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Tales (and pictures!) of trips in Japan


Palladion
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Thanks for the photos and your interesting descriptions!

As for the ekiben, are you talking about masu zushi (or masu no sushi), where masu means trout.

Images of masu zushi

Even some Japanese think that crab miso is crab brain!  It's not.  It's crab innards, midgut gland, to be exact.

Thanks Hiroyuki - masu zushi it is! I bought a book on famous ekiben from throughout Japan at Kinokuniya just before I left and was highly distraught not to find this in there so I appreciate you putting me out of my misery.

It's interesting about the kani miso - the waitress at Kani Doraku asked me what the word for kani miso is in English, and when she didn't settle for "kotoba ga arimasen" in my bad Japanese, I tried "reba? (liver)" but she insisted they were brains!

I hadn't thought they were brains but who am I to argue with a professional?!

So I'm glad you're on my side in this. :biggrin: Either way, they were delicious..soft, smooth and really ocean-y.

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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Hi all – just back from a whirlwind 4 days’ eating and drinking in Tokyo. I’ve been to Tokyo many times before, but my boyfriend had never been, so this was a sort of spontaneous surprise for him I booked only about two weeks ago and have planned feverishly since.

Now you're putting me to shame because I haven't yet blogged my 3 week trip to Japan over Christmas and New Year's...

Okay... to work I go!

(Wonderful photos and experiences, BTW. I'm surprised we haven't officially "met" yet!)

P.S. I'll wait until you finish yours before posting mine, so as not to compete and confuse the readership! :wink:

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I was sort of disappointed with Tsunahachi as was expecting the batter to be lighter and crispier, whereas theirs was quite soft and a little bit thick. Of course, I know that's the style of that particular place whereas somewhere like Daikokuya is even thicker and softer again but I really missed that shattering shard sensation you get with truly crispy tempura.

I love lighter and crispier tempura, too, but I was told the best tempura isn't like that. Really crispy tempura isn't made with traditional tempura batter, and also to get it really crispy, you'd be cooking it a little longer which means your ingredients aren't really top-notch.

Either way, Tsunahachi isn't really top-notch tempura, but more of a mid-range place. It's good a value for what it is, but it's not the best you'll find in terms of ingredients. But I'd go back or try one of their higher-end places to compare with my favourite tempura place in Kyoto.

For super crispy light tempura, Omen in Kyoto has a really great version, at least at the shop near Teramachi. It's really really crispy and light, but not greasy.

I don't remember seeing Sebastian Bouillet when I was last at Isetan, but maybe it's new! I've been meaning to look for the Tokyu Food Show, anyway, so if I don't find it at Isetan, it'll be a good excuse for me to find Tokyu!

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Hi all – just back from a whirlwind 4 days’ eating and drinking in Tokyo. I’ve been to Tokyo many times before, but my boyfriend had never been, so this was a sort of spontaneous surprise for him I booked only about two weeks ago and have planned feverishly since.

Now you're putting me to shame because I haven't yet blogged my 3 week trip to Japan over Christmas and New Year's...

Okay... to work I go!

(Wonderful photos and experiences, BTW. I'm surprised we haven't officially "met" yet!)

P.S. I'll wait until you finish yours before posting mine, so as not to compete and confuse the readership! :wink:

Thanks for your kind words - I do read much more than I post but definitely know your name (and icon!), as I looked through every last one of the Flickr set you posted of your fabulous trip!

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I was sort of disappointed with Tsunahachi as was expecting the batter to be lighter and crispier, whereas theirs was quite soft and a little bit thick. Of course, I know that's the style of that particular place whereas somewhere like Daikokuya is even thicker and softer again but I really missed that shattering shard sensation you get with truly crispy tempura.

I love lighter and crispier tempura, too, but I was told the best tempura isn't like that. Really crispy tempura isn't made with traditional tempura batter, and also to get it really crispy, you'd be cooking it a little longer which means your ingredients aren't really top-notch.

Either way, Tsunahachi isn't really top-notch tempura, but more of a mid-range place. It's good a value for what it is, but it's not the best you'll find in terms of ingredients. But I'd go back or try one of their higher-end places to compare with my favourite tempura place in Kyoto.

For super crispy light tempura, Omen in Kyoto has a really great version, at least at the shop near Teramachi. It's really really crispy and light, but not greasy.

I don't remember seeing Sebastian Bouillet when I was last at Isetan, but maybe it's new! I've been meaning to look for the Tokyu Food Show, anyway, so if I don't find it at Isetan, it'll be a good excuse for me to find Tokyu!

Thanks for the rec, we're thinking of booking a November trip to Kyoto so will note that down in my never-ending spreadsheet of potential places to eat!

Do try SB's caramel beurre sale macarons, they put Pierre Herme's to shame and were by far my favourite CBS item tried (alright, equal tie to the Sadaharu Aoki CBS eclair coming up in my next post).

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Day 4

Now, I love sushi. I REALLY love sushi. But when I'm on holiday, I love my sleep more..so I wasn't going to get up at 4am to get to Sushi Dai for love or money.

