I didn’t plan to write an entire article about my experience with Japanese food in Tokyo. It just sort of happened when I noticed a good portion of the photos I took happened to be of the food. That is a testament to the quality and originality of Japanese cuisine.
Tokyo became the last destination of my four+ month trip through Eastern/Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and regular? Asia before flying home to the United States for some respite from constant travel. Buying a one way flight home from Asia is expensive so when it cost the same price to fly home from Japan as Hong Kong or another similar destination I figured why not have a “free” trip to Tokyo.
This is a post about food! Japanese food. My first real experience outside of a Tokyo 7/11 convenience store was this random restaurant. Like most countries on this trip I don’t speak the local language so ordering food is tricky. Some restaurants I discovered have picture menus but this one did not. Of course my first real food experience turned out the best. A waitress working there was excited to help me since she had studied in Canada for a semester.
“What do you want to try?”
I responded to her asking what she recommended. She mentioned sashimi, which I had never been a fan of. I hesitated, but ultimately went with her recommendation along with a beer from the tap.
I was thoroughly disappointed when my “meal” arrived. A few measly pieces of raw fish. I was going to have to made another trip to 7/11 to not end up starving that night, I thought. Alright, well the tuna was pretty delicious. Very soft with a rich but not fishy flavor. I can’t say it melted in my mouth but it went down easily. The white fish, I learned, is not something i’d like to have again. I ate it all because damn i’m not going to spend that much money and not eat all of the food.
Throughout the meal my waitress kept coming back to make small talk about what i’m doing here and her semester in Canada. The more we chatted the more I began to like her. I was disappointed after finishing my sashimi but as I was asking for the bill she told me my fish was still cooking. Turns out part of the meal included a healthy piece of tuna steak I had been eying in a rotisserie mini-oven. I thought the tuna that was cooking was someone else’s order and when it was ready I was so excited to try it.
The waitress and I chatted even more. When I asked about the sumo on TV she explained how the tournament works and about some of the top wrestlers. As I continued eating my tuna steak she brought over a gift – a paper scroll of the top sumo wrestlers names on a really fancy paper. Then as I finished my beer she brought over a cup of warm saki, a popular Japanese alcohol most of you are probably familiar with. We talked even more and after paying my bill I did something I very rarely do. I asked her out. And was rejected, though nicely.
Moving on, another day I tried my first bowel of ramen. Japan really has some cool technology because the way many ramen shops work is that the customer purchases a ticket with their order from a vending machine, sometimes outside the restaurant. At least for the really popular ones the customer will wait outside and when a seat opens up the order is already ready.
They let you tell them how soft or hard you want the noodles which is a cool touch to a meal that would otherwise be maybe too simple. According to ramen custom the customer is meant to slurp their meal to show the chef that they really like it.
And after finishing your meal and you’re ready to leave the cooks’ will scream “thankyou” in Japanese or something similar at the top of their lungs. Scary almost.
Here is another bowel of ramen for comparison. It’s a good budget meal at around $4-$7 a pop.
If I didn’t take advantage of Japan’s most popular food export I would be a moron. But finding sushi was not as easy as I thought. Don’t get me wrong, they eat a ton of sushi but its not like every restaurant serves it. This is some basic tuna sushi. Tuna, sushi rice, and nori.
Near my capsule hotel in Asasuka is a very traditional but touristy area of tokyo with a major temple of some sort. But near the temple is a street where they sell lots of traditional Japanese food and desserts. I found this assembly line pastry of some sort maker really cool.
Or watching this man perfect another dessert through the window.
I finished the day with sweet potato ice cream. But for dinner I settled on an overpriced chicken breast, salad, and beer at this restaurant where they make the food in front of you.
Let’s talk sushi again. A popular kind of restaurant in Japan are these sushi conveyor belt shops. You should pick up whichever you want and at the end they total the amount of plates at your seat by the plate’s color to find the total price.
And for the best and most expensive meal in Japan I spent an afternoon at the largest fish market in the world. This is the famous place where you need to show up in the early AM to watch them auction fish. I can’t be bothered getting up that early so I settled for a nice meal at a normal hour. Inside the market there are a handful of restaurants serving up the catch of the day for around $40 or so. It’s a great deal for the quality and ammount.
And there you have it, a sample of the Japanese food I ate in Tokyo.
John Bardos says
Everything looks very delicious.
Barbecue beef (yakiniku) and beef bowls (gyuudon) are also a great food to try in Japan. My favorite places are the Japanese style pubs (izakaiya) with all the small dishes of food you can sample.
Absolutely no country compares to the quality and freshness of Japanese food.
The Yakezie says
Locationless Living says
Shoot I knew I missed out on something. I also wanted to try Kobe beef but since I didn’t actively seek it and I don’t read Japanese it was hard to find. Next time.
Jason, I respect that you took a shot with the waitress. You win some and you lose some. Maybe it’s me but in America, I find Asian’s to be very clique, never really wandering or trying anything outside of their group. I wonder if it’s like that over there?
Locationless Living says
Thanks John I am glad that I did give it a shot and asked. For all I know I probably violated Japanese cultural customs asking her out at work in front of her boss. I always read Japan is a closed society but on the other hand Thailand was very opposite of that.
That looks awesome, and I can definitely appreciate sashimi under the right circumstances–the problem comes when someone who doesn’t know what it is orders it at a Japanese restaurant and then is severely disappointed when they realize they’re just getting some slices of raw fish, lol.
Props for taking a shot at the waitress. The key is numbers, you have to do this a dozen times to get one, keep on going (i.e. you throw enough mud at the wall, eventually something’s going to stick 😀 ).
Locationless Living says
Good point Andrew. I have developed the taste for tuna sashimi but I can’t say I am a big fan of any others.