Japan, Post #4: Food

Disclaimers:

1) These are just tourist pictures, the cheesy ones that everyone takes on vacation, and are not meant to be viewed as professional photography.  We took only one camera, a couple of zoom lenses and no lights: we were on vacation afterall!  We’re definitely not seeking employment with National Geographic here.  

2) We’re not experts on Japan, Japanese culture or religion so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Estimate that I’ll have my facts right about 54% of the time.

3.) To see our pro work (like weddings and portraits) and skip vacation pics, feel free to browse our blog by category!

OK, enough temples and deer, let’s get to what you really want to know about… food.  Lots of people asked what the most disgusting thing we ate over there was and the truth is that, while not everything was agreeable with our Western palates, nothing was so far out in right field that we gagged.   But here are a few of the more interesting items we consumed along the way complete with the verdict:

1.)  Fried eel spine   Sam: not a fan, Mel: kinda crunchy but pretty delicious

2.) Eel liver:  Sam & Mel both: not bad, a little like calamari

3.) Octopus balls (balled octopus meat, not what you’re thinking): Sam & Mel both: would have been delicious if it weren’t for the lighter fluid that got in there somehow

4.) Nato/fermenting beans: Sam: its OK, Mel: nasty

5.)  various diaphragms and intestines of small animals:  Sam: delish, Mel: meat shouldn’t go crunch

6.) black sesame seed ice cream: Sam and Mel both: delish, we’ve gotta figure out how to make it

7.) curry doughnut: Sam and Mel both: while its not the flavor you expect to encounter while biting into what looks like a plain sugar/cinnamon doughnut, once you get past the shock its actually pretty good  

The opportunity to try both raw horse meat and whale meat at sushi restaurants came and went, thoughts of Mr. Ed and Shamoo led to better judgement.

So on to pictures….

One nice thing about visiting Japan is that most restaurants display plastic versions of the menu in their windows and this makes ordering a meal a lot easier when you can’t otherwise read the paper menu.  While you may not know exactly what’s in a noodle bowl from a plastic model (chicken? tofu? eel liver?) at least you know you are ordering a noodle bowl.  Now whether its served hot or cold… you might be surprised there…  Needless to say, eating in Japan is a great adventure.

The plastic food models have to come from somewhere, right?  Welcome to Tokyo’s Kappabashi Dori, a street famous for its restaurant related wares, where you can buy any kind of plastic food imaginable.  Just be prepared to pay upwards of $20 for even a small piece of plastic sushi, good looking plastic food doesn’t come cheap!

Fruit in Japan was amazing, in fact we now believe this is where grape flavoring was invented… Have any of you Americans ever tasted a grape that tasted like Welch’s grape jelly, grape juice or grape candy?  Go to Japan, you’ll be addicted to grapes!  While visiting Nagano, we were given an apple as a gift and this thing was the size of my head… and the most delicious apple I have ever tried.  Both Eve and Snow White were probably handed Nagano apples, you are powerless to resist it:

Vending machines were one of my favorite things and they were everywhere, about every 30 feet.  You can buy both hot and cold drinks from a vending machine and while I can’t say vending machine coffee is good the hot chocolate isn’t bad.  You can also buy a variety of other things from vending machines including beer, creamed corn, ice cream and even french fries… the vending possibilities are endless in Japan.  The sheer variety of available sodas made everyday a beverage adventure, here I am sampling what turned out to be one of my favorites: Lucky Cider with KiraKira Sparkle.  You can totally taste the KiraKira sparkle….

Notice Tommy Lee Jones posing for Boss Coffee… does this remind you of something you have seen before?  Santori time, perhaps?  With intensity?

The Japanese take their breads and pastries very seriously, we were really quite surprised.  Here are some plastic display cakes from an awesome looking cake shop in Kyoto station and a shot with friends Amy and Susan:

The most visually amazing part of food was the seafood: street corner markets would open and close daily and everything was so fresh…

Baby eel:

How ’bout some crab snacks?  Just pop them in, shell and all, and crunch away…

Speaking of crustaceans, we thought of doing this on our Christmas tree too but it looked expensive.  Yes, this is a small Christmas tree outside a Chinese restaurant, the Japanese love Christmas almost as much as we do… (almost)…

Speaking of seafood, meet the venomous blowfish, or fugu.  While we weren’t adventurous enough to try it ourselves, its considered a delicacy despite certain death if its toxins aren’t properly removed (there is no known anti-venom).  You would see tanks like these throughout high end districts where fugu was served.  Just make sure the cook likes you.

While in Tokyo we checked out the famed Tsukiji Fish Market, which required getting up at 5am to catch the tuna auction.  Fascinating as it was, it was so busy on that Monday morning that we were constantly getting in the way of some very serious business.  We almost got run over a few times by motorized fish hauling flatbeds but we did get to see some crazy seafood that we never would have imagined destined for a plate…

Three words for America: sushi-go-rounds.  They are brilliant, we need more of them.  Our favorite variety was the hundred yen sushi-go-round where, not only was each plate of sashimi roughly a dollar but for every five plates you threw down a chute at the end of your table you got to play a game of video slots to win prizes that rolled out to you in balls dispensed from the ceiling.  Just when you thought sushi couldn’t be more fun…

Here’s a shot of our travel companions, Susan and Eric:

Have a great weekend and tune back in next week, next stop: the onsen town of Kinnosaki. 

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