We went to Japan & Thailand in April, before making the move to Antigua. I planned the entire thing in about 2 weeks, and had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to eat and where. However- my favorite meals happened randomly (a scallop from a street cart, vegan ramen in the train station, etc.)
I was more excited for Thailand (food wise) in the beginning, having a mild obsession with Thai curry. I think we had Thai curry once a week for about 4 years while we were in Chicago. I was on a mission to have the best Panang Curry of my life (which kind of happened), but I had no idea how much I would fall in love with Japan- the food, the culture, the PEOPLE WATCHING! While Thailand was cool (actually it was sweltering but you know what I mean), Japanese culture felt so foreign (complete opposite of US in just about every way, except they like to eat a lot, too).
We left on the last day of March, ready for our 13 Hr. Flight, equipped with some VERY light backpacks (knowing Christopher is an impulse shopper, I was prepared to bring home a 50 lb. wooden Buddha if need be). Our apartment was already pretty empty after a 2 week Craigslist purge, so we didn’t even have that much stuff left to take!
So excited to finally be going that we didn’t really care that we were in the BACK ROW of the plane.
We landed in Tokyo around 4pm, picked up our pocket wi-fi, and headed to the Airbnb that we booked. Since it was cherry blossom season, Tokyo was packed with tourists and finding an affordable hotel was almost impossible. We had the cutest Airbnb in a great location and loved it- shout to our host, Mariko!
The next morning, we were up early to explore the Meiji Shrine. The temples were impressive but the gardens were my favorite part; every plant, tree, even little rock had its own place and was a part of the design. I loved walking through the streets and checking out the houses and design- everyone had a little garden, no matter how small their apartment was.
After sitting so much on the plane, we were more than ready to get some exercise. If you know me, you know I love to go for seemingly endless walks (that’s how I discovered almost all of my favorite places in Chicago). Look how much we walked while we were in Japan (from March 31-April 5th)!
I was dying to see Tsukiji Market, where the famous fish auction takes place early every morning. We went to the stalls there and sampled a little bit of everything- The strategy of just finding the longest line and assuming it was good worked well here
Smoked Squid- this was one of my favorites that I didn’t feel like sharing 🙂
There were a lot of street food carts that looked like this. We ended up eating at a lot of them too because it was pretty cold when we were there and eating cold sashimi every day made me even colder!
Super fresh Nigiri at Tsukiji Market- my favorites were the ones that were a little bit scorched on top
We bought a lot of some random sweets- some were good, some not so much! Again, the tactic of just observing what everyone else is buying worked well here. I like the sweets that had sesame paste the best since I’m not the biggest green tea fan.
We loved observing the “cute” culture in Tokyo. We even found a store that had teddy bears and cartoon clothing/paraphernalia for adults. There were no kids sizes in the store! A lot of the business people on the train would play cartoon games on their phones while waiting for their stop- and most had cartoon key chains on their phones too.
Something else that was cute- baby coffee creamer!
I had read a lot about how amazing the French bakeries are in Tokyo, and we were kind of sick of having cold salmon with rice for breakfast (really popular but hard to stomach at 7am), so we headed over to Gentian Cherrier Shinjuku for a sampling of their delicious pastries
The bun on the lower left was my favorite; it was filled with a sweet red bean paste.
My favorite thing I ate in Japan was… actually in the Tokyo Subway Station! Since Ramen is so big in Japan, I had been searching for a vegan ramen spot (we eat vegetarian about 95% of the time) and Christopher never eats meat so regular ramen was out. After a lot of Trip Advisor searching, I found this place called T’s Tantan. Since we had to catch the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto, we decided to grab ramen before. Best Decision Ever. We got a couple different ramen to share, and I think we would have ordered them again if we weren’t so full.
This was the Miso Ramen, with bok choy and seitan, and white sesame
And the Shoyu Ramen
Christopher and I still talk about this ramen all. the. time. I’m working on finding the ingredients to recreate it so look out for a recipe, coming soon!
We drank a lot of Asahi (Japanese Beer)
And checked out a Japanese Whiskey Bar that was on the 3rd floor of a nondescript building, called Zoetrope. They projected old movies on the big screen in the background
A lot of the street vendors sold crepes
They were stuffed with ice cream, nutella, sprinkles, etc. Sweets seem to be a BIG deal in Japan. The candy and dessert stores were always the most crowded in food courts, and people liked to pose for pictures with their dessert 🙂 Tokyo is total Instagram heaven. This crepe stand was in Harajuku, which might top my list of 5 best people watching destinations in the world.
I didn´t realize that so many Japanese women would be wearing Kimonos. There were even little toddlers in kimonos!
We stumbled upon a fluffy pancake place (for lack of a better term) in Omotesando, complete with ice cream and whipped cream. Impossibly fluffy pancakes were a big trend that I saw in a lot of places.
We went to Kamakura one day to see the huge Buddha shrine, called the Kotoku-in. On the way there, we stopped at the Garden House for lunch. They had a familiar farm to table concept that I was happy to see after existing on raw fish and rice for a couple of days. We had Roasted Potatoes with Aioli, Herbed Marinated Olives, huge local beers, and a unpictured wood-fired Pizza with local fish. Highly recommend this place!
Bamboo Forest in Kamakura
I couldn’t leave Japan without experiencing a traditional tea ceremony- we actually participated in two! This one had only Matcha Tea with a traditional sweet on the side.
Kyoto, coming next!