Nine Days of Dining in Japan

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (1.54mm, f/2.4, 1/100 sec, ISO100)

After more than two years I managed to return back to Japan to finally meet my distributors in person again and to eat in Japan.

The last two years I missed to have real meetings instead of video meetings. Nothing beats to meet people in the real world. You can keep you metaverse, Mark! With the food it is just the same. Of course I can eat Sushi in Austria but it compares to Sushi in Japan like a zoom meeting compared to a real meeting. It is not even the same thing.

This blog post is about the food I ate on my last trip from which I returned last week. Starting with a late Sushi lunch at the airport. Sushi on an airport!? That’s a red flag almost everywhere in the world but not in Japan. Immigration took almost 4 hours, I was tired and hungry and I had one hour before my train would leave for Shinjuku. No planes – no trains. After I bought my ticket I went upstairs to the food court to have my first Sushi.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO32)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO40)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)

After I got to my hotel and had a shower I headed out for a long walk to take some pictures. At the end I tried to find the Yakitori restaurant where I ate the last time I was here but I failed. But the real bad news was that this Yakitori place didn’t serve chicken liver, my absolute favourite. Seems I have to wait to get that for another day.

They had practically everything except chicken liver. My favourite was chicken skin with curry. Like Currywurst but not as healthy! 😉 Maybe the saltiest and fattest food I ever had but it tasted great together with a cold beer.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO400)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO80)
 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO80)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO80)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO64)

On Sunday I went first went to the team labs borderless – experience (more of that soon). I originally planned to see it last time but then decided I would go there during my next visit. That was in February 2020. Back then I thought I would be back in a couple of months. My learning: never postpone anything without a good reason. It might be too late. Like the Tsukiji fish market that I never visited.

The team labs borderless was great but extremely busy. As more and more families came in I decided that this is a little too crowded for my taste. So I left after 1,5 hours and went to Yodobashi camera Akiba in Akihabara, the most amazing electronic store in the world. After I strolled though the hifi department and after I purchased a watch (a that is only available in Japan) for a friend it was time to eat. Sushi again in the big food court that spans over two of the nine floors.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO50)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO80)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO100)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/75 sec, ISO125)

In the evening I finally had some chicken liver Yakitori in a different Yakitori place but still not the one that I tried to find. Maybe they have closed the restaurant some time ago. The place wasn’t very busy when I was there the last time and that was before Corona!

The image above shows my business lunch at the Shin Osaka station. Takoyaki of course. That’s what Osaka is famous for. It’s really tasty and also fun to make yourself at home. We had that when I was in Japan last time and invited to a private party. I tried but failed to make nice Takoyaki balls myself. The main ingredient is octopus, a piece of the tentacle, that is put inside the dough. Brilliant!

The image below shows a salad. It was the first course of a nice business dinner and I think it was the first time I had a normal salad in Japan. It was very good but the main sensation was the Yakitori and especially the chicken liver.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO100)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO80)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO320)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)

Above image shows how a chicken liver Yakitori supposed to look like if it is not overcooked. One of my Japanese friends told me that in the past chicken liver was consumed raw but that’s not allowed anymore. Well above liver was as close as it gets to raw so it was great.

Yakitori is an extremely cheap food in some smaller restaurants in Tokyo. One small stick as low as 1.-Euro. But they are salty and you can’t stop eating them and because they are salty you need to drink a lot of beer and the beer isn’t cheap. So the Yakitori are something like the peanuts or the crackers that come for free in a hotel bar. Only much, much better of course.

Next day a business lunch in Sendai. Sendai is famous for its cow tongue so of course I had to give it a try. As a starter I had an octopus salad shown in the picture below. Very fresh and almost crunchy. Great! The tongue was very good too. The Japanese understand not to overcook meat. This is very important for liver, hearts, kidneys and also for tongue. If overcooked it becomes hard and dry and then it is as bad as overcooked fish. With fish and most of shellfish the Japanese mostly take no risk at all.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/310 sec, ISO32)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (1.54mm, f/2.4, 1/100 sec, ISO25)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/35 sec, ISO400)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)

Tuesday evening I was on my own which meant I had dinner close to my hotel again. This time eel on rice and squid that I had to grill myself. This was a simple restaurant but the food was still great.

On my way back to my hotel I stopped by the French bakery that is still in operation. Thank god! They are fantastic and usually I get their vanilla scone and since those scones are really tiny (see image below) I usually get two. Japanese food is not heavy on carbs so sometimes after dinner I grave for something sweet.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/35 sec, ISO400)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO64)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO125)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO125)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)

Regarding food Wednesday was the highlight. At lunch we had just sandwiches but also some very nice, home made basil and banana bread. In the evening I was invited to a restaurant specialised on tuna. I guess I mentioned that I really love tuna and especially the finest pieces like the half fatty and fatty tuna that is hard to get outside of Japan. But this time I also got meat from different parts of its head. So now tuna is not only maguro, chutoro and otoro but also toniku or hohoniku. But I don’t think that I have to remember those. For the restaurants that I visit on my own I’m perfectly fine with chutoro and otoro or with an iPad to order based on pictures. 😉

There was also some tempura and a cooked part of the tuna that I just ate before I took a picture. After that the waiter just put a whole middle section of a tuna on our table. We got some wooden spoons to scrap of the meat off and some nori-sheets and rice to make our own temaki. And last but not least the soup. Wow! What a dinner!

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/35 sec, ISO400)

It’s possible that I skipped a meal because I can’t remember what I had for lunch on Thursday. Anyway in the evening I was invited again and it was a kind of Japanese fusion kitchen which was very nice. This dinner was less formal and we ordered many different dishes to share.

