eat okonomiyaki, what they described as a big "pancake"filled with vegetables, fish ,meat, whatever! This is huge! It's like a giant omelette and very delicious. Great for lunch, and cheap, too!
Check out the website I found on how okonomiyaki is made.
several American chains in the Tokyo area. McDonald's is located almost everywhere (no, it doesn't cost ten bucks for a Big Mac). There is a Denny's Restaurant in Shibuya as well as a Burger King. There's also a Denny's in Asakusa. For you coffee addicts, there are many Starbuck's coffee shops all over Tokyo (they like their java too). Underneath the train tracks separating Hibiya and Ginza, there's a coffee shop called Becker's, which has excellent coffee as well as hamburgers. To go along with your coffee, there are many donut shops around too.
There are also T.G.I. Friday's restaurants in Tokyo (Roppongi has one), and they are just as noisy as the ones in the states. If you have a desire for Colonel Sanders, there are KFCs (Kentucky Fried Chicken) stores all over Japan. Many of them have a statue of Colonel Sanders in front of the store
You know ... I opted not to take anyone's recommendations as where to dine. I just walked for a long long time in varying directions then randomly selected places to dine or have a drink. Try this out. See the photo for the name of the place.
I found wonderful little Jazz bar. It was nestled in like an upstairs studio. If I recall, it had only room for to high tables and a little bar. When I arrived, there was this moderately attractive woman with a lot of sex appeal. She had a account binder open ... seeming to be doing an audit. She had a few customers in the place. Honest, I'd be surprised if this bar was larger than my guest bedroom.
So, I cozied up to the bar. She was playing Jazz from the USA. The music went back over 40 years. She didn't speak much English. And, I only knew hello, bye, thank you, and how to smile in Japanese. That last action works in any language! This woman knew so much about Jazz that I knew that I had to hurry back to the USA to catch up.
I was in her bar working on some of my freelance writing projects. Absorbing the tunes while my pen rode the melodies in to my personal never never land that I escape to often enough.
When I finished, I left her a $50 Tip. Having stayed there to write for so long I did feel obligated to give her something else.
Favorite Dish: Seafood. Try any combination. I was pleased (see the photo for an example of the specials for the day).
Sushi is the most popular Japanese traditional cuisine in the world what we would like serve you and made of vinegared rice, usually topped with other ingredients including fish (cooked or uncooked) and vegetables.
Historically. Sushi was a dish only eaten on special occasion such as festivals or parties for congratulating people on promotion, engagements or graduations.
These day, there are a lot of cheap, fast sushi restaurants including Kaiten-sushi restaurant, which offer run-of-the-mill sushi.
There are a few distinct terms used at sushi restaurant.
Ethe part of tuna with a lot of fat is called Toro
Eginger is gari, soy sauce is murasaki
Ehot green tea is agari.
Here are some tips to really bring out the sushifs delicious taste.
First, hold sushi upside down in your chopsticks and dip it in a little soy sauce.
But never dip omelet sushi or vinegared fish sushi in soy sauce.
Also, eat ginger when you have fish sushi.
It kills fishy smell and clears the taste on your tongue.
It is said that ginger also help to reduce the hot favor of wasabi.
Favorite Dish: The various fresh stuff are used for Shshis.
Which one have you tasted so far?
- Sea bream
- Sea urchin
- Salmon roe
The Sushi is probably the most known and popular Japanese food. In Europe and USA you can have these days sushi almost anywhere and those are trendy and popular places. In Japan you do not see as many sushi places as you might think and often I just took it from the kiosk as a snack and not as a meal. The photos you can see here are from my own home made sushi I have made it after my return from Japan.
Coffeehouses culture is blooming in Japan. From the quick self service style to classic cafés, all is now available in the big cities and for the coffee lovers will be easy to enjoy also here a good cup of cappuccino from time to time :)
Japanese noodles dish are unique and a bit different then others in the Asian region. There are restaurants that specialized on those dishes and it is better to select those ones when you want to have such meal.
The Japanese breakfast is even more strange then the evening food. As westerners we are all used for bread, toast, butter, bacon, eggs, coffee, tea, tomato and so on, in Japan none of those included at all and you have to start your day with total new items. OK, they do have tea, but that is Japanese tea ;-)
Japanese food is total deferent then what we are actually having in such restaurants in Europe and nothing at all as what we could ever imagine. The Japanese food can be shocking for whom ever is not using of eating such raw food. However, for someone from Finland who's used to eat the raw fish and herring we have up here in the north, that was not much of a problem and we really enjoyed all the items we been served and offered in Japanese restaurants and hotels.
Favorite Dish: I indicated restaurants and food in my sub pages of the cities and locations we visited.
Japanese food outlet's menu usually contains picture of the food and you can order by pointing to it.
However, not all menu items, may be on the menu list even though it is displayed on the shopfront.
Solution: Take a picture of the food on display on the shopfront and show it when ordering the food.
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