Living in Japan

A friend from a forum that I frequent asked me to put something up about life in Japan. I asked him for some ideas and he came back pretty quick with a short list of things he’d like to know about. You know, after 20 years living here I really don’t even think about those things anymore, for the most part, but his short list got me waxing nostalgic for a minute. The points he wanted me to touch on were these….

Getting used to the food.

Is it true that you don’t have clothes dryers or dishwashers?

Is it hard to find clothes if you’re “American sized”?

Learning to drive on the left side of the road.

Social norms there and how they differ from here (most important what *not* to do there if you’re an American to prevent making a scene or getting arrested).

Getting used to the size of things there in comparison to things in America.

Probably the easiest way to do this would be to address them one by one, so, here goes…

Getting used to the food. When I first stepped off the boat and went into a supermarket I probably had an expression on my face like a deer caught in the headlights. Especially in the seafood section. You see, the Japanese eat a lot of fish, and a lot of things that come out of the ocean besides fish. In any supermarket in Japan it’s not unusual to see pinkish, purple octopus tentacles in one of those little Styrofoam trays with Saran Wrap around it. Click that sentence, you’ll see it.  Another thing they eat regularly over rice is called “Shirasu”. They are these tiny little white fish with big black eyes. Ugggh! I’m not a big fan of seafood to begin with, other than shrimp, lobster and crab, so going into the seafood section here is pretty revolting for me, and did I mention that it smells real bad too? The smell in the fish section of a supermarket is enough to gag a maggot. Oh, since I mentioned crab I should also mention how the Japanese go nuts with each other trying to get to the brain of the it. Have you ever even seen crab brain? It’s this disgusting, green, fluffy, yet runny, gunk that literally looks like someone vomited into the head of the crab. Click Here and be prepared to be revolted. Yeah, 20 years here hasn’t really changed my tastes as far as seafood goes.

Now, on the other side of the fence the Japanese make fantastic curry. One of my favorite meals is called “Katsu Curry” what that is is a pork cutlet breaded and deep fried (called Tonkatsu) then placed on a plate with rice and curry. Yum Yum!! Not so good for watching the waist line but my God is it delicious. Myself, I like the curry really spicy too. The hotter the better.

Another favorite of mine is called “Yakitori”. Yakitori is small nuggets of chicken on a stick roasted over a grill. You have your choice of salt and pepper or some kind of sauce. The sauce is different wherever you go though so you’ll find some you like and others that you won’t like very much. Now, with yakitori there are all kinds of different choices.Yakitori itself is fried chicken but you can get liver, pork with onions, chicken skin, and all kinds of stuff. Cartilage is even on the menu. I stay away from that one.

Now, how could I talk food in Japan without mentioning the best after drinking food ever, ramen and gyoza? The best ramen ever comes from these guys that drive around in these tiny little trucks with a ramen restaurant built on the back of it. They stop along the road or where a lot of people are, late at night, and put out a few chairs. Grab your bowl of hot ramen and sit back and relax. Nothing better on a cold winter night after consuming quite a bit of alcohol. Now, they don’t look very sanitary, and probably aren’t, but my God the food is brilliant. Maybe it’s because you’re drunk, I don’t know, but if you ever come to Japan I highly recommend hitting a ramen truck. Sorry, I totally skipped the Gyoza. Mmmm, garlicky goodness. Nothing more needs to be said.

To switch back to a little negativity I couldn’t talk about food in Japan unless I put a word in for pizza. It’s hard to find a good pizza in this country, at least where I’m at. I know there are Dominoes and Pizza Huts in Tokyo but I don’t live there so I’m stuck with Japanese style pizzas. Whoever came up with the idea of putting corn and mayonnaise on a pizza needs to be shot. There’s never enough sauce or cheese either. I don’t know, I’ve found a decent place that delivers so I shouldn’t complain too much about the pizza but as cheap and gnarly as Dominoes is I would kill for a slice of it. It’s funny what you jones for once you’re away from your country long enough. Things you probably don’t eat very often back home suddenly become delicacies when you can’t get it. I would give my left one for a bologna sandwich right now.

Ok, food could go on and on so let me leave you with this. Everyone has different tastes and what sickens me could be appealing to you…..and vice-versa. In the end it wouldn’t be fair to this country to say the food is no good. There is plenty of great food here and if you like seafood I can’t imagine how it couldn’t be better. It’s just different from what we are used to eating, but you adjust to it. I have yet to meet a Japanese person that says they enjoyed the food in America. They dislike American food so much that it’s not uncommon for them to pack food in their suitcase and take it with them on a trip overseas. One favorite food for traveling is instant ramen. I’ve seen people going on a long trip that literally have an extra suitcase just for the instant foods they take with them.

I hope you get a chance to come over here some day and try the cuisine, I don’t think you’d be entirely disappointed. Makes it a lot easier if you’re with someone that knows where to go though.

I’ll hit the other points over the course of the next few days. Next up, washers and dryers.

Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya.




ex-pat American living in Japan since 1991. Love to play guitar and billiards. Love my Cincinnati Bengals too. Who-Dey!!
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2 Responses to Living in Japan

  1. Eric Tadevich says:

    Yo Mully, I love the blog… regarding the ‘Living in Japan’ topic I could add TONS more questions that have always made me go: “Hmmmm…” about living in Japan.

    “Booo, Hiss” about your Iron Maiden shirt getting nuked via a dryer – which shirt was it anyways?

    Hopefully my Dave Murray strat will be finished this upcomming (Turkey Day) weekend, and I can get you some killer pics!


    Eric aka ORCRiST

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