As our last hurrah before the baby comes, we went to Japan for the National Day holiday. We went to the Kansai area – Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe. It was amazing. I’m going to have to break up the trip report into different posts because there is just so much to talk about. The first thing I want to share is the food!
Japan in a foodie paradise. Any kind of food you want, you can find here, and so much more! I thought that I would be eating sushi and sake every day, but 1) sushi is not popular in the Kansai area and was surprisingly hard to find, and 2) there is just so much more to eat than that. I wanted to try foods that are unique to Japan, so here are some of the highlights.
I’m not a big steak fan, but I’ve been told it’s because I’ve never had “a really good steak.” Well, I can now say I have had the best steak in the world. Many people claim to have eaten Kobe beef before, but Kobe beef is almost impossible to find outside of Japan, and even in Japan it is prohibitively expensive outside of Kobe. So since we were staying in Osaka, we hoped on the fast train and thirty minutes later we were in Kobe, Japan. We went to a restaurant called Steakland and, OMG, the steak was AMAZING.
It really was as delicious and tender as people have claimed. It is melt in your mouth good. If you are ever in Japan, take a trip to Kobe and try this beef of the Gods. Your mouth will thank you for it. There were also a lot of other good looking places to eat, but we were so stuffed with meat, we couldn’t eat anywhere else.
I really wanted a T-shirt that said “I ate fugu and survived!” but couldn’t find one. My husband refused to eat the poisonous sea creature with me, but I was determined to try it.
Fugu is the Japanese word for pufferfish and it is a specialty in Japan. The intestines, liver, and ovaries of a pufferfish contain a deadly toxin – one that is 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide. Specially trained fugu chefs undergo years of training to learn to cut the fish just right. Realistically, you are not going to die from eating fugu. The odds of you dying from fugu poisoning are lower than the odds of you dying from food poisoning in general. But the myth and the mystique of eating fugu persists, and I had to try it.
I opted for the raw fugu sashimi because I wanted the fugu flavor to be as pure as possible, but you can get fugu in almost any style, including inside dumplings or in hotpot. I went to a famous fugu restaurant in Osaka called Zuboraya. I thought the fugu was pretty good. It has a very light flavor and a bit of a rubbery texture. It was very good with the green onions and citrus wasabi they served with it. I would definitely eat it again.
When I finally made it to a sushi restaurant, I was surprised to find whale meat on the menu. I had to try it. Whale meat is pretty easy to find at restaurants in Japan and is usually the meat of sperm whales. It is a dark, beefy kind of meat. I wouldn’t try it again though. I didn’t really like it.
Ice Cream Parfaits
Japan is famous for these beautiful and delicious layered ice cream desserts. If you have spent time in China, you might be kind of leery to try them, but don’t be. Unlike Chinese ice cream, Japanese ice cream is delicious. The parfaits come in all different sizes and every flavor combination you can imagine. There are ice cream shops that just serve parfaits and have hundreds of examples on display. If you come across one of these shops, be sure to go in!
Of course, in order to save time and money, and for some creature comforts, we did check out a few fast food restaurants. I know some people scoff at eating at a McDonalds or Starbucks when traveling internationally (“you should try local food!”), but the fun thing about these restaurants is that they often have very localized foods that you can’t get anywhere else in the world, so we often pop in to at least look at the menus, even if we don’t eat there.
In China, it is very hard to find good donuts (we don’t have any donut shops in SZ or Hong Kong!), so we had to go to the Krispy Kreme in Osaka. They had some Halloween donuts that were cute and delicious. They had pumpkin pie at Starbucks. And we had chocolate pumpkin french fries at MacDonalds.
We actually spent most of our money in Japan on food. If you ever go to Japan, plan to eat EVERYTHING!