Guest writer – Eva Hendricks is a UK-based food blogger who loves Japanese food, has visited to Japan and plans to go back and eat more as soon as she can. Inevitably, food and travel are bedfellows and Eva has found herself venturing out on culinary expeditions. She is still looking for the dish the world has to offer her.
It’s always interesting to sample the local cuisine when you travel overseas, but Western visitors to Japan open themselves up to some truly unique culinary experiences. The fact that Tokyo has the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any city in the world gives a little insight into how seriously the Japanese take food and a trip round a Japanese supermarket can feel like stepping into another world.
Everything in Japan has a bit of a reputation for being expensive and food is no exception. Indeed, if you want to eat at one of Tokyo’s Michelin-starred restaurants it wouldn’t be unusual to pay around 20,000 Yen (£140-£150) for the pleasure. However, if you have a bit of cash to splash on what should be a real meal to remember- you may want to start with two restaurants recently named as two of the best in the world – Narisawa and Nirhonryori RyuGin. As with most popular eateries it’s wise to make reservations well in advance, particularly at Narisawa where the restaurant itself is particularly small.
The types of food on offer in Japan are nearly as diverse as the ways you’ll find yourself eating them. Sushi is probably the most famous export of the country, but the range of sushi on sale is staggering. Kaiskei sushi – which changes according to the season, is very different in nature from kaiten sushi – the type you’ll find served on conveyor belts in affordable and fun restaurants.
Ramen is super trendy among UK foodies at the moment, which may mean UK food lovers will head to the spiritual home of ramen – Shin-Yohohama Ramen Museum, in even greater numbers this year. This theme park for noodle lovers explores the history of ramen and serves up all types of regional variations on the dish. Though you should be able to find ramen bars almost everywhere you go, where you can fill up on tasty bowls of noodles.
Another food spectacle you shouldn’t miss is a trip to an authentic teppanyaki establishment, were the chef will prepare your vegetables, fish, meat or noodles on the iron griddle before you. For those who prefer to be more hands on with their food – sukiyaki and shabu shabu eating is a must. These are slight variations on pot cooking in a broth and are incredibly social. You are usually seated on the floor and presented with thin slices of meat and vegetables to put into a shared pot.
There is a huge number of other Japanese food traditions that should not be missed out on – not least the consumption of a Bento Box or participation in a tea ceremony. However, mention should be made of eating as a vegetarian in Japan, which can be difficult. Though vege and vegan friendly tofu was first eaten in Kyoto, many Japanese still struggle to understand the concept of vegetarianism. Broths commonly use meat or fish stock or sauces and fish flakes can even be sprinkled on top of dishes. With this in mind, it’s worth taking the time to explain carefully what you can and can’t eat and that ‘just a little’ is as bad as ‘a lot’. However, whatever your foodie leanings, you should be able to find plenty in Japan to stir your appetite.