Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

A human who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Food in Japan


My first meal in Japan undoubtedly HAD to be Ramen. I did a bit of research before I arrived about places to eat in the Dotonbori. I read about Kinryu repeatedly and hoped it would be as easy to find as every article made it seem. It was. Moments after I arrived on the famous street I saw a massive dragon protruding from a store front. BINGO. Without hesitation I put my coins in a nifty ramen ordering machine and took my ticket to the lovely fellow who was about to serve me up a bowl of deliciousness. One of the highlights of Kinryu, for me at least, include the kimchi and garlic you can douse your noodles with. I loaded up before taking a seat and indulging myself. Only took about 7 minutes for me to eat the whole bowl and every bite seemed to be better than the last. 

Even though I had just eaten loads of noddles, when I passed by a Takoyaki stand it was really hard for me to say no. It was my first night in Japan, so what the hell. There was a really funny guy taking orders at the front of the stand. His English was pretty good and he made ordering fried octopus balls for my first time a blast. He tried to convince me to order 20, which I probably could have handled... but I decided 6 was plenty. They were chewing and warm and delicious, although not something I could see myself craving or eating on a daily basis. A passed a woman asking someone for directions to the nearest subway station and when her attempt was unsuccessful, I pointed her in the right direction. She was a Moroccan living in Paris who was here for a convention. I shared my Octoballs with her. 

After trekking around Nara for what felt like forever, I had worked up a real hunger. Nothing sounded better than a piping hot bowl of Udon noddles, tempura shrimp, and fried rice. I have always loved these thick and tasty noodles - to actually eat them in Japan was a treat. They were remarkable. The tempura soaking in the light soy-saucy broth was the icing on top of the noodles for me :) It was difficult to pick up the massive shrimp that was floating around in my bowl. I got creative and made it work. Bringing my mouth to the bowl and the bowl to my mouth did the trick. One thing I love about Japanese culture is the fact that slurping and general noise making is acceptable because it's a sign you are enjoying your meal. Every soul in that restaurant would have taken a look at me and thought, "Damn, she's one happy and hungry little lady."

SUSHI. On a conveyer belt. In Japan. My only regret is not eating until I explode, which would have been quite easy considering how cheap it was- especially in comparison to sushi back home. I found Musashi on a blog online and pinned it on my maps. Best choice ever. There were loads of people there - always a good sign. I waited for a spot for one to open up and when the time finally arrived I smiled the entire way to my chair. I was seated next to an elderly Japanese man taking his time eating, his plates piled high. They had a spout for hat water in between each seat and green tea at your disposal. A lovely girl was busy prepping sushi in front of me as I stared at the belt in front of both of us, weighing out my options. There were so many things that I have never seen in my entire sushi eating experience back in the states, and there have been many. It's safe to say that the OG sushi creators have the right idea when it comes to this stuff. None of those fancy shmancy rolls so dressed up the tastes are unrecognizable. Simple and classic and damn delicious.

During my temple stay in Koyasan, which you can read about here, I was provided with two meals. I was so surprised by the amount of food that he brought. Tray after tray, and just when I thought he was done he came back with more. All I knew prior to my arrival was that a staff of resident monks would be preparing my completely vegetarian meals. I was expecting a plain and simple meal. Wrong. They did things with tofu that I couldn't even imagine. My taste buds were bursting at every bite. If I had these guys cooking for me on the daily,  adopting a vegetarian lifestyle would be a breeze. The kind man who delivered my food took the time to explain a few things to me. He was so sweet and explained some of the food and what to do when I was finished. His instructions included visiting the spa after my meal so they could prepare my Japanese style sleeping accommodation.  Psssh, okay. Easy peasy. Also, with both meals he served me, he made it a point to say - "eat ALL of the food, and then...". They take that stuff seriously in Japan, especially Buddhist monks. Don't waste food and be thankful for the opportunity to eat. 

Challenge excepted.
Breakfast, seriously?

I wasn't able to eat all the rice during either dinner or breakfast. I was disappointed in myself, to say the least. But, I devoured every last bit off of every little dish and every bowl of soup and every grain of whatever it was that I was shoveling into my mouth. I started by trying a little of everything bit by bit, and then mixing things with other things trying different combinations. I was in awe the whole time. By far, one of the most fun meals I've ever eaten. Breakfast was fun because I was provided with little dried seaweed wraps to put the food in. There was tofu soup and pickled things and tea and rice, always rice.
I was feeling pretty lethargic my last night and decided to take it easy, which apparently for me means eating two dinners. I wandered around Namba Parks, a massive shopping mall with little gardens and parks and resting areas scattered around. There was a whole floor full of restaurants and things for me to indulge in. I had the most difficult time choosing, I made two complete loops of the place before settling on a place simply because the word "cheese" was in the name. They didn't have an English menu, so I used my eyes to make a decision. Talk about a challenge. Everything looked so good, and so full of cheese.  What I ended up with was a massive bowl of rice, covered with cheese and ham and egg. My eyes didn't let me down. I scarfed this down while nonchalantly observing the diners around me. People watching, one of my favorite hobbies.

After, I decided to do a bit more wandering around the Dotonbori. I weaved in and out of side streets before deciding to grab a drink. This one drink cast some sort of magic spell on my tummy, because all of a sudden I decided it was appropriate to eat again. This happened at approximately the same time I walked past a Kinryu Ramen store front. The dragon hanging over the top of such a magical place solidified my desires. I wanted more Ramen, and no one was going to stop me. Plus, I had not ate at this particular location yet. I was curious to see if it was any different. It wasn't. It was just as mouth-watering as the first time. This time, I was even joined by a happy little Osaka native (which you can read more about here). I am happy to say that my first and last meal (for now) in Japan was this delectable bowl of love and goodness.   

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