Discovering Japanese food

Japanese food is well known to be one of the best in the world. It’s mainly famous for its sushis, makis, tuna, and everything related to fish in general. When I went to Japan I discovered a lot of food which is really different from what I’m used to. Most of the food’s pictures which are below are street food which is really famous in Japan. Indeed, street food is everywhere especially at the entrance of a temple. Hope you’ll want to try japanese street food after this !

 

In Japan, flavors for sweets food is often green tea. During summer (but also winter) you can try green tea ice cream whereas in winter you can try hot green tea. You can also find different kinds of candies made of green tea flavor.

 

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Once, I stayed in a buddhist temple and I could enjoy there a bouddhist vegetarian meal made of tofu, miso soup, rice, vegetables and fruits. Even if it wasn’t my taste it was a really great experience.

 

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So, one thing which I found really weird but at the same time funny was the Macdonald burger, Japanese version. Rice is the main element in almost all the meals but there you can even find some in burgers!!!!

 

Octopus is often in street food as well. Most of the time you don’t eat it like on BBQ but in small baked balls. There is a lot of these in Osaka, which is famous for it. On it there is different sauce with the basic one (soja sauce), or with garlic, mayonnaise… Be ready to find some tentacules in the small balls!

 

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In Japan you can’t be surprise by what you’re going to eat. In all restaurants, in the presentation windows, some plastic meals are showing what you can eat in the place. First, it’s really surprising but after you get used to it and even find it funny (and useful).

 

You can find a lot of Kit Kat flavors which is really suprising… so weird…

 

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Especially in big cities, Japanese are waiting to get a “crêpe” which is a sweet snack for them. Because I’m from France and crepes are really famous (almost sacred) when I saw these plastic crepes filled with so much stuff I was really sad… this is just  Japanese style for crepes!!

 

Some others street food snacks. The first one is like french fries twisted on a stick. The second one is rice filled with meat or other things… you just have to guess what’s inside.

 

The last but not the least: SUSHI! Before coming in Japan I didn’t like it but the taste is really different there and all the ingredients are really fresh and cheap. The most exciting thing is to grap your sushis from the rolling bar or even order it on Ipad. Technology and food at the same time.

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A trip to Takayama

IMG_0903.jpgAfter taking two different train from Tokyo and spent all the morning in it, I arrived for two days in Takayama. This little city is at the beginning of the Japanese mountains chains. Even if the trip seems long it really worth it because being in the train is passionating. The train is literally on the top of the water and during winter, the countryside changes from the blue water to the snowy lands.

 

 

 

Takayama seems to be a little city which came out of nowhere BUT  if the appearances can show that, this is a really touristic destination. At the train st_DSC4885.jpgation, you will find different maps in a lot of languages which show the hiking paths to enjoy the most of the city. I really tried to follow the downtown circuit to visit the city as good as I could, but it was an epic failure. The city is full of sneaky, tricky, small streets but it doesn’t really matter. At the end, you will discover a charming city, full of wooden houses. The main street (Hirokoji- dori) is composed of small shops and restaurant with speakers which put some cute music (you can feel like you are in Disneyland).

_DSC4959.jpgThe second circuit of hiking is much longer and can take you an entire afternoon or all the day if you really take your time. This route is called the temple road because every step is composed of a temple. When I get there it was really quiet, snowy with nobody around: it was quite magical. At the end (or the beginning depending on the way you start), you have from one side the big trees, Japanese cemetery and temples and from the other side you can the city … Magical experience !

Because the city is quite small and you can finish to visit pretty soon, near the train station there is a bus station w_DSC4917.jpghich can guide you to other cities full of activities. (During winter some cities are road are close so no possibilities to go to some cities).

I spent half of a day at the folkloric village of Hida which is an open air museum with dozens of traditional houses. This place is really interesting and teach a lot about how the life was before in Japan, especially why the houses are constructed with thatched roofs or special materials. The place in itself is really beautiful with a panoramic view of the mountains and a huge lake in the middle of the area… Even though I went there during winter I think going there during summer should be even better.

Takayama is one of best destination to relax from Tokyo during a weekend and discovering the area by hiking.