At the much more reasonable hour of 9am, we rolled into Tsukiji fish market to find one of the zillion Sushizanmai branches, and started with a nice round set. (Apologies for the below, I really should have turned it around):

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Sushi chefs preparing Japanese footwear (reference to a silly YouTube sushi-ya spoof video, sorry Hiroyuki, couldn't resist!):

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Then started ordering by the piece; this is shiro-ebi or deep sea white shrimp..very sweet and ozone-y:

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Aburi toro (grilled tuna belly) and o-toro:

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Botan ebi, scallop, uni and negitoro:

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More o-toro:

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Even more o-toro and some more aburi toro for good measure:

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Snow crab leg nigiri:

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Chef knives and prep area:

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At this point, the sushi chef I'd been ordering from started looking a little stressed and looked at me with pleading eyes to stop (I thought), so we took our leave for a little wander in the streets outside the market:

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Love the wellington boot lineup in this one:

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A good sit in Hamarikyu Gardens and a boat ride up the Sumida river to Asakusa (passing a whale tail lock!!):

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And a tempura set with a 500ml jug of beer each at Kamiya Bar. I know this is one of the oldest bars in the area, and certainly seemed to attract a very local clientele, but the silence in the place was deafening..noone spoke, no music, no dishes clattered..it was quite serene, even if we did feel like bumbling neanderthals with our stage whispers and stifled giggles (neither of us maintain much dignity in very serious situations):

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After ALOT more walking and finally making it back to my new favourite place on earth, the Isetan foodhall, I ravaged the Sadaharu Aoki counter for green tea and caramel beurre sale eclairs. These were two of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life:

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Um, and also three Pierre Herme macarons, Arabesque (apricot), Jasmine, and Citron (no picture):

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And..ahem..some more sushi, with some tamago stamped prettily with "Tsukiji..something" and some most yummy o-toro:

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5 minutes later..dinner! Just kidding. A couple hours of strenuous napping later, dinner! Katsukura tonkatsu, at the top of Takashimaya Times Sq.

What I love about this place are the small touches; a personal suribachi to grind your own sesame seeds in, which you then add to your tonkatsu sauce...three different kinds of pickles..barley rice...citron dressing for your unlimited refills of cabbage..kurobuta pork, which is a myocardial infarction on a plate but soooooo good:

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And I love the look on this lady's face..I was not tryint to take a photo of her but I'm so glad I captured it!

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There might have also been some Henri le Roux salted butter caramels consumed before bed:

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Every dentist's nightmare!

Tomorrow: more ramen, more tonkatsu, more sushi, and yakitori!! And that's the last of it, I promise.

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Oh please let it not be the last. I am enjoying every minute and every picture of your Japan adventure. You're one heck of an eating machine. I am so jealous! I would have probably caved in and snoozed more if I was eating/travelling with you.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Oh please let it not be the last. I am enjoying every minute and every picture of your Japan adventure. You're one heck of an eating machine. I am so jealous! I would have probably caved in and snoozed more if I was eating/travelling with you.

Hey, I snooze more when I'm eating/travelling with me! :biggrin:

Like Domestic Goddess, I can't believe how much eating you've crammed into a few days in Japan! And the pastries....  :biggrin:

Where there's a will (and no willpower), there's a way. :wink:

Day 5

Last full day and I need to squeeze in ONE final trip to Isetan foodhall if it kills me..but first, mid-morning sustenance in the form of some serious tonkotsu ramen at Ramen Jiro:

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This is a really small branch of the famous shop in Nishi Shinjuku. It appeared from the gobsmacked looks we got upon entering that they don't get many tourists in, and even more so, that they don't get many females of any sort in..everyone in there or who came in subsequent to us was a teenage boy. Or so it seemed! I was being really openly stared it, which isn't something I've experienced in Japan very much. Normally it's the overt glance and then OMG, LOOK AWAY, SHE SAW ME! or a gentle fondle on the train, so this was unexpected.

Not to be deterred, I was here for the food. Ramen Jiro broth is more like gravy than soup, so thick it is with fatty porky goodness. The noodles are more like spaghetti thickness, and the extra splash of fat from the pot and raw garlic I asked for ramped the flavour up to 11. This was the SMALL, by the way:

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Good stuff.

After this, we made our way over to Mitsukosi Nihombashi, with its beautiful noren curtains at its entry:

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And made some edible purchases at Pierre Herme, being Satine cheesecake:

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And Plaisir Sucre (my favourite):

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And a few more macarons, because we like to follow a balanced diet.

We then crossed the street over to Kiya knife shop:

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where I bought a ceramic knife (Y4200) and a small vegetable knife (Y8995). Watching the man sharpen the carbon steel knife for me right in the store was a highlight of the trip..fascinating.

