10 (yes, mostly food related) Reasons I Love Japan

japanese cake shop
 
They’re EVERYWHERE. And they’re good! From train stations, to malls, to grocery stores, it’s super easy to find little french influenced cake and pastry shops. Strawberry cake is one of my favorites, and the Mother’s Day advertising wasn’t going to keep me away from a much-needed carb and sugar infusion 😉
japanese strawberry cake
japanese taxi cab at night
The taxis aren’t cheap, but when you do spring for a cab ride, they’re clean and frequently bedecked in lacy seat covers!
lace seat cover inside a japanese taxi cab
weird Bob Dylan themed bar in kyoto, japan
With so many other little bars competing for business in a dense Japanese city, you have to get creative, and they frequently do! Themed and heavily atmospheric bars abound (as do questionable approaches to trademarks)– I talked about a few we went to here and here. FYI, When you’re the only two customers at the Dylan Bar, they pull out the CD basket and let you pick which album to play (we chose Desire).
weird Bob Dylan themed bar in kyoto, japan
Sadly, we didn’t make it to the “Official” Red Sox bar, as it was the middle of the afternoon, and we were headed to the Indian restaurant for lunch. Maybe next time?
goofy red sox fenway park themed bar in kyoto, japan
nara, japan's weird mascot, sento-kun
And I like it! Compound the visual feast of a dense metropolitan city with the often strange aesthetic of the Japanese, some very peculiar English usage, and you’ve got even more to gawk at, photograph and speculate on. The baby with antlers is Sento-kun, Nara’s mascot. Nara is known for it’s roaming deer (she says, as if that explains it).
strange japanese clothing ad for boyman
japanese claw game for fake sushi
japanese parfait shop display
Why are parfait shops not the next big foodie thing in the USA? We really need to make this happen! In addition to parfait/ dessert focused shops, plenty of casual restaurants we went to offered parfaits, and you’ll find creative use of traditional Japanese sweets, as well as the standard fruit + ice cream.
yummy japanese parfait
The parfait shop we stopped at in Kyoto had almost 200 choices on the menu–including a $500 parfait for you and 19-24 of your best friends.
japanese parfait shop menu
delicious japanese mango parfait
button to call your server in japanese family restaurant
Many casual dining restaurants don’t make you wait for the server to notice you need something–or conversely make the server keep returning while you debate the wisdom of ordering Italian food in Japan. Instead, just hit the little button, a bell dings, and your server scurries over to take your order. I LOVE these buttons.
western style japanese family restaurant menu
japanese train car interior with purple seats
The public transport is fantastic, neurotically on time, and– unless you’re taking the shinkansen– pretty affordable. My fascination with the romance of train travel has been fairly well established, and while I would prefer the romance of the Orient Express dining car, a bento on the bullet train is an experience in itself.
bento box on the shinkansen in japan
waiting for the shinkansen at the train station in japan
Even the little rural train stations have a certain shabby charm:
rural japan train station
plastic food ice cream display in japan
The detailed plastic food displays outside of so many restaurants are intriguing in their own right, and no doubt help to draw in customers. But they can really come in handy for clueless tourists (who, me?), who wouldn’t be able to tell if they’re walking into a ramen shop or Korean style bbq, much less read the menu. Just march your server to the window and point to the most delicious looking plastic food.
plastic food display table outside of restaurant in japan
moving kaiten suzhi (conveyer belt sushi) window sign in kyoto, japan
 Have I mentioned that I’m highly susceptible to gimmicks a connoisseur of unique experiences? Truthfully, kaiten-zushi aren’t that unique– I’ve seen them in Los Angeles,  London, and elsewhere, but those outside of Japan often miss the point, which is fresh and cheap sushi.
kaiten zushi (conveyer belt sushi) chef in kyoto, japan
 If you haven’t heard of kaiten-zushi, here’s how it works: you’re seated at a counter or booth at the perimeter of the restaurant and a long conveyer belt brings plates of pre-made sushi meandering through the restaurant and past patrons. You can grab anything that looks good, or order off the menu. You pay per plate, so when you’re done, staff will add up your stack of plates and give you a bill to present at the register. Some color code their plates for a range of prices, but this kaiten-zushi we ate in Kyoto was just a flat 130 yen (about $1.20 right now) per plate. Who says Japan has to be expensive?
empty stacked plates from kaiten zushi (conveyer belt sushi) in japan
vintage subway machines in kyoto, japan
One of the recurring themes presented to foreigners when speaking about Japan is the presence of the old and new side by side. Temples and high rises, high tech and shockingly low tech side by side. The “old” side of Japan can be alternately beautiful and frustrating to outsiders (explain to me again why ATMs “close” at night?). But there’s a definite beauty in the preservation of old, even when it’s just a delightfully 80s ticket machine in the Kyoto subway. 
If it works, why replace it? You can always get your high tech fix from the touch screen vending machine half the size of some people’s apartments.
high tech vending machine in japan
mcdonalds japan ebi filet fried shrimp sandwich
A bonus reason, just for the boyfriend, who is obsessed with these things. McDonald’s Japan sells a chopped shrimp filet, sort of like the Filet of Fish, except this actually tastes good. Is it worthy of his infatuation? Personally, my Japan food dreams center around sushi and Ivan Ramen, but the Ebi Filet is worth trying.
mcdonalds japan ebi filet fried shrimp sandwich

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