Japan Highlights

Torimikura Chaya

In the late eighties, my aunt took a trip to Japan and got me a pair of round-toed flats with a red flower pattern, and a little buckle to the side. I was nine, and these were the prettiest shoes I had ever owned. This, and the captivating tales she also brought back were likely the sparks that ignited my interest in all things Japanese: it seemed like she had visited another, mysterious planet, and I burned to go there myself some day.

It has taken me a little over twenty years to act upon that desire, twenty years during which I seized every opportunity to learn more about the culture and the people and the food, so I think it’s fair to say this is the single most anticipated trip I’ve ever taken. Part of me worried this might lead to some form of disappointment, but I’m thrilled to report that our trip managed to surpass even my sky-high expectations.

In broad strokes, what we did was this: fly from Paris to Tokyo; stay almost a week in Tokyo, where we swapped apartments with a friend of a friend who lives in the Omotesandō area; go to an onsen a little way north from Tokyo, where we stayed at a ryokan (a traditional inn) and bathed outdoors in the hot springs; spend a day in Osaka; go south to Kōya-san, a small mountain town that is a major holy site for Shingon Buddhism, where we stayed overnight at a temple-inn; stay in Kyoto for a few days, where we rented a little machiya in the Higashiyama area; fly home from Kyoto.

I seem to have spent the entirety of our vacation in a state of permanent elation, excited beyond words to just be there, observing everything and everyone, taking in street and nature and temple scenes, browsing shelves in stores big and small, walking, walking, and walking some more, riding gleaming trains, and eating like I gladly would for the rest of my days.

The one drawback is that it’s a little hard to come down from such a high, and already I am trying to find ways to plot another trip. But in the meantime, I would like to revisit a few highlights with you if you’re keen. Not a day-by-day, bore-you-to-sobs, comprehensive report but rather, as is my preference, a pointillist account of what delighted me most:

Edokko Sushi in Kanda (Tokyo)

Edokko Sushi in Kanda (Tokyo)

~ Stumbling upon a shop that specializes in onigiri (rice balls), zeroing in on the one garnished with tiny sardines and grilled sesame and wrapped in shiso, and calling it breakfast. (See my recipe for onigiri.)

Onigiri from a shop on Aoyama-dori (Tokyo)

Onigiri from a shop on Aoyama-dori (Tokyo)

~ Visiting the Shibuya branch of Tokyu Hands, an enormous lifestyle store, and buying all sorts of cute crafty/kitchen things (including the small ceramic grater I was looking for).

~ Spending some time in Kappabashi, Tokyo’s Kitchen Town, an avenue lined with stores that sell utensils, tableware, and other supplies to food professionals — the Tokyo equivalent of Dehillerin and peers. Buying a Japanese mandolin from a francophile Japanese store owner who explained that Japanese chefs like to use French mandolins while French chefs prefer Japanese mandolins — a nice illustration of the Franco-Japanese friendship.

Kappabashi (Kitchen Town) in Tokyo

Kappabashi (Kitchen Town) in Tokyo

~ Being flattered and amused by how much French is used to name shops, cafés, and goods in Tokyo — often in a slightly misguided manner; thinking it would be worth starting a photoblog a bit like this one to catalog them.

~ Eating splendid meals for next to nothing; Japan is said to be an expensive destination, but it’s certainly not because of the food. Sure, there are many fancy restaurants, but these are not (at all) the ones we sought out, and we rarely spent more than ¥2000 each for a meal (about 16€ or $21) — often a lot less.

~ Eating extraordinary gyoza at Ippudo — thin-skinned, flavorful, and perfectly seared.

Gyoza at Ippudo (Tokyo)

Gyoza at Ippudo (Tokyo)

~ Going into restaurants that looked good but had no English menu, and getting by on our rudimentary knowledge of kana and culinary vocabulary; managing to have memorable meals that were (more or less) what we thought we’d ordered.

~ Buying a box of ichigo daifuku (strawberry mochi), but not without first having to solemnly promise the lady that they would all be eaten on that same day.

Strawberry daifuku

Strawberry daifuku

~ Traveling by train and buying ekiben — railway bento — from the platform stands; thinking about the styrofoam sandwiches they sell on European trains and weeping for our civilization.

