When in Japan, eat as the Japanese do (part 3/4)

The month of August was dedicated to traveling around Japan. The first post gives a first glance on planning, budget and itinerary, while the second summarises the top 10 things that I would absolutely love to import from this awesome country.

One of the reasons I voted for Japan was food. Even though at first sushi did not really intrigue me. On the contrary, I had to play knowledgeable the first time they’ve ordered sushi at our company 😛 Not to mention the training with holding the chopsticks!

But little by little, you learn to love the taste. To understand how much wasabi to take with each bite. To appreciate the fresh fish. To learn that this is the umami taste, one of the five basic tastes together with sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and sourness. Beautiful discovery, isn’t it? The umami taste can be translated as pleasant savory taste.

Little did I know about the variety of food in Japan, though. In one month, we had sushi 3 times. Yes, only 3. Here’s what else we have tried and how we liked it.

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Lunch in Kinugawakoen, a small town north of Tokyo. Their dishes are often composed of small diverse portions including rice, fish and pickled vegetables. A small soup is always a must at the beginning of a meal.

rice-tempura-and-picked-vegetables

A similar variety, but with tempura, instead of fish. Tempura consists of seafood, vegetables or even meat coated with batter and deep fried. It is usually served together with sauce. It was introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century and has become one of the most well known dishes outside of Japan.

tempura

Here’s another tempura dish. It was common to have a big bowl of soup with vegetables and tempura aide.

Five course menu at Nikko. Click on each of the pictures below to see what they are. Thanks to Nadina and Piet for the recommendation of this specific restaurant 😉

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Traditional Japanese breakfast. Even though it looks very stylish and very well taken care of, I would have opted for some old plain bread instead.

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Soba for lunch, a sort of pasta with all kind of vegetables.

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Loved it, it seems 🙂 [especially the tempura!]

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After climbing down Fuji, we’ve treated ourselves with Fuji goodies: coffee and a sweet pastry in the shape of Fuji. They totally love this mountain 🙂

gyutan-curry-stew

One of my top three dishes was gyutan curry stew. Gyutan is basically beef tongue. It was specific for Sendai area, in the north of the main Island of Japan. Wouldn’t have thought I would like it so much, so if you happen to encounter it, just give it a try 😉

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Grilled gyutan (beef tongue). Delicious!

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Japanese gyutan dumplings. Filled with meat, they are a wonder aside soy sauce for light evenings.

udon

But of course, we wouldn’t always know what we order. One of the first meals in Hiroshima was the case. Just look at my face watching a bowl of udon (thick noodles)…

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This must have been the reason why… 😀

edamame

Edamame, or immature soya beans, are steamed and served with salt. You eat just the inside which contains soya beans, looking very similar to the oh-so-known beans.

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Okonomiyaki! Order the mix and prepare the food yourself on top of a hot plate right in front of you. You like it medium or well done? No problem, it’s up to you!

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Rice with chicken coated with a thin layer of omelette. Tassos called it *calzone rice*. This could easily qualify as an insult for both Japanese and Italians, I know, our apologies. It was a rather sweet dish, which I wouldn’t necessary choose again. But well, part of the experience 🙂

Matcha is powdered Green tea. One of the omnipresent tastes in Japan. The very first day we have tried cold matcha tea. It was also the last time. Needless to say, this is also a taste you learn by trying things. By the end of the trip, I was more open to stuff like croissant with matcha (one of my favourite sweets, found in Himeji!), Oreo with matcha, ice cream matcha and even candy with matcha! As you can guess, they had more of these international brands totally adapted to the local market by adding.. matcha 🙂

grilled-salmon

Grilled salmon, which as a base type of fish, was very affordable. Mind the presentation 😉

We’ve also tried several juices, the one on the left made of some specific fruits (of course I cannot recall the name :p) found in the region of Ise, also called by our lovely friend, Yuki, the Mecca of Shinto shrines. The second one was a gift of a stranger when we’ve knocked at her door for water. We wished her to be healthy 20 times that day :))

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The famous Japanese ‘Shabu Shabu’. Legend says that the meat is from cows that are treated with beer and massage to make their meat soft. You dive the thin slices of meat in the heated soup and while you swing it to get cooked you sing to it ‘Shaaaabuuu… shaaabuu…’

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Eel on rice and omelet. Eel is considered a very special delicacy in Japan and people are crazy for it when it is the period of fishing (end of summer). 

Food is always enjoyed more in the presence of nice people. We were really fortunate to be hosted by some wonderful people. In Ise, our host Yuki introduced us to his friends and took us for dinner in a very special restaurant. I wouldn’t be able to describe all the things we tried, but it was an assortment of different sashimi (raw fish), meat, vegetables and other Japanese delicacies.

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Traditional ‘Kyoto style’ sushi. Found only in one restaurant in the famous area of Gion. Nothing tremendously special but definitely filling for the rest of the day.