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Back to Isetan for a few more purchases, being yuzu kosho, ponzu, matcha, a yuzu dressing and five jars of Christine Ferber jams to lug home. These were strawberry, mint and black pepper, vine-ripened peach, apricot and cardamom, Mirabelle plum and Ispahan – a lovely combination of lychee, rose petal and raspberry.

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I also picked up a book of famous train station bento boxes from throughout Japan, at Kinokuniya.

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And some matcha chocolate dipped yatsuhashi cookies (a Kyoto specialty made from rice flour and cinnamon):

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And then a final shopping trip to Muji in Yurakucho for housewares, and dinner at the nearby Yakitori Alley, a cluster of tiny bars under the train tracks where sticks of chicken, pork and vegetables can be had in good company, with much beer and sake imbibed..(photos even blurrier than usual due to increasing intoxication of camera operator):

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Eggplant with dancing bonito:

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Negima (yakitori with green onion) and tsukune (chicken meatballs):

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Chicken skin..sooooo good:

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And because we were still peckish, a mere bagatelle of a snack - some more tonkatsu at a random restaurant we passed walking back to the hotel:

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And then bed, with a very early start to get to the airport, but not before picking up something for the ride; a maguro ekiben. Delicious range of tuna and tuna belly.

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And that was our trip to Tokyo..thanks for bearing with me, it’s been fun writing this, even with the challenge of reaching the keyboard over my distended belly. ;)

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I can't believe anyone could eat that much food in that short of a time!

It would take me a year to eat all of those sweets!

My favorite depachika snack are those semi frozen mochi, the name is currently escaping me...

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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My Japan Blog -- better late than never!

My 12 year old daughter Wendy and I went to Japan in mid-December 2008 to spend the Christmas and New Year’s holidays there with friends. (My husband passed away in July and we didn’t want to spend the holidays at home, where there are too many memories.) It was the best decision we could possibly have made. Surrounded by the warmth of old friendships, we felt very, very comforted and loved. Wendy, who is into anime, was thrilled at her first visit to Japan, and even a broken ankle couldn't stop her from wanting to see and do everything. (She fell about a week before our trip and went through Japan with her leg in a neon-green cast – onsen and all!) And I of course love Japan and was excited to be back for the first time in 17 years.

During our three weeks there, we stayed with an American friend who lives in Tokyo, visited a “secret” ryokan in Chichibu, traveled to Kyoto for several days (including an overnight stay at a Zen temple), spent the New Year's holidays at the home of a Japanese friend who lives near Mount Fuji, and met Torakris and her family in Yokahama. Naturally, food was a major highlight of our travels.

Our eating adventures began as soon as we reached Tokyo. Instead of going directly to my friend’s home, she met us at the train station and took us to Hanukkah party at the Tokyo branch of the Chabad, luggage and all! About 30 people were crowded into a tiny room, eating latkes (the potato pancakes traditionally served for that holiday) and drinking Coca-Cola, while two Israeli women performed a comedy skit in Hebrew. Then it was out to my friend’s house in the suburbs to meet the rest of the family -- two dachshunds -- and eat a comforting bowl of homemade Chinese hot 'n' sour soup. Can we say a melting pot of cultures?

The next day, after sleeping reasonably late, we met a Japanese friend in Harajuku, stopping for a quick lunch at a ramen shop called Mensaika Hokuto just across the street from the Takeshita-dori exit of the JR Yamanote station. Sorry to say, we were so hungry that I didn’t take any pictures of the food! However, I was impressed that the cooks behind the counter wore snowy chefs’ whites and toques á la Tampopo, rather than the T-shirts and headbands they typically wear in Hawaii.

It was then over to stroll along Takeshita-dori, window-shopping, buying wild socks, and keeping a keen eye out for Harajuku fashions. Wendy was eager to see Cos-Play (short for "costume play"), where young people dress up as their favorite manga or anime characters and re-enact scenes from the stories. Most Cos-Play takes place in Harajuku on Sunday. But Wendy was delighted to come across this young woman in full “Gothic Lolita” regalia on Monday. (Note the coordinated hair bow and knee socks, printed with cupcakes and teacups, part of the Lolita style.)

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It started raining steadily, and we decided we shouldn’t continue walking around because Wendy needed to keep her cast dry, so we taxied over to Shinjuku where we dinnered at Champa Thai restaurant in Isetan department store. One of our dishes was this seafood hotpot.

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The next day, my American friend took us to one of her favorite hideaways for an overnight stay: a ryokan in Chichibu, the countryside about an hour by train out of Tokyo. Also along for the pajama party were an Aussie friend of hers, two elderly Japanese women (one an old friend of mine, one a friend of my American friend), and one well-behaved dachshund. Our group ranged in age from 12 to 80+, and I haven't had that much fun or laughed that much in a loooooooong time! Based on our dinner feast at the ryokan and other culinary excursions, we decided we would name our group "Six Hungry Women"! :laugh::laugh:

The train station in Chichibu was filled with craft stores and food stalls.

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Dango at the station.

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Enormous cabbages for sale.

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My place setting at dinner at the ryokan.

