While in Japan, I had some of the best food I have ever eaten. Japanese cuisine, by far, is my favorite type of food. I have always loved soups and noodles and I prefer to eat chicken or pork rather than beef. When in Japan, it is definitely not required to eat sea food all the time, for which I am grateful since I do not like fish that much. We actually did not have any sushi while I was there. Sushi is one of the few seafood dishes I like to eat, probably because the fish is surrounded by rice and seaweed. Instead I got to try several dishes that are not as readily available in the United States as sushi (at least not in the Midwest).
Be forewarned: this post is about nothing but food so make sure you aren’t hungry while reading this. I cannot be held responsible for anyone who becomes hangry after reading this post.
While Jane and I were in Osaka and Kyoto, we stopped by Japanese bakeries on the way to the train station (or once we were inside the stations). These bakeries have countless types of bread that come in the perfect size for one person. There were savory breads and sweet breads. Some places even had personal quiches! We would usually eat some of our bread in the bakery (which often acted as cafes as well), and then would take the rest with us to go. It was a great way to eat a light lunch and also have a snack for later!
In Saitama we stopped by one of the family-owned bakeries Jane likes to eat at. It is probably modeled after bakeries the family saw when they visited Italy. We ordered a combo that came with mushroom soup, a salad (greens, with a dab of mashed potatoes, and a single meatball because that just how they do salads in Japan apparently), and the baker’s choice of breads.
For those of who haven’t learned this yet, I absolutely love tea! I have at least 20 types in my apartments.
Just about every restaurant we went to provided free tea. Sometimes it was green tea, but a lot of the time it was either iced or hot barley tea. Barley tea (mugicha) is a summertime tea staple in Japan. Japan is the first country I have visited where tea is an important part of meals and their culture. Spain and Italy prefer coffee so I did not have much opportunity to drink tea in either of those countries.
As souvenirs, I brought home some sayamacha, the green tea of Saitama, and some barley tea.
The first traditional Japanese cuisine I had was Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is sometimes called a Japanese pancake because… it’s round and kind of flat? That is really the only resemblance it has to a pancake…
Okonomiyaki is made with a cabbage and flour batter. Once it is done, okonomiyaki sauce (similar to BBQ sauce) and Japanese mayo are added. You can also add other ingredients to your okonomiyaki. This makes sense since “okonomiyaki” means something like “how you like it grilled.” My okonomiyaki had potatoes and pork belly (which is similar to bacon).
Jane and I ate at a place in the Osaka station called “Kiji” which might mean “Pheasant” according to Google Translate. It was literally a hole in the wall and we could hear trains coming and going above us. We got to sit at the grill, which was really enjoyable, other than the fact that we were very hungry after our Fushimi Inari hike.
I absolutely love noodle dishes, so authentic ramen was at the type of my bucket list for food in Japan. Real Japanese ramen is so much better than instant ramen! It is hearty, filled with meat and veggies, and the broth is so much more better.
I believe we ate at Araumado in the Kyoto Station. This restaurant was on the 10th floor of the Kyoto Station shopping complex on the Kyoto Ramen Street.
Street Food- Takoyaki and Yakisoba
Somewhere near the Togetsu-kyo bridge and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Jane and I grabbed some takoyaki and yakisoba from a street vendor. Both are common street foods in Japan.
Takoyaki is diced octopus cooked in a ball of batter. Yakisoba is fried noodles. I loved the yakisoba (like I said earlier, I love noodles). The takoyaki tasted good, but as soon as I bit into a tentacle, I had to swallow the rest whole. Jane loves takoyaki so she gladly ate what was left. At least I can say I tried it!
Traditional Japanese Breakfast
A traditional Japanese breakfast was included in our stay at the Ryoken (traditional Japanese Inn) in Kyoto. The breakfast included:
- Green Tea (of course)
- Miso soup with tofu
- Pickled Vegetables (Tsukemono)
- Rice with seaweed to wrap it in
- Hijiki (a brown sea vegetable)
Normally I hate pickles, but I actually really liked the pickled vegetables. Either I am acquiring a taste for vinegar or there was extra salt in the brine which made them more palatable to me.
Japanese Family Restaurants- Japanese-Italian and Traditional
Once we were in Saitama, the prefecture where Jane lives, we ate at two different family-style restaurants. One was a Japanese-Italian restaurant. Sadly, they did not serve meatballs so I got spaghetti with little bits of sausage. It was labeled “spicy” but fortunately the Japanese version of spicy is just a kick in the back of the throat (at least in the Tokyo area). I am not a fan of spicy food so this was perfect!
We also ate at a more traditional family restaurant where I got breaded pork with cabbage, miso soup, and barley tea.
While sightseeing in Tokyo, Jane took me to this amazing parfait restaurant that she used to go to when she studied abroad in Japan- the Milky Way Cafe. The parfaits were space themed and extremely decadent. Mine even came with an outer glass filled with dry ice so that it produced fog! The cafe was also a great place to people watch since it is on the second floor and we had a table right next to the window.
My last meal with Jane before I headed for the airport was Japanese curry. Unlike Indian curry, Japanese curry is not spicy, but it does have plenty of flavor. I think I got chicken curry, but it might have been pork… I should have done a better job of writing down what I ate.
I greatly appreciated the curry restaurant because it had signs inviting people to plug in their electronic devices at the tables. They even offered adapters for anyone who needed them!
Udon is another common noodle dish in Japan. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to try it with Jane. However, I had plenty of time at the Narita Airport so I ordered some Udon before I headed through security.
Udon has very thick noodles. While it tasked good, I think I prefer the texture of ramen. I also wish I had had time to try soba, but I will keep that on my list for next time!