What do you eat in Japan?

sushi

sushi

“The sushi must be really good.”

“You eat rice everyday?”

“Do you like the food?”

“I couldn’t live there, I don’t like Japanese food.”

These are just a few that I have heard over the years so let me share with you what is really going on at the dinner table.

Some foods are not sold outside of Japan, some foods are illegal outside of Japan.

A prime example is horse. Yes, if you go into a nice supermarket or a nice restaurant you can get horse meat. Last year they made it illegal to eat raw I believe, but you can still get it to cook in your home or cooked in a restaurant. I tried it….it basically tastes like salami. Very salty. I don’t have any religious restrictions and no moral convictions about trying anything at least once. Sorry sugarfoot.

Yes, I like the food and what that really means is I like the flavors in the range of Japanese cuisine. There are many fermented foods like natto. There are many pickled foods like skemono. This is a big one for Americans because mostly two tastes dominate our dining….salty and sweet. The reality is that the taste of the food is a clue into the health benefit it provides. There is a vegetable called Goya(bitter melon). It is super bitter and so cleansing that it is not usually given to children or nursing mothers. Seasonings commonly used are….Sake, Mirin, and Shoyu(soy sauce). Every Japanese home has these. Various combinations of these make the most delicious dishes.

rice plant

rice plant

Yes, I eat rice everyday. A large family would eat about 2kg a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner….rice rice rice. In the states white rice is demonized for making people fat; and yes, it is healthier to eat other grains or brown rice if you must, but I don’t see any obese people around here. People don’t eat out for breakfast and you can often find pancakes served as if they were a desert or snack, not the first meal of the day.

Sushi. Sorry to disappoint, but there is crappy sushi here just like any other place in the world. I had some sushi from a bento place and almost spit it out. I was like ugh…I can taste the preservatives. It was truly gross. But my disclaimer is; my husband is a chef and when we lived in NY he served celebrities(still does sometimes), so the level of food he has exposed me to has cultivated a palate beyond spoiled. Actually, California is the number one consumer of sushi in the world, more than Japan. Sushi is only about 100 years old and I even have a friend…yes a Japanese friend who does not like sushi. We’ve made it in our home maybe 2 times in 3 years. It is a party food, social food, not really a daily or even monthly staple of the diet.

Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato

The only thing that shocked and still annoys me is the lack and price of fruit. I still cannot bring myself to buy a mango for $5-$10USD. This is a veggie heavy country. Most people in small towns farm so we always have. I am constantly dying for fruit. Thank goodness we do have orange trees that yield a nice harvest in the fall. If you head over to my instagram you will see that I post my groceries from time to time and our vegetable harvests. This season eggplant is all over the place. Tabesugi!

Finally, Western food. Can I get food from home? Yes and no. I found some junk food, Reeses peanut butter cups, but I don’t need $20 worth. Unfortunately that is all they sell. See, you can get just about anything but it is gonna cost you…..big time. There is a Costco here but I have only been once. Until my boys become teenagers I won’t need $10 worth of dinner rolls or $30 worth of Pesto.

Let me know what you are having for dinner tonight. I need a vicarious Western meal.

Be Well.

About Tara Kamiya

I am a personality blogger of Japanese & African American marriage and motherhood. Featured in the U.S. on Four Weddings Season 2. For product reviews, speaking engagements and appearances please contact me via email: kamiyatara@gmail.com
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10 Responses to What do you eat in Japan?

  1. Maureen says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog. All things Japanese fascinate me and I’m wishing for a trip there one day. It’s also really nice read a blog with good grammar,spelling and writing.

  2. Dweeb says:

    Hi! I’m in New York City, and my family is half Japanese, too. Since you asked, tonight we’re having Indian — butter chicken from the 5 Star Diner in L.I.C., and it is sooo good. Jealous?

    Another family favorite is spicy tuna maki — something my wife makes for a treat, but the kids love it so much, she makes it all the time. This despite the fact that, like your friend, she doesn’t really like sushi all that much herself. I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten spicy tuna roles in Japan, especially not “inside out” with the rice on the outside, like we do it.

    I was just introduced to your blog. I really like your writing, and look forward to binge reading it all tonight. Keep it up!

  3. Leah Smith says:

    I’m glad to read about you too! I married a Japanese man 43 years ago. I think y our marriage is unusual. I’m glad you found the right guy and glad for him to find you too. You seem like a very happy family. I look forward to reading your blog as I appreciate your straightforward approach. “I don’t need $20 worth of Reeses’ pieces either!”
    My older daughter married a sushi chef in LA, younger girl married an American guy in Philly. So we old people are left here in Hiroshima!!
    I found out about you in the Japan Times so I guess a lot of people will visit your blog and write you because of that!! You are famous on many continents!! Yoroshiku!!

  4. Kori says:

    Love your blog!! I’m from an East Indian background and have been dating someone who’s half Japanese and half Peruvian (although he identifies more so as Japanese). I grew up an avid fan of anime in Canada, and so I’d picked up on some bits of Japanese here and there, but it wasn’t until I’d met my boyfriend that I learned so much more. And his Japanese mother’s cuisine is to die for. He’s spent a good chunk of his childhood visiting Japan and took me there a few years back. I got to see Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, and finally Sapporo where I got to meet his family, it was incredible. Funny about the price of fruit because I’ll never forget the taste of the Strawberries there, it was so worth it (for me). And how the sushi melted in my mouth in Sapporo ohhh man.

    Anyways, a vicarious western dinner (or rather, cooked in the western hemisphere cause it’s a weird one) – maple-glazed baked salmon on sticky rice with a side of baked beans in a sweet tomato sauce. I know, weird, but the sweetness of both dishes worked out together. And some spinach.

    We’re planning another trip to go back there next year, it’ll have been 3 years since we went last time. I’m a bit more adventurous with food now so I’ll try my best to appreciate things this time instead of being scared of things like fish heads with eyes @_@

  5. James says:

    Here are a couple of Japan based websites you can buy some US foods from. Sometime in large amounts like Costco, but sometimes in small amounts. As you already know, it’ll cost you!

    * http://www.fbcusa.com/
    * http://www.theflyingpig.com

  6. Tara Kamiya says:

    So funny. My son was 2 and would not eat the fish unless he saw a head. He did not believe it was fish.LOL Thanks for reading.

  7. Tara Kamiya says:

    Thanks so much for reading. I am learning quite a bit about people living here in Japan. This article was good therapy. I was so homesick last month.

  8. Tara Kamiya says:

    Thanks so much. Hope to have some new stuff posted soon.

  9. Margaret says:

    What I’m having for dinner tonight?
    Spiralized zucchini “angel hair pasta” with
    Ground almond/tomato/onion sauce
    With a wakame/kale/homemade fermented cabbage/jalapeño sauerkraut

  10. Tara Kamiya says:

    Awesome! I need to get a spiral machine. Love that!!

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