Food in Japan

You know when you’re not feeling great and you need a little pick me up? Sometimes you head to Whole Foods for the Haagen Dazs Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ice Cream or the Pirate’s Booty. Other times you find yourself at Moe’s Bagel chowing down on an egg and cheese on an everything bagel or looking forward to the Buddha’s delight at Crazy Asian in Denver… Even the little things we take for granted at home- good strong coffee, a bowl of yogurt with fresh fruit and granola or the fast food options you’ve grown accustomed to can’t be found in Japan. Restaurants can be quite expensive, so I’ve been doing what many Japanese do – shop in the 7-11’s or “Conveni’s”. They have every drink you could want, bento boxes (meat or fish with rice) and loads of snacks.

I’ve tried some pretty disgusting stuff – the Japanese push the limits with the kinds of fish they eat… and they like to fry a lot so its sometimes difficult to know what you’re buying. The food wrappers general have no English so you can be completely in the dark unless you can see it. After a couple of weeks I’ve fallen on to a few old reliables:

1) Rice balls – generally $1-2, these can be as simple as rice with seaweed and sesame seeds but often have some sort of fish in the middle. I’ve had better luck with the clear wrappers so I know whats inside in advance!onigiri-rev1

2) Coffee in a can. There are vending machines everywhere, and they even serve up hot lattes in a can. Not quite starbucks, but a latte at a coffee shop goes for a cool $6.

coffee in a can

3) Udon Noodles – a classic Japanese dish that I can usually order anywhere.

The “Japanese Breakfast” is also quite good- generally a little fish, salad, miso soup, rice and tea. I have had to pick around meat a few times for lack of ordering abilities. I’ve finally figured out how to say “I’m a vegetarian. Meat not OK. Seafood OK” 🙂 and that’s generally been working. Any country I go to I’m going to learn these words first.  Last night after lots of pointing and poor Japanese the guy looked at me and said, don’t worry, I speak English…

The reason I even started writing about food was that after 2 weeks I’m realizing what a huge role it plays in my decision making. I’m always aware of trying to have a snack with me in case I’m stranded in some remote area for an evening and generally plan eating around my train schedule or tourist visits. I do wonder however if this is a bit of an anxiety issue for me – I’ve never gone hungry for a single day of my life, but yet I panic sometimes like this might be the one. I know if I do travel for a year I will need to move past this in order to truly experience the road. I’ve contemplated fasting in the past but have never actually done it because it scares the crap out of me! I know many who have fasted have said its a great experience. Long story short, my food anxiety contradicts a bit with the free flowing spirit of letting it all go and allowing it to happen moment by moment…

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