Ekiben (train bento)

Ekiben (train bento)

~ Having lavish dinners with myriads of little dishes served in the privacy of our own tatami-floored room at the ryokan and at the Buddhist temple; after dinner, having the staff whisk away the table and set up futons in its place.

A partial view of dinner at our ryokan in Takaragawa Onsen

A partial view of dinner at our ryokan in Takaragawa Onsen

~ Eating traditional Japanese breakfasts and finding I actually like nattō (fermented soybeans).

~ Sharing a container of takoyaki (grilled octopus in a crêpe-like batter, shaped into balls and served with a sweet sauce) in the sun outside the walls of the Osaka castle.

Takoyaki from a stand outside the walls of the Osaka castle

Takoyaki from a stand outside the walls of the Osaka castle

~ Finding the Japanese people we interacted with to be incredibly helpful and patient, trying their very best to get us where/what we wanted despite our lack of common language. On several occasions, the person whom we’d asked for directions went literally out of his way to accompany us to a place from which he could better show us where to go.

~ Eating melonpan fresh off the baking truck in Osaka — it was parked just outside one of the covered street segments in Shinsaibashi — and spending the rest of the trip sampling other melonpan that failed to reach that level of deliciousness.

Melonpan from the melonpan truck (Osaka)

Melonpan from the melonpan truck (Osaka)

~ Taking pictures of ourselves in a purikura, one of those photo sticker booths where Japanese teenaged girls and their friends go all out on the makeup and outfit. The Taito arcade room we went to had an entire floor devoted to them — a floor that was actually off-limits to unaccompanied men.

~ Enjoying the show in restaurants where they cook right in front of you — teppanyaki places, where they cook on a flat griddle and serve okonomiyaki (a garnished omelet) in particular, or Japanese barbecue restaurants where they grill your food (meat, fish, vegetables) on a pile of embers set up just for you in a sand pit that runs the length of the bar.

Okomomiyaki at Chibō (Osaka)

Okomomiyaki at Chibō (Osaka)

~ Exploring the Nishiki-dori market in Kyoto, being wowed by the variety of ingredients on offer; going back several times and barely even starting to scratch the surface.

~ Being introduced to tonyu donuts at the Nishiki-dori market in Kyoto — miniature rings of fried batter made with soy milk, crunchy on the outside and not too sweet.

Tonyu (soy milk) donuts from the Nishiki-dori market

Tonyu (soy milk) donuts from the Nishiki-dori market

~ Discovering the concept of stuffed pancakes, cooked and sold from street (or subway) stands: two thick pancakes cooked on one side each, a dollop of stuffing plopped on one side before the two pancakes are reunited. Having one garnished with sakura jam and a ball of mochi, and thinking I could probably make something similar with my muffin rings.

Stuffed pancakes

Stuffed pancakes

~ Falling in love with warabimochi — lightly chewy pieces of mochi covered with kinako (toasted soybean flour) — and buying some every chance we got. (See my recipe for warabimochi.)

Warabi mochi from a pastry shop in Kōya-san

Warabi mochi from a pastry shop in Kōya-san

~ Having tea served at restaurants without having to ask (or pay) for it; learning to use the personal tea taps at kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants.

Tea tap at Akagakiya (Osaka)

Tea tap at Akagakiya (Osaka)

~ Taking advantage of konbini, the ubiquitous 24/7 convenience stores, for late-night snacks and fun purchases.

~ Feeling lucky to be in Kyoto at just the right time to visit the Kōbō-san flea market, held inside the Tōji temple on the 21st of every month; enjoying the crowd, buying delicate tea bowls, and admiring the goods from the very many street food stands.

Fried chicken at the Tōji flea market (Kyoto)

Fried chicken at the Tōji flea market (Kyoto)

~ Realizing that we were in Japan during the brief bamboo shoot season. Seeing them sold on every market stall (they’re pricey!) and eating them in all kinds of preparations (boiled, grilled, in tempura, in dumplings, in soups…). Finding there is one proper direction in which to chew them if you don’t want all the fibers stuck in your teeth; being thankful for the wide availability of toothpicks.

