Japan is probably my favourite place to eat in the world. Of course, I’m also slightly biased — Japanese food happens to be one of my favourites, and obviously no one does it better than the Japanese! While I do have it occasionally in Australia, I think most people will agree when I say that it just doesn’t compare to the real thing.
Even if you don’t go for something traditional, the other great thing about Japan’s food scene is the sheer amount of variety. From the endless convenience stores to the tiny izakaya bars, even the pickiest of eaters are bound to find something they enjoy. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. This post has been over a year in the making, but trust me. I still remember every single bite as if it were yesterday. Read on to find out what I ate in Japan during my last visit:
It’s a big call, but I think this may be the best thing I ate during my trip. Shin Udon is a place that has been quite hyped up recently, and you can tell by the long line of tourists waiting outside its doors! Usually I wouldn’t bother waiting so long for food, but I couldn’t turn down the chance to try their fresh, handmade noodles.
Anyway, I ended up going for the carbonara udon and it was just as good as it sounds. The fresh noodles came with an onsen egg, topped with grated parmesan, cracked black pepper, and bacon tempura to top it all off. It’s so ingenious, I honestly can’t believe I never thought of it myself. If you do make the trip I recommend going right when it opens, to avoid the inevitable crowds!
Afuri Ramen has been recommended to me time and time again, so I made a point of visiting during my last trip. They have many locations around Tokyo, but I opted for the store underneath Shinjuku Station. Anyway, I totally get the hype now. Afuri isn’t like most other ramen shops – it’s famous for its lighter take on ramen, thanks to the chicken-based broth it uses. I went for their signature yuzu shio ramen and honestly, it was to die for. The soup is wonderfully light, and a hint of yuzu added just the right amount of tanginess to the dish. It didn’t leave me feeling heavy at all, and was refreshingly light compared to most other ramens I’ve had. Now I really wish I slotted in another visit to try the rest of their menu!
Speaking of train stations, they’re actually a great place to get convenient, quality meals in Japan. In Tokyo Station you’ll find Ramen Street, a corridor filled with all the ramen shops you could ever dream of. On a weekday, they’ll usually be filled with workers getting their lunch fix. Anyway, I can’t remember this store’s name but I ordered the tsukemen, aka dipping noodles. If you haven’t had it before, tsukemen noodles are slightly thicker than regular ramen, and served on the side along with a concentrated version of the broth. It’s the perfect dish for someone like me, who never manages to finish the ramen broth!
Seafood, and specifically sashimi, in Japan is really on a level of its own. It’s not hard to find fresh and affordable options for seafood, whether you’re on a budget or want something on the fancier side! This chirashidon was from Magurodonya, a shop I came across in a food court in Odaiba. It was simple, fresh and delicious, just the way chirashidon should be.
Over in Hiroshima, the city’s famous for seafood of a different kind — oysters! If you’re a fan of oysters, you’ll totally love Miyajima. On the island, you’ll find vendors selling them in any form imaginable. Grilled, in curry buns, okonomiyaki, katsudon… My personal favourite was this flame grilled oyster, with melted cheese on top.
While I was studying in Japan, Sushiro happened to be one of my favourite places for kaitenzushi, or conveyor belt sushi. The place brings back so many memories for me, so of course I had to hit one up during my trip! The usual price of 100 yen a plate may be inflated to 120 yen in Tokyo, but it’s still pretty good value for money. The menu includes everything from traditional sushi to variations topped with cheese, avocado and prosciutto. My friends and I also used to love ordering parfaits from there, so that’s exactly what we did!
At the base of Fushimi Inari Shrine, there’s no shortage of restaurants and street food stalls to be found. But if you venture a little further and cross the train tracks, you’ll find this little gem. Kyozuan sells a variety of ice-cream, but it’s most well known for its tofu soft serve. The texture is actually firmer than most soft serves, so it doesn’t fall when you hold it upside down! The shopkeeper even demonstrated it in front of us, but there’s no way in hell I was gonna risk doing the same haha. Anyway, I got the tofu soft serve with matcha and absolutely loved it. The tofu soft serve had a really unique taste and was incredibly creamy, despite being made with soy milk.
Speaking of matcha, I definitely indulged a bit during my time in Kyoto! If you’re a fan of green tea, you absolutely have to visit Nakamura Tokichi. The chain has stores across Japan and serves up all things matcha, from parfaits and ice cream to green tea soba. I went for the simple green tea and milk flavoured soft serve, and it came with a crispy wafer, mochi, red bean paste and matcha jelly. It was actually delicious, and I ended up visiting a second time to try the houjicha, or roasted green tea flavour!
If you visit Japan, you’ll probably find yourself walking 99% of the time. So it’s no surprise that street food is a big thing there, and many popular Japanese snacks are made to be eaten on the go! In this category, taiyaki happens to be one of my all-time favourites. It’s basically a fish-shaped waffle that contains all sorts of fillings — red bean paste, chocolate, and custard, just to name a few. I always enjoy taiyaki, but it really hits differently when served steaming hot on a cold winter’s day.
I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love melon pan, a Japanese sweet bread covered in a layer of cookie dough. In case you were wondering, melon pan doesn’t actually contain any traces of melon! Instead, it’s named that way because of its distinctive shape. While most variations taste pretty good, I loved that this one I bought in Asakusa was piping hot, and had a satisfyingly crisp cookie crust. It was everything I could ever ask for in a melon pan, really.
If you haven’t tried mitarashi dango yet, you’re missing out! This dessert is basically grilled mochi on a stick, topped with a sweet soy sauce glaze. It’s simple, but my favourite thing about mitarashi dango are the contrasting textures and flavours. The grilled mochi is slightly charred but gooey on the inside, and the glaze adds a savoury element without being overly sweet. I came across this vendor while walking around Nara, and it was the perfect snack on a cold winter’s day.
When it comes to cheese tart shops in Japan, you’re spoilt for choice. The craze started a few years ago, and spread to the point where cheese tart shops are now a common thing in Sydney! I didn’t go out of my way to find them on my last trip, but when I saw BAKE Cheese Tart in Tokyo Station I couldn’t resist. They often come out with seasonal flavours, and just so happened to be selling a milk tea flavoured cheese tart! Anything milk tea flavoured is a win in my eyes, but combined with a crispy shell and gooey cheese centre? It was just heavenly.
Chances are you’ve already heard of New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery, famous for inventing the cronut and other legendary pastries. I had time to stop by their Omotesando store when I was in the area, but sadly it seems that they’ve closed down since then! Although it wasn’t a signature item, the Mont Blanc I had was actually quite tasty. The cake had berry jam in the centre, which helped offset the rich chestnut cream. My friend also got a hot chocolate, which came with an adorable flower marshmallow that ‘blooms’ when it hits the drink.
Of course, this isn’t even close to covering everything I ate in Japan. A more realistic food diary would’ve included stacks of onigiri, and gummy candy to keep me company on those insanely long bullet train rides. Anyway, this post is just the first of a huge backlog of travel photos I’ve neglected for the past year. Stay tuned for those posts soon!