Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not So Favorite But Still Fun Things About Japan

As I wrote previously, the cool things about our trip outweighed the bad. However, for the sake of interest, I will list a few of the negatives.

1. Expensive. I thought Seattle was outrageous but no. The hotel we were staying in was nice and since the room was paid for, I did not pay too much attention to the cost. A couple of evenings, we wanted to eat in the hotel restaurants because of tiring days. We didn't think they were that fancy compared to Seattle's Wild Ginger or Metropolitan Grill. Maybe it was the tacky plastic food or pictures of the meals that provided the assumption of "cheap." Upon close reading of the menu posted outside, we were shocked to discover it would have cost us the equivalent of $350 each for dinner not including wine. Needless to say, we found the train station food court which had some great little casual restaurants for a fraction of the price. I am assuming our room was overpriced and we picked the mid-range of the hotel choices for the meeting.

2. Weird Food. A visit to Kyoto's market revealed some strange stuff. The last evening there, we ate at a tempura place in the food court area. We were seated at a counter and the chef prepared everything right in front of us. It was delightful. The first food item he created was a little creature that looked like a giant spider. We watched as he threw the shrimp shell and legs into the oil and out it came looking a little scary. The idea was we were to eat it. It wasn't bad! The bug was followed by eel which we enjoyed very much. This was nothing compared to what we saw at the market.

Of course there were "normal" things like salmon and crab. But at one stand we watched as a woman put whole smoked fishes through a grater. The gratings were bagged for purchase. At another spot, I saw some brownish cooked things and when I looked closely, I realized they were deep fried baby birds--with their little necks, big eyes and everything! We visited a pickle factory where they pickle everything from radishes to peppers. I loved this place and was enjoying the myriad of samples provided until I took a handful of fried stick like things. My thought was that it was a potato french fry sort of thing but when I looked at my hand, I saw that they were recently hatched teeny tiny fish with eyes. I carried them around until I discreetly found a garbage can.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Kyoto's Market

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
$700 mushrooms! Yes. Who would spend $700 for a package of mushrooms?

3. No forks. Dave and I and our kids are adept at using chopsticks thanks to the Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants that we frequent in our own neighborhood. Actually, my Dad spent time in Japan during the Korean conflict and he came home with lots of gifts including chopsticks which I now have. When I was a little girl, he taught me how to eat with them. We had no problem but if you were not used to eating without a fork, you would have trouble in Japan unless all you did was eat at McDonald's.

4. Restaurants specialize. Here in Mukilteo, we have two Japanese restaurants which offer a variety of foods, You can order sushi or tempura or noodles or katsu all off of one menu. In Japan, the restaurants specialize in one main item. There are separate noodle houses, sushi bars, katsu cafes and tempura places so you have to choose. Dave would probably not order noodles but I wanted to try a noodle house for lunch. He likes tempura so for dinner we went to the tempura place.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Street where we found the noodles. Dave is eating a green tea, black tea ice cream cone so he could fill up before he ate the noodles.

More "not so favorites" later. Stay tuned.