Bamboo shoots boiled before grilling at the Tōji flea market (Kyoto)

Bamboo shoots boiled before grilling at the Tōji flea market (Kyoto)

~ Realizing that every single department store in Tokyo and Kyoto has a food section on the basement floor that would put Lafayette Gourmet to shame; wishing I could be a nome in a Terry Pratchett novel and live there forever.

~ Meeting up with friends along the way, and sharing home-cooked meals, tea and pastries, and fun dinners out.

Uguisu mochi dessert at Café Kanekanata (Tokyo)

Uguisu mochi dessert at Café Kanekanata (Tokyo)

~ Visiting the steam locomotive museum in Kyoto, and seeing a group of schoolkids on an outing, eating their ensoku bento, each sitting in his socks on his own little plastic rug and greeting us with enthusiastic hello’s (actually more like “he-ro!”) as we walked by.

Schoolkids eating their bento

Schoolkids eating their bento

~ Eating matcha ice cream on a glorious day in Arashiyama.

Matcha soft-serve ice cream in Arashiyama (Kyoto)

Matcha soft-serve ice cream in Arashiyama (Kyoto)

~ Finding ourselves completely alone (save for a white cat) in the most beautiful moss garden imaginable at the tiny Gio-ji temple in Arashiyama (Kyoto); deciding it will be my new imaginary destination when I’m trying to quiet my mind at bedtime.

Moss garden at the Gio-ji temple (Kyoto)

Moss garden at the Gio-ji temple (Kyoto)

Ressources you may find useful when you plan your own trip:
~ Bento.com for restaurant recommendations across Japan,
~ A list of 40 Tokyo foods you shouldn’t miss,
~ Kyoto Foodie for Kyoto food info and map of recommendations,
~ Maki’s Postcards from Kyoto and Kyoto map,
~ ChubbyHubby’s Kyoto guide,
~ Heidi’s report from her two weeks in Japan (especially if you go as a vegetarian),
~ Japanese Guesthouses for ryokan and temple-inn reservations,
~ VRBO’s Japan section, if you want to rent a house or apartment directly from the owner,
~ APA Hotel, a chain of Japanese hotels that offer reasonable rates,
~ Hyperdia for train route and fare calculations,
~ Tokyo Transfer Guide for Tokyo subway route and fare calculations.

  • That moss garden! It can’t be real (nor can the cat)!

  • I seem to have spent the entirety of my reading time in a state of permanent elation, excited beyond words :)

  • This is wonderful because we are leaving for Japan in three weeks and will be spending at least a month in the country, wandering around and trying all the food. I am going to re-read this post and the series of posts at World Foodie Guide before I go. Yay!

  • Wow! What great eats!
    I’m eyeing that okomomiyaki with jealousy.

    …and what a gorgeous moss garden!

  • I *really* enjoyed the highlights of your trip. Some day I hope to go there myself.

  • I’ve never been tempted to visit Japan before, but that sounds like an amazing trip!

  • I also fell in love with Japan and sorely miss it since I was last there! A bunch of your Highlights are also highlights that I loved. Can’t wait to go back! :)

  • How delightful to read of your Japanese adventure! It’s a country we love too, coming home after each visit feeling much the same as you did. The food details are so welcome and the links and ideas all added to our “next time” list. Thank you.

    Thank you too, for your utterly failsafe recipes using Philemon. We bake your bread recipe with our “Clive’s mother” everyday with 100% success rate and continue to fine tune the crumpet recipe using our leftover starter.

    Sweet dreams of your next trip to Japan!

  • Ursula

    What a beautiful gallery – postcards from Japan! It made me want to pack up and go there tomorrow….

  • C’est extra de revivre ton voyage à travers tes impressions et tes photos. C’est malin, j’ai une envie plus qu’urgente d’y retourner, maintenant ! Pour le warabimochi, on est d’accord… et pour le natto aussi ! Il semblerait que ces deux textures (et goûts) forment vraiment deux clans : ceux qui adorent et ceux qui détestent.

  • Sam B.

    This cannot be true!!!
    This sounds AH-MAH-ZING!!!

  • Amy

    Yes that single photo of the moss garden takes my breath away too. But that is the land of Miyazaki, isn’t it? Loved your comment about weeping for the civilizations without train bentos. May I add the U.S. to the weeping list? We qualify for a huge sob at least. lol.

