About three weeks ago we landed in Tokyo. I was absolutely excited about our Japan trip as I wanted to go for a couple of years now. Crazy Tokyo, the beautiful nature, the cultural wealth and of course the fantastic food made Japan a dream destination for me and I was definitely not disappointed.
We started our trip in Tokyo, the city of vending machines. On every corner you have the chance to buy a drink. Useful but also funny. This automatic thing is quite funny in general: What’s popular for quick lunches are some kind of ticket machine restaurants, where you decide what you what to eat based on plastic food displays or pictures. Then you press the appropriate number on a machine, insert money and recieve a ticket that you hand to a person behind a counter, who freshly and very quickly prepares your dish. We also went to a fully automatic Sushi restaurant, where we ordered via touch screen. While you were eating, the screen invited you to play games. Crazy world.
Tokyo is a crazy place – big and diverse.
The food options in the city are endless. A small eatery on every corner. The interesting thing is that often small restaurants specialize in just one type of food. For example Ramen, my favorite Japanese dish (first picture): noodles served in a miso or soy sauce flavored broth with various toppings such as meat or tofu, greens and seaweed. Other places would specialize in Soba (buckwheat) noodles, Yakitori (skewered chicken), Shabu Shabu (hotpot) or Sushi.
Of course we also had great sushi in Tokyo. At six in the morning for breakfast on the famous Tsukiji fish market. It was a bit unreal to see so many packed restaurants at that time of the day. It was not only tourists but mainly people from the market enjoying a hot soup or some fish.
With a lot of new impressions we reached beautiful Kyoto by train. We spent three days temple hopping, gazing at impressive temples and walking through lush gardens.
We stayed in a Ryokan in Kyoto, a traditional Japanese guesthouse, which was a great experience. It was the place we also had Kaiseki dinner, a Japanese multi-course feast, where the choice and presentation of food makes a unique dining experience. I would like to go into more detail in a separate post.
At the Ryokan we also enjoyed a typical Japanese breakfast. Some components were quite unusual for the Western taste, but I gladly ate rice, miso soup, grilled fish, pickels and Nori (dried seaweed) for breakfast.
I love the way Japanese attach great importance to the term „eating with your eyes“. The balance of colors, portion size and the presentation of food play an important role. We often had bento boxes or sushi on the train and even take-away foods are so beautifully wrapped or arranged. Japanese people seem to really appreciate their food and take time to eat, which is great. The Japanese cuisine is also very healthy. You rarely see overweight people and old people seem to be very agile.
From Kyoto we continued our trip to Nara, a relaxed town with the famous Great Buddha and from there on to Koya-San, the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, where we stayed one night in a temple and tried the typical vegetarian buddhist cuisine.
Our trip was definitely characterized by great contrasts. From the peaceful Mount Koya we took the train to Osaka, where we spent the evening on Dotonbori street, which is a concentration of neon lights, huge crowds and Karaoke bars. The typical food in Osaka is Okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake with literally various ingredients. It is definitely a meal to make use of leftovers. We sat at a table equipped with a hotplate where we fried our Okonomiyaki. It was not our favourite kind of food.
We also spent a couple of days in the mountains near Nagano. Takayama was a charming town full of sake breweries where we had dinner at a small Teppanyaki place one night. We sat around a big grill with an iron griddle and grilled beef, squid, big prawns and greens and had a couple of beers. I think this was Philipp’s favorite food place.
Before we came back to Tokyo our last stop was Kamikochi in the mountains. A place to enjoy the beautiful nature.
We had a fantastic backpacking trip and apart from a sharp Japanese knife and various dishes we brought many impressions back home. The food was definitely a highlight and I think it was not the last time we have been to Japan!
In the next days I want to share some more photos and impressions from the trip. So stay curious!