(what it’s also great to do there is to try the beef speciality. People said that it’s one of the best areas to try this. This is basically some slices of fat beef grilled and then cooked with different sauces.)
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Ueno park in Tokyo

When you think of a park you don’t imagine what’s inside the Ueno park. This huge park is located in Tokyo, Japan, and shelter so much things to see and explore. You could easily spend the day there especially on a sunny day!

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The most beautiful thing that I loved there was the multitude of little temples all around the park. You are immersed into the Japanese culture trough these temples and orange sticks paths. One of the temples is in the middle of a lake called Benten-do sanctuary. You join this one by a little bridge and are surrounded

 

 

F_DSC4643.jpgor example, one of the temple (called Benten-do sanctuary) is in the middle of a lake. You join the sanctuary by a little bridge and are surrounded by water. There, the sightseeing is composed of the buildings of the city on the other side of the lake and at the same time the traditional sanctuary . The contrast of modernity and traditionality of Japan is resumed with this small area of Ueno park.

 

_DSC4695.jpgThis park is composed of three museums and a zoo that I didn’t visit because of a lack of time and a lack of motivation. Even though I visited the famous Toshogu which is stunning. Covered with gold and details of colorful paint on the facade : this is amazing! This temple can just being visited by the outside, the inside is not allowed to visit. Even though it’s worth it and will shine your heart… (or burn your eyes with too much sun!)

 

_DSC4681.jpgMoreover, when I get there I went to an exposition of flowers in the parc. This peaceful place offered to people to enjoy the simple beauty of nature. All the flowers are under small hats of wood to protect them from the possible snow. This little place full of flowers is a real paradise out of time.

To sum up, if you have time to spend in Tokyo, spend half a day or a whole day there, to enjoy peacefully the Japanese culture.

Lighted Tokyo

One of the things that you think about Japan is the modernity of cities, a huge amount of people crossing the streets, light everywhere, being surrounded of game places… And this is not just a cliché!

_DSC4794.jpgOf course, Japan is twofold with its traditional part and its modern part, but the modern part is really different from European countries and what you can see. This is a real cultural shock which is at the same time magical and surprising. Even if you can find these kinds of places in almost every big city of Japan, Tokyo is the queen of lightning.

The two most well-known areas are Shibuya and Shinjuku (there are both really near each others). There,  you are in the middle of crazy colors, lighted signals, game arcades. If you’re not really into games and wasting money what is fun to do is kawaii _DSC4786.jpgphotobooth. Basically, the photo booth is taking a lot of pictures of you in Kawaii style and after you can personalize your pictures by adding effects, draw on it, add stickers… In game arcades, a lot of Japanese people (not only young people) are going there after work or school to relax. However, the environment is not really relaxing for foreigners because of the really loud music, the stressful games…

If you want to escape a little bit from the general ambiance of these streets there are some calm places in buildings such as cafes. If at the same time you want to continue experiencing japanese culture you could go in a cat café. I’ve been to “Calico cat café” and the place was really amazing, lots of beautiful cats, beautiful view on the area of Shibuya…

The modern face of Tokyo is really amazing, you can discover a lot of things there that you could have never imagined and be immersed in the Japanese culture. However, this experience is way more  interesting to do at night than during the day because of the lighting. IMG_1192.jpg

Kawaii Japan : Harajuku area

Harajuku is an area of Tokyo well known for its modernity and its young population. Extravagant people of Tokyo are concentrated while doing some shopping, eating or just walking around.

Th_DSC4734.jpgis is the kind of place where when you enter into a shop, you discover an entire universe like you could imagine the modern Japan. Between candy shops, cake shops, and big buildings there is a place that I particularly enjoyed: “Kiddy land”. This place is simply a building with four floors of toys. There is a floor dedicated to Pokemon, snoopy, star wars, Disney… This place is really huge and you find a lot of amazing and incomprehensible stuff. It’s really funny to see and discover. Moreover, the toys are so Japanese! For example, there is sushi toys, soft toy in kimono, star wars chopsticks (as laser saber) and so many Hello Kitty.

However, the most famous street in Harajuku is Takeshita-dori which is a small street full of little shops. There is a lot of young Japanese people dressed in “kawaii style”, weird Japanese shops, food shops…. One of the street food sho_DSC4767.jpgp which is really famous t_DSC4750.jpghere is crepes shops. Watch out !! it’s not simple crepes as I knew but crepes with so many things in it such as cream, ice cream, fruits, chocolate, caramel… Big queues are waiting behind plastic vitrine which shows the large variety of choices of crepes (and waffles sometimes). So, once you ate, most of the shops are clothes shops but once again watch out they are not usual clothes shops. They are for most of them kawaii shops with sprinkling tee shirt, colorful skirts (and you can even find the same things for dogs)… To sum up just everything which you can see from really (really) far away.

