When exploring the world, I think one of the things that gets people excited the most is food. Well, maybe that’s just me. Boyfriend and I are going to Turkey soon and the first thing we arranged was to go on a food tour in Istanbul. It’s very important to us!
But when I was in Japan, I had so many interesting and rare food opportunities, so I thought I’d share some of them with you. I spent ages on my computer searching for lots of photos I’d taken of food from Japan and it was so much fun reliving the memories. I guess it’s a good thing I am obsessed with taking photos of food!!
The photo above was taken in Kobe. I’m sure many of you know that Kobe is famous for it’s beef. Japanese people have a very different view on what makes good meat – they much prefer it if there are ribbons of fat going though as they say it makes the meat sweeter. They are really shocked when westerners go to Japan and cut off the fat on their steak, or turn down meat that has a high fat content.
Kobe beef has fat running through it and this makes it EXPENSIVE. I went to Kobe with my colleagues from the junior high school (like a school trip…but for teachers haha) and in the planned itinerary we went to this really expensive Kobe beef restaurant. The lunch alone was 7000yen – around 50 euros. I was ok with this price as I was doing well for money but there was a catch – I had a stinking cold and couldn’t taste a thing. Luckily, at the table where the man was preparing our food, there was a small mountain of wasabi mustard. I decided to take a mouthful of wasabi that opened up my nose, then crammed in a bit of the beef, which I could only taste for a few seconds before my nose closed up again. I was SO sad.
Luckily I lived near to Matsusaka which has very similar beef and so I could try something similar again, but I was just sad that I couldn’t taste my 7000yen lunch!!
When I was studying in Nagoya, I didn’t make so many friends with the Japanese students at the uni. My closest friends were actually the Korean exchange students. They were all very warm and welcoming, they spoke very good Japanese so I didn’t miss out linguistically, and they were just very open and wonderful people. One of the closest friends I made there was a girl named “Arumu”. I’ve visited her in Seoul twice now and I am planning on going again next year.
When we were studying together, Arumu had a part time job in a Japanese restaurant. But this wasn’t just any restaurant; it was a Nagoyan speciality eel restaurant. I would go and visit her and she’d show me how to eat it (the meal shown above). First, you eat half of the food in the top left bowl. It’s basically rice with grilled eel and sauce. Then, once you’ve eaten half, you pour green tea from the tea pot into the rice and eel and eat the rest with a spoon. It’s SUPER yummy.
Towards the end of my working life in Japan, the city invited me to speak at a formal event with some government officials. Basically, they wanted to know how to make Japan/my area more appealing to foreigners and I was chosen to speak about the kinds of problems we face on a day to day basis there. I have no idea why such high up government officials were interested in our little city but anyway. It was a huge deal.
After the event, there was a buffet for us all. It was the most lavish buffet I have ever seen; they really went to town. I hovered over the plate in the photo above. I knew that I didn’t like the things in the shells (sazae) because they get really bitter if you eat the tip and I never know how much to bite off to avoid hitting that point. So I stuck to the yellow meat to the left.
I put two or so pieces on my plate then turned away from the table to eat a bite of one. I came face to face with the minister for tourism. He asked me if I knew what it was that I was eating. I replied that it was pretty chewy so perhaps it was some kind of squid…but he replied saying that it was shark meat. I dropped the piece I had on my chopsticks and listened as he told me how Japanese fishermen often partake in cutting the fins off of sharks and then throwing them back in the water to die a slow death, and how we shouldn’t support that. I didn’t eat any more of the shark after that…(it wasn’t that tasty anyway).
**For some reason the penis hot dog photo doesn’t show up…have this photo of me talking to tv cameras about penises.
You’d be forgiven if you thought there was something a little rude about that sausage. That’s because it’s a penis sausage. No, it doesn’t contain penis (to my knowledge) but I ate it at the fertility festival in a town near to where I studied in Japan. The festival started with a parade of massive wooden penises, where I (as one of the few white people in the crowd) was invited to kiss the penis for “good luck” (translation: great headlines – “FOREIGNER LOVES PENIS”.. yes I was on the news that day). Then we made our way around the festival stalls where they were selling phallic foods like bananas and sausages, as well as wooden penises of our own to take home.
Although it was way too crowded and I wouldn’t go again, it was certainly an experience I won’t forget!
Now a question for you! What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?