Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

traveling through Japan


RossyW
 Share

Recommended Posts

...However if you take a look at Japanese home cooking you will see that it has strong roots to shojin ryouri or the vegetarian temple food...

Chris, this sounds like the Buddist vegetarian ryouri I've had at some restaurants. If so, i recommend a really nice place I sometimes go to in Tokyo up and right of Ueno koen called "Bon".

If my mail archives are correct, the phone number is 03 3872-0234.

Here is the English website for Bon, apparently it is Fuchu ryouri, a type of shojin ryouri. It looks interesting and pretty reasonable as well.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fucha ryouri - I have a book on it, and visited an Obaku-sect Zen temple in Wakayama that still serves it. I was actually thinking of making some of the dishes again and putting up a thread on it...after university exams finish, though, because they are quite time-consuming.

Fucha-ryouri is noticeably Chinese-influenced, so not that strongly related to mainstream historical Japanese cooking.

I have a reprint of an Edo period cookbook, and material on this period is not so hard to come by.

My graduate studies were on Muromachi period (pre Edo) Japan, and I came to realize then how much documentation was lost in the wars and fires of the period. Sure enough, reprint cookbooks etc for this and preceding periods are much harder to come by.

There is a certain interest in reproducing the pre-historical period foods, and in fact the local museum has pit-dwellings where they prepare and serve acorn cakes from time to time, but that's all.

I'm quite interested in Japanese historical cooking, partly because it's very obvious that soy sauce as it is now is not the same as it was originally, and partly because the ama-kara (sweet and salty) flavor that is the backbone of Japanese cooking now is obviously an Edo period development relying on sugar. I've often thought that what preceded it may have been much closer to the SE Asian "sour and salty" tastes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[Here is the English website for Bon, apparently it is Fuchu ryouri, a type of shojin ryouri. It looks interesting and pretty reasonable as well.

This sounds wonderful and fascinating-- I will add it to the list!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a reprint of an Edo period cookbook, and material on this period is not so hard to come by.

Which cookbook, if I may ask?

There is a certain interest in reproducing the pre-historical period foods, and in fact the local museum has pit-dwellings where they prepare and serve acorn cakes from time to time, but that's all.

Hee! I grew up about 30 minutes from Jamestown, Virginia, and went on any number of school trips where we visited the reconstructed fort (from 1607) and tried our hand at making cornmeal mush cakes. :biggrin:

I'd love to visit a reconstructed Jomon, Yayoi or Kofun settlement (I can't remember off the top of my head where the biggest ones are).

I'm quite interested in Japanese historical cooking, partly because it's very obvious that soy sauce as it is now is not the same as it was originally, and partly because the ama-kara (sweet and salty) flavor that is the backbone of Japanese cooking now is obviously an Edo period development relying on sugar. I've often thought that what preceded it may have been much closer to the SE Asian "sour and salty" tastes.

That's really interesting about the ama-kara flavoring-- I know that they used amazura or honey before "real" sugar became available, but I hadn't thought about the whole flavor profile changing because of it.

On the subject of soy sauce, I'd love to find a source for "hishio" (although the word's still out on what it was exactly, if I remember correctly).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the subject of soy sauce, I'd love to find a source for "hishio" (although the word's still out on what it was exactly, if I remember correctly).

Hishio has an interesting history especially since no one seems to really know what it really was even though there are several references to it in many historical documents.

This site has a lot of information :

Documents written near the end of the Nara period describe more than 22 varieties of hishio, miso, and soy nuggets. Of these, hishio was by far the most diversified, yet all its 15 or more varieties were generally grouped into three basic types:

1. Fish, Shellfish, and Wild Game Hishio (Shishi-bishio). Generally prepared by pickling crabs, sea urchins, or shrimp in a mixture of salt, water, and sake. Deer meat, eggs and, occasionally, fowl were also used.

2. Vegetable and Fruit Hishio (Kusa-bishio). Foods such as uri melon, eggplant, daikon, green leafy vegetables, kabu turnips, udo, fresh green soybeans, mizunegi onions, peaches and apricots pickled with salt and fermented. In some cases, vinegar and/or mizuame^?? sweetening was used with or in place of the salt. These preparations later evolved into tsukemono (salted pickles) and the various types of Finger Lickin' miso. During this period the first miso pickles were made using uri melons and eggplants.

