Please start at Day One

Japanese Food 日本料理

Some Japanese food that I ate / encountered:

A selection of the evening meals that I was served at the Ryokan, Minshuku and Shukubou:

Top left: my first proper meal in Japan, when I ate small fish (in the top-left square bowl) by mistake, at Ryokan Kadoya near Temple 1
Top right: Drive In 27 Ryokan, near Temple 27.
Bottom left: one of the best meals, at Matsuya Ryokan near temple 43. I was eating fish by this point anyway, and had Sashimi - raw fish - here for the first time.
Bottom right: Shoujin Ryouri - vegetarian food typically eaten by monks - at Sanboin Temple, Koyasan.

Another photo of the food at Matsuya Ryokan near Temple 43. The presentation here was amazing and it seemed a shame to eat the sea bream and spoil the picture.

This photo is also at Matsuya Ryokan. This was the first time I experienced a Nabe - an iron dish - which is set above a flame at the table so that the udon noodles and other ingredients can be served extra hot. I didn't have a clue what to do with it, the server showed me how it worked, she lit the flame for me and explained that I had to plunge the noodles etc into the broth once it was very hot.

This is what greeted me in my room at virtually every Ryokan I stayed at: a low table with a pot of hot water, some loose tea, or tea bags, a pot and cup, and sometimes a sweet or a biscuit.

These vending machines were everywhere in Shikoku, even on quiet country lanes. I was so thankful to find one for a hot can of sweet milky coffee on the cold spring mornings.

On the days that I stayed at Business Hotels, food was not usually included so I had to venture out to find provisions. Until I had the confidence and courage to go into a restaurant by myself, I stuck to convenience store snacks. Below left is one of my typical meals, Ume-shu (Japanese plum wine) with plum inside the bottle, packet of Almonds & Fish, and a Green Tea Old Fashioned Dougnut. On the packet it says, "Please eat at breakfast and the tea-time. Surely you will be satisfied". I also experimented with various Japanese lagers, I was particularly impressed with the pretty cans, except I am not so sure about the "Off" lager.

Once I started to venture into restaurants by myself, I had the choice of attempting to decipher the Japanese menu with my electronic dictionary for half an hour, or, going to one of the many restaurants that displayed plastic versions of their dishes outside. It is much easier to look, decide and then point!  At Kikugetsutei tea-house in Ritsurin Koen, Takamatsu City, I had a bowl of Matcha - posh green tea - with a small biscuit. It was expensive, but well worth it; the Japanese equivalent of taking Afternoon Tea at the Ritz.


Okonomi-yaki is usually a meat and vegetable 'pancake' but we persuaded the chef to cook us a couple of veggie  ones. This was in Tokyo somewhere, I can't remember where, but I remember that I was watching the Okonomi-yaki being cooked I was convinced that I was going to enjoy it, and I did, It was the first, and only time I ate Okonomi-yaki, but it was one of my favourite dishes and I will definitely seek out the shop when I return to Japan.
Step 1: on the left, freshly fried pancakes are placed on top of piles of shredded cabbage;
on the right, piles of boiled noodles.

Step 2: the pancakes and cabbage is placed on top of the 'disc' of noodles.

Step 3: a fried  egg is added to the top of each pile.

Step 4: a special sauce (similar to BBQ sauce) is spread on top.

Step 5: the individual topping to complete each Okonomi Yaki.
Kazu had Yam (left), and I had cheese (right).

At Muryokoin Temple in Koyasan, included in our Shoujin Ryouri - vegetarian temple cuisine - evening meal, we were served this light delicate Sakura Kanten - jelly with a cherry blossom inside (obviously not made with gelatin, but with kanten / agar-agar)

We enjoyed these Green Tea & Sweet Potato flavour ice creams at Kamakura and also at Koyasan. At most food stores, whether selling ice-cream, cakes, crepes or coffee, there will generally be a Matcha (green tea) flavour option, which quickly became my favourite.

At Starbucks in Japan the menu was familiar, but with a Japanese twist. So Matcha Latte (green tea flavoured latte) became my drink of choice, accompanied by Sakura Cake (cherry blossom), this was a western-style snack, but with a typically Japanese flavour. When I returned to Japan during the sticky sweaty hot humid summer, I found relief in the cooling Matcha Frapuccino and Green Tea ice-cream.

Within the grounds of Hasedera Temple at Kamakura a small stall was selling these Dango. I think this is how they are made: uncooked rice is ground into a powder like flour, this is then mixed with a little water to make a heavy dough which is formed into the ball shaped dumpling. The dumplings are then cooked in boiling water, they can be further cooked on a grill. The Dango we ate at Hasedera were coated with satou-shouyu - soya sauce with sugar. I love salty-sweet stodgy food like this. There was a warning sign next to the Dango stall, to guard against the Kites which were circling above us and would occasionally swoop down to steal the Dango. This is not a very flattering photo, I don't imagine there is a way to eat Dango with any dignity!

After the healthy and holy food on the temple trail, I now needed something naughty. With some difficulty I managed to persuade Kazu to take me into a "Maid Cafe" in Akihabara in Tokyo. I don't imagine it is considered good etiquette to take one's fiancee to a Maid Cafe, but I was too nervous to venture in by myself and needed someone to hold my hand. Akihabara is the place to go for Maid Cafes, where young ladies in cos-play anime/manga style maid costumes make geeky men feel special. Inside the cafe, it was not at all as sordid and seedy as Kazu had feared, and the only other customers were two females. We ordered tea and cake. The cake was lovingly decorated for me:

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