Japan after WWII underwent a cultural revolution that transformed its economy and culture to a more modern democratic and capitalistic nation. And at the center of this new Japan is one of the most advanced cities in the world, Tokyo. This city is packed with 38 million people, the most in the world, and has crazy attractions and crazy technology that feeds and transports all of these people. Can you imagine the food that can be found in a city that is home to 38 million people!?
Trains & Public Transportation- Due to the sheer population, many people don’t drive cars. Instead they take Japan’s extremely advanced public train system that can get you anywhere across Tokyo and nearby Japan. However, trains are often packed tighter than a can of sardines so don’t expect to sit down unless you are disabled. Just as a general rule, NEVER EVER talk on your phone on the train. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as the least respectful and most annoying tourist possible
The Food- There is more than just ramen and sushi restaurants here. Almost any food you want, you’ll be sure that you can find it nearby. There are even local McDonalds in Japan if you don’t like Japanese cuisine. There is even the restaurant Aragawa which offers the best Kobe steak in Japan if not the world. However, the average meal price is around $800. You can grab food even from a vending machine, however another one of Japan’s politeness rules is that you can’t eat while walking. So be aware and be respectful and you should be fine.
The People & Etiquette- Japanese people compared to the average westerner is very shy and very quiet. They are still very polite and helpful if you ask them for help getting around the city. Although, many Japanese people do not understand English, so maybe practice basic Japanese phrases like “hello” “thank you” and “where is ___”. There are some English translations of signs in the touristy area of Japan so you won’t be completely lost. Also, some people in Japan dress in the classical Japanese style as well as some who dress in the popular cartoon anime style. Lastly, if you are sick you better wear a facemask to first, not spread germs and also be respectful. Finally, don’t blow your nose in public as again, it is seen as rude and disrespectful.
Gate Tower Building
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Tokyo is a mix of the feudal past with a technological future. Offering great restaurants along with stunning architecture there is no wonder why Japan is not only the most populous city in the world, but also one of the most visited and liked cities as well. JUST DON’T FORGET YOUR MANNERS!
Whether it be hosting a gathering during the holidays, a company party you are planning or simply a get together with friends or family, stepping out of the box with a unique party idea not only adds some fun but also a little spontaneity. Aiko, a friend of mine, who owns a plumbing & heating company with her husband was looking to plan a fun party this past holiday season for their employees. They wanted something a little less traditional that would also incorporate a feeling of team bonding and of course great food. Aiko who is originally from Japan decided to head back to her roots and utilize her ability to create delicious sushi! So what did she do? She opted for a “You Make the Roll” DIY sushi party! The idea of this party theme is all in the name. Not only was it a big hit amongst her employees, it also created togetherness and a lot of fun and creativity to be had! So how do you go about creating your own sushi party?
How to Create Your Own Sushi Party
Utensils- first thing first you want to make sure you have sushi making “equipment”. This entails bamboo sushi making mats, a couple sharp knives, hand dipping bowls filled with water and a couple tsp. of rice wine vinegar (this helps so that rice won’t stick to the party goers hands) chopsticks, small dipping ramekins for sauces, rice paddles and dinnerware
Sushi Rice-Next you will need to prepare the sushi rice and prepare it correctly for the best sushi results. You will need to prepare the rice at least 4 hours prior to the start of sushi making and allow it to stand covered at room temperature until you are ready to start rolling.
Nori- Don’t forget the seaweed sheets that are an essential part of making sushi.
Choose Fillings- You will need to choose a handful of sushi fillings and have them prepared in separate dishes. It’s best to decide on a few rolls that are easy to make such as California Rolls and prep that specific filling. Ex: imitation crab sticks, avocado & cucumber. You can also print and copy a few recipe cards to help your guests create specific rolls with ingredients lists and a couple of easy directions to follow.
Condiments- Don’t forget the condiments, these may be almost as important as the sushi itself. The three main condiments are soy sauce, fresh ginger, and wasabi. However, you may want to include oyster sauce, furikake and other sushi additions that can enhance your rolls.
Sides, Desserts & other fare- While sushi is definitely the main focus it’s always good to have extra dishes or food on hand as well. Having different sides out to accompany the rolls that are made or small dishes to snack on like edamame while the sushi making is in progress will keep your guests from starving and nice addition to the sushi rolling going on. You van always had tempura shrimp, teriyaki chicken etc. Check out some of the best Japanese dishes that go with sushi and pick your favs!
