My First Trip to Japan

Restaurants located at the outer Tsukiji market

Restaurants located at the outer Tsukiji market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Fresh Wasabi

Fresh Wasabi

Giant sword/carving knives for trimming tuna

Giant sword/carving knives for trimming tuna

Sword wielding fish monger carving tuna at the tsukiji market

Sword wielding fish monger carving tuna at the tsukiji market

The most delicious chirashi sushi with salmon, salmon roe, tuna, and sea urchin. Everything was so fresh and sweet!

The most delicious chirashi sushi with salmon, salmon roe, tuna, and sea urchin. Everything was so fresh and sweet!

Ice machine at the market

Ice machine at the market

There were unlocked bikes all over the city! 

There were unlocked bikes all over the city! 

Random store front

Random store front

Sekihoutei, a 2 michelin star restaurant in tokyo

Sekihoutei, a 2 michelin star restaurant in tokyo

Mask store in Asakusa

Mask store in Asakusa

Giant lanturn at the Asakusa Buddhist Temple

Giant lanturn at the Asakusa Buddhist Temple

4 dogs, 1 bird

4 dogs, 1 bird

Asakusa Buddhist Temple

Asakusa Buddhist Temple

My best friend's brother and his wife were also in Japan

My best friend's brother and his wife were also in Japan

Amazingly delicious convenient store goodies: roll cake, mochi in syrup, peach cheese cake, and tuna roll. All for less that $6 

Amazingly delicious convenient store goodies: roll cake, mochi in syrup, peach cheese cake, and tuna roll. All for less that $6 

Random conveyor belt sushi place that blew my mind. Among my favorites were the raw shrimp nigiri and nato and okra roll.

Random conveyor belt sushi place that blew my mind. Among my favorites were the raw shrimp nigiri and nato and okra roll.

Subway vending machine for noodles. You buy a ticket then give it to the workers inside of the restaurant. 

Subway vending machine for noodles. You buy a ticket then give it to the workers inside of the restaurant. 

Udon, tempera, and pickles for breakfast

Udon, tempera, and pickles for breakfast

Delicious convenient store meals

Delicious convenient store meals

Tantanmen

Tantanmen

Fried sesame mochi with red bean filling

Fried sesame mochi with red bean filling

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.