I just came from a two-week taste of Japan. I ate primarily in Tokyo. WOW!!! The food in the subways is better than at many restaurants in NYC, Los Angeles, or Miami. The little hole in the wall joints served beer and all sorts of savory snacks. The numerous malls tend to have food halls in the basement that carry a wide variety of sumptuous desserts and meals. Below are several food families and concepts for you to consider when eating in Japan. Just remember that there are no garbage cans on the street, so walking and eating is not generally done. The Japanese food that is in North America is different to a degree from what is served in Japan. Itadakimasu, which translates to “I hereby partake,” is the premeal salutation! One says this with delight and often while visiting this fantasy food nation!
Fish: The fish was as fresh and flavorful as I had ever tried. Have it in sushi, sashimi, or in tempura!
Curries: The curries that go on top of rice were thick, rich, and aromatic. Some have meat in them, while others are vegetarian. Curry is drunk as soup and sometimes tops noodles or meats.
Bento: Boxed meals often served at lunch or sporting games in subways
Tempura: Tempura is an artform. Food is battered and then fried. It is filling and sometimes fluffy.
Dumplings: Dumplings are made every way imaginable and filled with everything from cheese to chicken and chive. They can be steamed or fried.
Kakigori: This is shaved ice that has fruit, cream, and flavor added to it. There are parlors to sit on a hot day and enjoy this traditional treat.
Futomaki: Thick rolled sushi
Mochi: Steamed rice that has been pounded into glutinous cakes and used in desserts. Often has a filling in the cake, such as red bean.
Konbini: Konbini are convenience stores that are open 24/7 and sell prepared foods, treats, and drinks.
Soba Noodles: Made in multiple colors from different ingredients and can be served at every meal. This is the foundation of many meals. People add curry, soy sauces, vegetables, meats, and eggs to the soba.
Miso Soup: A clear, brothy vegetarian soup that often has tofu in it.
Katsudon: A bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried pork cutlet. Add curry and it becomes a filling meal.
Nikujaga: Hearty, flavorful potato and beef stew often served over rice or soba.
Sake: Japanese rice wine with an alcohol content of about 17% that can be served warm or cold. Sake can be added to seltzer to make it sparking. Cake baked with sake is moist and delicious.
Okonomiyaki: Okonomiyaki is like a Japanese pizza pancake that guests make themselves on a hot table at a restaurant. It tends to have egg, flour, and cabbage as its base. People then add meat and vegetables to their liking. Top it with a glorious glaze, and you have a nourishing meal.
Buns: Buns are filled with meats, fish, scallions, and vegetables and measure around four inches in diameter and served steaming hot.
Macha: Green tea that is ground up for drinking and adding to desserts. It is high in caffeine and antioxidants.
Gotchisosama: This is the formal salutation at the end of meal that translates to “That was a sumptuous meal!” The majority of the meals and snacks I ate in Japan were memorable, mouth-watering, decadent, and very fresh.