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Chufi

3 weeks in Japan

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My husband and I will be in Japan for 3 weeks end of April/beginning of May 2011. It's my first trip to Japan, my husband has been there some 20 years ago on business (Tokyo only).

We'll fly in and out of Tokyo, and I want to go to Kyoto, other than that, the trip possibillities are wide open. It's a bit too soon to be asking for specific restaurant recommendations I think, so I guess what I'm asking all of you seasoned Japan travellers and folks living in Japan: if you had 3 weeks to discover the culinary wonders of this country, where would you go?

We're mostly looking for good but not too expensive food, particularly because this 3 week stay in Japan is part of a 2 month trip around the world and not only is budget an issue, the fat that we will be eating out for 8 weeks means we would like these dinners to be mostly informal (with a couple exeptions of course.)

So, what would be your foodie dream trip around Japan?

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I've been there once on business. My hosts took me to about a dozen restaurants, each one a different style of cooking. Nine of them were Japanese and excellent. The tenth was French and was mediocre. I'd love to repeat that tour of nine restaurants and styles.

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I think you'll love wherever you go. One thing I would suggest is that you try your hand at cooking while in Japan. I don't know what kind of accommodation you're looking at, but a hostel with kitchen facilities in a place like Kyoto would give you a chance to take advantage of the wonderful produce available at markets and shops there.

When I eventually go back to Japan, I want to visit Kumamoto, to sample Kumamoto-style ramen at its source; and Hokkaido, for the same reason. Now that I think of it, a ramen tour of Japan is an excellent idea. :biggrin: If you're similarly interested but don't have the time or resources, I recommend the Ramen Museum in Yokohama.

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How wonderful! You'll have blast.

I just spent two weeks in Tokyo -- with a few brief trips to the outskirts -- with the family, and I'd offer the following bits of food advice:

Ditto Erin on cooking while there. We rented an apartment in Nakano that was near the metro station and had a small eat-in kitchen, and there were many, many times when we collapsed there to eat simple things and, yes, some Western food as well. (My two kids can only make it so long without some cold cereal in the morning!) It was also handy for tea making: if you're addicted to caffeine, you'll want a system for delivery, because there are very few take-out coffee or tea places around the city (that we found). Finally, having a kitchen will force you to find a supermarket or two, and you'll lose a few hours in there each time you visit.

Do some research on neighborhoods or restaurants you want to hit before going, and put them on a map or load them into your google map (if you can access that on your phone while there). Tokyo in particular can be overwhelming to navigate, and my Droid's GPS and google maps got me through many confusing moments. Along the same lines, invest in a good subway map.

Prepare to snack, nosh, and eat a wide variety of things that no guide book or eGullet member will mention. The street food situation is phenomenal: diverse, cheap, and for the most part very fresh, and there are thousands of small joints serving quick meals.

If you are interested in scotch, visit a few of the high-end department stores, which have scotch tasting counters. For a couple of bucks, you can taste some of the world's best scotches -- and at several hundred to thousand dollars per bottle, that's as close as I'm going to come to more than a wee dram!

If you are at all interested in cocktail culture, visit Tender Bar in the Ginza. I've been working on a piece about it for months and it's still difficult to explain just what it's like there, but it's a great place to spend a few hours.

Plan for a few hours at each of several food courts, most of which are at the bottom of the big department stores. I'm writing this quickly so I can't remember the ones we hit, but each was fascinating in its own way, and I always wanted to spend an extra hour or two there. Beware getting takeaway food to eat while there, as there is often little to no seating anywhere near the markets.

For food enthusiasts, I think that any trip to Tokyo requires a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market. You can read here, and elsewhere, about the restrictions to visiting. There's nothing like it in the world, and while the tuna auction is interesting, the real attraction for someone interested in food is the wholesale fish market, which will blow your mind. The food stalls around the market have some interesting stuff as well. I still wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about an egg custard cup I had there.

Similarly, I think any trip to Tokyo requires a trip to Kappabashi, which is the kitchenware center of Tokyo. Knives, ceramics, plastic sushi, tea sets, baking equipment... more than you can possibly imagine and across the quality and price spectrum.

Lose twenty pounds before you go so that you can fit into your clothes when you get back.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Similarly, I think any trip to Tokyo requires a trip to Kappabashi, which is the kitchenware center of Tokyo. Knives, ceramics, plastic sushi, tea sets, baking equipment... more than you can possibly imagine and across the quality and price spectrum.