  • est

    Japan rocks! Beautiful post Clotilde, I’m so glad you liked your trip. Looking at your pictures makes me want to go back to try all the things I didn’t do when I first went there 4 years ago today. The dinner at the ryokan looks marvellous! I miss Japan ;)

  • Clotilde, you’ve just described one of my dream trips. When I was in college, I worked in a very traditional Japanese restaurant (first in the back office, then in the bar), fell in love with the food and culture, and picked up a few Japanese phrases along the way. So when I go to Japan (one day!) I’ll be able to say hello, how are you, goodbye, thank you, beer, and “can you do me a favor?”, among other things. ;) Thanks for taking me along on a virtual trip. xo

  • Un énorme merci pour ce billet qui me transporte là-bas. Et me donne une de ces envies d’y retourner, c’est affreux…
    Plus qu’évocateurs, tes mots et tes photos. MERCI!!!!

  • What an interesting post and what a great trip and new culinary adventures.
    Unfortunately, at the moment I can only dream about such a trip.
    Some friends of mine, who spent some time in Japan, and tasted Japanese food there, do not like to eat in Japanese restaurants in Paris – in their opinion, those restaurants are not so authentic. What is your opinion about that?

  • Clothilde such great photos. I love them all, and they bringback wonderful memories. I visited Japan twenty years ago and came home with a heap of food photos also. Especially the basement of the department stores – they were incredible. I was traveling by myself and spent a memorable lunch in a noodle restaurant, sitting at the counter with Japanese businessmen, watching the chefs.

  • Thanks for sharing your beautiful trip photos! I loved ’em!

  • A dream vacation comes true! Thanks for sharing it! I don’t know about that green ice cream???

  • great post. you’ve captured it perfectly and your list of resources is fantastic. i think about that moss garden all the time. still. i am joyfully planning my 4th trip, i love it all too much!

  • Heather

    Thank you for reminding me of my great trip to Japan several years ago. I was in love with the red bean pastries.

  • James in Beijing

    It’s reading things like this that make me kick myself for choosing to study Chinese rather than Japanese in college… Lovely travelog, makes me want to go back to Japan asap.

  • Lovely! I made my first trip to Japan last month and was utterly charmed. I developed quite a mochi habit, eating them almost daily – fresh, packaged, plain or stuffed or fried! We ate some beautiful 1000-yen lunch and dinner sets and the very same tonyu donuts in Kyoto.

    I think Tokyo tops my list of cities I want to revisit. :-)

  • Oh my goodness, this post is so beautiful and inspiring — and thrilling, as I’m actually counting down the days until my first trip to Asia (Taipei!!).

    I hope my post of highlights is half as lovely, fun and vibrant as yours. So glad you enjoyed the trip!

  • I’ve been living in Tokyo for the last 18 months and have a hard time seeing the magic anymore, but your post has made me want to fall back in love with this place again. Thank you…

  • Oh Clotilde, you’ve made me almost weepy with nostalgia. I hope you had a wonderful time (it certainly seems like you did!) I’m curious – how was your time at Koya-san? The only time I’ve ever been there was in the dead of winter, and the cold distracted me from the experience somewhat.

  • I *LOVE* Japan! Your trip looks amazing!

    Those stuffed pancakes, by the way, are sold in Taiwan, as well, except we call them 車輪餅 (che lun bing), or car-wheel cake. It’s usually stuffed with a red bean, custard, taro, or peanut/sugar filling. They’re delicious! I think they originated from Taiwan. :D Just an FYI!


  • Super jealous! I was just there this summer and all the memories of mochi, matcha ice cream and time exploring with family are rushing back to me. Yea. Thanks for sharing a love of my favorite country.

  • Mariko

    Clotilde, reading your post made my heart flutter! My mother is Japanese, and her entire family still lives there (most are in Osaka), so we try to visit every year or two. There are a few things that my mom and I MUST do whenever we go 1) onsen, 2) eat eki bento on the train, and 3) visit the basement food floors of the department stores as many times as possible. As long as I do those things, I am happy! Oh, and eating okonomiyaki at least three times. :) Thanks for making my heart jump with wonderful post – I’m going to try to check out Kappabashi next time – hopefully in December!

