Remember this jump rope song (okay, I know I’m dating myself!): “Apple on a stick. Makes me sick.”
I have a better one: Squid on a skewer. Put it in the sewer.
Not gonna lie, most of the food I tried to eat in Japan evoked a strong gag reflex…
About that sushi…
First of all, I do not like sushi. Sorry, I just don’t. Aside from the disgusting texture, “bite-sized” is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It’s impossible to cut those suckers with chopsticks; I once tried to put a whole piece of sushi and its rice base in my mouth, but it filled up all available space and I was unable to get any traction to chew it. To avoid gagging, I spit the whole thing out in my napkin. Admittedly, not a pretty picture, but far more desirable than retching in public.
Other things I did not like
- Slimy squid on a stick, the skin so tough your teeth can sink into it.
- Sukiyaki – thin-sliced, fatty, tough beef drowning in a sea of mucus-like raw egg.
- Mystery soup, accompanied by funky tasting molded eggs, and bland white rice for breakfast. No thank you, I’ll just surreptitiously eat this protein bar I squirreled away in my purse
Here are 25 traditional dishes to try in Japan that you might like.
The redeeming value
Luckily there is a lot more to like in Japan, like super-friendly people, stunning historical palaces, shogun castles, exquisite gardens, great shopping venues, and my favorite – a geisha makeover in Kyoto.
To avoid committing a faux pas eating disaster, head for these places:
Variety abounds, and along with grub you may have never seen before (and hope you never see again), you can assuredly find something that you can get past your eyes and into your mouth. At the Nishiki Market in Kyoto, I found Japanese candy that was almost too cute to eat.
There were quite a few restaurants in the Shinjuku District of Tokyo that cater to tourists. And don’t let any of those travel snobs tell you that you’re not “authentically” experiencing Japan! Travel is what you make of it. (See A Word About Travel Snobs) You can still visit venues with some unique dishes in Japan (the photo ops are priceless!), but you don’t have to eat there. However, don’t miss the delicious desserts in Tokyo — some of the best in Japan!
Lucky for me, in Narita, I found tempura – small portions of meat, shrimp, or vegetables covered in a light batter and deep-fried to crisp perfection. I’m pretty sure that saved me from total starvation!
And on the road to Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, I discovered green tea ice cream… so I ordered two cones. For myself. Like everywhere else in the world that I’ve traveled to, the ice cream in Japan was my favorite thing to eat!
“Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.” ~Voltaire
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.