Can I say that I enjoyed the kitchen supply district near Dotombori in Osaka more? I thought it had a wider selection of items, and it was less spread-out.

Chris is right about tea/coffee. In Tokyo, especially on the weekends, there are very few places to sit down. Coffee shops like Starbucks will likely be completely full, especially in popular areas. 

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Chufi I've visited Japan three times but I'm still jealous of your trip. Why? Because the first time is the most mind-blowing, I have no doubt you will have an incredible time. Hopefully cherry blossom season too, sigh...

As for foodie ideas, you can easily spend the first week and the last week in Tokyo itself, the place is awesomely big in every gastronomic respect. Here's a short report on a whirlwind visit we had a couple of ago. I would spend a couple of days in Osaka and a couple more in Kyoto. I have relatives in Fukuoka in the south of the country so have enjoyed incredible ramen there and mentaiko but to visit it may be a little out of the way.

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Three weeks is a long stretch! End of April/beginning of May is a difficult time because of hanami, so a lot of places to stay will be booked. Look into booking your hotels/ryokan/apartment now if you can. If you need suggestions, pm me and I'll send you some info I have.

Depachika are great for prepared foods, but they do tend to be on the expensive side. Not as expensive as eating out, but still pricy. Your standard neighbourhood grocery store (if you're doing apartment rental) will be cheaper.

There are tons of take-out coffee places in Japan, from Starbucks to Tully's to Illy. Tons, especially in metropolitan areas. If you're just getting coffee or tea to go, you won't have a problem. Although a little more expensive per cup (and not very environmentally friendly), you can also get 1-cup coffee filter things (coffee and paper filter in one!) to make individual cups of coffee. Those are great for travelling as pretty much every hotel room will have a hot water thermos.

I don't know how much you want to spend on transportation, but I'd go north to Hokkaido (or at least Aomori) for seafood. Then I'd make my way down, passing through places like Hida-Takayama and Nagoya on the way to Kansai. I'd spend at least 5 days in Kansai since you've got Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto to cover. (If you had to skip one of those, I'd skip Kobe although my favourite okonomiyaki place is in Kobe :-) ). Then go down south to Hiroshima and Fukuoka (plus Nagasaki). Nagasaki isn't great for food, but it might be historically of interest to you because of the Dutch connection, not to mention the Atomic Bomb Museum and all those great pottery places like Sasebo.

If you're thinking of getting a JR rail pass, you might also want to consider night buses. They're cheaper than taking the train, plus you save on accommodations. If you're interested, pm me and I'll send you the link to the website I use (which is in both English and Japanese, though the Japanese site gives you more options).

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...Nagasaki... might be historically of interest to you because of the Dutch connection, not to mention the Atomic Bomb Museum and all those great pottery places like Sasebo...

, and tourist attractions like Haus ten Bosch (sp ?). In Tokyo, are there things that interest Dutch people in the Yaesu area right next Tokyo station ? You probably know that it's named after Jan Joosten van Lodensteyn, who arrived in Japan with William Adams of Shogun fame.

Hanami season - in Tokyo this is usually at its peak in early April and done by mid-April. That means it's also done by then in areas to the south and west - Kansai including Kyoto and Kobe, and of course Kyushu too. Except it's later in the mountains, and there it's later depending how high you go. Off-hand I can't tell you particular when & where's, but if you want to see the cherry blossoms, look into it, and think about going to Hokkaido early on if you're going there, and/or staying in the mountains in the middle of the country, within a few hours of Tokyo.

For a single recommendation, contact Suimeikan in Shin-Hodaka for a wonderful onsen experience. Of course any inn will know best when the flowers are likely to be at their peak in the area. For me, the kaiseki-style meals at onsen inns are the tops in quintessential Japanese eating. visit mid-week for solitude (& negotiable pricing) or Fri/Sat to socialise. Suimeikan is at the "treat" end of the budget scale (USD120-160 ea for Dinner, stay & breakfast ?). For cheaper places, look for minshuku rather than ryokan - I can make some recommendations from experience, though. When it comes to food, all Minshuku are not equal.

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Chris is right on the money re. department store food halls, as a tourist attraction. Expensive as Prasantrin says, but you shouldn't find it hard to enjoy them even if you buy nothing (I tend to come away with some quality 7% salt honey-enhanced umeboshi - great as souvenirs as well as on-tour snacks). In Shinjuku, Isetan is my favourite, I like Takashimaya a lot too, and I won't turn up my nose at Mitsukoshi.

