Everywhere you go you will find that each place you visit will always its own special things. From building styles, to kinds of animals, each new area can lead to many new discoveries for travelers. One thing that is definitely unique about any place you may go will be the food. Each town, state, country, and nation has its own special dishes or common foods that separate it from the others. Japan is no different with its own kinds of seafood, vegetables, and sweets. Coming from another country will have visitors curious about the new delicacies that can await them. Getting a good idea of the kinds of food that are available will help with everyday life, and for those who are visiting for a short period of time.
Under the sea
Since Japan is an island nation it is easy to guess that a large portion of its natural food will come from the surrounding seas. Since they pull so heavy from the waters, there have been a large number of seafood dishes that have been created or borrowed, by the people of Japan. Expect to have lots of sea bream, swordfish, buri, and tuna when looking at fish dishes. When pulling from the rivers in the country you will be treated to smaller types of fish such as smelt, eel, and salmon. Along with typical fish dishes, there are also a lot of cephalopods that are eaten. Octopus and squid are used frequently in Japanese cooking. They have dishes that also use shellfish and sea urchins in their traditional and new styles of cooking. There is even the widely contested dolphin dishes that has brought a lot of negative attention to those areas of Japan. Being in the situation they were in they have adapted to their environment and have made the most of the surrounding waters of the island.
Being that there isn’t as much room to spare for animal farming, the type of animals that they use for meat stay on the smaller side. Pork and chicken will be the two most common types of meat you can find anywhere in Japan. If you visit the more rural areas of Japan that have more forests you will be able to find deer meat as well. There is beef there but it comes very specific places, and because of the selective amount available, it can be expensive. The most famous of them is Kobe beef. It will run up the bill if you try to order it at restaurants, but it is top-line meat and will make any meat lover happy. If you are looking for something else you will need to find specialty shops that will carry the meats you want. Be prepared to pay the special price for your special items.
Vegetables and Fruits
Japan sports an impressive selection of vegetables that you can find anywhere. You will even come across some on the side of the road. It will be in a small shack that will have a pay box with all of the vegetables sitting outside. You simply pay for the veggies you take with you. There are farmers markets in every town as well with the locals selling their fresh grown products for anyone to buy. Fruits, on the other hand, can be found in grocery stores, and very rarely anywhere outside of there. Even though there are many Japan grown fruits, the prices for them are generally higher than normal. Some fruits that are definitely more expensive are apples, pineapples, and strawberries. Though the Japanese version of these fruits are very sweet and delicious.
Sometimes you feel like trying some of the local cuisine, and you will want to find some of the best local places near you. Depending on where you are you can find the same dishes, but with the local twists. This is true in Tokyo, in which you may go to Machida to eat ramen, and end up finding a completely different taste for the same thing in Shinjuku. Typical dishes you will find will be dons, curries, tonkatsu, and soups. If you have specific dietary needs you will need to tell the staff and check the menus carefully. Most of the food you will encounter will have some kind of broth involved, end it will be a meat-based broth for the most part. There are vegetable broths, but if it doesn’t clearly state on the menu that it is veggie-based, then it may be best to avoid it altogether. The country is one of balance when it comes to its meals, so expect to have a meat, a vegetable, a soup, rice, and some fruit. They are usually well portioned out and enough for a typical adult to eat and be full off of. That being said, there is still plenty of guilty pleasure food to be had. This especially true at the many convenience stores, which all sport their own bentos and fried food sections. They all do an assortment of fried items that you can for cheap, and you can easily fill up on them. You have to be careful not to fall to the ease of access and low price or it will catch up to you quickly.
The Weight Loss Myth
Most people think that if you go to Japan it will be easy, or a given, to lose weight. The idea is that Japan is the healthiest country in the world when it comes to the general weight and health of its residents. This is a skewed view, as the people tend to keep their weights at their small sizes due to lifestyle and actively choosing the better options when it comes to food. It helps that the general portion size for most things is smaller than the western versions. Many Japanese dishes are actually quite oily and contain a lot of calories. It’s the portion size of the overall meals that help them stay so healthy. The lifestyle of usually walking most places, and being active in some way every day helps to keep the weight from piling up too. Don’t think you can eat everything you see in Japan and not pay for it in some way.
Generally speaking, you may find that the foods available in the country can benefit you when looking to diet properly. There are a lot of western foods available in Japan now, and it is being welcomed by many to the native residents, so it is becoming more popular to frequent those establishments. Just make sure to mind what you are eating regularly, and try to balance each meal correctly. Sticking to pre-made bentos, and ordering sets at restaurants can be an easy way to keep a healthy lifestyle, and still taste everything Japan has to offer.