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Visiting Japan this spring. Ideas?

amirm

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#81
When I worked for Sony, I always stayed at the hotel across from Shinagawa station because that is where Sony headquarter was located. So I have lots of memories of that station but not those markings. Then again that was some 20 years ago!
 

RayDunzl

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#83
As soon as I can determine my exact date of death, I'm going to count my pennies, and go back and party till I die.

Did you go to the place with the Monkey Waitress?
 

stunta

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#84
I forgot to mention a few other things about Japan that are new to me (note these may be there in other countries, but I haven't found them yet).

Love hotels - didn't go to one, but apparently they have sound-proofed rooms with karaoke!

Karaoke bars - did go to one with my tour group and it was a blast!

Restaurants with single-person booths - I found this at the famous Ichiran Ramen place. Its so cool. Your order on a machine, go find a vacant booth, a curtain in front of you lifts and they give you a bowl of Ramen you just ordered. There is a tap for water at each booth! Given how bland the Japanese food was in general, I picked 8 out of 10 for spice level and this was a mistake!

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Timbo2

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#85
I'm a huge ramen fan! I didn't make it Ichiran, but did manage to find a neighborhood place in Takayama. As Takayama is rather rural I was the only westerner in the place.

The trick is to make it to your own spice level. Usually this is by means of Shichimi or "Seven Spice".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shichimi
 

amirm

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#87
Usually this is by means of Shichimi or "Seven Spice".
Shichimi is great. We have it in our kitchen and it is a great way to add spice and flavor.
 

stunta

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#88
Oh yes, I was going to post this but I missed it somehow. My okinamiyaki was a little bland for my taste and when I added some of this, it was a completely different story - I gobbled down the whole thing in minutes! Having grown up in India, I like a burst of flavor in my mouth.

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Okinamiyaki!

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Guermantes

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#89
My experience of Japanese cuisine is it is about delicacy of flavour and letting the taste of the star ingredient shine through. For example, in udon dishes the star is the noodle itself so usually a simple broth (or even just a raw egg) is added. Also umami rather than spice is the preferred flavour hit.

That said, I always ordered extra spicier versions of Indian curries when I ate out in Japan:D
 

RayDunzl

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#90
I think I first had Indian in Ginza, with a co-worker from Dallas.

Mohammed Veerjee - the Japanese called him Mo-veep.

That's a nice mash-up...

It was good food, and I haven't stopped craving some from time to time.
 

amirm

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#91
I think I first had Indian in Ginza, with a co-worker from Dallas.
I had indian food in Tokyo back in 1989. Then (still now?) had an embargo where you could not import any rice into Japan. So the poor Indian chef had to use Japanese rice. Asked him what he thought of that and he said it was hell! He said he had to rinse it many, many times to get rid of the starch.

Shockingly, a few years later the entire Japanese team and us two Americans were taken to a private dinner and they served Indian food! It was so much fun and great revenge to see Japanese not knowing most of the dishes and not wanting to eat them!

Indian food since then though has become a lot more common but then, it was quite exotic in Japan.
 

amirm

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#92
My experience of Japanese cuisine is it is about delicacy of flavour and letting the taste of the star ingredient shine through.
You know, it took me a few years to "graduate" to that level. To have just a piece of tofu in broth and enjoy it tremendously. Until then it was "bland." Now it is sublime if the quality of the ingredients is right (which is always the case in top restaurants in Japan). It is a level of "zen" for food that is hard to explain until one arrives at that state of mind/palette.
 

stunta

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#93
We tried two different Indian restaurants - one in Tokyo and the other in Kyoto. Both were crap. They weren't fancy by any means though.

I was probably a bit too harsh calling authentic and traditional Japanese meals bland. Its relative. They do have flavor and I did enjoy udon noodles, the rice (very good quality), miso soup, katzu and also the more flavorful yakitori and okinamiyaki. I can only eat these for so long though and after a few days, I started craving more strong flavors, but that's just me.

I found the quality of western food in Japan quite excellent. There is a French bakery below the Kyoto train station and the pastries there would give some of the best Parisian bakeries a run for their money. Simple Ham & cheese sandwiches from random places were so much better than what you get here in the US. The ice cream is far better than that in the US (which is not hard to do).

Btw, Kyoto train station has floors and floors of eating places. One floor is dedicated to Ramen! Had the best katsu on the 12th floor IIRC. They give you fresh roasted sesame seeds you need to grind yourself and add a sauce to it; you then dip the katsu meat in it and eat it - its delicious.

There are so many countries we've yet to visit so going back to one is going to rather difficult. I hope I get the chance to go to Japan again. The people are the best I have come across in any country. There aren't that many attractions that wowed us, the experience overall was so pleasant in so many ways. This is what I would call a civilized society and true first world country.
 

amirm

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#95
Man, you make me hungry. :D And yes, there are incredible bakeries in Japan. They learned from the French as you say but then turned it into such a beautiful and tasty experience.
 

RayDunzl

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#96
Come on, where are the drinking pictures?

---

... taken to a private dinner ...
One fellow was reportedly "rich" and only worked at NEC to have something to do...

We met him one evening, he drove us into the local countryside, we parked on an unremarkable gravel turnout, where there was space for maybe 4 cars

Walked through a bamboo forest for a hundred yards or so on a curving trail in the failing light at dusk.

Came to a doorway, which could well have been a cave entrance, because I had no sense of a building there, just a doorway surrounded by dense greenery.

There was a stone floored lobby area, but no one greeted us.

Past that, a corridor, with, maybe six step-up-and-in tatami rooms.

We went into one, and settled down.

Moments later, from the side of the room opposite the corridor, a panel slid open and the service began.

No words were spoken to or by the serving staff. They must have been watching through a peephole, because whenever it was exactly time, more food or more drinks would show up.

Maybe Mr Rich was giving discreet signals I didn't see.

There was no noise or sense of other customers during the three or so hours we were there, just us, and two servers who would silently appear and disappear singly or as a pair as needed.

The services slacked as we were sated.

And we got up and left.

I am only left to wonder how less rich our gracious host was after that unique experience.
 
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amirm

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#97
I have heard of those private dining rooms. They have memberships and usually takes weeks to get reservations for them. I have been to one that was the most expensive sushi bar ever that was inside a house. It seated maybe 10 people. My estimate of how much our dinner *per person* cost per prices the sushi master was giving us, was about $2000/person!
 

RayDunzl

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#98
Our gracious host, having a late-ish evening at the office, during our scheduled machine-time.

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Not long after that work night, a more enjoyable evening featuring the Yakitory Girls...

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That restaurant had raw chicken on the menu, but we didn't try it.
 
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Timbo2

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#99
I agree with Guermantes and Amir enjoying simple Japanese food is definitely an acquired taste. Once you do so it becomes much more interesting. I also agree with Stunta that the food quality of plain old "mom and pop" restaurants is generally quite high as well.

One thing that I don't that was mentioned was what amazing places convience stores or "konbini" are! For a quick bite to eat and generally high quality they can't be beat.
 
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