Cycling Japan: Food and Restaurants

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these 5 photos have absolutely nothing to do with food or restaurants

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FOOD:  There are plenty of places in the world that can be considered food destinations, Italy and France being two of my favorite.  But the food in Japan is incredible, not just because it’s so good, but it’s so unusual and varied.  Sure, there are a few things that may challenge the Western Palette, but mostly the food is fantastic.

Obviously it helps if you like fish, usually raw, and often prepared without all the visual sanitization that goes on in our restaurants.  Today’s Raman bowl had scallops, but they still had all the tentacles on them that hold the meat to the shell.

My lunch routine has been to stop at a grocery store (not convenience store, which are numerous and have crappy food), and go to the prepared food section where they have an overwhelming selection of sushi boxes that are so appetizing I would become paralyzed by the options.  It’s cheap, and very good.

However, we do need to discuss Natto.  Natto is cured soybeans, which end up with this slimy, sticky, mucus-like substance holding the beans together.  Most Westerners dislike it for the taste and smell. That part didn’t bother me, maybe because I was so preoccupied being disgusted by the feeling in my mouth.  It is truly awful.

It’s a popular item to have with breakfast, especially in the North.  Most people put it on plain rice.  I tried that thinking possibly if I put something inedible with something I like, maybe I could eat it.  Nope.  It only made it inedible…but with rice.

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FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY:  Alison keeps asking me to take some photos of the food. I’ve resisted because I really don’t like the whole take-a-photo-of-your food thing.  Mainly because the end result is usually anything but appetizing, especially if taken with a phone (the only thing worse than amateur food photos are: cat photos, photos taken in public with an iPad – no taking movies in public with and iPad is far worse).

You know why those food photos in cookbooks and magazines look so great?  It’s because there is a whole crew dedicating dozens of man-hours, and piles of equipment, to get just one shot, and usually, what you’re seeing isn’t even real food anyway.  It just looks good.

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NAPKINS: The only other place I’ve traveled that had this weird napkin thing was Spain; where the napkins are small and about as absorbent as a plastic bag.  One messy tapas meal and you have piles of these slippery paper sheets sitting next to your plate.

Here, it’s not that the napkins are non-absorbent, it’s that in many small out of the way restaurants they are often non-existant.  And when you’re eating a big bowl of Raman that has a chicken leg in it and all you have are chopsticks and a spoon, well, keeping your face clean is a real challenge.  The Raman bars may give you one tiny napkin – maybe – along with the boxes of tissue on the bar.  Tissue?  Have you ever tried to wipe your face with a tissue?  It rolls up into a messy ball, and definitely becomes a single use product.

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CHOPSTICKS:  Eating with chopsticks is no big deal; however, I was given a dexterity challenge when an over-easy egg showed up on my plate the other morning and all I had were chopsticks.  What to do?  Well, I picked up the plate with my left hand and put it close to my face, grabbed the chopsticks with my right hand then folded (kinda) the egg in half and shoveled it into my mouth.  It was not an elegant process, but I got it in without too much of a mess. Really could have used a napkin at that point.  The next time I did a little better.

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SLURPING:  I’m OK with slurping in a restaurant, especially in Japan.  But, try as I might, I can’t seem to get my slurping nearly up to the volume as the rest of the men in the restaurant.  I mean it’s gotta be a learned art-form.  I can efficiently eat it with my modest slurping volume, but I’m gathering it’s not about being efficient, it’s gotta be about, well…. slurping.  I’ll try harder.

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~ by rjmang on August 31, 2013.

2 Responses to “Cycling Japan: Food and Restaurants”

  1. I’m with Alison… Let’s see some food shots, even if they’re not magazine quality. Really liking the photos and the blog. Tailwinds and no Natto.
    Bill

    Like

  2. Great photos/blog, Robert. I’d also love to see shots of food and people – and to hear about your couchsurfing experiences. Carry on! Carol

    Like

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