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Can you believe it? All this food for one person!! (And think of the dishwashing!) :laugh:

From left to right

Top row: (In the iron pot covered by the wooden lid) wild boar stew (a specialty of the country area -- personally, I thought the boar was tough), fresh strawberries for dessert, vegetable tempura, grilled ayu (sweetfish, a freshwater fish – now I know why it’s so revered!). [The dish in the top right corner belongs to the diner across from me who didn't want the fish.]

Middle row: Chicken teriyaki, (in the bowl with the orange lid) clear soup, (in the smaller covered pink bowl) chawanmushi (custard soup), sashimi (hamachi, maguro, and ika, garnished with a shiso leaf, shredded daikon, and sansho sprig), rice (in the aluminum pot covered by a wooden lid).

Bottom row: empty plate and porcelain spoon for eating the stew, dish of pickles, chopsticks, lacquer spoon, oshibori (wet towelette), small dish of mixed vegetables, soy sauce for the sashimi, upside down bowl for the rice (atop a rice paddle for scooping it out of its container), glass of water.

Japanese breakfast the next morning.

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Again, this set is one person's meal!

Top row from the left: Salad of green vegetables, tomato and ham; (in the orange dish) hijiki salad, grilled salmon, pan with simmering broth for cooking an egg.

Middle row: paper cup of natto (which I loathe so I didn't eat), assorted pickles, packet of nori to crumble over the rice, a raw egg meant to be cooked as desired.

Bottom row: upside-down rice bowl, oshibori, spoon, and chopsticks.

Not seen: container of cooked rice; teapot. The teacups are between the two trays.

These are the rotenburo (outdoor baths) at our ryokan (bathing is divided by sex), in a roofless cedar room with picture windows open to the sky, the cold air, the sound of birds, and a view of camellias. The tub in the rear is made of dark blue pottery; the tub in the foreground is made of cedar. Each comfortably seats 4 or more people. Each bath had a muslin bag filled with fragrant fresh yuzu tied to the faucet. That's steam you see rising from the baths.

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Several restaurants in town are noted for their handmade soba. This is the entry of the sobaya where we had lunch.

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We all ordered the vegetarian lunch sets: vegetable tempura, a huge bowl of soba, and a small dish of pickles.

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The soba, topped with vegetables.

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So much tempura I couldn’t finish my portion!

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Our Christmas dinner was traditionally American: the buffet at the Hotel Sanno, the U.S. military hotel in Tokyo. Friends had assembled a group of about 30 people, including expats and Japanese, and a good time was had by all.

It was quite a spread, complete with ice carvings and Santa Claus.

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After the Christmas buffet, some of our group took taxis downtown to view the Illuminations set up for Christmas. This shot was taken looking up into an archway.

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We also caught a free gospel concert and had coffee in Tokyo Midtown, a relatively new shopping center.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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My Japan Blog -- Part 2

The next day, we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto with my American friend and her Aussie friend. I was a bit disappointed to learn that eki-bentos no longer are sold on the train but need to be purchased before boarding. That used to be half the fun of a train ride in Japan!

After checking in at the Zen temple where we would be staying overnight, we had dinner at Da Maeda Italian restaurant.

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Their seafood pasta (seen here) was extraordinary, and Wendy’s pizza was the real thing on a crisp, thin crust. But skip their desserts, which are macrobiotic and made of tofu; the “ice cream” had a peculiar texture like ricotta cheese, and their “whipped cream” wasn’t!

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The next morning, we had a lesson in Zen meditation, followed by a tour of the temple and ceremonial bitter green tea (minus the ceremony itself) and cookies.

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In keeping with the Zen spirit of Kyoto, we lunched at one of the city's famed tofu restaurants. Izusen, a historic restaurant near Daitokuji temple complex, specializes in serving shojin-ryori, the tofu-based vegetarian cuisine that originated in the diet of Buddhist monks.

The path outside Izusen.

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Interior of Izusen.

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This was the first course.

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The second course. When one completes the meal, one has a nested stack of red lacquer dishes of various sizes. The dishes are shaped to represent monks' traditional begging bowls.

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That afternoon, we did the usual sightseeing (Kinkakuji, Ryoanji) and checked into the New Hankyu hotel near Kyoto Station for the rest of our Kyoto stay. We were pretty exhausted by then, so dinner was the surprisingly good “Viking buffet” at the hotel. Also surprisingly, we were the only Westerners in the dining room: all the other diners were Chinese tourists or Japanese out for bonenkai (end-of-year) parties.

The next morning, we stopped for coffee at Kobe Cappuccino Club across the street in Isetan department store. My cappuccino featured a delightful cat swirled into the milk.

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Then we headed out by train to Saga Arashiyama, a Kyoto suburb noted for its traditional craft stores. Wendy fell in love with washi (handmade paper) and chirimen (silk crepe), and the stores there gave us charms for good luck in the New Year. We also shopped at the unique craft store Chocomoo mentioned where all the figurines and mobiles are made from silk cocoons.

