The first of my many “Life in Japan” posts will be about one of the things closest to my heart; my stomach. Well, at least it will cover what I have been putting into my stomach lately. I know that many of you are curious about what food in Japan is like and I’d like to dispel some myths and also provide some insight into my daily food routines here.
When I say, “I live in Japan”, peoples’ minds tend to jump to sushi. This isn’t wrong by any stretch of the imagination but to say that Japanese people only eat sushi or eat sushi all the time is a far cry from the truth. Japanese people do eat a lot of seafood but often it is in fact cooked. A fairly typical Japanese breakfast might be rice, broiled fish, a rolled omelet, and miso soup. Lunch ranges greatly but in my experience, the Japanese seem to have a deep love for anything fried. Their equally as powerful will to control portion sizes sometimes appears to be the only thing stopping the Japanese from balancing the scales with the fat Americans.
There are definitely some minor food-related gripes I have when it comes to home-cooking in my small apartment. Firstly, certain ingredients are extremely hard to find or too expensive to contemplate buying. Major items that tend to be lacking from grocery stores include but are not limited to peanut butter, lamb, turkey, blocks of cheese, unsweetened juice, and bread (other than white bread). If anywhere has these items it’s going to be Costco, and even then they tend to be pricey.
The biggest limitation I find I have is my kitchen. The appliances in Japan are generally smaller and I do not actually have an oven by North American standards. I am lucky enough to have a convection oven/microwave combo but even then, the dishware that fits into the oven is large enough to cook maybe two fillets of salmon at a time. Generally when I am cooking for myself it is not an issue, but cooking for many people is a major pain and cooking something like a turkey for Thanksgiving would be impossible.
Now for a walk through my daily food.
I’ve been very slow to adopt Japanese breakfast habits because I simply can’t be bothered to prepare rice the night before for my breakfast. Every morning I wake up and have one of two things for breakfast. If I have been to Costco recently, I will have a toasted bagel with margarine or melted cheese. Otherwise, I’ll have a fried egg on a piece of white toast. That’s all rather boring but for lunch I have a much greater selection.
For lunches, I eat at the school cafeteria for 90% of my days at school. It’s incredibly cheap to eat there and the food is generally pretty decent for what you pay. They are also kind enough to open an hour and a half before lunchtime so teachers on spare can eat before the students come. There are many options available but the main selling point is the set lunch that changes daily.
For 350 yen (about 4.15 CAD with the low dollar) I get hot tea, miso soup, a bowl of rice as big as I want, unlimited pickles, and a main plate. The main plate is normally some sort of protein with a couple sides (often cold pasta and a cabbage salad). Sometimes if I am lucky, there will be two mains on offer that day to choose from. Other Japanese staples such as curry rice, ramen, 4 kinds of udon, and karaage are on offer every day if the set lunch does not suit your tastes. I’m generally really satisfied with my lunch options as I’ve heard horror stories from friends teaching English in other parts of Japan who are given the likes of pregnant fish and moldy potatoes for lunch. I’ve actually been preparing this post for some time so I’ve gathered many pictures of the set lunch to share with you.
Generally speaking, my dinners consist of frying pan-based meals with the odd baked protein. I also eat a fair amount of rice as it is cheap and easy to make. When I am feeling lazy or cheap, I’ll make a giant pot of curry with rice to eat over 3-4 days. Other meals I make include fried rice, stir-fries, hot pots, tuna steaks, and baked salmon. These are all relatively easy for me to do with a single pot, single pan, and single element.
This is the first of my daily life posts and I hope you enjoyed it because there will be many more coming! Thanks for reading.