Japanese Food & Culture

A culinary tour of Japan should start out with a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market in the heart of Tokyo. This fish market has been in business since the 1500s and features many wonderful delights, besides the tuna auction, which occurs early in the morning and is closed to the public. Visitors can wander the many vendor stalls and buy from individual vendors. While at the market, look for lessons on making soba noodles by hand. These very thin noodles serve as the base for many Japanese dishes. They can be served either in hot broth or chilled with a dipping sauce. A great place to try these is at the restaurant attached to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

After the tour of the fish market head to one of Tokyo’s eight top rated restaurants from Michelin. Tokyo has the most three star rated restaurants of any city in the world. Top choices include traditional Japanese fresh produce at Hamadaya, try the sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, or the poisonour puffer fish at Usukifugu Yamadaya.

After enjoying Tokyo the next great stop should be in Hiroshima for some okonomiyaki made from a combination of flour, eggs and shredded cabbage. The diner can then choose what other ingredients he may want including green onion, pork, and seafood along with varied vegetables and cheeses. In many areas of Japan the ingredients are stirred together. However, in Hiroshima, the okonomiyak is made in layers with lots of cabbage. The best okonomiyak in Hiroshima can be found at itchan and Hassho. The visitor should try different combinations as one is sure to please.

A highlight of many visitors’ trips to Japan is a stop at the island of Miyajima. While there the visitor should make sure and try the smoked oysters at the restaurant on the bay. One should also try the momiji manju leaf shaped pastries stuffed with red bean paste or chocolate cream. These are made at many restuarants there. One should also look to pick up a painted wooden rice paddle for a souvenier here. Legend says these paddles were invented by a monk who lived there many years ago.

Finally, the visitor to Japan should travel to Takayama and visit the Jinya-mae and the Miyagawa morning markets. While there the visitor needs to sample the Japanese pickles called Tsukemono, which are pickled in either brine or salt. These pickles come in a variety of taste so make sure to sample several complimentary ones as the visitor wanders through the market.

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