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A month with Japanese Cuisine

The rising sun country, the motherland of sushi and martial art capital – Japan. This amazing country, which is recommend to visit for any type of traveler, I have visited in 2015 and want to share my gastronomic experience in this country as I spent the whole month there. The purpose of the trip was not very touristic – Aikido training. However, have received and amazing experience!

My trip started from Vilnius to Copenhagen, where changed airplane to Tokyo. Flight to Tokyo was my first long haul flight. It surprised me that dinner arrived about 1-2 hours after we took off. I was not even that hungry, so could not finish it all… However the food was okay, nothing special. Breakfast came about 2 hours before the landing and it was simple. But I do remember the smelly cheese. Don’t know what kind of cheese it was, but it smelt strange… Few of my teammates were eating it, but most of them opened it, smelt it and carefully folded it into the napkin.

On the arrival day for dinner we had Korean food as it was very close to the Iwata (Keikogi clothes store). I don’t even know why we went there as none of my teammates knew what was Korean food. But they were lucky that my friend and I knew some of the dishes. We ordered Bibimbap and Bulgogi. They did taste good! The Bulgogi was still bubbling, so it was fun to watch!

My mornings were starting at 5am. Before going to Hombu, I drank the yogurt you see in the photo. Don’t know what it was, but it tasted good (if you know, leave a comment, would love to know). After training, I went to a local shop, where they were selling fresh Onigiris. I ate them every morning, so so tasty… Also this Onigiri was the first food I tried in Japan.
Of course, one Onigiri is not enough, so I was also buying shrimp salad. It included shrimps, broccoli, black mushrooms and carrots. Sometimes was buying similar salad: shrimp, broccoli, eggs and mayonnaise dressing. Good and cheap breakfast!

We lived in Shinjuku and were lucky enough to find a small festival which sold Japanese street food. As we knew that the following day we will leave for Kyoto, we bought as many as we knew Japanese festival food – Dango, Yakitori, Yakisoba, Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki. The most delicious was Yakisoba, this one we finished all. Takoyaki was too doughy for me, Okonomiyaki was good, but too much to finish it all, Dango was very delicious for my friend and I preferred Yakitori instead. All in all Japanese festival food is worth trying, just you need to have cash as they do not accept credit cards.

Every morning I was passing by a bakery. It was starting its work from about 8am when I was getting back to the hotel, but opening only from 10am. The smell was always amazing, unfortunately I could not buy anything as it was still not open… But, once we visited this bakery, I bought a cute panda bun and my friend a bun with sausage. The taste – yum!

I am not a soup lover, rarely eat it. Nonetheless, I found Udon soup tasty. Everything with shrimps was tasty as they are really good in Japan.

I am not a fan of spicy food, so I was very happy that cute Pokemon instant noodles were not spicy. With these noodles you also get a Pikachu sticker! Despite these instant noodles, “Cup Noodles” with seafood (also not spicy) was great, cost cheaper and could be found in small convenience stores.

Despite not being a Matcha lover, I did like this Matcha/Vanilla ice cream. There are many types of food with Matcha taste in Japan, yet I did not become a fan of it. On the other hand, I did like Japanese green tea. Maybe because it is served almost everywhere you go…

The first morning in Kyoto, in the hotel’s restaurant, we were waiting in the line to get breakfast. But unexpectedly a Japanese waitress appeared in front of us and asked to choose between two types of breakfast. Unfortunately, my friend and I understood only the word American and repeated “American…”. Waitress suddenly showed a hand gesture to follow and lead us to the table. We wanted to have buffet breakfast – but oh well, we were too shy and confused to say something… However, “American” style breakfast was tasty, we did enjoy it!

The second morning, we somehow managed to get Japanese breakfast. We were not sure what we were eating, but the taste was good. Soups is not something I eat often and had a bad experience with miso soup in Vilnius restaurant, so I was scared to try miso soup again. However, all the miso soups I tried (they give this soup almost every time) was amazing. Simple, light taste – perfect combination.

Many people know tempura, you can fry many types of fish, meat, vegetable even fruits in it. As it is so well known, we tried a tempura restaurant in Shinjuku. We chose the place randomly, just were searching for tempura kanji signs and that there would not be a big queue. It is rare to find English menu in Japan, so basically you choose your meal by the price. I ordered a cheaper tempura (the one in the bowl) and my friend ordered a more expensive one (the one in black plate). She got more shrimp, so I was not so happy with my choice… The green bell pepper tempura was not as good as expected… Ech, not the first time that a cheaper meal is less tasty, should learn from it…

These ice drinks we got from “7 eleven”. The drink is very compressed and in the middle is a deep hole. In this hole you have to pour a cold drink from the machine which is usually next to the cash desk. Somehow, my friend and I did not see that machine, just took those drinks from the counter and headed to the exit. We thought it looked very strange, why it is not liquidish. We tried to crush it with a straw a bit. But suddenly we heard the cashier shouting at us in Japanese and English mixed language. He took my cup, put it in the drink machine and poured cold water. The drink became like an ice cream smoothie. My friend also poured water and we quickly headed out of the shop as it was embarrassing…

In Shinjuku, about a 15 min walk from my hotel was Korean town (in Shin Okubo), which I often visited. There I often bought Korean candies and cosmetics. Also tried their lunch set which includes – Kimbap, Tteok-bokki and spicy Korean fried chicken. I knew that Tteok-bokki is very spicy, but really wanted to try chicken which at first looked not spicy, but it appeared to be…. Set also included Kimbap which was tasty, the chicken was spicy, but managed to eat it and Teok-bokki… Tteok-bokki is very spicy, but tried one and had to spit it out… I also offered one to my teammate and said it is spicy. She took one and said it is not spicy, but the next second she spit it out.

On the way back to Copenhagen then Vilnius we also got dinner and lunch set. This airplane meal was my favorite. For lunch they served teriyaki chicken with salad, rice and beans, a bun and chocolate pie. For dinner we got shrimp salad with a bun and apple juice. It was a good last Japanese meal.

As a sweet tooth I bought quite a lot of Japanese and Korean candies. My favorite are: “Hi-Chew” chewy candies, “Pocky” with almond pieces, “Milky” chewy candies, Strawberry “Kit-Kat” and “Meiji” grape gummies.

Would you like to share your gastronomic tour experience or tell readers about your city’s most favorite spots ? Send me an email and together we will create a story 🙂

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