3. Soybean and/or Grain Hishio (Koku-bishio). The last type of hishio to develop, these products contained soybeans, grain (rice, wheat, or barley), salt, and often sake or sake lees. The Chinese equivalent of this fermented soyfood was called kara hishio and that from Korea was called komabishio ("high-elegant hishio"). These three foods evolved into today's miso and shoyu.

Today you will still see hishio as very different products.

from a fish like sauce to a chunky miso like product.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For ideas on good sites to visit, especially Jomon and Yayoi related check out jomonjapan.org (all in English).

This link will take you to the Shizuoka page which talks about a Toro ruins, an extremely well preserved Yayoi village (that I have wanted to visit for some time now) but click on any of the prefectures on the left to open the page for that prefecture. There are even a couple shell mounds in central Tokyo.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

So it looks like we are leaning toward another trip to Japan this August, and we're in the fun stage of looking at maps and drooling over the possibilities for a 20-day trip. Last Feb., we focused on winter nabemono and kaiseki, spending time in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, and Hiroshima/Miyajima. Highlights of the last trip were Hiragiiya, Daichi, Hyotei, Hiroshima okonomiyaki and oyster cuisine. We liked Kozue as well in Tokyo.

So, where to go this time, and what to eat? We've never been to the western coast or northern Japan, so that is one possibility to beat the heat and crowds. We were also thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji or staying on Koya-san. We have pin marks in Amanohashidate and Matsushima, Fukuoka, Wajima, and Sendai. Osaka is also an idea, as we have never spent significant time there. We can easily get off the beaten track, and we'll go anywhere for great food! What would be the best region for late summer eating?

We'll definitely spend time in Tokyo on business, so any new recs there are welcome. Our goals this time would be to find a top-notch wild unagi restaurant, soba, and better tonkatsu than Maisen. We are also looking for outstanding itamae-style restaurants and sushi.

Any yummy-sounding ideas?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We spent 4 days in Osaka on our trip (in April) and loved it. Lots of things to see - and excellent food. That said - I took a look at the climate information in August - and it pretty much looks like our temperatures in Florida (average highs in the 90's)! So I am not sure how pleasant the city would be that time of year. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Osaka is hellishly hot in August - as are most places along the Inland Sea at that time of the year - and Kyoto also gets very hot, as it is in a sort of basin between mountains. You could beat the heat by looking at temples more in the hills than in central Kyoto - for example Uji (try Fucha-ryouri vegeatarian cooking, more Chinese-influenced than regular temple food), or Ohara to the north.

It's too long since I lived there, though, so hope some other eGulleteer will give you more up-to-date advice. Just take it easy, be prepared for late-afternoon thunderstorms, and enjoy things at your own pace!

Mt. Koya has temples where you can stay. I have stayed there at various memorial services for my first husband, so one way and another I don't recall much about the food (it's vegetarian of course). It's considerably cooler than the surrounding areas.

I have been near Sendai in the summer, and it was cooler than Tokyo. Hokkaido, while cool, can be fairly crowded, especially in mid-August. Holiday travel peaks on August 15 in Japan, so try to have bookings and plans for that week (including the weekends either side) made well in advance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the ideas. Yeah, I remember traveling in August during my student days. I had spent the summer in broiling Tokyo, then we traveled by train as far as Nagasaki. We stopped somewhere on the beach in Kyushu and I remember a wonderful iced somen with little cherry tomatoes bobbing in it :smile: If I remember correctly, we stopped in Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Kobe, Kyoto, and Nagoya--all stifling. That was 15 years ago, but right now it is freezing and raining daily in London, so maybe that is clouding my judgment :hmmm:

My uncle has kindly offered me the use of his house in Kobe, but we'd only do that if it's a good base for eating. Robyn, what did you have in Osaka?

