Maybe sushi is the most widely loved food in the world. Japanese food is much more than just the expected sushi, ramen, curry rice, and udon. It’s a food culture of convenience store bentos, a ton of potato salad and fried chicken, souffle pancakes and an unexpected obsession with mayonnaise. Japanese foods are specialized in each region- every city has its own style of ramen, though every ramen shop only makes ramen and gyoza. There aren’t “Japanese restaurants” where you can get any Japanese food you want and please the whole family, but there are restaurants that each specialize in one regional dish. These are the most memorable meals I’ve had in Japan, and maybe can be recommendations for your travels. In no particular order.
- This lunch set in Fujikawaguchiko
I went to a restaurant near the base of mount Fuji called Yoshida Cafeteria. Wow, this Karaage was amazing. Kaarage is the Japanese style of fried chicken. It is boneless clumps of chicken that are super crispy and very delicious. They sell it in the grocery stores and at restaurants of all calibers. This restaurant had a few sets, some with Donburi (fish/meat/egg on rice) and some with Karaage or Katsu (fried pork). Anyways it was a delicious meal and probably the best and most memorable karaage ever! Also quite cheap… All this was only 900 yen (under $5).
- Omakase Sushi in Ginza
I didn’t think it would be in my budget to try Omakase (a type of sushi known as chef’s choice). But when my friend Isaac came to visit, he and his brother Sam accidentally went to an Omakase restaurant without realizing the time comittment just hours before their flight. They begged me to replace Sam so he could go shopping their last afternoon in Ginza. I could not say no, starving on a weekday. I eat sushi shamefully almost every day here that costs me from 500-1,000 yen that I find delicious, so I couldn’t grasp what paying 10,000 yen at the restaurant, Sushi Takaya, could even taste like, let alone 50,000 yen, which another friend of mine splurged on his visit to an omakase restaurant. But now I completely understand. Wow, it was such an incredible experience. The quality and flavor and texture of the fish were so completely different from the sushi I get from revolving restaurants or grocery stores. It was almost an entirely different food with smokey seaweed and preciously attentive chefs and waiters. Shame on me for living in the moment but this is the only photo I got.
- Genghis Khan
Many people back home know that Genghis Khan was the tyrannic conqueror of the Mongolian empire, but not many know that Ghenghis Khan is also the name of a common delicacy of Hokkaido, Japan in which you self-grill lamb at your table. I don’t usually eat meat and have only ever had lamb at my best friend’s Greek Easter party once or twice, but wow. This lamb was good. Not too expensive, and a lovely experience, since Yakiniku (grilling meat yourself) is so popular in Japan, but Genghis Khan is only available in ubiquity in Hokkaido!
- The most wonderful Curry Rice in Uji.
Curry Rice is an absolutely beloved food in Japan that I could never quite get behind. It sometimes tastes weird and a bit too processed for my tastes in the more common chains that tend to serve it. But my starving friends and I stumbled into a tiny café in Uji and ordered it before trying all the matcha green tea (which is the specialty of Uji). One single old man was doing all of the cooking himself, all from scratch. It felt to me like I was in his home being cooked for in a house kitchen. This isn’t uncommon for Japanese restaurants. When we all ordered iced matcha lattes, he had to run across the street to the grocery store to grab the ingredients!
I didn’t realize coming to Japan that I was about to have the easiest access to the best Indian food I’ve had in my life. Just a 5-minute walk from my dorm, Namaste is a place my friends and I frequent. I always order a set with garlic naan, a piece of chicken, butter chicken, saag paneer and a mango lassi. The meal also comes with a salad that comes out immediately. To-go boxes aren’t really a thing in Japan but there’s no way I’m finishing my food at Namaste and there’s also no way I’m wasting it. The people that work there have gotten used to my inevitable request for a to-go box, and I’ve gotten used to their exasperated sigh as they box it up. I’m gonna miss Namaste.