Another fun twist you can add to the fun of sushi making is also another idea from my friend Aiko. She had her plumbing employees create unique rolls and name them. They then put on a sushi contest even handing out prizes to the person who came up with the most creative roll, the most delicious roll, and the best use of ingredients. We always knew that Japanese cuisine was quite fabulous but who knew that it could be a great theme for a party or get together providing incredible food, fun and entertainment.
The Japanese are known for their love of raw fish and also for using it in many of their sushi rolls and other dishes. What if we told you that for those of you who are vegan, perhaps trying to limit your intake of animal protein or simply want to do your part in conserving what is left of our overfished oceans that there is a new alternative! Ocean Hunger Foods has come out with a new vegan product that mimics raw tuna in its appearance, consistency, taste and texture, but its not only sustainable it is also 100% vegan and is actually a tomato! Now that we have your attention check out the stats on this new “fish” product making its way into sushi and other dishes.
The New Vegan Tuna Product
What is the name of this new “fish”?– It goes by the name Ahimi which means “spirit of ahi” pretty clever name for those that choose to eat fish in spirit!
Where can I purchase Ahimi?- For now Ahimi is only available to restaurants and sushi vendors so if you want to give it a try you will have to contact your favorite sushi spot and see if they have jumped on the vegan fish train yet. Hopefully we will see it in stores for mass purchase sooner rather than later.
What is Ahimi made out of exactly- As we said above it is derived from tomato. Soy sauce, sesame oil, filtered water and sugar are added to create the raw tuna like texture and taste.
Is it really vegan? Yes indeed it is it is 100% vegan and plant based. Ocean Foods is also in the works creating a gluten free version!
Is Ahimi only meant for vegans? No way! Anyone can enjoy Ahimi. Many of us that are not vegan or vegetarian love raw tuna and sushi made with it, however our oceans being overfished is becoming quite an issue and if we don’t take preventative measures we most likely won’t be able to enjoy fresh raw tuna in the future due to lack of fish! Conserving now can help to make a big difference. Ahimi is also a good substitute for those looking to watch their mercury intake or who are worried about the radiation said to be leaking into our oceans in Japan.
While Ahimi may not be for everyone and some of us may be a bit apprehensive to try out this new “fish like”product the only way to decide if it lives up to raw tuna in your sushi is to give it a shot! You never know it could just become your new favorite sushi ingredient.
The Japanese enjoy coming together as family, friends or a community. They place a certain kind of importance on social gatherings and because of this are known for their many different festivals they have throughout the year. There in generally a different festival taking place in Japan at least once a month and they often center around food, because food is also a very important part of Japanese culture. Should you ever have the opportunity to visit Japan be sure to check out one of their many festivals. We have listed a few of our favorite you should be on the lookout for.
Japanese Food Festivals
Oyster Festival- This oyster festival is held in February on the small island of Miyajima off the cost of Hiroshima. Oysters are one of Japan’s most popular foods with oyster season being January thru March. At this festival you will find dishes such as oyster udon, raw oysters and oyster nabe. There are also live performances and old folk tales that are being told. Definitely an oyster lovers delight.
Hokkaido Food Festival- You can find this high quality seafood festival in Yoyogi Park. It is a free entry event and showcases such seafood as octopus, shimp, scallops, herring and other types of fish. There are beer booths set up that offer beer flights and feature Japan’s most popular beer Sapporo. If you are not a seafood lover they also offer up dishes made with chicken or pork and soft serve dessert made with fresh milk. Take a stroll around enjoy the delicious food and beer and have a great time.
Takao Nabe- This festival is based around nabe traditional Japanese stew. The stew usually includes a type of meat, tofu, bamboo shoots as well as other vegetables and ingredients. The festival takes place in January and is found in Toyama Prefecture.
Mochitsuki Festival- This Japanese festival is devoted to mochi, a sweet, sticky dessert made from red bean paste. Mochitsuki festivals can be found all around Japan throughout different neighborhoods and communities. It is a traditional festival that is held to help celebrate the beginning of the new year.