It started with a salad but with a Japanese twist. What looks like some shredded Parmesan of course was fish. I forgot to ask but it looked like very small sardines. Even smaller than the dried ones that you get together with almonds as a snack.

Next course were firefly squid that was washed and presented with a single dandelion flower. Next came some mussels which required some work with the chopsticks and a very nice octopus salad again. I was in very nice company again and consumed some beers so there is a high chance that my reporting became less meticulous as the evening got later. But it was a Thursday so tomorrow was another day of work. For my company and for me as well so it didn’t get too late. And I think that corona is still something many here worry about. In the beginning we all put our masks down, had a sip of beer and put the masks back on. At the end of the evening the masks were parked beneath our chins though.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO125)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO125)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO125)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/100 sec, ISO80)

Above image shows the lunch I had on Friday. I planned to have lunch with a very old gentleman (almost 90 years of age) but he didn’t show up. I couldn’t find his mobile number so after I waited for a while I went to my room. Before that I asked the reception to call me if he would show up.

As there was no sign I changed clothes and went for lunch at the food court of the department store right opposite of my hotel. Sushi again as you can see. I ate on the bar and had a chat with the sushi chef who’s english was very good. Again I was the only foreigner and that caused some curiosity. For business – aha. First time in Japan? No, it’s my eight trip.

Maybe he thought that I would be lonely but that wasn’t the case anymore. On my very first trip – yes. There were business meetings and some rather stiff business lunch or business dinner and a lot of time on my own in a country where I didn’t know anybody and didn’t speak the language. I felt lost like Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation” only that I didn’t have a young Scarlett Johansen on my side.

But now it is different. I know some of my contacts very well. They have invited my to their house and I invited them to my house when they were in Europe. I wouldn’t call it a friendship but it is close and it is far away from the superficial relationships that are common in other parts of the world. In Japan it needs some time to earn trust but if you have it and if they like you the relationship is strong despite the massive language barrier. And the Japanese are excellent hosts. They will laugh even if your joke is lame. Very nice! 😉 I recommend to google Conan O’Brien rents a family in Japan. This short video says it all.

Btw: When I returned to my hotel room I got a call from the reception. My old friend finally arrived. I was relieved, went down again and we had lunch. I couldn’t eat anything but he enjoyed the meal.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO160)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO160)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO160)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO100)

On Friday evening I was really exhausted and just went to a restaurant close to my hotel where I ate crab rice, fatty salmon and bamboo roots with chilly. I think I finally slept early that day because this week has been really long.

Saturday, my first day off and it was raining. I contemplated what to do but instead of another museum I decided to visit Yodobashi camera one more time and after the rain would stop to go to the Nakagin Capsule tower before it is gone. A fantastic piece of architecture from the early 70s that has to go now because it is rotten and because it stands on very expensive land next in Ginza.

But Yodobashi was first this time focused on cameras and lenses and (more soon). I went for Sushi again (some place as the first time) because I started to realise that I will be home again soon where I could only dream of Sushi of quality. This time I didn’t take any pictures anymore beside the one above that shows my favourite Sushi platter of the meal.

After lunch I went to the Capsule Tower that was already mostly covered up and the dismantling had begun. After that I wandered around the area and finally decided to visit the Senso-ji temple in Asaksua one more time. This time it should be less busy right since there are no tourists? Well I saw a lot of foreigners and they didn’t look like business people to me. Maybe English teachers living in Japan. Maybe some rich kids with contacts? I don’t know. It was busy and it was hot so I left and decided to have a break in my hotel room before evening.

This was my dinner that day. Right next to my hotel there is a Shake Shack. Something I also don’t find where I live. But if you think that I just went down to get a burger and beer and back to my room you would be wrong. I took a long walk first through Kabukicho and through Yakitori alley before I settled for Shake Shack.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/35 sec, ISO640)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/35 sec, ISO400)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO100)

Initially I had many plans for Sunday but reality is that I was just too exhausted to do a lot. A Japanese friend contacted me that he wants to invite me for lunch. He is a really cool guy. Works as a therapist during the day but also as a DJ sometimes. Not the last 2 years of course because of Covid.

We met at the west gate of the Shinjuku train station and went to a record store specialised on second hand vinyl. We browsed to the offer for some time but since I didn’t have any free space in my luggage this time I decided not to buy anything.

Lunch was great. I’m not the biggest fan of tempura but here at least the tiger prawns are fresh as you can in the images above. From tank to plate if you will. We went there at 11:30 and that was a wise decision. When we left there was a line in the restaurants and also people waiting outside to get a table. It was nice to see hime before I left Japan because since Corona we can’t be so sure anymore when we will have the opportunity to meet again.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (1.54mm, f/2.4, 1/50 sec, ISO800)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO250)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO160)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO200)

The pictures above show my last dinner in Japan for this trip. I was on my own again so I kept it simple and went to the Sushi restaurant in the department store right opposite of my hotel. It’s really a very nice restaurant and it is or was somehow connected to the Tsukiji fish market.

This time I ate al la carte and I managed to do this thanks to the google translate app on my phone. The scallops in the nori sheet were just perfect as was the tuna tartar and the fatty salmon. One last octopus this time with mayonnaise and three pieces of sushi: half fatty tuna, squid and eel. That’s it. I think I did my best to focus on my most favourite food this week. With the exception of Shake Shack I didn’t eat any western food at all.

Now I’m ready to go back home and have Schnitzel or fried chicken. Last image show my breakfast at the lounge at Narita airport. I had to leave the hotel before breakfast because there are not a lot of trains to the airport because of the travel restrictions. I hope that this will change and that Japan allows tourists back in soon.

 

PS: Only iPhone shots in this blog post as I stopped to take image of my food with my camera. The iPhone is good enough for that and I don’t look like a complete geek.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (5.1mm, f/1.6, 1/50 sec, ISO80)