One food specialty from Saga Arashiyama is sweet pickled turnips. The red or white turnips are sliced paper-thin (you can see through the slices!) and pickled in a mixture of vinegar and sugar. Sometimes yuzu is added as well. Alas, we couldn't bring any home as they don't keep without refrigeration.

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Dinner was at another famed tofu restaurant, Yudofu Sagano. The restaurant's owners have collected antique Japanese tableware and kitchenware from buildings that were being torn down.

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The food is more "country style" and less refined than that of Izusen. At the lower right, my first taste of onsen tamago, a chilled, lightly poached egg "bathing" in broth.

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On Monday we made a pilgrimage to a famous Kyoto Shinto shrine: Kiyomizu-dera. The shrine is at the top of a winding road filled with pottery shops (and snack shops, like this one specializing in cookies and soft ice cream made from kurogoma, black sesame seeds).

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Another stop on the hill was Shichimi-ya, an Edo-era store that specializes in shichimi seven-spice powder, the popular chile-based seasoning that is sprinkled over foods like noodles to taste. It also sells collectible miniature pottery containers to hold the ground spices and I bought the third one for my collection. I also picked up a packet of powdered yuzu to take home. Its flavor is faint, but it has the fragrance of the real thing.

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From Kyoto, our friends went back to Tokyo while Wendy and I took the Shinkansen to Fuji City to spend the New Year’s holidays at the home of a Japanese friend I’ve known for more than 30 years. Everyone said it would be hard to get an invitation to spend New Year’s with Japanese friends because it’s traditionally a family-only holiday reunion, similar to Thanksgiving in the USA. But I merely had to mention that I’d like to experience traditional Japanese New Year’s celebrations for my friend to say “Come stay with us!”

On the last day of the year, my friend drove us to view Mount Fuji from two of her favorite “secret” spots. One was from the middle of a ricefield.

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The other “secret spot” with an unparalleled view of Mount Fuji was from a terraced tea plantation. Shizuoka, the Japanese department (province) around Fuji City, is famous for its green tea.

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A tea leaf and tea seeds.

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No tea for us! We stopped for coffee at a local kissaten called Academic Coffee. The old-fashioned pre-Starbucks café brews its coffee in glass vacuum pots, seen at the lower right.

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Wendy just HAD to order the Blue Hawaii, a luridly blue vanilla-flavored ice cream float.

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Another photo opportunity was Potato Supermarket, a local chain boasting the unforgettable slogan, “Welcome friends! I am Potato!”

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The house was overflowing with visitors. Besides my friend’s immediate live-in family -- her husband and parents-in-law -- her younger daughter was there when we arrived. On New Year’s Day, her older daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren joined us, so all together there were 11 of us in the house.

All meals took place family-style around the kitchen table, probably because it was the only warm room in the house (Japanese houses are not centrally heated and can be quite drafty in the winter).

Here, cooking sukiyaki.

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New Year’s Eve, we spent relaxing in the kitchen/family room. The TV was tuned to the Kōhaku Uta Gassen (“Red and White Song Battle”), the traditional New Year’s Eve musical entertainment. My friend was sewing a cat ear headband (which you’ll see in a later photo) for Wendy. Her daughter was knitting. I was writing postcards. Her husband headed out to the neighborhood shrine to get things ready for New Year’s.

Around 11 or so, we ate our final meal of 2008, toshikoshi soba (literally, “year crossing” noodles), meant to ensure long life.

Then a few minutes before midnight, we put on our coats (no handbags or cameras) and strolled two blocks over to the shrine. I could hear bells from Buddhist temples tolling 108 times in the distance to drive out mankind’s 108 sins -- but we paid our New Year’s observances Shinto style. The shrine was small and drew fewer than 100 people. We were introduced to a few neighbors (naturally, we were the only Westerners there, but I think my friend must have prepped the neighbors because nobody seemed surprised), then made our way to the altar where we did the ritual claps and bows in prayer.

Outside again, we stopped at the folding tables to drink small cups of amazake (sweet, mildly alcoholic sake) and oshiruko (sweet red bean soup) and snack on broiled squid cooked over fires in old oil drums. It was like a scene from an old Japanese movie.

Brunch New Year's morning (we all slept late and came to the table in our pajamas) was traditional New Year's foods: an assortment of delicacies called osechi, which housewives used to spend days in advance preparing. Like most women, my friend no longer spends days on end in the kitchen preparing these foods: they're bought from a caterer or department store food hall.

She did cook some vegetable side dishes, however, as well as a meat loaf rolled in kelp (delicious!) in the foreground of the photo.

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Ozoni is a soup traditionally eaten in Japan as the first meal of the New Year. Its key ingredient is mochi ricecakes; other recipes vary by family. My friend’s version contained chicken, daikon, bits of carrot, and leafy green vegetables.

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Vegetables including (clockwise from top) shiitake mushrooms, konnyaku, carrots (note the flower shapes!), gobo (burdock), snow peas, bamboo shoots, daikon topped with more snow peas, satoimo (taro-potatoes), and in the center lotus root. (I’m not sure what the green sprig is.)