These are just some of the many festivals that can be found throughout Japan all year round. With the cultures appreciation of togetherness and delicious food there is sure to be a festival for everyone to enjoy. Being that festivals happen throughout the entire year there is always one for you to visit and be part of should you ever visit Japan. These different festivals also give you the chance to try your hand and taste buds at an abundance of different tasty Japanese dishes!
Many of you may have heard of Ume (the japanese plum) or have had the pleasure of tasting it in some form in Japanese cuisine. For those of you that have not it is definitely a must try and good for you at that. A question that many people ask after trying it, especially those that are garden inclined is, “How do I grow my own plum tree?” Although the Japanese plum tree does fair better in certain climates, for those of you that live where it will thrive don’t be intimidated to try and grow and maintain your own. With the help of a tree expert at Tempe Tree Care , we have not only the proper measures to take to ensure its abundant growth and maintenance, but also a little bit of history and info on the tree for all!
The Japanese Plum Tree Facts & Care
The Japanese plum tree originated in China and was first introduced to the United States in 1870
The general season for the plum tree is Spring through Fall
They need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day
Need nutrient rich soil as to make sure they absorb enough water and nutrients to thrive
They tend to grow to about 10-30 feet & planting another lum tree withing in close range as to allow growth of each will also help with pollination of the trees & an abundance of fruit
Major pruning of the tree should be done during dormant seasons and must be pruned lightly during growth seasons
Broken, dead or rotting branches must be removed immediately
Tree should be checked for ragged or torn sites as to prevent disease from inhibiting the tree
If the climate is too moist it will create fungus based infections in the tree
Should you try your hand at growing a plum tree make sure your maintenance and care routine for the tree is based around your climate to make sure you are providing the best and most proper growing conditions for the tree
The tree has beautiful blossoms and they are celebrated in japan each year upon blooming.
One of the best ways to enjoy the Japanese plum or Ume is in Umeboshi, which is basically a pickled version of the plum, but oh so tasty. You can find Umeboshi at most Asian stores, however if you are growing your one plums why not try your hand at making your own. It does not require a lot of ingrediants but may take a little time and prep. The ingredients you will need are as follows:
Shochu- a distilled alcohol type drink used for the brine/pickling
Ume Plums whivh are best used in Spring
Red Shiso Leaves
Coarse Sea Salt
If you do not live in the climate to grwo your own tree it is defintely advised that you purchae Ume and Umeboahi at any Asian store and give it a try. Its great for you and so delicious!
We know that the Japanese love fish and that a lot of their dishes and diet consist of the creatures from the sea or fresh water. You may have also read in our last article that Japan is the #1 fish importer in the world! That being said what types of fish are actually the most popular in Japanese cuisine. Many think tuna takes the top spot but you may actually be surprised! Check out our list of Japan’s top fish.
Top 5 Fish Consumed in Japanese Culture
Chum Salmon- We told you that tuna wasn’t number one, which in a sense is hard to believe. Especially when you think of sushi and how many different rolls in can be incorporated in. Chum Salmon is widely popular for its use in bento boxes and other Japanese inspired dishes. Salmon also happens to be the favorite fish among women in the Japanese culture, which is another fun fact.
Bluefin Tuna-Tuna may have not made the number one spot but it did come close and takes spot number two. Just as women in Japan favor salmon the men in Japan favor bluefin tuna. This is also the tuna that is usually found in all those delicious sushi rolls that you love that incorporate tuna in them
Mackerel- Not just any type of mackerel, horse mackerel to be specific. This fish is usually deep fried before using in dishes. However, they do appreciate macakerel of all types as well.
Eel-We know that eel sauce is common in Japanese dishes but the thought of eating eel isn’t so appealing to some. However in japanese cuisine eel is very tasty and adds heartiness to dishes because of its meaty and filling textures. Eel is often eaten in the winter months in Japan but when enjoyed in summer many people believe it helps to lessen the heat and humidity that can creep into Japan’s temperatures.
Sea Bream- This fish is enjoyed both raw and fried and can be added to a number of japanese dishes. It is highly thought of as a fish to be served at celebrations and special occasions. It is also thought to bring good luck to the consumer.
One thing is certain the Japanese certainly do have a lot of different and authentic preparation styles for fish. While some dishes may seem a bit intimidating to try at first you may just be surprised how delicious they really are. If you are just beginning your exploration into Japanese cuisine and aren’t quite sure about eating sashimi or raw fish, stick with the cooked or fried fish dishes and ease your way into them. With such a high consumption of fish the Japanese not only appreciate great quality and grade of fish, freshness is also highly looked for. The fresher the fish the better the dish.
