It was the grand finale of my travel around gorgeous Japan – one week in Tokyo.
SHIBUYA, SHINJUKU, SAKURA, SUSHI, SASHIMI, SHABU SHABU…
Will seven days be enough? I though as we were heading into our last Japanese adventure.
Since the moment we landed, all the way until the last day of our stay in Japan I’ve been more than amazed with Japanese people. Always up for help (despite the poor English skills): in the shops, restaurants, underground or street… always with a smile on their face and gently nodding their heads as a sign of approvement. What surprised me was their the attention they give to the fashion as well as unbelievable creativity and diversity of styles among the all generations.
They find pleasure in drinking tea, coffee, sake, bear… before the work, during the lunch time, after the work, at the weekends. It is true, they work a lot, but during my wanderings around the world I came to the realisation that that is the only way to do it: work a lot in order to be able to enjoy a lot. Japanese people are real “gourmets” and foodies – their restaurant, teashops, bars and pastru shops are packed wholeday through.
Cities are always tidy and in perfect condition, full of bih parks, everything is organized up to the smallest detail which makes day-to-day life much easier, people are polite, everything runs at a steady pace, cars float the streets without nervousness and panic and everybody is extremely aware about the rights and necessities of the disabled.
Japanese cuisine blew me away – diverse, creative, tasty and very healthy.
When traveling I always do my best to stick to the rule “Eat and drink as a local”, because I believe that’s the best way to experience the country you’re visiting. And, yes, you can eat very good and very affordable in Japan.
Let’s forget for a moment European cities and urbanism, squares as the places for rest, meet-ups, hanging out, because there is not such a place in Asian cities.
Big crossroads with diagonal crossings, surrounded by shopping centers and restaurants are the equivalent of the center of each neighbourhood.
SHIBUYA is considered the world’s busiest crossroads, the skyscrapers are covered with screens, neon ads are everywhere you look, music from Star Wars goes loudly on repeat and then at the exact same moment as the green light turns on, thousands of people from all the possible directions start to move and we knew it for sure – we arrived in Tokyo.
Tokyo is definitely the Mecca for Sushi and Sushimi. Must try when in Tokio!
The best place to eat superfresh sushi are the local restaurants located at the Tsuki market as its fish market is the biggest in the world and daily sells around 2000 tons of fish and other see delicacies.
Other than open-air market it is a special treat to eat sushi in KAITEN ZUSHI (“sushi train”), where you sit around the moving lane with small plates each one with two pieces of sushi while in the center of it a chef prepares new and fresh ones.
The offer of sushi is undescribable and creations simply amazing: with tuna, salmon, dried mackarel, scrabs, with a spawn of hedgehog, shell meat, cubes of palamida, eel, bream,…
Sushi comes in two different shapes:
MAKI ZUSHI which is rice rolled in algae with various fillings in it
NIGIRI ZUSHI, without the algae, little rice roller that serves as the base for fish creations
Sushi is usually accompanied by Sake and eaten wtih chopsticks or fingers.
What is Sashimi then?
SASHIMI is fresh fish (can be meat as well), usually tuna or salmon, cut in very thin leaves that are later mixed with chopped scallion and citrus fruit or pieces of carrot, ginger and covered with wasabi.
What surprised me was their the attention they give to the fashion as well as unbelievable creativity and diversity of styles among the all generations.
SAKURA means cherry blossom. In Tokyo that is the period between the mid March and mid April.
The city is covered with posters that invite people to witness and enjoy Sakura in the parks. In some parks there are even theme stands that serve sake, champagne, martini… but in most of them people simply bring their own blankets, food and drinks and chill with their loved ones underneath the
blossoming cherry trees. That’s the way Japanese people celebrate and express their gratitute to the fragility and beuty of the life.
Parks are huge and the cherry trees so dense that they may seem like arcades that paint the lakes pinkish color. Even the air seem to tingle, that’s how all encompassing is the atmosphere of celebration.
The last night we spent in the company of our Japanese friend Tsetsu and to his suggestion decided to try the famous SHABU-SHABU in one of the traditional restaurants.
SHABU-SHABU is “last but not the least” on my food top-list, just because I decided to follow the timeline of the trip when talking about the food.
It is the slow food in full meaning of the expression.
Restaruants that serve it have small tables and you sit on your knees or cross-legged. Every table has a hole in the middle with a cooker and a big pot with boiling veggie stock inside of it.
At the sides of the table there are various sauces: sesame seeds, soya and rice in bowls. A waiter brings fresh vegetables and finely chopped meat, beefsteak and pork.
The guest then takes the meat with the chopsticks and literally in a few seconds cooks it in the stock, adds different sauces and finally eats it. Then again adds some veggies into the stock and cooks the meat.
After all of the meat is eaten the waiter reappears and adds a raw egg into the stock, leaves it to boil for a shortwhile and pours it over the rice in the bowls.
And to make the last evening somewhat more special, eventhough full we decided to order Mochi for a dessert.
Mochi are little balls made from rice dough that come in different colors and with different fillings. The Japanese creativity, sense for colors and subtle flavours come to its full potential here.
Colorful Mochi balls were served so nicely on the small porcelain plates that I was feeling sorry to actually put them into my mouth, but… as I said, it was our last evening in Japan…
… must try: MATCHA PARFAIT
1) Separate yolks and whites. Mix the yolks while slowly adding half a dosage of sugar and add matcha powder.
2) Mix the whipping cream and add to it previously prepared mixture of yolks and matcha powder.
3) Mix separately the egg whites with the rest of the sugar and add it to the mixture gently stirring with a spoon.
4) Put the mixture into bowls and leave it in freezer for 6 hours.
Parfait cream can be stored in the fridge as well.