  • he-ro clotilde,

    it’s great fun to follow you along your trip in the country through your discoveries… glad to hear Japan didn’t disappoint you (in general). gio-ji is such a quiet little place and pretty amazing in the autumn leaves season, too. hope you’ll get to come back sometime not too far in the future! x

  • M

    Wow, What a girl!
    I’m Japanese and living in Japan.
    But I have never traveled around Japan efficiently like you did.
    And I’m really happy you enjoyed my country. Come again!

  • I don’t know whether to thank you or be upset…you have made me seriously consider a very long vacation to Japan. So lovely!

  • Woow, glad to know you fully enjoyed the travel to major cities in Japan!! We have all manners of traditional, contemporary and booming foods, to you should come back again to eat them up :)

  • Rachel

    What a lovely post – thank you so much for letting us enjoy your trip vicariously! I too have wanted to visit Japan ever since I was a child… all of this is further inspiration and impetus to go! (And if – no, when – I go, the moss garden will be very high on my list of places to see.)

  • We returned from Japan a week ago so I guess we were there at the same time. I have been filing a detailed bore-you-to-sobs blog on our bigger meals, markets and gardens. I’m still writing it; posts will keep going up for another month. We also snacked at little places as you did, but I didn’t put them in the blog so your report is a welcome reminder to me. I took a lot of pictures at the moss garden, but there wasn’t one as good as yours; together they are boring and I’m not going to use them. Anyway, to see my blog, get out your handkerchief and click on my name below.

  • Beautiful pictures! Makes me miss Japan…

  • Ok, my stomach feels empty as I’m reading your really cool post Clotilde. Thanks for your tips that I’ll use next August! (And on this week-end I make your daifukus) :)

  • fatou2002

    thank you for this beautiful report, I’ve been wanting to go to Japan since I first saw Tokyo-Ga at 18 and then read Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto a couple of years later. One day soon.

  • I think you have covered everything about Japan in this single post! :-)

    I love all the photos and the story behind it. I’ve lived in Japan for more than 10 years before relocating to Dubai so I sorely miss the place.

  • Lovely post! I really have to go to Japan sooner or later, and I agree, all Japanese people I met are super sweet. The only thing that really puzzles me is how can Japanese people be so thin, with so much delicious food at hand. Do they eat with their eyes mostly?
    .. the white can on the moss was probably worth the trip alone.

  • Glad you liked natto, I’ve loved it since I was a kid and am sick of hearing it being maligned ;P

  • Beautiful post! I’m totally addicted to daifuku and looked recently at your recipe for strawberry ones which tempts me. I once started learning Japanese which was fairly straight forward speakingwise and dreamed of making it there one day. Your words and pictures made me feel I accompanied you.

  • kim

    This was a joy to read. I’ve had an affinity (minor obsession…) for all things Japanese for a long time, and 2 years ago I finally went on an intense 2 week tour there. I also was afraid my expectations were too high, but like you I was blown away. Best trip ever. I hope to go again next year. I agree with every single thing you wrote, my experiences pretty much match yours – except for one thing: I didn’t care for natto at all :D

  • Oh lordy, now I have to go. It looks like you had an amazing time.

  • claire

    I’m back in France since 2 weeks, after 17 amazing days in beautiful Japan (3 were bonus days thanks to the ash cloud, and I was probably one of the only person who was actually happy to be stuck somewhere!)
    Reading your post got back all the memories, images, pictures, and most of all, flavours of that wonderful country.
    And yes, food is so unexpensive: we had lunch at Robuchon’s restaurant in Roppongi, the kind of treat we certainly couldn’t afford in Paris!
    Thanks for showing that Japan is not only about sushis and makis, but now because of you, all I want is to go back there!

  • How fun!! Your pictures made my mouth water… Ichigodaifuku is my favorite. You had okonomiyaki! The melonpan looked delicious! It’s true that Japanese people borrowed a lot of French words like pan(pain). You knocked me down at warabimochi. I’m Japanese living overseas, so I miss certain food like warabimochi which is hard to get when you’re not in Japan. I also speak French, so I should probably start reading your blog in French. It is so nice to find your blog. I can’t wait to see more of your posts!! Kaho

  • I was stationed on Okinawa when I was in the Marines. The one thing I miss the most besides the scenary, is definately the food.}:P

  • Andres

    Wow, sounds amazing! My wife and I are visiting Tokyo in June and we would love recommendations on where to get cheap and great lunch.