So, once you ate, most of the shops are clothes shops but once again watch out they are not usual clothes shops. They are, fo_DSC4761.jpgr most of them, kawaii shops with sprinkling tee shirt, colorful skirts… To sum up just everything which you can see from really (really) far away. If you really want to you can find clothes for you dog or dress him with a kimono or in sushi! Walking around Takeshita dori is an experience and a face of Japan to be discovered: young population influenced by the kawaii style, weird things that you can find and discover.

Finally, if you want to have another unusual experience in this area there is a place called “Kawai monster cafe”. This is a restaurant where you can eat everything kawaii related to. Even the waitresses are kawaii, the ambiance is Kawaii, the food is kawaii, the music is kawaii… This is a really good way to get immersed in the kawaii culture.

Senso Ji: best temple of Tokyo

In the area of Asakusa, the Senso Ji temple is an inevitable stop in the capital of Japan. Even though it is a crowded place, Senso Ji has still an important charm.

Before seeing the actual temple you are walking (or at least, trying to walk) in a small _DSC4494street full of little shops, souvenirs, Japanese food called Nakamise- dôri… As I said before, because it’s really touristic, products are more expensive but the price is still correct. For me, It was the first time that I discovered Japanese souvenirs and this place is the perfect place to start learning about Japan. This street is full of fans, little cats, chopsticks and also street food. Indeed, in Japan, there is a lot of street food shop especially around touristic places such as temples. Most of the time you are finding Imagayaki ( small pancakes stuffed with red bean paste), Taiyaki (fish shaped cake filled with chocolate, cheese or custard), Shioyaki (baked fish on a stick) and so many others.

 

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Once you actually arrived in the area of the temple, the main building is really colorful and impressive. People are buying small papers to know their luck, others are buying some incense, some others are praying… You are in the middle of a ballet of people wishing things. Actually,the main building is not a place where you can spent your day because of the crowd.

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However, at the left of the main temple, the 5 level pagoda and another small temple give a new breath to the area. Almost nobody is there, after crossing a small bridge of stone with carps swimming , it looks like you are at a totally different place.

 

 

 

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Moreover, in Senso Ji temple you may encounter a lot of women (and sometimes men) dressed with typical Japanese clothes. There is a lot of them in every temple which are quite important such as this one or especially the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.

 

 

What is also interesting to do is coming at night to see the lights on the temple. I went there around 6:30 pm and I had a completely different perception than the time I went during the day. It seems that the overflowing energy has gone and give a way to a  zen energy. The area is quasi-desert, you can appreciate the shops almost empty and seeing the Senso ji lighted which is quite a show in itself.

 

Tsukiji : fish market in Tokyo

_DSC4471.jpgTsukiji, biggest fish market of the world located in the center of Tokyo. Well known for its tuna auction at 5 a.m, this market is full of fish varieties. If you want to see the tuna auction you must come really early, because the number of place is limited to 100 people. But, even if you are not coming at the first light of the sun, you could always see other species of fishes (like I did).

Yes, it seems not really attractive to come in the morning in a fish market. However, the smell is not as strong as I imagined. You are walking in this huge wholesale market, see octopus, big tuna, and unidentified fishes.

_DSC4468.jpgPeople who work there are on small wagons to transport fishes. It’s a real ballet of these transportations. However, you have to be careful not to be overturned by one of the wagons. (they are really fast and do not pay attention to tourists).

 

 

 

_DSC4466.jpgAt the end of the market, a crowd of people is waiting to have a place in small restaurants which serve sushis or other meals with fresh fish. If you are courageous enough to eat fish in early morning this is an experience to do.

If you are coming later (for lunch) you can wait a long time before eating. There is too many people who wants to eat there for lunch.

 

 

This market is really showing the love of Japanese peope for fishes. Indeed, fish is central in Japanese gastronomy, almost all the restaurants are proposing fish or seafood. Tsukiji fish market was a surprise to me, I discovered fishes or seafood that I never saw before ( cf pictures below).

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