Japanese food nerves

I’ll admit it – I’m a fussy eater. Less than I used to be as a child, but cheese? Yeuch. Any fat on meat? Nope. Plus sushi and bananas and mustard and soy sauce are all just plain nasty, among many other things. So I was a little concerned that when I visited Japan back in April I might be eating fast food for the entire two weeks, considering my only prior experience had been Yo Sushi and that hadn’t been a great success. Other people have mentioned to me how they’d like to visit Japan but are similarly worried they wouldn’t want to eat anything on the menus.

I can assure you, you won’t starve. Japanese food is so much more than sushi – and if you are staying in cities it’s no different to any other with world foods available.

Shopping centres or train stations are a good place to start

Head for the food court, which will often have pictures or plastic food, if not direct translations, plus plenty of choice.

Be prepared for chopsticks

Somehow, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would have to use chopsticks until I sat down for my first meal and looked at the tray. It was a bit of a learning curve, but by the end of the two weeks I was used to it (even if I was using them like a child would).

Try other Asian food

Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Korean – there is an abundance of choice, all of which is much more authentic than you would find at most restaurants in the UK.

Just don’t try the attempt at pizza.

Not all sushi is raw fish

Go to a supermarket to be able to browse lots of quick snacks and work out what they are before you buy. Some are vegetarian and some contain cooked fish. The common ingredient is sticky rice. Speaking of supermarkets…

Find a supermarket

Crisps are crisps. Bread is bread. Some things just don’t vary that much. Stock up on some essentials for packed lunches/snacks, and save money while you’re at it. Or take the opportunity to spend more time than you can at a restaurant examining new foods and buy a couple you might like to try.

Safe bets

Here follows some examples of good foodstuffs I tried while in Japan.

Green matcha tea and bean paste sweet (tastes like icing sugar)

Gyoza (pan-fried dumplings with pork) with rice, salted vegetables and chicken broth

Ginger fried chicken with rice, chicken broth (to pour over rice), salad, salmon flakes and seaweed

Chicken ramen (noodle soup) with gyoza and salted edamame beans

Breaded pork and rice in a bento box (sold at train stations – basically packed lunches. Note the sauce comes separately.)

A lot of the above meals are bought as selections – so if you don’t like one bit (I wasn’t a fan of the salty boiled vegetables) hopefully you’ll like the rest. Some others I remember:

  • Cooked salmon sushi
  • Steamed pork bun
  • Vietnamese curry
  • Korean pancakes
  • Tomato & beef ramen

And finally…

Try something new

What’s the worst that happens? You don’t like it and buy something else? (Unless you have allergies. In which case more caution might be advisable…)

You’re in the country to see new things, visit new places and experience a new culture. Food is key part of culture, and new is all part of the adventure.

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