Now let’s get to the stuff that I know my best friend Nali is the most interested in: what I ate while in Japan.
What is it about vacation that has you eating your body weight in yummy (but very healthy!) food?
I eat Japanese food nearly every day in one way or another, so it wasn’t that Japanese food was oh-so-exotic to me, but we really ate the spectrum on this trip.
Mom went to Japan in 2013 and came back with tales of department store basements. In Tokyo, many department stores’ basement levels are food departments–with stalls and counters selling all kinds of fresh veggies, fresh fish, meat, sushi, miso, sweets, gift sets of snacks or other foods. They call it a “depachika” (department basement).
It’s overwhelming at first. It’s like a supermarket on steroids (supermarkets in Japan are more like Target or Wal-Mart–you can buy anything there, not just groceries). There are a few places to eat snacks in the depachika–we stopped for a quick snack of takoyaki in the midst of a shopping trip.
|Takoyaki: bite-size octopus in a dough ball|
On our first full day in Japan, we went to a tofu restaurant for dinner, where we had a six-course meal that was tofu-based. I was stuffed by the end of it. Luckily, it was about a fifteen minute walk back to our friend’s apartment, so we could digest.
|One of six courses|
We had a lunch-snack of ohagi one day–softened rice with sweet azuki (bean paste) wrapped around it. A variety of ohagi is kinako-mochi: a rice mochi covered in kinako, which is powdered soy. Yum!
Our friends homemade these babies for their temple parishioners. We were there for a general day of remembrance for those who have died.
My grandfather loved ohagi, though he called them “botamochi,” which is the Kyushu dialect name for ohagi.
We also had yakiniku (Korean barbeque) for dinner one night, where you have a small grill at the table and you get meat, seafood, and veg and you cook it yourself. So. Good. You could just see that the meat was great quality and it cooked up wondefully.
We also had yakitori another night, which is skewered chicken cooked grilled on a small grill. But it was seriously the best chicken I’ve ever had (and my diet is like 60% chicken) and they don’t waste the chicken organs and offal, which I also ate, but grilled and skewered and sauced, it was so delicious. We had kebabed vegetables and ordered soup as well, but it was yum!
We had sushi twice. The second time was more of a novelty thing for us: you take the sushi off the conveyor belt and eat it. I’ve had better sushi in my life, but it was fun to see it all slip by you.
Oh, right, the soba restaurant in Hakone, too. Well, it was a small restaurant of only, at most, maybe twelve tables and the soba noodles tasted super fresh and all the garnishes you put into the soba–chopped scallions, ginger, fish flakes, etc.–were really good, too. Plus, we got soba tea, which is yummy!