Japanese food, where clean eating meets culinary artistry. Where raw fish and pickled vegetables sit astride seaweed strands and tempura sculptures. Japan, the place where you can eat blowfish sashimi, octopus balls and cow rectum one evening, then follow it all up the next day with a 15-course meal that might qualify as one of the truly greatest eating experiences of your life. Japan, the home of some of the world’s most exquisite beef, certainly its most exquisite fish.
Japan, where the dining experience is not only about the actual food consumed, but also the presentation, the design, the sheer beauty of what you’re eating. Japanese cuisine, where the food canvas employs color, where form truly follows function.
From the traditional to the modern, from the quick to the drawn-out, and from the haute to the street — with a few unusual (and necessary) ideas for limited budgets to help your yen go a bit further — this is our take on Japanese food. Continue Reading »
This is a story about how sometimes it’s a good thing to take the long way, to miss the bus, and to find the shrine.
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Just outside the big city bustle of Tokyo lies little Kamakura, once the political and cultural capital of Japan during the 12th to 14th centuries. Kamakura is one of those places whose city map paralyzes the indecisive, for every few blocks is another Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple, many of which run 700-800 years old.
So where to get started? Continue Reading »
I’m about to try to explain why, together with the woman who does the English language voice of Hello Kitty, Audrey and I stalked a couple of girls in rabbit suits, only to end up in a big pink room eating scrambled eggs and ketchup served up by teenage Japanese girls in French maid outfits singing high-pitched children’s rhymes.
A G-rated reality wrapped in the potential for a XXX-rated fantasy.
As Bill Murray said in Lost in Translation, “This is hard.” Continue Reading »
A visit to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market is a rite of passage for sushi enthusiasts. For those of us who bow at the altar of raw fish, it’s truly a must-see.
After you’ve visited Tsukiji, you may never look at that piece of tako (octopus) or toro (tuna) in quite the same way ever again. Outside of the seas themselves, it doesn’t get any fresher than this. Continue Reading »
Walk through the tunnel of ten thousand vermillion torii (gates) snaking their way up the mountain at Fushimi Inari Shrine outside of Kyoto and you’ll soon realize that no two are exactly the same. Look one way and you’ll see bare, unadorned orange posts. Turn the other and you’ll see the names of all the businesses or individuals who donated each gate as a sign of gratitude for their prosperity. Among the thankful, a range — from men of small business to giants of Japanese industry hailing from companies like Hitachi or Panasonic.
No business is too big to be thankful to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, sake and prosperity. Continue Reading »
When I first set off on the road many years ago, I did so to countries whose toilets were mere holes in the ground. I’ve come a long way – this time to Japan, a country whose toilets are virtual thrones of electronic feature-laden splendor, including some which make music, many which feature remote controls, and most whose seats are heated.
But I digress. (Why I am here on the topic of Japan, talking about toilets? After all, toilet talk is rather un-Japanese.)
Travelers and tourists are often taught to look to historical sites for cultural insight, but Japan evinces plenty of culture in the seemingly everyday. It’s clear that the country has a long and deep history — complex, with nooks and crannies, cultural twists and turns, and sweeping evolutions. However, while I’m tempted to share my first impressions of Japan’s Buddhist and Shinto shrines, I’ll instead first share the cultural bits in the current, the white spaces of travel. Continue Reading »
When you enter Heniyokutu Cave at Daisho-in Buddhist temple, pause for a moment. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, details begin to appear — prayer offerings and written wishes tied to the base of Buddhist statues, Japanese characters tracing the bottom of the lights, faint smiles on many of the icons. In the dim light, there’s a feeling of peacefulness amidst it all.
Open up the 360-degree panorama below to see for yourself. Continue Reading »
I have never been to Japan.
Audrey has, but she enjoys the distinction of having eaten a hamburger there. In fact, she requested it. Insisted even. Forgive her though, she was only seven, it was her birthday and she was tired of noodles. But she did wear a blue kimono to make up for it.
No, this is not Audrey.
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43 posts and 16 photo sets later, we’ve reached the end of a long road of reflection on China, an on-the-fly addition to our around-the-world journey.
The impetus to change our itinerary occurred while we were in Central Asia. Several seasoned travelers and experts, having just come from China, convinced us to seize the moment and visit before the Olympics. We’re glad we did. Continue Reading »