That’s it for now 🙂 As pictures testify, there are plenty of dishes to try, even if fish is not your favourite. The Japanese are masters in the way they present their food. They want to make it appealing and varied in terms of taste and colour. Moreover, they are very fast with delivering as we have rarely waited more than 10 minutes to be served an order. How they manage to do this, is a mystery I haven’t resolved yet 🙂

The only disappointment was that I could not find those colourful and (sometimes) unbelievable sweets from Bored Panda that I have dreamed of before going there.

Oh well, need to go again! 🙂

10 things I liked in Japan (part 2/4)

In case you have missed the last post, we have spent (almost) a month traveling around Japan. That made it for quite some stories that we want to share with you🙂

For this second part, I was thinking to share with you the things I fell in love with in Japan. Writing down what impressed me and what I didn’t die for, it was fairly easy to see that there were far more positive things🙂 But enough with this introduction, let’s get it started!🙂

1. Their transportation system

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Me, impressed for not only the train (shinkansen) has arrived on time, but our car was precisely where it was expected. Good job, Japan!

 

2. That they serve water with every meal

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Whether you sit down for a meal or simply a coffee, you will always receive water or green tea (ocha). This is like a fundamental right to me and would love to see it everywhere in Europe 🙂

 

3. Their mindfulness about others and when designing things

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No Smoking Area in Himeji. Outside.

 

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When they are sick, they use a protective mask to avoid spreading the germs. You can be in a dress or a tie and all arranged, but if you are sick, you wear a mask. Mindful, isn’t it?

Now, about packaging and daily objects design mindfulness, you’ll have to trust me. Or experience it for yourself🙂 hard to catch in a picture, but, really, they are putting meta-thoughts when designing.

4. Their attention to details and quality

japan-is-quality-see-it-in-pottery

When you hear “Japan”, you should immediately think of “quality”. They put a lot of care into everything they make, and that is easily reflected into the products themselves. For now, I will refer to pottery, which is something, I found only there, they are famous for. It is literally a paradise for those who like such stuff, especially since they play with colors, materials, motifs, shapes.

 

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Let’s say I could have bought ALL OF THE pots, bowls, cups, plates that I have seen :p

 

5. Their “relationship” with cleanness

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You always get a paper towel, whether you stop for a coffee or dining (as lots of other products, this particular one was called Fuji, for the respect they have to the mountain). Oh, and you barely see garbage bins on the streets, yet it looks tidy. In Japan, cleanness is at home! 😉 [The desert in the photo is some ice speciality with green tea taste and jelly.]

6. Sushi!

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Tasty tuna and salmon sushi we had in a very small restaurant, where the chefs where right in front of us and preparing on the spot all that we wanted 🙂 Thanks to Mimoza, a friend met in Amsterdam, who took us there!

7. Their very silent cars (even when not electric!)

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Ok, this one is hard to show in a picture 🙂 you need to experience it yourselves! Truth is we had a couple of times when we were prone to be in danger simply because we haven’t heard the engines… yes, even when not electric!

P.S. Did you spot the deer? 🙂

8. That people don’t talk on the phone while using the public transport

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Although they don’t talk on the phone when using public transport, they do play a lot with it.

 

9. Their clean free of charge public toilets

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Not only they are clean, free of charge, but they are also everywhere. Almost always full of technology too 😛 [but those stories are for another post ;)]

10. Their environmental friendly attitude

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Not only they apologize, but they also explain why paper towels are missing. Found this lovely, both because of their respect for nature, but also care to explain to those using the toilets.

11. Bonus! The people we have met🙂

Last but not least, I have liked the people we met, who have been more than eager to show us around and explain us stuff: Mimoza, Hideki, Yuki and his friends and Yoshi. Thanks to you, our trip was greatly enriched! ありがと ございます [arigato gozaimas]

Friday’s Thought

Each and every one of us will relate differently to the quote (some may think of getting a 9to5 job, some of buying a house, others of the way to start a business). I’ll just leave you with a corollary of the quote: just because it wasn’t done before, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. Looking back, I see pattern: whenever I trusted my guts and did it my way, it worked out great. So, why not? 🙂

be_your_dream

Source: Pinterest

Friday’s thought

Being right or being kind? What do you choose?

be selective in your battles

Source: pinterest

Friday’s Thought

If you have 2 minutes to spare today, this video is highly recommended and I promise it will stay with you for a while. Will it be worth it?

Maybe.

Source: Thanks to Tassos for pointing it out & to Open Culture for promoting it.

Friday’s Thought

Love this one and always repeat the story in my mind when I’m feeding more the wrong wolf.
cherokee

Friday’s Thought

Whenever is hard and you feel like giving up, remember 😉

sailor

Source: http://www.pinterest.com

Friday’s Thought

May it be about donations, or about giving your time to help other people get into coding, helping your neighbour move his couch or an NGO to plant trees,…

poor

Source: http://www.pinterest.com

Friday’s Thought

Every day comes with challenges, but if you start it with a grateful heart, reminding yourself all the good things that are happening in your life, will give you a relaxed start of the day 😉 Happy weekend!

grateful
Source: http://www.pinterest.com

Friday’s thought

Not easy, I know, but we can practice it for sure 😉

Snoopy