Savouring the Flavours of Japan: A Culinary Journey

Trinh LeTrinh Le26 days ago
Savouring the Flavours of Japan: A Culinary Journey

From sushi so fresh it practically melts in your mouth to ramen that leaves you craving for more, Japan is a true feast for the senses. This island nation isn’t just renowned for its breathtaking scenery and rich cultural traditions – its culinary heritage is just as profound, with regional specialties that have been perfected over centuries. This article will explore a handful of Japan’s most iconic food experiences that no foodie should miss.

1. Sushi

When it comes to sushi, few places can rival the freshness and value found at Japan's local fish markets. From Tokyo's legendary Tsukiji Fish Market to the lively Hakodate Morning Market, these are the prime spots to witness sushi's journey from ocean to plate. Wander the rows brimming with glistening fresh catches straight from the sea, then settle in at a trusted sushi-ya to savour the chefs’ artistry. Two standouts are Tsukiji Itadori Bekkan in Tokyo and Uni Murakami in Hakodate, where pristine seafood crowned with fresh uni (sea urchin) rests atop beds of perfectly seasoned rice.

Tsukiji Itadori Bekkan
Japan, 〒104-0045 Tokyo, Chuo City, Tsukiji, 4-chōme−10−16 四丁目町会ビル1F

Hakodate Uni Murakami
22-1 Ōtemachi, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0064, Japan

For a more casual but no less delightful sushi experience, visit one of Japan’s beloved conveyor belt sushi chains like Kanazawa Maimon Sushi, Mori Mori Sushi, and Nemuro Hanamaru. Here, the chefs will prepare each nigiri as you place your order via tabletop touchscreen, ensuring optimum freshness.

Kanazawa Maimon Sushi - Kyoto Porta
Porta, 902番地 Higashishiokōjichō, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216, Japan

2. Unadon

In the world of Japanese comfort food, few dishes are more satisfying than unadon – a simple yet sublime combination of grilled eel (unagi) draped over a bed of steaming rice, topped off with a special sauce. 

Among the unadon restaurants, one place that left a lasting impression on me is Kawayasu in Toyota, Aichi. I arrived a few minutes before opening time, eagerly jotted down my name on the guest list, and patiently waited a solid hour to get in. But let me tell you, that unagi was worth every second of the wait – so good that I had to order seconds. It’s mostly a local haunt, so they don’t even have an English menu.

For those in Tokyo or Osaka, Unatoto is another must-try. With several branches scattered across the cities, they serve up some seriously tasty eel. Plus, they’ve got a ticket machine where you can place your order, making the whole experience fuss-free.

Unatoto Unagi
6-chōme-11-15 Ueno, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0005, Japan

3. Ramen

How can one talk about Japanese cuisine without mentioning ramen? This humble noodle dish, once associated with the working class, has now evolved into a multitude of regional styles, each with its own unique flair.

Even though Ichiran Ramen could be considered the McDonald's of the ramen world, I still can't resist its allure. At least I know what to expect whenever I visit a branch: the ability to customise everything from the noodle texture to the richness of the broth, not to mention their spicy red sauce that packs a delightful punch. And let's not forget the unique dining setup where each patron has their own private booth separated by a curtain from the servers.

Ichiran Ramen
Japan, 〒110-0005 Tokyo, Taito City, Ueno, 7-chōme−1−1 アトレ上野

For those seeking a more authentic experience, the Tokyo Ramen Street located in Tokyo Station is an absolute must-visit destination. Here, eight different restaurants offer an array of ramen styles, each with its own unique flavour profile and toppings. From the rich and hearty tonkotsu to the light and refreshing shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, this culinary haven is a ramen lover's paradise. Just be prepared for long lines during peak hours.

Tokyo Ramen Street
〒100-0005 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 1 Chome−9−1 東京駅一番街 B1

4. Gyutan

Journey north to Sendai and you’ll find locals and tourists happily queuing up for gyutan – grilled beef tongue. While slightly chewy in texture, this regional specialty boasts a depth of rich umami flavours that are irresistiblewhen paired with steamed rice and pickled vegetables. There's this one restaurant called Rikyu in Sendai Station that's so good, I came back twice! 

Rikyu Sendai Station Store
Japan, 〒980-0021 Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba Ward, Chūō, 1-chōme−1−1 JR仙台駅 3階 Gyutan Do-ri (Beef Tongue Street)

For those unable to make the journey to Sendai, Tokyo offers a taste of this regional delight at Aji-no-Gyutan Kisuke, located within Tokyo Station. While it may not quite match the authenticity of its Sendai counterparts, this establishment still delivers a satisfying gyutan experience that's well worth seeking out.

Aji-no-Gyutan Kisuke - Marunouchi Park Building
Japan, 〒100-6990 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 2-chōme−6−1 ブリックスクエア B1

5. Matcha 

For a true taste of Japan’s tea culture, head to the historic town of Uji. Here, in the heart of Kyoto’s famed tea-growing region, you’ll find charming tea houses and sweet shops peddling some of the country’s highest quality matcha alongside other varieties such as houjicha, sencha and gyokuro. 

Make sure to try Tsuji Rihei’s signature matcha parfait, with layers of delectable green tea ice cream and chewy mochi! Another solid option is Nakamura Tokichi, but be prepared to wait in line because this place is quite popular and conveniently located right across from the JR Uji Station.

Tsuji Rihei Honten Kyoto Uji Main Shop
Japan, 〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治若森41

Nakamura Tokichi Main Branch
〒611-0021 Kyoto, Uji, Ichiban−10−番地

The truth is, it's impossible to create a definitive guide to Japanese food because there are just so many options. In places like Tokyo or Osaka, you can find several great spots under one roof! Nevertheless, I hope this article has given you a solid starting point to begin planning your culinary adventure in Japan.

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