I laughed and sat bemusedly at the thought you'll have trouble getting caffeine in Tokyo - to me, if there's one thing you can't avoid bumping in to when you turn round here, it's coffee shops: to expand on Pra's list, there are also Doutor, Pronto, Ginza Renoir, Excelsior Cafe, Segafreddo, Caffe Veloce, Becks, and on and on. And that's ignoring the impressive range in every convenience store (maybe the only things that outnumber the coffee joints), never mind the bloody drink vending machines that are everywhere, even at the super-rural bus stop you use for the Toshogu shrine at Nikko.

Tsukiji, of course, and it's well covered in eGullet already. I second the thought of Hokkaido for seafood, and overall seafood is the gem in Japan's culinary crown, just as charcuterie is in France's, for me.

I think you'll enjoy Andy's fish place in Yurakucho, Tokyo for really really excellent seafood in an English-friendly, lively informal setting. Wed, Fri or Sat for the most noise & life; the clientele is a mixture of local Japanese workers, a few foreign tourists (it's in the guide books these days) and the odd resident-foreigners-sports team on a bender.

Oops, you said too soon for specifics. As Torakris will tell you, Japanese kids get an excellent education on the subject of eating & nutrition. Like people everywhere, the Japanese like to eat well. The difference maybe is that it's still such a prosperous country, which is maybe the driving factor behind its reputation for particularly demanding consumers. In the end, I don't think that you need to choose the places/areas you visit in order to eat good food cheaply. Japan's culture has been completely remade, since the war: this list of regional specialities still has some bearing, but if you take it with you, you'll find you're better informed than 90% of the locals under 40 years old.

Choose your itinerary for the things you want to see & do, and then figure out the eating, I say.


Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Japan is amazing!

I've been here since July 2008 and I probably will live here for many years.

The end of April coincide with Golden Week which will be from April 29th to May 5th. It's probably the worst time to travel inside Japan, but if you plan now, you should be fine. Traffic is crazy, trains are full and hotels are usually full.

I currently live in Hiroshima prefecture in the middle of nowhere, but I would strongly recommend that you visit the Japanese countryside to get a taste of the real Japan. The soul of Japanese is deeply anchored in the countryside. Tokyo and Osaka are both amazing, but nothing beats little villages to give you a taste of Japan.

I don't spend a lot of time in Tokyo, but I have visited many places.

Here is a few suggestions:

1- Kurashiki city in Okayama prefecture. My wife is from Kurashiki and the Bikan area is probably one of the prettiest place I have seen in Japan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurashiki,_Okayama

You can also visit Bizen where they make the famous pottery.

2-Island of Shikoku. You can eat amazing udon in Takamatsu. Sea food in Kochi and visit the famous Iya valley.

My linkhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iya_Valley

3- Hiroshima city for the Peace park and great okonomiyaki

4- I have a thing for Fukuoka. It's a very cosmopolitan place, it's not too big, the ramen are to die for.

5- The onsen region of Buppu near Oita is great.

6- Visit Uji near Kyoto to drink tea

If you can rent a car, driving in Shikoku or Kyushu is a pleasure. You can explore the deep country side. I drive everywhere and as long as you make sure the hotel has a parking, you should be fine. Avoid driving anywhere near Osaka and Tokyo, it's pure hell!

Food is everywhere, it's often overwhelming. If there is a line somewhere, never hesitate, you are in for some goodness and it's often cheap.

Have a good trip!


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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If you are interested in meeting up at all while you are here, I'm more than happy to!

I want to second the word of warning about Golden Week in Japan, I would strongly advise to plan on being in Tokyo during that week and avoid any type of trips to touristy areas. This would be a great time to explore Tokyo.

Japan is really amazingly cheap when it comes to food, I am always shocked in the US when I get the bill for a mediocre meal for my family of 5, we can eat so much better and for half of that in Japan.

Since there is no tipping and tax is included, when the menu says it is 1000 yen, it really is 1000 yen.

To keep costs down I would make sure your hotel rooms have a at least a small refrigerator, if it has a small kitchen set up or at least a single gas burner even better. While convenience store are convenient they are also expensive. I would suggest finding a supermarket and doing your shopping there. Pick up some bread, jam, yogurt and fruit and you have some great inexpensive breakfasts. If you shop after 6 (or even better after 8) you'll find that most of the prepared foods are heavily discounted and you can get a really cheap dinner.

