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Tasting Japan


sartoric
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15 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

Great stuff, as (almost*) ever.

 

I'm wondering. You showed one English language menu. Is it common or not for places to have English menus? It's been 25 years since I was in Japan and there were none then, that I remember.

 

*You know what I am referring to! One lapse in judgement I can take! 😁 😁

I think a lot of places had English menus, I didn’t always photograph them. Perhaps in our 14 days  x 2 or 3 meals a day we were without an English menu maybe 7 or 8 times. Kinda made it more fun.

Sorry again for the 🌽.

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In Takayama we enjoyed a traditional kasakei meal served in our room. 

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There’s so much going on here, I can’t begin to explain. First the charming lady sets out the pieces.

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No English to explain, but we figure it out

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All exquisite little bites.

Then the elderly owner of the guest house gives us a box of biscuits (German, but hey)

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And we retire to a warm onsen, bliss.

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Did you do sake tasting at different breweries?

I had a nice time in pretty Takayama. Did you visit the village in Shirarawa-go? Takayama is all about Hida beef and sake. Would go back for both.

 

There are any sake tasting rooms if you want to test your liver's limit. I had barely scratched the surface in 3 days.

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At one of the most popular beef restaurants in town. There's always a queue there so prepare to wait.

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Almost 50 euros for the above plate.

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Rural Japan

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Buckwheat rows in the foreground. Most people grow fruits, vegs, even rice around their houses. Very typical in rural Japan.

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Kaiseki meals served at traditional inns are incredible and so beautifully presented. One of the highlights of eating in Japan. Mine came with a menu of courses served in this particular order. The food just kept coming and coming. 

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@BonVivant yes we did sake tasting in two places. Didn’t get to Shirikawa-go, my motto is always save something for next time :) We did try the hida beef too, (even though I try not to eat animals these days which was difficult in Japan).

Lovely photos.

 

 

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Breakfast at our Ryokan onsen was almost as special as dinner.

831B627F-9675-45DD-9925-B4BC448121B0.thumb.jpeg.544f7dfb2639682bc023398d5d7d5517.jpeg

 

There’s a flame under this beef.

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Onwards through beautifully coloured countryside to Kyoto.

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And these little treats, an egg batter filled with shrimp and fried in kinda mini muffin pans. Served with soup and Mitsuba.

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A modern day isakaya, four tables with room for say 24 at a pinch. Note the coat hangers for your jacket.

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Happy owner who made us very welcome 

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Some gratuitous supermarket shots, round the corner and open 24 hours.

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On a day trip to Nara we were accompanied by swarms of school kids who were incredibly orderly. The weather was perfect, the sightseeing impressive, the food delicious and the deer friendly. 

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You could have coffee with an owl (or a pussy cat). 

We didn’t do it, seems exploitative, but I did ask for a photo for my owl crazy niece.

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Lunch at a busy restaurant. The crab cake here was superb. Grilled king mushrooms, chicken teriyaki, a bowl of soup and a small plate of dressed vegetables each.

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Manhole covers are often works of art.

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Edited by sartoric
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  • 2 weeks later...

A bit late, but thank you so much for this! I'll probably never make it to Japan, but reading your descriptions and seeing your photos are a good substitute for now!

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  • 3 weeks later...

But wait, there’s more ! 

We spent 5 nights in Kyoto, a charming city which is definitely on the return list. 

This local isakaya specialises in okonomiyaki, or Japanese pizza as the owner laughingly referred to it. I want one of these giant grills !

 

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We we had a little chicken to start...

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Then the okonomiyaki itself, topped with dancing shaved bonito.

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The outside of isakaya were easy to spot with the red lanterns signalling “open”. That didn’t always mean we’d get a seat.

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The market in Kyoto was larger and even more crowded than Kanazawa, with many more foreign tourists ignoring the “Do not eat and walk”. You are supposed to eat whatever you bought, at the stall you bought it from, even if that means standing in a tight space. We returned to this market more than once. 

Tasty things on sticks

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Pickled everything (taken before I noticed the no photos sign, apologised profusely, accepted gracefully).

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There are hundreds of restaurants within the market precinct.

We chose this one, udon noodles with tempura prawns for me

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Chicken with noodles and leeks for him

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On a subsequent visit fried bean curd 

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Someone got to try a fresh sea urchin, $20 well spent, you can taste the ozone.

