Food in Japan runs the gamut from “Oh My God, that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten” to downright bizarre. I ordered my food using crazy charades style gesturing and a modern food dispensing vending machine. The culinary experiences of Japan cannot easily be summarized or even described as they are so diverse. However, this is what makes eating in Japan so intriguing. How can you resist ordering the meat of past race horse champions or trying the freshest sushi you can buy?
For me I couldn’t resist the delicacies and disastrous dishes that make up Japanese food culture. From their version of McDonalds (Mos Burger) to traditional Udon noodles, Japan doesn’t disappoint. That’s not to say that some of the dishes were less than desirable, but all of the foods I tried were worth tasting once. I will give this island nation the award for best sushi I have ever had, but next time I’ll probably pass on the bull testicles.
For an Asian nation, there is plenty of comfort food and you can probably buy whatever you are craving for a price. You can’t go wrong with a stop at Mos Burger, which serves up a delicious hamburger with fresh fixings. But, eating hamburgers in Japan seems too easy. As we ventured further from hamburgers we found amazing rice and shredded pork dishes for under five dollars, which in Japan is a steal. We also enjoyed cheap udon noodles, made fresh in front of your eyes and fish made in every imaginable way.
My favorite way to enjoy fish in Japan is sushi. The sashimi and rolls are so fresh you can’t compare it to anything we could get back home (especially considering we come from a land locked state). Eating fresh sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market was at the top of our to do’s in Japan and it was amazing. Eating raw fish for breakfast may not appeal to everyone, but this was the best sushi I have ever had. In particular they had a plate called “crazy toro” and it lived up to it’s name. It was a slice of fatty tuna, heated with a flame torch and then served hot, making in melt in your mouth delicious.
I still think my favorite way to enjoy sushi is via conveyer belt. You may be scratching your head, but it’s all the rage in Japan, sushi served on small plates and then placed on a circular conveyer belt and displayed right under the noses of all the restaurant customers. If you don’t speak Japanese it doesn’t get any easier than simply taking a look at your dinner as it goes by and picking up the one’s you want to eat. Each plate is color coded so that you can easily determine the price of each dish. No talking necessary, which is good because your mouth is probably full of sushi.
Another highlight of Japanese cuisine is the excellent bar food served at izakayas. These small, traditional Japanese “pubs” serve a mix of fried bar food and regional specialties along with copious amounts of beer and sake. I loved some of my favorites from home such as fried chicken, but was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the tasty chicken sausage with raw egg and the steamed cabbage as well. The spread at your typical izakaya can easily satiate even the most fickle eaters.
Along with the easy to digest we had some downright weird food while in Japan. We were lucky to have a local guide for these specialty dishes, which included raw cow liver, bull testicles and horse meat. I didn’t have very high expectations for these dishes, but they impressed me. Not only did I not have an instant gag reflex, but they were pretty tasty. The cow liver was a chewy but good, the bull testicles were great with ginger and the horse meet was surprisingly flavorful.
Raw horse meat, apparently from past race horses- it’s better than you think.
All said and done, Japan treated us well when it came to food. We were able to buy a few things we had been craving, such as cheese and bread as well as try some new things. While I probably won’t seek out raw bull testicles back home, the sushi is something I already miss. It’s always good to have a reason to return to a place, especially if it’s for the food.