And what are the Japan Alps like in summer?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the ideas. Yeah, I remember traveling in August during my student days. I had spent the summer in broiling Tokyo, then we traveled by train as far as Nagasaki. We stopped somewhere on the beach in Kyushu and I remember a wonderful iced somen with little cherry tomatoes bobbing in it  :smile:  If I remember correctly, we stopped in Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Kobe, Kyoto, and Nagoya--all stifling. That was 15 years ago, but right now it is freezing and raining daily in London, so maybe that is clouding my judgment  :hmmm:

My uncle has kindly offered me the use of his house in Kobe, but we'd only do that if it's a good base for eating. Robyn, what did you have in Osaka?

And what are the Japan Alps like in summer?

This is part of something I wrote elsewhere about our eating in Osaka. I wrote it in response to a question about dining in Osaka if one doesn't speak any Japanese. Of course - if you speak Japanese - eating anywhere won't be a problem.

"We had 4 different dinner experiences in Osaka. First was street food at the cherry blossom festival. I recommend it for people who are in town then.

Then we ate one night at the tempura restaurant at the hotel (Ritz Carlton). It's an intimate place (maybe 10 seats) and we were the only people dining there that evening (most of the hotel guests preferred the Japanese steak restaurant). It was excellent - but if you're not a hotel guest - you might want to try tempura elsewhere. No English spoken. No menu in English. We communicated with our limited Japanese and by means of a big English food dictionary the chef had (he used it to explain dishes to us).

Another night we ate at a kushi-katsu (which is basically fried things) place - Mogami. It was a Friday night - and the place was wall-to-wall with office workers celebrating the end of the week. The interesting thing about this restaurant is that there's a fixed order of courses (total of 36 in all). Everything from prawn to asparagus to mushrooms to eel to pork to tofu. You name it - they fry it . And you can stop whenever you want. The more you eat - the more you pay. The menu is in English and Japanese - and there is a written restaurant description in English too. So - although I don't think that anyone at the restaurant spoke more than a word or two of English - and I didn't see any non-Japanese people the night we dined - this is an informal place where it is very easy to eat without speaking Japanese. It is also about as close to a "tourist restaurant" as we got. If you're not Japanese - they put a little flag from your country of origin at your table setting (we were the only people with flags ).

Last - we went to a fairly new "French" kaiseki restaurant – Kawazoe. The chef/owner worked at a more famous restaurant – Kahala – where we were unable to get a reservation – so the concierge thought we would like this. And we did (although the only French thing about the meal was a lonely piece of French bread). There is a set menu – and it has been translated into English on a piece of paper. But that English is about all you're likely to find here unless – like us – you wind up seated next to a Japanese person who was educated at Oxford! Note that we did wind up in a few "non-English" restaurants where other patrons spoke various amounts of English - and the other patrons were always friendly and willing to help us.

Again – this is a small place – perhaps 12 seats.

By the way - if you go to the Osaka Aquarium (which we liked a lot) - there is a food market next door. And a section of that food market has a "street" which recreates parts of Osaka a while back (you have to look for the "street" behind restaurants like KFC). There are perhaps 6 nice inexpensive "plastic food" restaurants there. Poke around and I'm sure you'll have a good lunch (we did - Chinese dumplings)."

The Osaka metro area has a population of about 8 million - about the population of New York. There is lots to eat and do - and 4 days hardly does it justice. August wouldn't be my first choice in terms of times to go there - but I'm sure if you go there then - you'll be able to eat well and find ways to get out of the heat. Only thing to keep in mind is that Osaka is more of a business city than a tourist city. We found there was little in the way of English spoken outside the hotel concierge desk. On the other hand - my husband's year of learning Japanese went a long way (because the people are extremely friendly and polite and willing to communicate in non-verbal ways). So I guess the issue is whether you want to do a big city - or a smaller city - or the countryside - or a bit of each. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Robyn. I'm beginning to wonder if I should put Osaka off til winter, when fugu is in season.

What about Kanazawa and Kaga-ryori? Is this also best in winter? I've heard good things about Asadaya ryokan, Ootomoro, and Kotobukiya. Will it be impossible during Obon? If we go up there, I'd like to visit the Noto peninsula and Wajima.