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Matcha ice cream, love this.

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Literally 20 meters around the corner from our hotel was a bar called Bond. I kid you not.

It’s a standing bar, no seats, just small tables to lean against with very fresh and tasty snacks. It became our regular, being such a handy spot to stop for a cleansing ale after a long day touring around. We got stuck here a few times.

Shared sashimi platter

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Tempura whitebait and cant remember vegetable.

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Tempura prawn, squid and pickled ginger

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In my best Scottish brogue....Bond, bar Bond.

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  • 4 months later...

 

 

So the lovely people at EG posted my Tasting Sri Lanka report on Facebook today. That prompted me to revisit it, and realise that these food reports are a great way to relive my trip. Never did finish Japan....so here goes.

 

This isikaya was literally on the corner of our hotels street, less than 20 meters away. 

Grilled on a hibachi - quail eggs, shiitake mushrooms with daikon, roasted garlic and some fried chicken.

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We stayed in Kyoto for 5 nights, it was good to get to know our hood. 

This place had an open mic night for local musicians. 

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And pretty good ramen.

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I had a number of items on my “must try” list. One was yakiniku where you grill your own food, although we sat at the bar where a genial waiter did it for us. This place was recommended by hotel reception, who weren’t to know I try to avoid meat. The only thing on the menu was beef, admittedly every part of the cow, stomach, heart, testicles ALL of it. Oh well. We did enjoy it (guilty face) but had to politely decline an invitation to return with some other people we’d met at our hotel.

 

The sides were great and that looks like a glass of white wine rather than sake.

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Not organ meat. Note big blob of fat to grease the griddle.

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Kyoto station is incredible. Apart from the efficient trains, there’s an eleven level mall attached selling anything you could want to buy, countless eateries, a train museum and brilliant people watching. 

 

We found Ramen Street (floor 10 I think) where you pay for your selection of dishes at a vending machine outside the restaurant. They’re very easy to use, have an English option and someone available to help if needed. This particular ramen restaurant uses a recipe from the northern part of Japan with a cold climate. Fascinating to read and follow the printed instructions. Mark had pork, mine was vegetarian.

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The instructions.

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Interior, small but carefully crafted. A small basket is provided under the table for your handbag, shopping, camera etc.

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Looking down towards the banks of escalators which descend in a straight line to ground level.

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While travelling down and looking up - the roof.

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Kyoto is a fascinating city.

 

We didn’t need these potsticker dumplings, but they were there !

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Edited by sartoric
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Our last day in Japan is a long transit one. We take a bus to Osaka airport, to fly to Narita, where, with several hours to spare we grab a train to Narita town, then return for a quick bite and last minute shopping before our 8 hour overnight flight home. 

 

There was still food to tick off the list...

At Kyoto airport a sushi train where you ordered via iPad on your table, or took a plate off the conveyor.

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Finally some eel and okay we’d had lots of sashimi, more the better.

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In a little local bar in Narita town there was Japanese curry on the menu. OMG, we hadn’t had one of those ! Fixed.

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Typical really, this last quick bite at Narita airport was the worst meal of the trip. A bit of tempura and udon noodle soup. 

Lucky I had snacks for the flight.

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That’s a wrap for Japan ! 

Such an amazing country, cool people, fantastic food, interesting architecture and culture. I’m sure we’ll return.

 

 

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If you have never seen a Japanese train station from above...

Arrived in the evening and got only a couple of hours of sleep on my first night so I had a lot of time to make photos.

 

Osaka main train station at sunrise:

Ig4dxOs.jpg

 

From breakfast room on the top floor. Elevated roads between buildings.

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Fancy or expensive food never satisfies me. The simplest meals do. First udon soup on my first evening in Japan remains a great all-time favourite.

BFdOx4A.jpg

 

I hope to see a smoking ban in a near future, only then will Japan take its number one spot on my list.

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On 11/9/2019 at 6:02 PM, BonVivant said:

I hope to see a smoking ban in a near future, only then will Japan take its number one spot on my list.

 

 

With you on that. Some streets in Gion district  ban smoking, not only in restaurants, but everywhere including on the street. It is slowly changing. Very slowly.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By shain
      It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.
      Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.
       
       
      Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.
       
       
      We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.
       
       
       
       
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