Many people don’t realize that Japan is arguably the world’s food capital. Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city, and the famous Tsukiji Fish Market handles much of the highest-quality seafood to be found anywhere.
As a food lover myself, I could not have been more excited to visit. Japanese food traditions are founded on the idea of umami– the 5th taste that enhances all the other tastes (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). Umami is that savory quality that makes you want to take just one more bite; it’s possibly the best indicator of a successful dish.
Anthony Bourdain himself said of Japan, “This is a great country. Every chef I know wants to die here.”
Well, there it is.
Still, to the surprise of many Americans, Japanese cuisine is not composed of Dragon Rolls, sake bombs and beef teriyaki. In fact, it would not be easy to find any of those things on a Japanese menu, much less to explain it to Japanese chefs.
So if you’re traveling to Japan it’s important to know what you’re really looking for. Sure, they’ve mastered the plastic imitations that are displayed at the front of some shops, and some menus even have photos on them. But, just because you can see a picture doesn’t mean it’s what you should be eating.