My wife and I were fortunate enough to visit The Land of the Rising Sun a few weeks ago, and it really is the land of the rising sun. Being nearly 12 hours ahead in the future, it was a strange flight on the way back home. We left Tokyo at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday last week and managed to walk though our door after a connecting flight and drive home at 7:05 p.m. the same day.
We are basically time lords now. Nevermind the day and a half we lost traveling over there.
The first thing you notice, after the insane amount of people jammed into a subway car and how everyone manages to stay so polite while doing it, is the food. It is everywhere.
I have read that Tokyo has the most restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. And I can definitely believe that. When you find yourself staring at 20 little 10-seat restaurants in the middle of nowhere suburban Tokyo, you can feel the food energy.
It’s hard to choose where you actually want to eat every day and what you want to eat. Some days you just pick a place that looks good based on how busy it is and the location.
One day we had the Japanese take on pizza, and it was interesting. Next day ramen, then sushi, then splurging on a gelatinous and oh-so-delicious slice of Wagyu beef. Really whatever you are in the mood for, Japan has it.
Most restaurants have a menu posted outside their door so you know right what you are getting into. Some even have weird plastic models made up to give you an idea of portion sizes.
But all of that is to be expected in Japan. What is really wild are the snacks and the selections of snacks.
First off, it’s like stepping right into the 1980’s and seeing 7/11’s on every corner. They are as popular as coffee stands here in the states. You can stand in the doorway of one and spot two others. But they offer way more than a Slurpee and some creepy guy staring you down while you pay. They are very clean, bight and stocked with all sorts of cool things.
The best I can equate it to is if you took a Maverick, got rid of the gas, plopped it in a shopping mall and stocked it with things like fresh steamed buns and dumplings. It also has one of the few ATMs that will take your debit card and for a small fee, give you some Yen.
The snack section was mostly like ours in the States but was more colorful and full of potential pitfalls. If the snack pack of dried seafood bits we received on the plane ride over was any indication of the differing taste buds we have, it could become messy quick.
Actually, the first thing we bought was a package of little lemon-looking candies that appealed to both my wife and me. We are kind of strange and like lemon-flavored things (feel free to mail me your lemon Starburst; they will find a good home here) and Japan seems to share that same love with us with lots to choose from. Not knowing how to read Japanese, we made our purchase and tried them out.
Well, if we ended up getting sick on the trip, we had that base covered at least.
Going forward I decided to adopt a “what’s most popular” strategy and stick with it. It worked out well. Our favorite ended up being these little candy shelled jelly candies called Puccho. They have a surprisingly nice carbonated feel to them and come in soda flavors along with fruit. We liked them so much we ended up stocking up on them when we saw them at the airport and brought at least 10 bags back home with us.
One thing to try just to say you did is green tea flavored ice cream. Unless you live and breathe green tea, you will find this pretty horrendous like we did. I even ordered it twisted with vanilla and could barely finish it. But I did; I’m no quitter!
If you find yourself with an option to check Japan out in the future, give it a go. The food scene is amazing and you can find any snack you want after some trial and error.