Twenty four hours in Tokyo has taught me a few things. Firstly Tokyo is very very large. A sign from the airport said ‘Tokyo, 60km’ even though technically we were in Tokyo. Secondly, it has taught me that Japan is amazing. Its wonderful. I love it.
I love food. I have travelled the world eating anything I can find which I haven’t tried. Countless restaurants in many countries have all been kicked in the face by every single thing I ate yesterday. It started off with a McDonalds which, for those who are a little more Westernised, was identical to the one you can buy in Kendal. Why am I saying this equates to a great food experience? Many people don’t like travelling as they’re going out of their comfort zone if they don’t know they can get home comforts; here in Tokyo the western influence is strong enough to bring you an identical McDonalds big breakfast, identical Big Mac and yes, identical nuggets. This is good. You can buy other, slightly more asian influenced food (Prawn burger, Teriyaki Chicken) in McDonalds too so, if you’re feeling slightly adventurous, you can part take in something cultural and western without leaving the comfort of the Golden Arches.
Shortly after, and craving some additional morning protein, a street vendor sold us some Ika Geso A-ge; deep friend squid; 3 inch tentacles a centimetre or less in diameter and deep fried in a salt and pepper batter; juicy, chewy, sophisticated, flavoursome and not even slightly cringeworthy. Absolutely incredible. I cannot tell you if it was the flavour or the texture which I enjoyed the most; maybe a return visit will decide for me. Ika Geso A-ge (Ika – squid, Geso – feet, A-ge – fried).
The we move on to something more culturally popular and what may be a fair beginner’s approach to Japanese food; Onigiri – rice bowls. Sticky rice wrapped in seaweed and with a filling of your choice; in our case, fried chicken, fried shrimp (king prawns to the english) and a marvel I have not seen outside of fine dining, Hen of the Woods (maitake); a type of mushroom, full of flavour and found, quite literally, in the woods. I’m sure here in Japan, it grows in greenhouses or on farms, but I like to think that somebody has spent hours scavenging and foraging through unchartered woods, similar to how my old housemates did for their Michelin standard restaurant back in Ambleside. These rice bowls were ate at both the bottom and the top of Mt. Takao, Tokyo overlooking the spectacular Fuji-San. And, despite the ‘deep-fried’ nature of the fillings, these are remarkably low in fat and very very delicious. Plus, although I’m no nutritionist, I’m fairly sure eating seaweed is incredibly good for your skin. Maybe. Either way, Onigiri is a Japanese marvel – healthy, cheap, tasty and everywhere.
In the afternoon, and craving a savoury snack, we stopped at one of the several million convenience stores in a train station. My partner, Mayumi, was in charge of food (as she is with most things in Japan) and selected something from the hot, glass fronted counter and passed it to me. Squidgy, soggy and warm, pale and about the size of a scone, I approached with little anticipation and great excitement. I was hungry. And did this fit the bill? Yes! Steamed, slightly undercooked dough encasing a minced meat of some kind. Nikuman.
So far, everything I have eaten in Japan has been amazing. I’m loving it here and look forward to lots more.