  • It’s all about traveling for me these days. Japan, what a country, what a destination. The food looks fantastic. Loved the green ice cream!

  • Trisha

    So glad you enjoyed your trip. Come back soon!

  • Nicole

    An amazing trip to Japan and what makes me jealous? Takoyaki! I love takoyaki but I can never find it in US restaurants.

  • The moss garden is absolutely beautiful. Japan is indeed such a wonderful country with a soul that is uniquely its own. Must plan a trip one of these days!

  • I am so envious of this trip! I have been a little obsessed with the art of bento recently and would love to have seen it in action. Thanks for the beautiful descriptions and pictures!

  • Caroline

    A strange coinkidink, but my last trip to Japan was an almost exact mirror image of yours! We landed in Osaka, 4 amazing days of non stop eating, then 2 days in Kyoto (wish it had been longer, it was my favourite city in Japan), 1 night in Koyasan and 1 night at a ryokan in Nagano, then 10 days in Tokyo. I’m so jealous you stayed in Omotesando- that was our favourite area, though our hotel wasn’t too far away in Aoyama. Thanks for all the photos and your travel highlights- it reminded me of how much fun I had in Japan, and that I need to start planning my next trip! The two weeks in Japan has been my favourite holiday to date, hands down. (Sorry, but it even trumps Paris! and I love Paris!)

  • Kathryn

    Natsukashi, neh? Sigh…I lived in Japan for two years after college and I still miss it so much. Thank you for your post.

  • The green present in the Moss Garden and in the Matcha ice cream create an apeasing feeling. I almost know Japan through Hayao Miyazaki’s art, and I can’t help enjoying the aesthetic spirit of this archipelago.
    Your pictures are wonderful, the colors are so expressives.

  • Oh, what a wonderful post. I love those puffy tonyu donuts.

    Every time I see a Japanese film, it makes me want to visit even more, but your post, focusing on the food, has made me actually look at plane tickets!

  • Thanks so much for your kind comments, everyone! You have no idea what a pleasure it was to collate all these memories, so I’m really happy you enjoyed the post.

    Magdalena – I actually think Paris has a great selection of good, authentic Japanese restaurants. You do have to be able to tell them apart from all the horrible fake sushi places, but once you do, you can really explore a variety of styles of Japanese cuisine. Of course, ingredient availability (seafood in particular) means that it’s not exactly the same, but it’s probably as good as it gets without hopping on a plane. :)

    Hayley – We loved the whole experience at Koya-san: staying at the temple, discovering the town and the different holy sites (the cemetery in particular) and the shojin ryori meal of course. :)

    Wei-Wei – I’ve learned that the influence of the Chinese has been significant in the history of Japanese pastry, but I didn’t know about that one. Thanks!

    Chika – Thanks again for everything. It was so much fun to see you, and you shared such great advice, too!

  • Susan

    What a beautiful post :) This is a wonderful reminder of the trip I took to Japan last summer. I still dream of the fresh mochi (all the food, really) and oh…the matcha soft serve!!!

  • gingerpale

    Such a post–it’s *so* obvious you will go back! It’s like the song– “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”
    I know just a few of the food items you tried, (gyoza so good!) but sweet bread inside of cookie dough is new for sure.
    I wonder if you now have a gorgeous kimono, or at least have one in mind?
    Did you find yourself bowing and finding it natural?

  • thanks, clotilde; that’s what i was thinking (meaning, my friends exaggerate a bit…)

  • michiko

    I lived in Japan as a child, then revisited after leaving school some 20 odd yrs ago… i love melonpan..daifuku…yum
    Maybe i need to go and visit my long lost relatives soon :)

  • What an amazing trip! I love visiting other countries, experiencing the culture, especially the food. I love the shopping, being exposed to things we don’t have at home. Did you find any unique kitchen tools that you couldn’t find at home? I’m a bit of a kitchen tool/gadget collector. Next time I am in Italy I want to come home with an authentic pasta guitar from Abruzzi.

  • I loved everything about this post, but for some reason the photo of that soft matcha ice cream blew my mind! The color, the contrast, wow! What a wonderful shot!