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The kelp-rolled meatloaf was "good stuff"! :raz: I'll have to get her recipe. My friend also made homemade apple and kiwi jams for western breakfasts.

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Osechi foods traditionally are arranged in a set of tiered boxes called a jubako and served during the first few days of the year. As with Chinese New Year dishes, many of the foods are chosen because their names or appearances portend good luck -- herring roe because the many eggs represent fertility, shrimp or lobster in their shells because the bent backs suggest an old person (and thus long life), kelp because the Japanese word is a pun for "happiness."

This layer contained scallops, salmon, fish-based rolls, and vegetables.

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This layer contained crab claws, kazunoko (herring roe, symbolic of fertility), kuromame (sweetened black beans, for good luck), sweetened chestnuts (their gold color represents wealth), and other symbolic foods for the New Year.

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A “modern” tier of osechi foods, containing various patés, smoked salmon, and the like.

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Another view of the New Year's spread. Besides the foods previously described, the two patterned dishes in the foreground hold kohaku namasu (a mixture of shredded daikon and carrots) and homemade pickles.

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Well-fortified from New Year's brunch, we made our hatsu-mode New Year's Day excursion to a Shinto shrine to Fujinomiya Sengen Jingu, a large regional shrine that is the headquarters for more than 1,300 other shrines in Japan. The shrine is known for its pure water. People stopped at this small building to fill plastic bottles with water to take home to brew good-luck tea for the New Year.

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No shrine festival would be complete without food vendors (the Japanese are nothing if not practical!). These vendors are cooking yakitori. One could also buy yakisoba, grilled whole squid, and cotton candy.

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Fujinomiya is famous for yakisoba, so we had a snack at the shrine before heading back to my friend’s house. (Here's Wendy in her cat ears.)

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Along the way home, we also got some great shots of Mount Fuji from the balcony of Guest House Forest Hills, a catering hall where we stopped for coffee.

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Back in Tokyo, we met our American friend for dinner at En, a Shibuya restaurant that is part of a chain of trendy “Japanese brasseries” where the food is a fusion of traditional recipes, seasonal ingredients, and new recipes, all presented on rustic pottery dishes. (There's also a branch in New York City -- www.enjb.com)

One of the many dishes we had was pork shabu-shabu cooked in soymilk broth.

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I honestly don’t remember what this dish is! Something delicious with yamaimo.

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My choice for dessert was sweet potato cheesecake, served with wedges of candied sweet potatoes.

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Another afternoon, we had tea at Mariage Frères, the Ginza branch of the French tea emporium. The interior looks like something from colonial French or British times, with waiters dressed in white tuxedos. Tea is served in fine white china, from teapots in distinctive metal cozies.

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We also made an excursion to Yokohama, where we met Torakris and her family. Kris and her kids met us for lunch at the train station, and we walked over to Yokohama’s famed Chinatown, one of the largest in the world. We had lunch at Daska, which promotes itself as a food theme park. The food court is designed to resemble Shanghai in the 1920s, with individual stalls selling various Chinese foods.

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We thought this panda dumpling would be filled with red bean paste as a dessert, but instead it contained ground pork.

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Kris in her kitchen.

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Kris prepared a lovely dinner of temaki-zushi. On this platter, clockwise from the top surrounding the raw tuna, are sliced okra, squid, red onions and shiso leaves, scallops, some white fish (maybe sea bream), broccoli sprouts, and avocado.

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A second platter of ingredients held slices of smoked salmon, cooked shrimp, radish sprouts, pickles, and cucumbers.

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We could wrap our choice of ingredients in rice-topped nori, or for a lower-carb choice, lettuce leaves.

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Our final dinner was at the home of my elderly Japanese friend, whose husband had been in the diplomatic corps. She cooked a very cosmopolitan meal of oeufs en gelée, Pakistani chicken curry, Chinese barbecued spareribs, garlicky steak and vegetables, and Japanese shredded daikon and cucumber salad, followed by fresh strawberries and Godiva chocolate cookies for dessert.

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Despite spending three weeks to travel in Japan, we didn’t have time to see everything on our “must do” list and certainly didn’t have time to see all our friends. Wendy is already badgering me for us to go back next vacation! :laugh:

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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  • 3 weeks later...

I was in Japan for about 10 days during the last half of April. I had good intentions to take pictures and record what I ate, so I could report back here. However, any detailed post from me will have to wait for another trip.

For one thing, I didn't get to eat as many exceptional things as is typical for my trips to Japan. The first half of the trip was with a group, and the meals, while good, were utilitarian, to meet time and space constraints. Then, when the second half began, I fell and injured my leg enough to slow me down considerably, enough that I even chose McDonalds one morning for breakfast instead of walking a few short blocks to where I knew there was something far more interesting.

I did make one find (for me, anyway) that I think is worth reporting on: http://www.harimayahonten.co.jp/pc_english/pages/system.html (http://www.harimayahonten.co.jp/ has links to pictures and shop locations).

