Alan-speaking, everyone! If you are a lover of all things culinary, then Japan is the place for you. Since arriving, I have eaten
1. sushi (raw fish atop rice pillows)
2. sashimi (raw fish only)
3. soba (buckwheat noodles in a flavored broth)
4. udon (somewhat thick noodles served in a flavored broth)
5. hoto (really thick noodles served in a flavored broth)
6. tempura (lightly battered and deep fried vegetables)
7. Japanese fried chicken and pork
8. wasabi white chocolate
9. octopus “balls”
10. fried octopus
11. grilled pork tongue
12. mochi (thick paste shaped into mounds and made from pounding sticky rice—I got to help with pounding the rice and in shaping the mounds), covered in a black bean paste as well as served in a flavored broth. Removing the paste from one’s hands is similar to removing latex paint with only water when one’s hands are covered in paint. The process of doing so is not nearly as formal as I tried to make the former sentence sound. Whew…
13. miso (fermented soybean paste—quite salty) in every form imaginable, including ice cream topped with pickled apples
14. a Korean seafood pancake, which I had never tried in the U.S.
15. sea urchin
16. pickled daikon (radish), which I adore. I have gone wild for pickled vegetables here.
17. more green tea than one could ever imagine
18. and of course rice, rice, and more rice. The first bite I took of Japanese rice in Japan made me smile.
My favorite dish has been the simplest. It was a mound of rice covered by miso soup. It was suggested that we put a dab of wasabi in the soup and swirl it around. I’m still thinking about how comforting that dish was, and it was only the second dinner we had while in Japan! Oh, and it was served at the end of the meal, which is special in my mind.
Yesterday, I braved a “conveyor-belt” sushi restaurant all by myself. I thought the seating would be circular, but it was booth-like, almost like the Golden Corral. The sushi wound itself around the aisles of booths. The taking of foods isn’t as easy as one might think. Some portions were for anyone to take while others were designated for people who had pre-ordered them. Understanding that was only the beginning of the adventure. One thing I did notice is that the Japanese diners rarely spoke to one another, even a group of four young men, who in the U.S. would no-doubt be horsing around. When words were said, they were uttered at an unimaginable low volume.
My advice to anyone who plans to travel abroad is to observe what is happening around you as best you can and process it as best you can. You will not understand what is happening always nor why, but you will realize that your way of behaving and thinking is not the only way the world over does it. Eye and heart opening, to say the least.