If you are looking for a place to stay, I would suggest looking at Dormy Inn

The prices are extremely reasonable, they include a mini kitchen and laundry facilities and well as an onsen (hot spring) on premises that is free for guests.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Food was a never-ending adventure on my two trips to Japan. A few off-the-wall ideas:

  • Train station food courts. I was awed at the variety of bento and various and assorted other stuff you could get to eat on the train.
  • Convenience stores. Lots of fried stuff, much like in convenience stores in the southern US, but they don't fry the same stuff. It's worth sampling!
  • Noodle shops. Don't know what half of what I ate actually was, but it was all good!
  • Sushi, early in the morning, at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. There is no comparison in the universe.
  • If you go to Kamakura -- seaside village just north of Tokyo -- I don't know how in the world you'll find this place, but it's worth it if you can. Up in the mountains, pull off in a gravel lot, walk down the path, down some stairs, over a couple of bridges, up a flight of steps, and there's a restaurant whose roof peaks are level with the lot in which you parked. I had possibly the best meal there I've ever eaten in my life, with good Japanese and American friends and pitcher-after-pitcher of ice-cold Sapporo and platter-after-platter of wonderful sashimi.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Just wanted to add that I'll be watching this topic closely and will check out everyone's suggestions...I'll be making a similar trip, just a little sooner (March). Please let me know if I should start my own topic, or if this is the place for me to ask about some of Japan's extremes (Hokkaido, Okinawa) as we plan on visiting both.

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I second foodietopo's recommendation of Fukuoka - it's a lovely city, much more laid back than those you might visit on Honshu, and the ramen is to die for. (And the motsunabe, if you're game for offal.)

You must have monjayaki in Tokyo. It's a visual experience as much as a culinary one.

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For the last 2 1/2 years, I've visited Fukuoka 5 times and I am going back in May.

Here is a couple of reasons to visit the city

1- Hakata ramen is the crack cocaine of the ramen world, the stuff is addictive and you get to eat at the original Ichiran or Ippudo. These are very famous, but ramen is everywhere. There is a ramen museum/food court in the Canal City Mall.

2- Fukuoka has a very active street food scene, the yatai are a great place to try new food at a good price.

3- Motsunabe ( offal hot pot) is a speciality of Fukuoka.

4- Really good sea food including squid sashimi so fresh that the sashimi jumps in your plate.


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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1- Kurashiki city in Okayama prefecture. My wife is from Kurashiki and the Bikan area is probably one of the prettiest place I have seen in Japan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurashiki,_Okayama

You can also visit Bizen where they make the famous pottery.

I love Kurashiki, and although it's very pretty, it's really not worth more than a day trip. There's a great coffee shop I've been to a couple of times (not that you want to go to Japan for coffee, but if you drink coffee, anyway, it's worth a stop!) called Kohi-kan. Just don't get any of the coffees with whipped cream (like Vienna coffee) because they use fake stuff.

Unless you're seriously into pottery, you could pass on Bizen and just look at the style of pottery in Kurashiki. Plenty of stores carry it.

I think I forgot to mention Koya. I would highly, highly recommend a one-night trip up there when you're in Osaka. When in Kansai, you can get a special unlimited pass (Y2000 for two days, Y3000 for three days, or something like that) that lets you use all the private railways in the Kansai area, and that would include a trip up to Koya-san. It's a good place to try shojin-ryori. I stayed at Eko-in--there's at least one monk there who speaks English so it's pretty easy to make reservations.

And, when you're in the Kansai area, if you happen to have a friend who speaks Japanese fluently, try to get in to make instant ramen (completely from scratch!)at the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. It was probalbly one of the most fun things I had done in all the 11 years I spent in Japan. But you need to book early (they start taking bookings 2 or 3 months ahead), and you need someone who speaks Japanese to translate for you. It's only Y500 per person, and you even get to decorate your own personal instant ramen bag! (I have pics of my experience on flickr, let me know if you want to see them and I'll send you the link)

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I actually wrote something about Coffee Kan on my blog

https://foodietopography.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/kurashiki-coffee-kan/

I would skip the El Greco coffee shop, their coffee is vile when you compare it with Coffee-Kan.

It's a great coffee shop. There is a cool food market on the third Sunday of the month and they offer their great coffee at only 200 yen a cup.

I agree that Kurashiki is a nice day trip, but there is a bunch of very nice ryokan in the Bikan area, which could make a good stop over on the way to Hiroshima or Fukuoka. The Bikan area is magic at night.

