Deze post heb ik geschreven tijdens mijn eerste kennismaking met Japan in 2014. Inmiddels is mijn website vernieuwd, maar het leek me leuk om mijn oude posts te bewaren en een kijkje te geven in de stappen die ik gezet heb. Vanuit een moeilijke tijd, een sprong in het diepe met angsten, nieuwe ontdekkingen en ervaringen, blijdschap, wederom afscheid, liefde, vriendschap, avontuur en creativiteit. Sorry, deze post is nog niet vertaald in het Nederlands.
Japan is a huge treasure box
Before travelling to Japan, I compared this for me slightly ‘closed’ country with an exciting, dusty attic in a historical building. An old castle with white linnen on top of the antique furniture and boxes with lots of treasures in it to discover. And yeah, now I can say Japan is a huge treasure box. But more important, without the white linnen and the dust. And imaginative with some shiny high tech Toyota cars on the porch.
In Japan’s treasure box you’ll discover the magic of Japanese cuisine. How about you, are you in for surprises? Some Dutch people bring their own peanut butter, hagelslag and potatoes with them on holiday to feel more at home.
The Netherlands offers a lot of Japanese restaurants. To be honest, I don’t know if they have Japanese owners or chefs. The guests can use kimonos and sit at a large round table. Now I’ve seen real kimonos these look like bathrobes. The chef prepares the food on a plate or grill. And sometimes they give away funny tricks, like cutting as a magician and throwing a piece of grilled salmon in a guests mouth.
I’m not joking, this is normal in Dutch/Japanese restaurants (except for a few authentic Japanese restaurants).
Let’s forget about the Dutch/Japanese restaurants for a while. Everybody knows the magic of sushi right? Once I had dinner in an Izakaya. The sushi was so fresh, if you like it or not the fish head was still breathing on our plate. No kidding!
An Izakaya is originated from sake shops and kind of Japanese pub where you can order (alcoholic) drinks and food to accompany your drinks. There are no courses and the dishes are ordered and served in slow pace. You share the dishes with your company, which gives extra ‘gezelligheid’ (typical Dutch word for a feeling of sharing good times and being cosy together).
The Japanese ingredients and dishes differ so much from European food. A lot of plants, roots, different leaves and seaweeds. In this country you can choose among many vegetables and for example tofu dishes, although you might have some problems finding them if you’re not speaking a little bit of Japanese.
Actually I met quite a lot of tourists who quit eating vegetarian food during their stay in Japan, for the simple fact that they couldn’t find 100 % vegetarian restaurants. This is because many vegetable dishes contain katsuobushi, dried tuna flakes. Which is a basic ingredient in Japanese cuisine. If you don’t want to eat meat, but fish is ok, there is a lot to choose from however. Salty, sour, sweet and bitter flavours in perfect harmony makes it a natural, healthy and tasty cuisine.
In a cute restaurant in Suzaka, Ai, we had a cozy vegetarian meal with typical Japanese Taco rice and small dumplings filled with lotus. Delicious!
Mochi and red bean paste
I have to mention the red bean paste. This ingredient pops up everywhere. In cookies, desserts, pastries and in ‘mochi’. One of my favourite small ‘squeezy’ cakes in all kinds of shapes made of glutinous rice. It’s a bringer of good luck.
A magic part of Japanese cuisine is ‘eating with your eyes’. The dishes are presented in such a beautiful way, sometimes on seasonal tableware. You’ll enjoy the beauty of your food and eating with chopsticks will give your food experience just that little extra. Itadakimas! Which means: I humbly receive. A Japanese saying before enjoying your dinner.
Fish lovers wake up
If you like sushi, try Sushi no midori Sohonten in Umegaoka, Tokyo. It organizes ‘all you can eat sushi’ days and it’s very popular among Japanese people. Be prepared of taking a number outside, some waiting time, friendly and helpful waiters and talking with hands and feet if you don’t speak Japanese.
France meets Japan
I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of French influences in daily life in Japan. In Tokyo fashionable girls wear the famous ‘trench coats’. Antiques, brocante and vintage are very popular. A lot of good chefs worked in famous French cuisines for a while. And if you have a sweet tooth or a chocolate addiction like me there are lots of good quality French ‘pâtisseries’ to fulfil your craving.
There is a book to write on Japanese teas. The Japanese have so many varieties and you have to try as much as you can. Right now I’m addicted to cold ‘mugicha’ (roasted barley tea), but matcha (green powder tea), tea from black soybeans (which is very healthy and good for the skin) and green tea are high on my favourite tea list two. Try only pure teas of edible leafs, flowers, roots or vegetables. It gave me a whole new world to discover.
Of course, this is only a small part of the Japanese treasure box uncovered. Japan deserves to be discovered by culture lovers, by nature friends, by artists and designers, by foodies, by people who can laugh about the confusion of tongues once in a while and people who would like to be inspired. You will be amazed!