This shop has lovely senbei packaged for giftgiving. The unique thing about it is that, as you walk in (at least in the Tennoji branch that I visited), there are tables and self serve beverages and samples. You can take what you want and sit as long as you want. Then, I'm sure that it's hoped that you will feel moved to buy.

I'm glad I ran across this store and will return if I have the opportunity to do so.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Looking forward to my return eating-tour of Tokyo this November-December. If anyone is interested, I updated my blog during my last visit:

Day #1: Late arrival in Tokyo. The Dolloyau vs. Pierre Hermes "macaron throwdown"- http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...aron-throwdown/

Day #2: Trying to figure out my hotel toilet. I sample pocari sweat for the first time - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...panese-edition/

Day #3: Ukai-Tei, Patisserie Atelier de Reve, Ice Cream City! - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...nsory-overload/

Day #4: Hamadaya, Butagumi, Roppogni Hills, Sadaharu Aoki Patisserie (matcha opera cake!), video of me sampling five ayptical ice cream flavors (crab anyone?) - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...-cream-edition/

Day #5: L'Osier, Maisen, Rude Westerners, Mizutani- http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...d-shibuya-tour/

Day #6: Shinjuku stroll,Girandole Cafe - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...-avec-mes-amis/

Day #7: Ryugin, First time mojayaki, Kikunoi - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...est-lunch-ever/

Day #8: Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest, Notting Hill Cakes - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...ssert-blow-out/

Day #9: My first Tokyo subway ride, Morimoto XEX - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...ke-the-day-off/

Day #10: Kanda, Sushi Kanesaka, Hidemi Sugino, Laduree - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...er-dessert-day/

Day #11: Chateau Joel Robucon, I sit in the audience at the taping of a Japanese variety show - and understand nothing - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...n-the-audience/

Day #12: Last Day, Sushi Kanesaka (again), I compare the restaurants I visited over the course of my stay - http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/1...yanora-wrap-up/

www.josephmallozzi.wordpress.com

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Hi LordB - any places that you would recommend other visitors to put on their "absolutely must go" list?

And what did you think of moja-yaki? It tastes like hot wallpaper paste to me, since I met the Osaka-style okonomi-yaki first and much prefer it, but I hear that some people really like moja-yaki...

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Hi LordB - any places that you would recommend other visitors to put on their "absolutely must go" list?

And what did you think of moja-yaki? It tastes like hot wallpaper paste to me, since I met the Osaka-style okonomi-yaki first and much prefer it, but I hear that some people really like moja-yaki...

Hmmm. I think the moja-yaki is an acquired taste. My dining companion referred to it as "a goopier version" of okonomi-yaki (which I much prefer).

As for must-see places - I'm sure there are much more knowledgeable people on this board capable of giving you better advice. Still, since you asked, I really enjoyed my morning toro breakfasts at the Tsukiji fish market and loved wandering the basement dessert level of Mitsukoshi. Just load up, head back to your hotel room, and go nuts. I'm not sure what your budget is, but if you're willing to shell out the big $$$, I would highly recommend L'Osier in Ginza and The Molecular Tapas Bar in the Mandarin Hotel. Both are an experience and a half but will require reservations well in advance. Also, if you're feeling adventurous, arrange to attend the taping of a television show. Just have your concierge makes a call to find out the appropriate time for you to get there (I went to NHK Studios), take a cab over, and enjoy the show. I had no advance warning of the type of show I'd be attending. The concierge suspected it was a cooking show but it turned out to be a variety show. Despite the fact that I understood nothing, I enjoyed myself immensely, enthusiastically clapping on cue.

What are your interests? Budget? When are you going?

www.josephmallozzi.wordpress.com

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So a Tsukiji breakfast is good eating? I'd always thought it might be a bit over-reated.

I see what you mean by $$$...L'Osier would be a wonderful and very memorable place to dine, but the cheapest lunch menu is exactly what I paid in total recently for an evening of drinks, snacks, and karaoke for 4 adults and 2 teens at our local pub, run by a Filipina friend! Different world...wonder if L'Osier offers a cover charge for people who can only afford to ogle the decor?!

Excellent idea on watching shows being filmed, that would be very interesting.

P.S. When am I going? Already here, just the usual case of the local not making the most of the opportunities that visitors are determined not to miss!

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P.S. When am I going? Already here, just the usual case of the local not making the most of the opportunities that visitors are determined not to miss!

My dining companion on my last trip to Tokyo was working in Chiba. She would make the long trek every night and back to join me for dinner.

www.josephmallozzi.wordpress.com

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  • 9 months later...

Well, I just returned from my most recent trip to Japan. Despite what I wrote last year, I didn't get it together enough to prepare for posts in the quality of what I have read. And I didn't eat truly gorgeous meals such as have been described here. But, I was in Japan, so I ate far better than I do at home, and I think there are a few things I can mention that have not come up here so far. I'll do this in multiple posts, centered around subthemes, instead of in one big post. And there won't be many pictures, as I didn't concentrate on that as I should have. So, the topic of this post is ... buffet breakfast.

