In lieu of posting about my current food adventures, I’m continuing this flashback to 2004 and my trip to Japan.
That year was the start of the digital camera age. For me at least. I began the annoying habit of snapping photos up of everything and everywhere: the neighbor’s dog, plants and lots of food. The food on the airplane consumed on the way to Tokyo was no exception.
I’m not one of those people who doesn’t like airplane food. In fact, I’m okay with it. I remember quite fondly some good meals I had in the air. The food onboard Al Nippon was edible but unmemorable. Frankly, it was so long ago, I can’t go into detail of each bite, only that I ate everything and a warm towelette preceded each meal.
My Japanese is extremely limited (soo desu ne) and reading comprehension is nonexistent. In fact, I was baffled when viewing the menu to a McDonald’s on the way back to our hotel room. But I was equally delighted at seeing an elderly woman eating McDonald’s pancakes with chopsticks the next morning on the way to do some sightseeing.
Prior to the trip, I read everything I could about the country, including customs, food and lifestyle. It was here that I sought out the bottom level of department stores to grab something to eat from their food court. The food variety was amazing — elegant wrapped boxes of sweets, salads to go, pickled goods and freshly cooked tempura. It took ever effort in me not to buy everything in site. But I still managed to drop a few pounds due to the large amount of walking done every day sometimes up to 10 miles. (Paul wore a pedometer to keep track.)
Tokyo wasn’t the only city visited in Japan. We also took a bullet train to Kyoto. On board, we bought and consumed an extravagently packaged bento box of chicken karage. I loved the cute cylinders of rice.
By far, the most expensive meal was the shabu shabu in Kyoto, at 6,000 yen ($58 US in 2004) for two people. Prior to the trip, I had never experienced shabu shabu, the cooking of thinly sliced raw meat in broth. I’d heard about it was one of many things I wanted to try while in Japan. Unfortunately, no one in the restaurant spoke a lick of English but it was one of the best “first” meal experiences I have ever had. Everything was all-you-could-eat and well worth the cost.
And of course, the trip to Japan would not have been complete without a trip to a sushi bar. Prior to Japan, I didn’t venture too much into sushi territory, with the exception of the occasional California roll. But since then, I have grown to appreciate — and long for — sake (salmon). The sushi bar was located, along with other small stores, under rail tracks. It was the only food establishment visited twice with the exception of a nearby AM/PM near our ryokan to stock up on iced coffee.
Thankfully, the visit wasn’t a whirlwind compared to the 2002 trip to Europe. The seven-day trip left us with still so much to see and do. We definitely plan to return in a few years and eat our way around the country again.
More photos from the trip can be viewed here.