Japan has a very proud cuisine tradition. I was more than happy to let them show it off to me! Here are some of the things that I sampled during our brief stay.
This is donkatsu. It is breaded, fried pork that the Koreans have also adopted. It is very prevalent in Japan, though there are several varieties. This version is served over an omelet sort of thing with sauce.
Donkatsu: this version has unique ingredients, including asparagus! First time I have had asparagus since leaving the States. Sad, I know. Though different from the pork variety, this is still breaded and fried, served with many side dishes including shredded cabbage salad and a sauce that you made by crushing pepper with your own mortar and pestle.
This is takoyaki--octopus balls! A piece of octopus is battered and cooked, so it ends up being sort of like a pancake with a morsel of octopus inside. Actually, the insides are a little gooey. This version is served with stir-fried noodles and ginger. It is most famous in Osaka, and is a common street food. Really, it's a must-try.
Sara udon is a dish that is native to Nagasaki. It is thin, crispy fried noodles topped with seafood, cabbage, and other vegetables. At first it felt like eating uncooked Ramen noodles, but they were actually very flavorful and the dish was quite delicious, albeit unusual texturally.
We were treated to a very elegant meal at Kwansei Gakuin Univeristy. This salad course was my favorite, as it consisted of smoked salmon, roe, scallops, and balsamic vinegar. They served us many other delicious courses, but I would have been content with 3 more plates of this.
Ramen noodles are very popular in both Korea and Japan. The Korean version is mainly broth and noodles, and it is very spicy! This Japanese version has many vegetables, like peapods, onions, and mushrooms, and is in a savory, not spicy broth. It was wonderful! I got this and the sara udon at college dining halls. If only American dining halls had such dishes!
This pile of goop is called okonomiyaki, and it is famous around the Hiroshima area. I ate this on the island of Miyajima off the Hiroshima coast. This one is noodles, seafood, cabbage, etc sandwiched between some pancake type things and topped with sauce. It is tastier than you might think! MMMmmm...
One night, Simon treated us to a very fancy, six-course Japanese restaurant. The star of the meal was the crab, which was served in multiple ways. Above and below are two of the most delicious dishes. The first is a seafood hot pot with veggies and mushrooms. It boiled right in front of us over an open flame. The second is glutinous rice on a giant leaf topped with crab, fish and a smattering of other things. You think eating crab with a fork is tricky? Try metal chopsticks.
Katie and I ate this at a place in Osaka. It is rice topped with beef, tofu and a few noodles, served with green tea. It was extremely fast and extremely inexpensive, and was served in a diner-like setting. Basically, this seems like Japanese fast-food. Sign me up!
Did you know Japan is big on curry? I didn't. But after experience Japanese curry (multiple times), I understand why! Talk about satisfying. This big bowl is udon noodles and a bit of beef and onions, in curry sauce topped with tempura shrimp. I am hooked.
And what trip to Japan could be complete without sushi? I had a few different kinds of sushi when I was there, including a few different bento boxes. This one was served to us at Yodogawa Christian Hospital. The variety of fish was pretty cool, and the two-tiered box allowed for a whole serving of rice too, all in a neat little package. Pretty nifty.
Finally, no, this man is not food, but he does eat a lot of food. A lot. Katie and I were in dotonbori in Osaka when we saw a crowd around this guy, all getting their photos with him. So, I jumped into the fray to get a quick snap. When I was standing next to him, I asked him why everyone was posing with him, and he seemed quite taken aback that I didn't know who he was. Yet, he assured me that he was famous, "number one." Well! After a little research and some help from Japanese friends, I discovered that he is a TV host who goes around eating GIANT portions of food! He is the Adam Richman (Man vs. Food) of Japan. He has won second place in Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Even his nickname is awesome: Nobuyuki "The Giant" Shirota. Sir, I salute you.