I stayed in three different hotels and one lodging temple. The lodging temple did not provide food, so discussion of that part of the trip will wait for a future post. The three hotels each had "viking" - Japanese for buffet - included in the room cost. So I took advantage of that, with different, albeit good, experiences.

Hotel number 1 was Shinagawa Prince. I often stay there when I first arrive in Japan, as it is across the street from Shinagawa station (great for catching the Shinkansen). This hotel complex has grown from my first stay to one business type hotel to the biggest hotel complex in Tokyo - complete with aquarium, Imax theater, shopping, etc. Of course, there are numerous restaurants. They run the gamut from a very reasonably priced food court (actually, where I had dinner my first night, not horribly exciting, but cheap and convenient, since I was tired from the flight) to a steakhouse with a stunning view of Tokyo, to traditional Japanese fare, to pizza/spaghetti, to curry, etc. This time, there were five restaurants (I think) that were open for breakfast. I ate at Hapuna, which has a variety of Japanese and western food for breakfast. The thing that draws me there is actually western - smoked salmon that melts in your mouth. But it is truly all good.

Hotel number 2 was Super Hotel - a nationwide budget chain. I stayed there for convenience and price; the breakfast buffet was a bonus. I had limited expectations, as Super Hotel is quite inexpensive. And I have stayed in Toyoko Inn, a similar hotel in Japan, where breakfast was extremely limited (onigiri or bread). So I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food was quite good. There were seven or eight hot selections that varied slightly every day (including things like scrambled eggs, spaghetti, fish, a really good cabbage dish, and harusame noodles), plus rice, plus miso soup, plus a small selection of breads, plus drinks. The plates provided were very small, I'm sure to encourage you to limit your intake, but there's no problem getting more than one serving. I probably won't dream of anything I ate there, but I will be happy to return to eat it again.

Hotel number 3 was Narita View, on my way back home. The buffet here was medium sized. Food was typically good Japanese and Japanese-style Western food, with one or two things with Chinese influence. My favorite thing that I had there was the niku jaga. This may not have been that good, but it appeared before my eyes about the time that I was contemplating that I hadn't had niku jaga in ages, and wouldn't have the opportunity again soon unless I got off my butt to learn how to cook it.

So, that's one part of the food aspect of this trip. More to come, but I'm not sure when - still fighting jet lag and catching up.

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As I stated in my earlier post, I stayed in a lodging temple for part of the trip. The main purpose of the trip was to go to my sect's Head Temple. It is in Fujinomiya. There is an option for temple members to stay at a lodging temple, or you can stay at one of the local inns. I opted to stay at the lodging temple.

When one attends an event with a group, bentos are ordered for the group. When one travels alone, one is responsible for one's own meals. I had my meals at the shokudo, or informal restaurants, that are located immediately off the Head Temple grounds. They serve simple food such as curry rice, curry udon, and ramen. Nothing fancy, but quite satisfying.

My favorite thing to get is teishoku, which is a protein choice, usually fish, plus rice, miso soup, and several vegetables. This photo is not from this trip, but it is the same as one of my meals - aji fry teishoku.

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It is a real treat for me to eat decent miso soup. I love it in Japan and really dislike it at home - it's always too salty/too much MSG here.

I don't have much to say about the remainder of my eating here, since it was mostly different types of teishoku.

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I like teishoku, too, tonkatsu teishoku, mix fry teishoku, chicken katsu teishoku, just to name a few.

The miso soup in the photo looks very substantial, my kind of miso soup!

Funny you mentioned niku jaga in your previous post. I don't think it's hard to make it; just follow the dashi, soy sauce, and mirin ratio of 8:1:1, as I mentioned somewhere in the Japan Forum!

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I will have to look up your instructions on how to make niku jaga, as that is probably my only option. Even though it may not be difficult, I am a very indifferent cook, so I hope it's easy enough for me!

I think my favorite teishoku is saba - another thing that I hate at home because it's so poorly done in contrast as to how it is done in Japan. Yes, that is a trend in my posts. Even though I live in a large metropolitan area (Washington, DC), the variety and quality of Japanese food is limited. This is probably because there are relatively few Japanese who live here. Therefore, even though I love Japanese food, I don't eat it that often.

My next, and probably last, post on this trip will be on sweets/deserts. It may take me a little time to get together, though - I have to photograph a couple of things that I brought home.

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  • 9 months later...

Wow, it doesn't feel that long ago that I was writing my last Japan trip report for eG! :laugh:

In November 2010, I took a nearly 3 week whirlwhind trip to Japan, and lots of good eating naturally ensued. Visited Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto (in that order), and with toooo many meals and photos (300+ of food alone!) to organise a day by day write up, I'm just going to post a couple of photos from each place of some memorable meals/food.

Osaka! (and Mt Koya)

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More to come.

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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