We have heard in great detail famous chefs proselytize their Top 10 Things To Do before they “kick the bucket”. Far-flung dinners at a who’s who of the Red Guide and quaffing serious bottles of rare wine make the GDP of Iceland seem insignificant … well, more insignificant than it is already is.
This leads me to wonder what would be on the bucket list of a J-loving foodie with simple tastes & without an extravagant budget…
Here are our Top 10 Simple Pleasures for Travel in Japan.
1. Stay in a sensible hotel so there’s plenty of cash left over for the fun things. Try the Park Hotel in Shiodome. If you are lucky you get rates as low as ¥15,000 online. Smallish rooms but you won’t miss out on the breathtaking views of the Tokyo skyline. Sit in the foyer and look over at Tokyo Tower as you sip a Suntory Malts.
2. Catch the subway to Nihonbashi station and try the pastries from Boulangerie Maison Kayser. The Nihonbashi outlet of this chain that started in Paris is a serene picture of bakery heaven. If you’re there in winter you may my lucky enough to taste one of their marron – chestnut danishes.
3. After 5pm wander the tracks between Yurakacho and Shimbashi stations. Stop at the yakitori bar billowing the most smoke from the shopfront and eat a selection of grilled chicken skewers, followed by a few well-poured beers.
4. Get up really early and visit the Tsukiji fish markets. Take a pair of white gumboots and a white lab coat so you can blend in.
5. Jump on a shinkansen (bullet train) and treat yourself to “Green Car” – a business class of sorts and not as expensive as it sounds. Take in the sights as you cruise swiftly down to Kyoto. Shoot some photos of Fujisan (Mount Fuji) as you whiz through countless tea plantations. Enjoy the simple pleasure of katsu sando (deep fried pork cutlet sandwiches) as you cruise along at close to 300km/h.
6. Whilst in Kyoto dine at any one of the many excellent kaiseki restaurants. No need to go for a big name, ask your hotel concierge for the best local haunts, or for gaijin recommendations you can peruse those endorsed by the Michelin Guide. Unlike the haute cuisine of Europe you’ll leave fulfilled and without feeling like a very famous Monty Python character Mr C … who shall remain nameless.
7. Head down to Uji and enjoy the tea ceremony surrounded by the finest tea farms in all of Japan. Afterwards enjoy a simple treat of green tea soft serve in a cone.
8. Catch a local train to Osaka and visit Kuromon Ichiba markets. Wander into a sushi bar and have your fill of fugu (poisonous blowfish). It’s a bucket list, why not tempt fate and have two serves? While you’re at it try some whale, if you’re going to die, who cares what other people think anymore anyway.
9. Get naked with the locals at Spa World, Osaka. It’s like a theme park for onsen lovers and soooo much fun, or so my wife tells me.
(No photos but take a look at the link for some interesting visuals)
10. Go to a local izakaya. The people are friendly and will want to hear about your travel adventures. Drink shochu until the wee hours with your new found friends whilst singing the soulful bars of Japanese beer commercials. Maltsu, Maltsu, Maltsu, Maltsu
What are your favourite places in Japan?