I really want try making ramen in Osaka, it's on my list of things to do, thanks for reminding me.

I still haven't visited the Yokohama ramen museum...

So many things to do!


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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I'm also jealous. Japan is a great place and a lot of fun. Have been there three times, the last time for two weeks as part of a year-long trip around the world. On that trip we flew into Hiroshima and then slowly made our way to Kyoto for a flight out of Kansai. Our big splurge was a ryokan in Kurishiki - I am 90% sure it was this place http://japanican.com/hotels/shisetsudetail.aspx?ar=33&sar=3309&st=7111012&dt=20110217&sn=1&pn=2&rn=1&hp=s2#shisetsumenu and the food for dinner was excellent..and so was breakfast. People are right though - there isn't much to do here so arrive early, walk around the pretty part of town and then settle into your ryokan early and take advantage of the bath.

Other highlights are Myajima outside of Hiroshima. Yes, it is very touristy but it is still beautiful and worth going to. We stayed at a hostel near the ferry that leads to it and it was a lot of fun for Squid ball night. Our very drunk, young japanese hostess provided hours of entertainment and of course the hostel was super clean - though there were no privates.

You can't miss Tsukiji in tokyo. And in Kyoto, I highly recommend renting a bike and riding around. The main parts of town aren't that far apart and really, this is a town where you can get really "templed-out". I would recommend stopping at one of the famous rock gardens either right when they open of 30-45 minutes before they close. It'll be the most quiet then and that's huge.

Have fun!

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well, the 3 weeks just became 4 weeks, so I will be using all your wonderful recommendations to put together an unforgettable trip!

prasantrin, the ramen thing sounds fantastic, unfortunately we won´t be travelling with someone who speaks japanese so I guess that´s not a possibility..

will definitely look into Koya and Fukuoka.

thanks all and keep it coming!

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I also recommend Hiroshima and Miyajima. You should try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Oysters are also a speciality here. To the north of here on the other coast is Izumo which is famous for Izumo-soba. It also has one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan, Izumo Taisha. Not sure if you will be on a train pass or not, but Kurashiki is easily done as a day trip from here. If you want an island experience, check out Shiraishi Island in Okayama Prefecture.

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Hiroshima okonomiyaki is a must. My favorite is Mitchan on Hatchobori, but there is a whole building dedicated to okonomiyaki near the Parco department store.

I second Izumo Taisha which is the house of all the spirits in Japan. Izumo is located near the beautiful city of Matsue which has a great looking castle.

The soba is worth the trip itself.

There is a great cafe on route 9 on the way to Yonago, Cafe Rosso might be in the middle of nowhere, but the coffee is world class!

http://r.tabelog.com/shimane/A3201/A320102/32000060/

In this area, near Mt Daisen, you can visit Misasa onsen which is located in the Valley of Love. The onsen are radioactive and the crabs kaiseiki is crazy good. I stayed at Misasakan.

The whole area on the Sea of Japan might be easier to navigate by car. Access by train is not really easy. If you decide to take the train, you can travel from Okayama to Yonago station.


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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You could still go to the museum and make your own Cup Noodle, but it's not as much fun. You decorate your cup, choose the flavours you want, and watch them make it. There are usually some staff in this area who speak English, so it's very popular with tourists. I can't remember how much it cost--maybe Y500?

4428423102_0f7a28c2b9.jpg

I still have friends in the area, so if you narrow down your Osaka dates (if you go to Osaka), I can see if any of them are free to accompany you (if you're interested in going, but if not, no worries!). The reservations are open 3 months in advance of any particular date, so they're taking up to April 16th right now (they do the ramen making W,Th,F, and Sat, usually 4 times a day starting at 9:30).

I loved the Daisen area. It's very pretty, and they've got the best milk in that area. Really good milk in the Hiruzen Kogen area of Okayama, too.

If you do the night bus route, on longer routes the buses stop every few hours for bathroom breaks. Even if it's at 4 am, I loved going to the different rest stops. Some of them are very posh, and have great regional foods and milks! (I love Japanese small-producer milks--very rich, and usually non-homogenized!)

@Foodietopo--Kohi-kan is really great! I'm glad someone else likes it, too. I prefer the coffee at Inoda in Kyoto (another must-do if you like coffee!), but I really liked the atmosphere of Kohi-kan. (The Okayama Kohi-kan should not be confused with the chain Kohi-kan. Very different levels of quality!)

