Japanese food & drink

Food is a good reason to visit Japan. Japanese food is some of the most refined of the world. You will find that the overal quality of food is very good, and prices are surprisingly low.

Chopstick manners

If you’re in Japan you’ll have to learn how to use chopsticks. It’s not easy at the start but trust me - it gets better. After a while you don’t even think about it anymore.

You have to hold the chopsticks properly holding your grip at the end of the sticks.

There’s also some politeness rules surrounding the use of chopsticks. There’s some things you shouldn’t do; for instance playing with your chopsticks before dinner, or putting a chopstick upright in your food and leaving it there. The latter is considered rude since it reminds people of a ritual used at funerals.

In most restaurants you can ask for a fork, knife or spoon to help you out if you decide to give up.

Sometimes you get chopsticks with a decidedly Western dish (e.g. a big piece of meat). In that case don’t be ashamed to ask for a fork and knife. The restaurant should that kind of food wasn’t meant to be eaten with chopsticks!

Izakaya style dining

The izakaya is a staple of Japanese restaurant going. Whenever you are with a larger group you are likely to end up in izakaya. This type of restaurant has a focus on lots of small dishes that you can share with the people you are eating with. ### Fake plastic food

Plastic food

You will often see plastic food outside casual Japan restaurants. It’s meant to show you what the dish will look like. Some people say it’s no indication of the quality of the restaurant - but I find that it’s mostly the lower end of restaurant that do this.

The creation of plastic food is a multi billion dollar industry. Crafting the plastic food is considered an art form and there are even competitions about it.

Sushi in Japan

Sushi

Obviously, japan is a sushi lover’s paradise.

There are a variety of ways to sample sushi, with differing qualities.

One of those lower quality options is conveyor belt sushi (kaiten sushi); this is a place where you sit around the table and the food passes you. You take what you want and when the time is there go get the bill (Okkaikei onegaishimas!) the number of plates on your table will be counted. Each plate is about ¥130.

Another option is a chain sushi restaurant like Sushizanmai or Genki Sushi. These chains tend to have lower prices, sometimes only ¥90 for a single sushi.

Conveyor belt Sushi

The best sushi I ate was in a small restaurant we randomly encountered (10 sushi; ¥1400). It seated around 10 people and you could see the chefs making the sushi. My advice would be to look around for something small and cozy instead of going for chain restaurant or conveyor belt sushi.

The real tourist option is to to Tsukiji fish market early in the morning. The site only allows 120 tourists to take the tour in batches of 60 people. There you can see a live tuna auction provided you want to wake up at 04:00 AM to start queueing. There the sushi is supposed to be the best. However, be prepared to pay a tourist premium. One priced I heard was ¥2500 for 10 sushi.

It’s good to know it’s acceptable to eat sushi with your hands.

Japanese tea culture

The Japanese love their green tea. In a lot of restaurants you will be served a cup of green tea before your diner. It can either be hot or cold. When you go out to eat you will always get free water (水 - mizu) - even in a chain restaurant like McDonalds. A good way to save money is to not order drinks at all and just get water.

Ramen

Ramen are hot noodles served in a soup (…)

Udon

Udon are thick noudles

Top Japanese dishes you have to try

  1. Sushi
  2. Ramen
  3. Udon