Being a “foodie” in Japan

I have always considered myself someone with moderate to high interest in food in general. I love trying different cuisines from all over the world. I also love preparing and cooking different dishes. My entire family and extended family including aunts and uncles, and cousins and grandmas all seem to love eating, all types of food. I was lucky to be born into this family with a mother who loves to cook and entertain others as well as my sister who married a chef who is really interested and great in creating dishes with unique flavors in creative combination of ingredients from all over the world.

自分はいつも食べることがかなり好きな人間だと思っていた。世界中のいろんな料理を試すのも大好き。調理をすることも好きな方。おばさん、おじさん、おばあちゃんもいとこのみんなもなんでも食べることが基本的に好きな家族に生まれて来た。ラッキーなことに、母親は食べることはもちろん料理、人を集めてパーティをして喜ばすのも大好き、それから妹は世界からのいろんな食材を取り入れてクリエーティブな料理を好んでやる素敵なシェフと結婚した。

Japanese cuisine showcases its strength in dishes with wide variety of locally produced fresh vegetables and fish. Many traditional dishes use stew style preparation called “nimono” or stewed stuff. If you prepare nimono with the 3 “S” ingredients; Sake (rice wine), Shoyu (Soy sauce) and Sato (Sugar), whatever you cook automatically turns into a very flavorful country style dish. You can make these country dishes with inexpensive ingredients such as onions, carrots and potatoes or any kind of squash or pumpkin. You can also add any of your favorite meat, poultry or fish in the nimono. Other traditional dishes include sliced raw fish fillets called sashimi or sushi, which is basically sashimi combined with vinegar and sugar flavored rice. Noodle soups such as udon, soba and ramen are staples for lunch or dinner. These are just a few examples of traditional Japanese dishes you will find anywhere in Japan.

日本に代表的な料理というと大体は季節モノで国内又はローカルで生産された新鮮な野菜や魚を取り入れることを重要点とする。伝統的な料理の多くはシチューのように作る『煮物』。煮物を格安の野菜(玉ねぎ、人参、芋、カボチャ等)と三つの”S”のつく調味料(酒、醬油、砂糖)を使って煮詰めるだけで美味しい里料理が出来る。好みで肉や魚を足してもいい。その他の伝統料理には生魚を切っただけの刺身や寿司、ヌードルスープのうどん、そば、ラーメンなど。これらの伝統料理は日本中どこでも味わえる。

When you visit pubs in Japan called “izakaya”, there are usually dozens to a hundred of delicious items on the menu, some of which may only be available seasonally. If we have 4 or 5 people in the party, we can easily consume 10-15 items from the menu which are all shared as family dinner style. That way, we can all have a few bites of each dish and talk about it while we eat and drink some beer, sake or wine. It is like creating our own “table buffet” with things we want to try.

日本で居酒屋に行くと、大抵は何十種類から多いところで百種類もの美味しい料理が勢揃い。その中で季節限定のものもあるだろう。平均4−5人で行くと10から15種類の料理を頼んで家族であろうがなかろうがみんなでシェアしていただく。そうすると、全ての料理をひとふた口食べられ、ビール、酒、ワインなどを飲みながらそれぞれの料理の批評をする。まるで”テーブルビュッフェ”を食べたい物で並べるよう。

Dishes from Ajimuso (味むそうの料理)

Just the other day, we went to a place my mother frequents with her pingpong friends after her practice, on a weekly basis. This izakaya is located under a train station, very noisy, small, old, but gets regular customers like my mother and her friends and many many others. They’re not supposed to be serving alcohol and supposed to close at 8p every night due to the semi-lockdown state that Osaka is still under. But no one complains for their not following these orders because the place is always packed with the loyal, and regular customers, who have been fans for years or even decades. I’m not a food journalist, but this would be a place representative of many old timer izakayas in Osaka. Every dish is tasty, cheap and fast. For all of these variety of dishes plus some beer and sake to accompany the flavors, the bill came out only $25 per person, which is a bargain!

つい最近、母が卓球友達と練習後週一のように訪れる場所へ行った。この居酒屋は小さいし古くて、キレイとは言えず、電車の駅の真下にあるのでうるさいしけれど母のような常連さんたちで毎晩賑わう。緊急事態宣言なので8時に閉店するとかアルコールを出すなとかいう要請が飲食店には出ているがこの店は気にしていない。昔からの常連さんがほとんどだしクレームをつけるなんて人はいない。自分はフードジャーナリストとかではないが、この店は大阪にある居酒屋を代表するような場所。全ての料理がうまい、早い、そして安い。5人で12-15種類の料理を平らげ、お酒、ビールとワインも全部含めて一人2500円だった。

If you are a foodie in Japan, and you eat at a different restaurant every single day, it would take over 71 years to make it to every restaurant that exists in just the city of Osaka alone (in 2016, there were at least 26K restaurants in the population of 2.6 million in Osaka-city according to Google. That means one out of every 100 people owns a restaurant) I think this goes to show how much people like to eat out and experience different tastes created by different minds and skills.

日本で食べ好きで、毎日違う飲食店で食事するとすると、大阪市にある全ての飲食店に回るのには最低71年はかかる。(Googleによると、2016年度に大阪市には2億6千人の人口そして約2万6千軒の飲食店が存在していた。ということは市民100人につき飲食店一軒の割合だというこになる。)これだけ日本人はいろんな違った技術と才能で作られるいろいろな料理を好んで求めているということなんだろう。

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