Thursday, October 29, 2015

Literally every decent meal I had in Japan.

I knew going into this that I don't like Japanese food, but I just thought I would be able to find at least instant ramen and rice and I would just be so happy to be there that I'd make do. That worked for two or three days, and then the endless saltiness of everything and the difficulty of anticipating which menu item would be ruined by salt or mayonnaise or fish or sugar wore me down. I don't usually eat at restaurants at home. I wasn't fluent enough to understand everything on the menu in time to order, so I would either use the English menu or sound out something from the set menu I might kind of like. Then I would piece together the menu for something to do while eating alone. I am not the type who likes anything that's put in front of me, and I didn't prepare enough for this. If I go again I will bring a lot of food, and I will bring sriracha. I wanted sriracha so much, and I would always look for it in the grocery store, but I couldn't find any. There was shichimi available everywhere but it tasted like nothing. I know I am particular about food, but one day I swelled up unbelievably from all the salt, so it really was objectively too salty. However, service was excellent absolutely everywhere, everything was very inexpensive, and there was no tipping.

Yoshinoya- Beef Bowl
The best Japanese food I found in the area I was staying, Iriya, was the fast food place Yoshinoya. I would get beef and onions and rice for ¥680. This came with a little sprouts and shredded things salad with corn on top that I ate the first time and then stopped eating.

Pizza Hut-  I went to Pizza Hut and the pizza was pretty good (which, keeping in mind that I was eating as infrequently as possible and only when very hungry, means... not very good) and it came with a tube of green chili sauce that I liked. Mine was ¥1280 but studying the menu it looks like that was half price for some unknown reason.

Satkar- Spinach Curry and Naan
The fact that the Indian food was great in Japan was a lifesaver. The naan was a bit sweet but also huge and fluffy. I had Indian food several times but Satkar in Fabric Town (Nippori) was the standout. Lunch was only ¥900 which is half price compared to home.

The National Museum of Western Art -Charred Salmon, Salad, Minestrone (about ¥1900)
I am a printmaker, and the Ukiyo-e prints are very good, so I thought I would see some while I was in town. As far as I can tell, they aren't rarefied enough to be in an art museum in any great quantity. I determined this by walking all through the museum district looking at brochures to see if any had a collection of more than a few. This took a fair amount of time and walking. By the time I was through the National Museum of Western Art I was emergency level hungry so I went to this little cafe inside the museum. It was so cute in a British pastiche. My soup bowl had two handles, the tablecloth was baby pink, and they brought me so much silverware. My salad was incredible. I don't know what the other, mayonnaise salad served with the salmon was, but it was better than all the other mayonnaise salads at every turn.

Shabu-shabu in Chigasaki- On my last day in Japan, I found a new food I like! Yay! I went to the seaside, and because I had already checked out of the hostel I had my luggage so I carried it out onto the beach and went for barely a swim. There were windsurfers, so I knew it was okay to swim, but I was alone and since I was pretty sick and run down I thought my endurance would be awful, so I just ran out and did head up breaststroke for a moment. It was a bit of a beach town with tons of joggers and I felt very at home. The ocean was way warmer than at home. Anyway, I was headed right to the airport after so I wanted to try something local and I was a little weird looking from the way the wind kept pulling my hair out of its pins so I picked a very casual looking all-you-can-eat-in-80-minutes hot pot place. This was probably one place I should have definitely spoken Japanese instead of letting people practice their English, but after I resolutely said I didn't speak Japanese I felt painted into a corner. So I had a simmering pot of water and broth on my table and a buffet of vegetables and tofu and they brought me a tray of meat. I assembled a little salad and started to eat it while I waited for more diners to arrive so I could copy them, but several staff came over to coach me. They kept saying "shabu-shabu" and pointing at the pot. So it turned out there had been no salad, the jicama and radishes and greens were soup ingredients. However, the broth was so salty it even made things too salty if I left them in, let alone trying to consume the broth itself. Anyway, the barely cooked meat was excellent (sometimes I dropped it and it got too cooked and wasn't as good) and I finally got some garlic that wasn't pickled and buffet style is the right way for me to be choosy without imposing on anyone.

Oh yes, and I bought grocery store mochi and it was terrible (like a sugar cube, not creamy or milky) so in an enormous faux pas I would peel the mochi and put two in my coffee in the morning.

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