Where should I go for a wild unagi restaurant? I just saw "Spirited Away" ("Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi"). In the extras, Miyazaki asks his young animators if any of them have seen an unagi being gutted in an unagi-ya, and they all shake their heads. He throws up his hands and declares Japanese culture doomed. It just made me hungry for fantastic unagi :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good news! Looks like our travel dates are for a little later in August, starting from the 20th and going to about the 10th of Sept. Should help beat the crowds and heat somewhat.

OK, starting to compile a list of Tokyo unagi. So far, I have Juubako and Obana. I'm looking for cooking classes, especially anything that will improve my knife skills and rice cooking.

Mr. Creosote threw out the idea of climbing Fujisan, despite recent traumas on Kilimanjaro :shock:

If we are going to be carrying hiking gear, I figure we might do some more walking in central Chubu. I'm now looking into walking through parts of the Kiso valley, maybe putting Takayama/Gokayama/Shirakawa-go on the itinerary. What I'd love to do is find someone who can teach us about foraging mountain vegetables and sansai cuisine. I'm also daydreaming about a rural mountain onsen ryokan with spectacular views and an outside bath.

Anybody know if it is advisable to rent a car to get around the Noto peninsula and the countryside around Takayama? Public transport does not look great around there. We live in the UK and Mr. C is a fearless right-hand-side driver, but I can't navigate even in English and have no sense of direction.

Sizzleteeth recommended what looks like an awesome culinary tour company called Intrepid that arranged the trip in the thread Hiroyuki mentioned. Man, it would be nice to have someone taking care of all these logistics, but I think we need a bit more room to roam.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Robyn. I'm beginning to wonder if I should put Osaka off til winter, when fugu is in season.

What about Kanazawa and Kaga-ryori? Is this also best in winter? I've heard good things about Asadaya ryokan, Ootomoro, and Kotobukiya. Will it be impossible during Obon? If we go up there, I'd like to visit the Noto peninsula and Wajima.

Where should I go for a wild unagi restaurant? I just saw "Spirited Away" ("Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi").  In the extras, Miyazaki asks his young animators if any of them have seen an unagi being gutted in an unagi-ya, and they all shake their heads. He throws up his hands and declares Japanese culture doomed. It just made me hungry for fantastic unagi  :raz:

I've never had fugu - and perhaps it is pretty good - but I suspect people make too much of a fetish about it. There is plenty of great Japanese food without fugu. So I wouldn't plan a trip around the "fugu season". We had some excellent unagi in Japan (particularly in Kyoto) - but I don't have the slightest idea whether or not it was wild.

Different kinds of people like/can tolerate different climates. On my part - I can have unbearably hot humid weather staying at home in the summer. And I don't like northern winters. So spring and fall are the seasons I most like to travel in places like New York/Chicago/Tokyo/most of Europe/etc.. Your mileage may vary. Robyn

P.S. Late summer is also hurricane season at home - and typhoon season in Japan. Don't want to travel too far at that time - and wind up worrying about storms at home - and storms in the places I'm visiting. Double whammy I'd rather avoid.

Edited by robyn (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never had fugu - and perhaps it is pretty good - but I suspect people make too much of a fetish about it.

Quite true. For many including me, fugu is too bland ("tanpaku" in Japanese) to enjoy, and it's all about the texture.

Here is a piece of good information for those who want to have the taste of fugu overseas: The flesh of sturgeons is quite similar in taste to that of fugu.

This is a finding of the famous TV show, Mega Ten:

http://www.ntv.co.jp/megaten/library/date/06/03/0305.html

(Japanese only)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I'd love to do is find someone who can teach us about foraging mountain vegetables and sansai cuisine.

It doesnt seem to be near where you are planning to go, but in Omi Maiko, Shiga, just alongside Lake Biwa, there is a Bed and Breakfast called Trek-Station Maiko-Hut, which gives guided tours up Mount Hira, including Sansai identification tours, etc.

http://www.trekstation.co.jp/index5.html

I also think there were some onsen nearby, and I think Mt Hiei was just a few train stations away. When I stayed there I didnt go hiking though, it happened to be pouring rain the days we were there, and our objective at that time was more to explore Lake Biwa area then anything else. I did happen to identify my first sansai there though:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...hl=sansai&st=33

The only thing about this place is the nearby town is very small and uninteresting, and the hotel is not near to the train station, but it was a very nice quiet place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Very interesting suggestions, Kiem Hwa. I'll research them a bit. A sansai trip is exactly what I'd like.