As with all cultures, Japanese cuisine is heavily influenced by its culture, traditions and ingredients that are indigenous to the land. In previous articles we have talked about the different ingredients that are staples to the Japanese diet, how to make sushi at home and also some of their quirky fun, like their first ever hot tub amusement park. Before we dive more into Japanese cuisine we thought we would share a little bit more on the Japanese culture.
Getting To Know The Japanese Culture
The country of Japan is made up of 6,900 islands
73% of the country is actually made up of mountains, although the majority of people reside along the coastlines
It is deemed one of the most densely populated countries in its region
The Japanese language is comprised of 3 different alphabets: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana
The earlier culture of Japan was heavily influenced by China, however over the years Western culture has began to influence lifestyle, food and art
There are 2 main religions in Japan that are followed: Buddhism and Shinto
The biggest holiday celebrated is New Years, although during summer & spring months celebrations of the god Matsuri take place
Sports are huge in Japan and mainly center around Sumo, Judo and Karate, although baseball, rugby and soccer have shown influence over the years as well
Japanese are primarily fish eaters although they do enjoy other meats as well
Japan is the #1 fish importer in the world!
Japanese don’t believe tipping is customary when dining out, riding in cabs etc.
Japanese believe in taking their shoes off before they their home or others homes. If there is a tatami mat or other type of mat near the door that generally means that shoes should be removed before entering.
Slurping your noodles is considered part of the Japanese custom and shows that you are enjoying your food
It’s important that you use chopsticks the RIGHT way and with proper etiquette
Often times we are so used to the culture we ourselves live in that we don’t necessarily recognize the importance different things or ways play in another culture. Taking time to understand a culture that is different than are own can not only be fascinating and exciting it can also teach us a lot about different parts of the world. Just like we enjoy the cuisine of other cultures we should open our minds and hearts to enjoying the vulture as a whole.
Although our blog mainly focuses on Japanese cuisine and the art of cooking, using Japanese traditional ingredients, I wanted to share this story about the first ever Japanese Hot Tub amusement park that opened in Bappu city on the island of Kyushu in Japan. I thought not only was it a fun and interesting story but also that it shed a little light on how amazing the Japanese culture is and how stepping outside the box can be quite an experience! While swapping a few new Japanese cooking recipes to try out with my friend Linda, she began telling me about this hot tub amusement park. I didn’t quite believe her at first, however her husband who owns a hot tub business came into the room and indeed told me it was true! In fact to all you readers you may want to check out this video of the actual park to fully believe me as well!
The amusement park is located in the city of Beppu which is known for being home to Japan’s largest active volcano Mount Aso at 5,200ft! Because of this active volcano the city is forever engulfed in steam thanks to the 3,000 some steam vents that can be found throughout the land. How did such an idea for such a unique amusement park come about?? Yasuhiro Nagano, the mayor of Beppu, released a video with the idea of the amusement park sometime last year. He pledged that if they received over a million views of the video they would indeed build the amusement park. And that it did! The video quickly gained views and popularity even having over 75,000,000 yen’s donated as contribution to the building of the park!
What Can You Expect At This Hot Tub Amusement Park???
Many do not know what is in store for them should they visit this incredible park. The video sheds a bit of what to expect but for those of you still wondering think, a roller coaster ride with carriages filled with hot soapy water, workers dressed as zombies who wander around the park, and a merry-go-round. In a sense I guess you could say that this is a Japanese version of a water park here in United States. Afterall, bathing is taken seriously in Japan and there are actually bath houses and outdoor tubs that one can visit. They even have standards and rules when using a public bath house.
While my love for Japanese cuisine is quite real, I also am intrigued and interested in the entire Japanese culture all together. Just like each culture has different food ingredients that are significant to them, their ways of life and practices are unique as well. Exploring another country and culture is so amazing and there is so much knowledge to be gained! Enjoy the video and stay tuned for some of the great Japanese recipes I swapped with Linda!
Making your own sushi can be somewhat intimidating for those that are just beginning or even attempting it their second or third time. Check out this video that gives you step by step instructions to help sushi making a bit easier!