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If you're going west from Tokyo, consider Kanazawa. It's a compact city on the West coast of truly great seafood, fascinating samurai-era architecture (albeit small pockets of it) and a beautiful garden, Kenrokuen. Also specialises in gold leaf.

Second the rec for a place with cooking facilities for Kyoto..I was just there in November and rented a house with a kitchen and loved trawling through Nishiki Market for produce and ingredients.

If you go to Mt Koya (highly recommended after the frenzy of the cities), definitely try one of the specialties of the area, gomadofu - ground sesame thickened into 'tofu' that is the creamiest and most unctuous mouthful..yum.

If I was planning a no holds barred eating tour of Japan (who am I kidding, I have had two eating tours of Japan in the last two years!) it would look like:

Sapporo - seafood (crabs esp.) and milk (fabulously creamy dairy)

Aomori - seafood and apples (I LOVED Aomori apples). Even the water is supposed to be notably tastier here though with all the sake I was drinking, I can't say I noticed!

Kanazawa - seafood, again especially crab, and jibuni, a duck stew from the cuisine of the region known as Kaga. Wagashi sweets are also a specialty.

Koya - shojin ryori (the food of the vegetarian temples), including all sort of interesting tofu preparations (like the gomadofu above, and koyadofu, a freeze dried affair with a chewy texture)

Osaka - just about anything really, but famous for takoyaki octopus balls and ika-yaki grilled squid.

Tokyo - again everything, but as for department stores I too love Isetan in Shinjuku, Tokyu Food Show in Shibuya the most. Tokyo is also insanely great for French pastries; total macaron frenzy - I was eating macarons three times a day! There's even a Laduree in the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi. Pierre Herme's shop in Aoyama for more pastries. Tsukiji of course but also Kappabashidori, as Chris said, for kitchenware and stuff you've never seen before but instantly need. Backstreet yakitori around the train tracks in Yurakucho and West Shinjuku. Tonkatsu from Katsukura at the top of Takashimaya Times Sq. Tonkotsu ramen (boiled so long it's an exercise in collagen and fat) is also worth seeking out in Tokyo (my picks are Ichiran and Ramen Jiro, for hardcore tonkotsu-lovers), though it's better in Fukuoka/Hakata. Monjyayaki, a kind of pancake similar to okonomiyaki, is a Tokyo specialty. Korean-style BBQ in Tokyo is also great for a bit of a meat-henge.

Kyoto - better for produce than restaurants I've found. But here would be where I'd stop for kaiseki/tofu/eel restaurants. I love pickles and adore the specialist pickle restaurant in Kyoto Station. There's also a whole floor (level 10) in Kyoto Station devoted to ramen restaurants (with English menus) so that could be a low-stress way to explore ramen. There are a growing number of specialist yakitori places in Kyoto now too it seems, proper restaurants as to the more traditional barstool format.

Hiroshima, Miyajima and Kumamoto are famous places for oysters, there are even a couple of moored barges around Hiroshima that specialise in oysters.

Kagoshima also has alot of seafood and astoundingly delicious pork, Berkshire black pigs sort of thing.

Okinawa has quite interesting cuisine and would be worth investigating.

My next Japan food plan involves the eki-ben lunch boxes sold at train stations - each station or region will usually have a lunchbox of incredible local specialties on sale, and can get quite competitive in their effort to be considered the 'most delicious'. I found a book in Tokyo of a collection of the nation's most renowned eki-ben, and would one day love to do a massive eki-ben tour of Japan, tasting as many regional delicacies as I can while flogging the hell out of a JR railpass. ;)

Happy to give specific recs too, when you're up to that, I have a spreadsheet to keep track of them all!

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PS. Check out VRBO.com for places to stay in Kyoto - these are 'vacation rentals by owner' and are either apartments or houses, with kitchen. Some very reasonably priced.

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You might find, like me, that more than 9 times out of 10 Miyagi oysters are better than the Hiroshima / western Japan ones.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I've never tried Miyagi oysters, but ate some pretty delicious one in Hinase, Okayama prefecture.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinase,_Okayama

I don't know if they were the best, but the oyster okonomiyaki and the fried oysters were really finger licking good. I went to a little shack which only had about 10 seats with 2 old grandma cooking.

What is so special about Miyagi oysters?

You might find, like me, that more than 9 times out of 10 Miyagi oysters are better than the Hiroshima / western Japan ones.


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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