We had a lot of questions from people before we went about what we were going to eat while in Japan. We didn't know how to answer them as we didn't eat Japanese food in the U.S. before we left. I think most people assume all you can get is sushi, but we didn't eat any sushi until we were in the airport lounge waiting to go home. Certainly, sushi is available at a lot of restaurants, but there are so many other types of restaurants to choose from.
Most Japanese restaurants we saw were very small, usually only enough room for 15-20 people. The most popular restaurants also seemed to specialize in only one type of food. It certainly seemed to be a good sign if a restaurant only served ramen, it meant they had to do it well, or they wouldn't be in business.
We did research what would be available and had some ideas of things to try, but food (finding stuff we would like and ordering it) was still our biggest worry before we got to Japan. It turned out to be nothing to worry about and one of the best things about Japan. We all had a lot of fun trying new things and experiencing a different cuisine. We tried to take pictures of lots of our meals and snacks so that we could remember what we had and so all of those people that asked us questions would be able to see how great the food was in Japan.
Tendon (fried shrimp and vegetables on bowl of seasoned rice) at Ten-ya. We all loved Tendon.
Japanese Italian at Saizeriya. The first item was called shrimp doria. It was kind of like a risotto.
Vending machine restaurant. Fried shrimp, potato croquette, and fried fish
Yakitori restaurant. They serve grilled meat on a stick. Most of the items on the menu we skipped due to the odd parts of a chicken or pig that they came from. This came free as an appetizer. I'm still not sure what exactly it was, but I was hungry so I ate it.
Does anybody else remember Shakey's Pizza? This used to be my parents' favorite pizza place. I haven't seen one in the U.S. in a long time.
Gyudon at Yoshinoya. Gyudon is a beef bowl over rice. They also had pork. Gyudon was one of Tyler's favorites.
Really small Tendon restaurant in the basement of a mall. We got to watch them cook, and it was excellent.
Ramen. I really like the Ramen, but the rest of the family weren't huge fans. It has no resemblance to the stuff you buy in those packets in the U.S.
Tonkatsu. Fried pork cutlets. Another winner.
Fried squid tentacles. Good, but a quite chewy.
Okonomiyaki. Hard to describe, but it was kind of a savory pancake with lots of stuff on top.
We stopped to take some pictures of the Burger King sign. That special burger really is 3 thick slices of onions. They even had a 5 thick onion slice option.
Gyudon at Matsuya. The one on the right is a spicy pork version.
Japanese fried rice omelet. It was stuffed full of fried rice, then covered in a chili type sauce with potato croquettes. That was definitely odd, not bad, but not my favorite.
Japanese curry. It tasted much better than it looked. It looked so bad on menus, we waited until the night before we left to try it.
They had lots of flavors of Pringles, but most of the time we couldn't figure out what they were suppposed to be. Tyler loved the ketchup ones.
Kit Kats are also huge in Japan. They have tons of flavors, some of which are special flavors and quite expensive. We really like the green tea ones, since they didn't actually taste like green tea. Here's a sample of some of the ones we tried.
The Sprite can's looked like they hadn't changed their design in years.
Onigiri. Rice balls filled with various items and wrapped in dried seaweed. Dried seaweed has a very strong flavor and takes some getting used to. These can be found in every convenience store and most train platforms.
The Milky Way actually was much closer to a 3 Musketeers bar.
Takoyaki. Famous in Osaka. Fried pieces of octopus in a doughy ball.
We got Tyler some animal shaped breads at the department store food court. He also had a Panda which we didn't photograph that was filled with a chocolate filling which he loved.
This machine stamps out cookies filled with bean paste.
Cheetos were widely available in many strange flavors. The one with the burger and cola was not good, but the others were good.
I tried a few random Japanese snacks. Good thing 'angry pepper' is easy to understand even if you don't speak Japanese. These were pretty spicy.
The Potatornado. We only saw this in one place in Japan, so it must not be very popular, but we liked it a lot.
An ice cream vending machine. Soft serve ice cream was all over the place in many odd flavors like tea and cherry blossom.
Shaka Shaka Chicken. You get a fried chicken patty and a packet of seasoning. You pour in the seasoning and shake. I wasn't a huge fan, the chicken just wasn't very good. Burger King had a hot snack chicken which was much better. Both items were on the 100 Yen menu.
We left quite a bit of luggage space to bring back souvenirs and we ended up using pretty much all of it. Here's a few items that we brought back with us. Most of these we actually got from amazon.jp since the prices were so much better than in the physical toy stores. I had the concierge at the Park Hyatt Tokyo help me place my first order for delivery to our hotel in Osaka. Then the address of the hotel was saved in my amazon.jp account, so I was able to place additional orders on my own.
Tyler was really interested in trains while we were in Japan. Trains are hugely popular there and there are tons of toy trains available. As soon as we got back, Tyler pretty much gave up on trains again. Good thing we convinced him not to spend too much money on them in Japan. He did get a couple of small train related souvenirs.
Narita Express and a Shinkansen engine
He also found some cool Disney Cars that he liked. They were pretty expensive, but they also seemed nicer than the ones we have in the U.S.
He also got some Cars capsule toys:
Cars capsule toys
I picked up a few of these Mojibakeru toys. They are little transformers that change between animals and the Kanji (written symbol) for that animal. I thought they were pretty neat little souvenirs.
I also found this odd little paper construction toy. They had quite a few different versions, but they weren't cheap, so I ended up just getting one of them.
I have a few of these metal sculptures from various places I've been to. They had a five story Pagoda, so I picked one of those up. These are really small and require needle nose pliers to put together.
There are lots of models of Japanese stag beetles that you see in toy stores. I found this cardboard one at a Tokyu Hands store.
Cardboard stag beetle
I also picked up some origami paper at a 100 Yen store.
I saw this really cool looking mechanical pencil that you have to assemble yourself and I couldn't pass it up.
Build your own mechanical pencil
Here are a few of the capsule toys that I purchased. I should have bought more of the Nintendo ones, it turned out to be really neat with a working controller port and cartridge slot.
They had some really cool puzzles in Japan, but they were all so expensive. They like things small in Japan and puzzles are no exception. The two jigsaw puzzles I bought have really tiny pieces. The 1000 piece puzzle of the Rainbow Bridge is only 12x16 inches when complete. I also couldn't pass up the 3D puzzle of the Tokyo Skytree
Speaking of really small things, Japan is the home of Nanoblocks. Nanoblocks are like miniature versions of Legos and they have lots of them in Japan. I bought a bunch of ones that were models of some of the famous tourist attractions we visited.
Erin got some traditional Japanese dishes and several pairs of decorative chopsticks.
Japanese style dishware
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