Just got back from near two weeks in Japan (visited Misawa, Aomori and Tokyo), so I thought I'd jot down some quick notes for the board since my research here was helpful in what I found to eat there. Likely not much here of value for the regular visitors, but maybe someone going for the first time will find it helpful.
--Up north in Misawa the fare was solid if not spectacular. No real standouts beyond a set meal with chicken that I had at a restaurant close to the base entrance, but had plenty of good noodles at various udon, soba and ramen joints. Best was a mentaiko ramen at a fairly nondescript place off the main road.
--Tried to find jyappajiru in Aomori, which is a codfish stew specialty of the area but didn't have much luck. The one place we found that had it was closed, so we eventually let hunger win out and ate some great fresh seafood sushi assortment in the basement of a department store there. Good stuff, though I'm sorry to have missed out on what we were looking for.
--Tonkatsu at the Maisen counter in Takashimaya. I had to wait in line for this one, but it was worth it. Crisp, flavorful, and not a hint of greasiness.
--Fugu chiri nabe kanseiki at Shunsagami on the 13th floor at Takashimaya. Had to go out with Japan's famous fish since it was in season. Was told mine came from off Nagasaki. Pretty mild white fish for all its fearsome reputation, but a tasty meal overall and I'm glad I tried it out. There were some accompanying oysters as appetizer that were right fine too.
--Sushi at an unidentified place at Tsukiji fish market. Just chose a place with a line and was rewarded with fantastically fresh tuna pieces and a nice white miso soup. After negotiating the frenzy of the market itself, this was most rewarding.
--Got some street food takoyaki at a vendor at Ueno park. Yum! These were gooier than I'd imagined--I was thinking they'd be more along the lines of Rhode Island clam cakes. Still a good item to consume at a bench in the park...
--My one trip to Mosburger yielded a rice burger with some sort of shrimp filler that sure wasn't high cuisine but really filled the gap during a long walk. Not bad for fast food.
--Depachikas at Isetan, Takashimaya in Shinjuku and at Matsuya in Ginza. Oh. My. God. These have to be the greatest food invention of all time.....the selection of goods is just unbelievable. I tried as many things as I could afford, and everything was great. Bought curry donuts to eat for breakfast in the hotel room, too, nearly every day. Sure wish my neighborhood had something along these lines.
--Broiled unagi and miso with monkfish liver at a place on Harumi-dori in Ginza that I'm told has been around since the 1860's. (Don't know the name, I believe the first character in the name is the one for "bamboo"). Ginza is supposedly famous for its unagi, and this was spectacular. the miso was likely the best I've ever had.
--Made our own okonomiyaki at a small place near Shinjuku station. Besides breaking my pancake on the first flip, this was fun comfort food. Thought about trying monja too, but it looked much harder to cook and we were stuffed.
--Was surprised at the level of food at places like airports and museums...I'm sure to the Japanese this is still a cut below, but we had nice meals at both Narita and Haneda. Haneda especially had good offerings. Since I'm used to having to eat lousy chow at Logan, the chance to gobble down acceptable tempura and pretty good sea bream at the terminal was a great bonus. Even ate a basic traditional Japanese style breakfast with the raw egg and salmon at Haneda our first morning there. Wasn't quite sure what to do with the egg, so I just mashed it into my rice. Not bad!
--Saddest sight i saw in all of Japan: a line of 40 or so people on a brisk night in Tokyo waiting for....Krispy Kreme donuts. ARGH.
Anyway, I'm sure I'm leaving out some meals but all in all a great trip and the level of food everywhere I thought was pretty high, especially in Tokyo. Would love to go back, I missed quite a few things I wanted to try (like oden and natto and wagyu beef...) so maybe someday I'll get back there.
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