    I have been studying Mandarin for 3 years, and flirt with a trip to China for a long, long, long time – your trip to Japan made me want to do something really crazy: buy a ticket to Beijing and JUST GO!

    Wonderful report….

  • This reminds me of some good memories from last year. I miss Japan and wish to go back soon.

  • So great to read about your Japan trip Clotilde!!
    I was sighing with jealousy when reading about the gorgeous (& cheaper) food you’ve had. It’s extortionately expensive here in comparison…
    And oooo, going to Kappabashi… Serious jealousy on that one! I’ve been there last time I was in Tokyo too. Did you buy anything other than the mandolin?? Next time I go, I am going to buy iron stamps (on a long stick) for branding my cakes…
    Anyway, hope you’re doing dandy! Take care!

  • nevermind that

    a very cool place and on my “to do list” as soon as I can afford the trip!!!

  • Memories of Japan come flooding back…I spent 6 weeks on a design course there but I think all I did was hang out in the blessed Food Halls and eat!
    There is Mitsuwa Marketplace in New Jersey and they DO have the green tea ice cream you showed..
    Hmmm…I think I better plan a visit.
    Lovely travel post
    merci carolg

  • What a different culture! great post; thank you so much. I feel like I’ve learned a lot!

  • I think the matcha soft-serve is what sold me.

  • Ah, I am loving the look of these treats! The matcha ice cream is especially interesting…I just went to a lecture on the tea culture in Japan – the woman explained that the matcha tea comes in two strengths (and textures) weak (normal) and strong-she said the strong was as thick as a béchamel and could “wake up the dead”…

  • Gingerpale – I considered getting a yukata (casual cotton kimono), but didn’t find one I loved enough. Next time! And I did find myself bowing ever so slightly when saying goodbye to shop attendants, to match their posture. :)

    Tamami – You know, I saw lots of iron stamps in Kappabashi and actually thought of you and the beautiful patterns on your tarts!

    Nevermindthat – Love that link! Apparently the café doesn’t exist anymore, but the concept is brilliant.

    Carly – “Wake up the head” — love the expression!

  • Hello,

    Thank you for mentioning KyotoFoodie in your article! It is an honor.

    It sounds like you had a tasty and wonderful trip — and you even found Gio-ji. That temple is a real treasure, I think. Especially this season, the moss is so beautiful with all the rain.

  • so many beautiful scenes. the moss garden was lovely + the green ice cream looked absolutely intriguing!

  • What a wonderful post and I’m so glad you enjoyed your stay in Japan. You certainly managed to cover a lot of the foodie and non foodie highlights in one week!

  • Thank you for all the great info! My husband and I are going to Japan for 2 1/2 weeks this summer and we can’t wait to EAT EAT EAT!

  • Sounds like you are a total Japanophile, as am I. I loved this post which reminded me of many of the things I love so much about Japanese cuisine – and told me about a few I have to try next time I am there.

    You might be interested in a book I wrote, which came out recently: ‘Sushi and Beyond – What the Japanese Know About Cooking’ (Cape). If you let me have mailing address, I will get my publisher to send you a copy.



  • Carrieanno

    Thank you for bringing back my own wonderful memories of Japan! Just as we in the US have our own regional twists on foods, Hiroshima and Osaka put their distinctive twists on okonomiyaki. Having lived in Hiroshima, my family and I became big fans of that dish, Hiroshima-style. My children and I enjoyed many a green tea ice cream cone as well. Beautiful country, beautiful people!

  • I love the variety of eki-ben (station bentos) that are available all over the country, some of which are regional specialities. Takoyaki is also one of my favourite street foods, and the depa-chikas (basement food halls in departments) are amazing, aren’t they? Just trying out all the different foods can make you full!

  • Clotilde, this post almost made me cry! I feel like I’ve been whisked through your Japan. Thank you!

  • Wow, a great reportage! Thanks for sharing a piece of your Japan with us. Lovely photos and a nice/useful selection of foods and things to do :) I’ll use it when, finger crossed, I’ll fly to Osaka… maybe next august! grazie

  • Beautiful. I visited Japan exactly a year ago and my heart is breaking as similar memories are rushing back to me and I wish I were there right now! Wonderful highlights — thanks for sharing them. They made me feel like I was back in Japan.

