For most foreigners living in Japan, food rates quite highly on what they like most about living here. The abundance of cuisine on offer is far from boring; seasons, cities, weather and celebrations all influence the different foods available. Even today after 5 years in Japan, I still come across new dishes, pickles, kinds of seaweed, sweets and osenbei that I’ve never seen previously.
I’m a huge foodie and Japanese food is my first choice when dining out, in saying this though, I still couldn’t eat it every meal for a week (well I could but I wouldn’t do it out of choice)…could you?
Generation plays a big part of food preferences worldwide, in Japan if you asked a 60 year old what they ate for breakfast I imagine the majority would have a traditional Japanese breakfast whereas the younger generation would prefer the ease of a westernized one. The only time I’ve experienced a Japanese breakfast is whilst staying in a ryokan; admittedly more excessive than a breakfast prepared at home, all the same the main culprits are still there: a whole fish (not the filleted kind), natto, some kind of seaweed, pickles, tamagoyaki, miso soup and rice.
At 7 in the morning, I can just about stomach the soup, rice and egg but that’s as adventurous as my body will allow me to be before midday. My parents didn’t touch any of it, nor did my friends who were visiting Japan, which makes me think my tastebuds have adapted more than I thought, I’m sure however that the majority of the Japanese guests wouldn’t have a problem with it. Aside from generally refusing to eat fish in the morning, there’s some Japanese food that I stubbornly refuse to try at any time of the day, mostly because it doesn’t look appetizing: natto, uni, tororo, any kind of animal intestine, ikura, shirako and shirasu. Stubborn I may be, missing out I think not.
My diet is around 50% 和食 (Japanese food) and 50% 洋食 (Western food). 40% of the Western food I eat is relatively easy to get hold off, the other 10% either; costs me a fortune, is bought online, sent from my parents, brought with friends whom are visiting or are a mission to buy. The non Japanese food I crave the most are: peanut butter, Dairy Milk (made in England not Australia), tea cakes, real NYC cheesecake, rye bread, tahini, herbal tea, flax seed halloumi, hummus and oats.
I asked my British friends what they missed the most, here is what rated highly: salt and vinegar Walkers crisps, marmite, roast dinner, full English breakfasts, crumpets, decent wholegrain bread, Dairy Milk chocolate, Mars ice-cream, raspberries, Yorkshire pudding, cheese and their isles in supermarkets, gravy, jacket potatoes, baked beans and fish fingers.
Indeed this list represents the Brits, I’d be interested to hear what those of you from elsewhere miss and how you go about getting it, or do you curb your cravings with a Japanese equivalent? Granted living in Tokyo we’re spoilt in the international food department compared to other not so cosmopolitan places. I’m not sure how long I’d survive without a Kaldi within a 5km range of my house.