Our plans are getting even more complicated. My husband has business elsewhere in Asia, so we may tack on a small trip to Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok just before Japan. Woo hoo! I've never been to any of these places. Some friends may be joining us for part of the trip, and they want to go to a fabulous onsen. They go to Japan often, but for some reason have never been to an onsen. I'll look for one in a rural setting with a really good bath.

I think we'll put off Osaka for later. I've had fugu several times, as well as kawahagi. I'd agree that they are most interesting for their texture, not their flavor. Right now I'm more interested in unagi. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

Hey all,

My first post here so be nice to me :)

Well i'm about to plan a trip to Japan, but i need some help. Maybe some of you knows some good links for travel agencies that specialize in gourmet tour's in Asia, Japan.

Two places i realy like to go is Kyoto and Tokyo, but this only becouse that is almost places i know.

My reasons for trip will inspiration, i have worked with Japanese food for some years, but never been to japan.

Hope some of you can help me.

Best regards,

Gilbert

Food blog - www.otal.dk

Best regards,

Gilbert

Food blog - www.floss.dk

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What time of year will you be here? How long? Budget? Traveling companions? "Must-see" places or activities?

Well i'm hoping to go here in december / january eks 23. December and comming back January 5.

Budget, dosent matter. and i think i'm going alone. must see will be the fish market in tokyo.

Best regards,

Gilbert

Food blog - www.otal.dk

Best regards,

Gilbert

Food blog - www.floss.dk

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gilbert - I am not a big fan of tours. Think about it. Some of the best restaurants in Japan have 15 seats. They are not interested in tours.

My husband and I traveled alone - and we did ok by ourselves. One reason we did ok is I spent a fair amount of time learning about dining in Japan before we left. Another reason is my husband studied Japanese before we left. I think what he did was more important than what I did. Because there is very little English (or any language other than Japanese) spoken in Japan.

So I think the single most important thing you can do before you leave is learn some Japanese (my husband used the Pimsleur tapes - order yours tomorrow :smile: ).

The second most important thing you can do is make some friends here (or anywhere else you can) with people who live in Japan - and invite them to be your guests and to dine with you. They can help you with the food - and the Japanese.

I cannot emphasize enough how important the language is. There are many excellent restaurants in Japan where you can't even make a reservation if you don't speak Japanese. And you will enjoy everyday restaurants more if you speak some of the language.

I also recommend buying a couple of books about Japanese food and ingredients - food dictionaries. And an excellent website for eating ideas is http://bento.com. Also - stay in hotels with good concierge staffs. They can help point out places you might not otherwise find.

By the way - if you go to Kyoto - we met an excellent English speaking guide there. If you are traveling alone - it might be worth your while to engage him for some sightseeing. And perhaps to accompany you to restaurants.

Also - Japan is a very very safe country. Easy to get around. Even if you don't speak the language - you won't have any problems. It's just that you will enjoy your trip more if you do speak a little. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your time period may be a little difficult for gettting really good food. Many restaurants, stores, and other businesses will be closed around Jan 1-3 (sometimes longer) for the New Year holiday (oshogatsu), especially the smaller places. You may want to check that out before you leave--even Tsukiji (the fish market) might be closed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Tokyo, you are likely to find people who can speak English ... outside of Tokyo is another story. Certainly, the more Japanese you know, the better off you will be.

I'd suggest contacting the Japanese National Toursim Office (JNTO) in your country, for information on general travel, customs, and special offers they have for inter-city train tickets and other "deals". They have special offers for the US and EU that must be purchased before you arrive in Japan.

Re Kyoto, by all means, get a guide. The city is so full of wonderful gardens, museums, shrines, that having someone help you prioritize and get to the various sites is imperative. Money well spent.

Also, while you're in Kyoto, spend a half-day in Narra. Not for anything culinary, but to see the history of Japan's first capital. World's oldest wooden building, largest Buddha, largest religious statue.....

Enjoy!!

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...