  • Looks like we missed each other in Japan, but I just found your blog for the first time and love it! Thought you might like to read about our recent trip to Japan – a little more focused on kids than food, but we certainly got in as much food as we could and shared your feeling of “elation” over the whole trip.

  • I love your Japanese highlights. It was sheer exhilaration during my 2-week vacation there. I hope to see more Japanese recipes on your blog as your bring the memories home with you. I know that was my prompt for gathering the Japanese ingredients.

  • Viv

    I love Japan – the people, culture, food, the aesthetics…this post has me itching for another trip. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures as well. I have some new dishes to try on my next visit.

    PS: Congrats on the book release in Taiwan!

  • snq

    i am so thrilled you had a good time in japan, impressed that you like natto. just picked up your paris book for my trip next week and figured it was a sure thing since you like some of my fav sf establishments. i really enjoy your blog. thanks!

  • Lauren Shannon

    However does someone travel so efficiently and eat their way so consistently through ever possible milieu? Loved following every step of your journey …I only wished for a picture and description of plain old wonderful Yakisoba. I loved it 30+ years ago when I lived in Fujisawi-shi as a high school exchange student and STILL long for those spicy noodles.

  • CJ

    Dear Clotilde,

    I love, love, love your blog! I also love Japan, having lived there for five years in the 90’s. I always think of going back.

    May I ask what kind of camera you use for your beautiful photographs?

    Thanks! And more power to you in 2011!


  • Jerry

    Wonderful trip, I loved my 3 weeks in 1970 while in the Army, great food, fantastic, kind people. I also have Nikon, a tip; to save money use some of the older manual focus lenses, quite cheap and high quality, just shoot on manual. I had a 300, incredable, can’t wait to try my D7000…

  • KJ

    I know it’s kind of crazy, but I feel like following your itinerary exactly when I ever make it to Japan.

    For the record, I had a similar travel fantasy about Paris (since my teens or early 20s) and finally visited last fall. I had the same fear, that it could never live up to my inflated and time-marinated expectations — but it far exceeded them and I cannot WAIT to return.

    How to fit in so many travel dreams into a lifetime? Thanks for sharing!

  • TJ

    What a wonderful treat it is to read your blog! I first came to your blog last month after reading ‘Dummies for Food Blogging’ to start my own food/travel blog of my own. (I’m a globalized Korean guy living in Beijing)

    Since then, I have been following your blog and reading some of your past entries as well… and absolutely loved this one! I can’t believe you and your friend managed to all the awesome things that you listed in just a week! I also did a similar backpacking trip around Japan a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. I like your enthusiasm and passion for life! I must visit that moss garden one day!

    Perhaps in your next visit, you can visit the famous Ghibli Studio in Tokyo (famous animation studio that made ‘Spirited Away’ (need to reserve the tickets 1 month in advance) and the famous Tsukiji Fish Market for their freshest sushi.

    Musichef TJ-

  • VCQ

    Thank you so much for sharing this on Twitter; four years ago today I arrived in Japan for the very first time, fulfilling a lifelong dream to live in Japan (I have studied Japanese since I was young, and have always been fascinated by Japanese culture, particularly Zen Buddhism). This article brought back so many wonderful memories of my (all-too-short) time in Japan!

  • Miss. Fae

    curious…was your Shingon Buddhism stay vegetarian, and if so, which one did you stay at? doing research for the dream trip :)

    • Lucky you! Yes, it was actually vegan, and I understand that’s a given for temple cuisine in Japan (shōjin ryōri). The temple we stayed at was Shojoshin-in and we would definitely recommend it.

      • Miss. Fae

        yes, we’ve been quite keen to try as much shōjin ryōri cuisine as possible, ever since returning from our last trip. Wasn’t sure if all temples had the beliefs around veganism or not… Thank you so much for the tips, always. and for always engaging with your comments <3 heartsoar

        • My pleasure — you’re the ones who make it worth it. :) Happy holidays!

  • Wow great travel article and the rest of your website is very nice. We were refereed to this page from a follower as we run a Japanese Food website. Cheers! Keep on the good work!

  • Anne

    omg that ice cream picture is making me so happy for the emerging paris gelato season <3

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