Last month I visited Japan for the first time, and I left impressed and craving more. But I’ll admit that prior to my visit, I felt ambivalent toward Japan. Being of Korean decent, I felt Japan was like that beautiful and popular sibling everyone loves and you are tired of hearing about. I mean I get it already! Your sushi is delicious, your anime is adorable, and your electronics are superior. And like any jealous sister, I publicly downplayed your coolness, while secretly admiring you. Well it took only three short days for Japan to win my heart and mind, and now I’m openly in love with the country.
Whenever I travel, food is always the main event. It’s how I feel out any new place. Japan’s culture is based on respect, tradition, and honor, and its clearly reflected in the food. The attention to detail and focus on quality would impress the most discerning critic. Everything I ate during my trip was simply delicious, from the random conveyor belt sushi restaurant to the snacks from the convenient store. The chirashi sushi from the famous Tsukiji Fish Market was life changing. You’ve probably seen footage of the tuna auctions at Tsukiji on the Travel Channel. After the auctions are over, the restaurants in the outer market open and serve that day’s catch. I never knew seafood could taste so sweet!
The highlight of my trip was the kaiseki dinner I had at Sekiho-tei, one of Tokyo’s many Michelin-starred restaurants. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal that is based on seasonality. The food was stunning in its simplicity and the restaurant was serene and zen-like. Among my favorite dishes were the fig with gingko nuts and the tuna and sea urchin with shiso buds. But what made the meal extra special was that I shared it with a newly discovered distant aunt. A week prior to my trip, I didn’t even know she existed but by the end of the lengthy dinner we bonded. I love knowing I have family in Japan. Now that I’ve had my first taste of Japan, I'm hooked. I finally understand why the whole world is fascinated by this island nation, and I’ve joined the ranks – front and center.