When you visit Japan, one of the first things you’ll notice is the food. Not just its presentation, but the whole culture that surrounds it. Japan Eats! An Explorer’s Guide to Japanese Food is an easy read that will help prep you in a fun way.
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Tuttle Publishing kindly sent us a copy of Japan Eats! by Betty Reynolds to read and review with our honest opinions.
Japanese homes are generally much smaller than those in the west, and because they are so close together, especially in apartments, it can be difficult to entertain friends at home comfortably and quietly.
The remedy for this is to go out with your friends or colleagues to a restaurant and relax and be jolly. There are other public places where you’re also sure to come across food and the need for good eating etiquette, such as at a matsuri (festival), a ryokan (Japanese Inn), izajaya (informal restaurants that sell alcohol), and even on the train platforms.
Get yourself prepared with Japan Eats!
Some of the mini lessons in Japan Eats!
- Irasshaimase! Welcome!
- Signs of Importance
- Required Finger Skills
- Sumo Supper
- Go chiso sama deshita
- And many others
Have you ever wondered about the correct way to eat sushi? About where the local salarymen go after work (or during lunch) to relax and unwind? The ready-to eat foods available in convenience stores? Find out here!
How do you use chopsticks? When do you use your fingers instead? Why don’t you have a soup spoon?
One thing I really miss about Japan is not receiving an oshibori, before a meal. This is a moist hand towel to clean your hands before you begin to eat. Personal hygiene is important in highly populated country. Quite the opposite from KFC as a kid when you’d use the moist towelette to clean your fingers after you’d eaten (and other establishments where wet towels are non-existant). I loved that you could purchase disposable, individually wrapped oshibori to keep in your bag for picnics or eating at work when you may spill something on your clothing. Not environmental, but handy.
My second year in Japan consisted of moving around the country as an emergency/substitute teacher, and I also travelled more during this time as well. When you do this, you will find that conbini, or convenience stores, stock a wide range of meals that are ready to eat cold, or can be heated either there or at home. They are much more nutritious than you’ll find in western shops and they are very reasonably priced, too.
Another question you may not have considered (unless you’ve either been to Japan or have watched Mr. Baseball-which is so much more humorous to watch in subtitles 5 months into living in Japan), is how to use a public bath…be prepared. One night on a week-long trip with a friend saw us stay in a Japanese hotel, but to bath we needed to use a nearby public bath. The same etiquette is required for a visit to an onsen. In the context of this book, it takes place in a ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn).
Always be prepared as you may not know when you’ll find yourself in an unexpected circumstance! Yes, I did find myself in some awkward situations, but some of these did turn out to be some of my fondest memories in the end and I certainly have some tales to tell, as do the Japanese people who were present and came to my rescue. One thing to always remember, is to be polite and respectful, try your best, and you’ll find that 99.997% of Japanese people will go out of their way to make your stay in Japan memorable for all the right reasons.
Reading through Japan Eats! takes me right back to some of the unique and delectable experiences I had in Japan travelling quite extensively during my time there, and every one of them I would love to do again.
The illustrations in this book are by Betty Reynolds (who also illustrated Japanese Celebrations gives a fun take to Japanese food, while being close enough to reality that you know at a glance what each scene and food is.
Food in Japan is something to experience, it’s not just a feast for the stomach, but all of your senses, and you’ll want to know how to consume them without hesitation so you can fully enjoy it.
If you’re interested in purchasing Japan Eats!, it’s available through:
More posts about Japanese food:
Japan Eats! Review