Friday, 27 March 2015

Chilling out... and Japanese Food

A friend let us use her family's cottage in Suffolk so we took the chance to go for a few days, and a very good idea it was. I've been getting all wound up about various things that aren't worth getting wound up about... and then feeling annoyed with myself because I know it's all really trivial YET I KEEP FUSSING ABOUT IT.  As I expected, a few days without phone or internet blew it all away!

I will download the photos soon, but first.... I still have a few images of Japan in my file, mostly about food.  You might remember I was a bit iffy about Japanese food before I went, but now I'm a fan.  I hope you enjoy looking at these aspects of food.  I start with a picture of how it feels to come into Tokyo in the evening.  We were arriving from Kyoto and had a dinner date within about an hour of arriving, so this picture recalls that feeling.  To be honest, Japanese cities do not present a very pretty appearance from the train but the light gave it a strange charm.



At the station, before each trip, we usually bought snacks to eat on the train, and I was always attracted by the variety of brightly colourful bento boxes. They look as if they are full of sweets, but most of the food is savoury.



Before setting out we had had a  Western style breakfast, with persimmon, salad, mini frankfurters and omlette and mashed potatoes.     Western style food, but far from the fry-ups you  will get at the average British b&b. 


Some of the restaurants presented food in the most elaborate ways. This was seafood - almost too amazing to eat. 


I considered going to MacDonalds and sampling their "take" on Japanese food (it wasn't all hamburgers). But in the end I didn't. 



This tiny model of an old fashioned cake shop stood on a table in the real cake shop we visited in Kanazawa with our friend Rie.   I thought how trusting it was of the owners to leave this little model here unprotected on the table with us.We admired the little display counter full of sweets, and the sweet boxes in the shelves behind. There is a low table so you can sit down, and that is a very interesting green mask hanging on the door.


Here is the real shop, 


This is an autumn cake,  with an autumn leaf and autumn colours and the autumn taste of chestnut, most beautifully presented in a tea house in Kanazawa.



Also in Kanazawa we admired a particularly large sake shop. Bottles of all sizes from tiny to truly huge, ranged along shelves that reached from floor to ceiling. I am afraid I couldn't tell the difference between different types of sake at all. 


Don't know what these bottles are supposed to hold  - look a bit scary actually - but they are some kind of a drink.



I think this little boy is dressed up for Shichi-Go-San, when little girls of 3 or 7 and little boys of 5 dress up in traditional costume.  I was told that the children are given sticks of red and white candy on this day, but if this little lad had had any candy, he'd already eaten it.


I think he might have liked some of the pancakes and waffles in Tokyo's Takashita Street.  It is where teenagers congregate to see and be seen.  Sadly for boys, sweet waffles seem to be considered a bit girly. Certainly it seemed to be only the girls who were buying.


On the whole, people didn't eat the great bags of sweets and snacks that they do here. Perhaps that is why nearly everyone we saw was slim.  

And oh yes, I'll be restricting calories tomorrow.  There is also some excellent food to be had in Suffolk and I feel as if I ate too much of it.  Those Womens Institute cake sales have a lot to answer for! 

71 comments:

  1. WI cakes are pretty good, aren't they? Enjoyed your pictures, Jenny, especially the autumn cake. Very artistic.

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  2. What lovely works of art - surely too beautiful to eat, which may be another factor in Japanese people being slim?

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    1. I hadn;t thought of that... but I do think if something is very beautiful it makes you more mindful... maybe one of the reasons that French people tend to be slim?

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  3. Jenny,
    I am happy you had a week away and a good break.

    I love the images of Japanese food and the presentation is superb.

    Have a great weekend

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  4. Having a place to get away from worries and frustrations is such a wonderful gift. It gives one a chance to regroup and realize that small things are not worth the anxiety we put into them.

    I assume all that beautiful food tasted as good as it looked.

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  5. Really I should go to Japan, because I'd definitely lose some weight. I don't eat fish, I'm not that keen on any meat of vegetables, so I think I'd lose pounds in weight!

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  6. What a lovely food tour. I'd eat most of what we saw. Maybe not imbibe the happy face bottle contents, thought.

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  7. A friend who visited Japan and a colleague who lived there both made me interested in visiting this country, which hadn't been high on my to visit list. You have pushed it further to the top!

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  8. Hi Jenny, I always love looking at Japanese food! Your photos are tremendous -- the seafood unbelievable! Such beautiful colors. I'm a huge fan of bento boxes and have contemplated hitting the Asian market to get one of my own, just for fun (especially now that I don't have to take my lunch to work anymore, it would be just for fun!). They're so pretty and it would be fun to try to create that look.

    I do wish you had stopped at McDonald's. I didn't want to, either and Rick said we had to, not because of the food but because of the ordering experience. It was so efficient! None of this "D'ya want fries with that?" I can't remember what they served or what I had but I was blown away by the service!

    Did you get any Japanese recipe books? It's not all that hard to cook the food and it's a fun way to enjoy at home!

    We're back from a few days in Massachusetts. Good to be on the road (even though it was a snowy trip there!) but to return to brown, muddy, spring!

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    1. They seem to have very efficient food ordering systems, sometimes you pay at the start and it's all automated. I didn't get any recipe books but we have a Japanese shop near us. I've become a fan of Japanese curry bars. :)

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  9. Great food pictures, love the bento boxes. Our daughter says that even after a year in Japan she hasn't gotten use to salad for breakfast.

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  10. Bright and cheery happy smiley faces! I really like the look of that round chocolate ? ball with the green dots! I bet it's yummy!

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  11. I was intrigued by the presentation...but would i have liked the food....

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  12. All this food is so pretty - meat and veg looks a little tame beside all this!!

    I do hope you are revived by your few days away.

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  13. It made me smile to see the small boy in traditional costume wearing trainers! En route to Korea we had a stop in Fukuoko (I think!) and I was intrigued by the mysterious and beautiful mountains I could see. I really wanted to leave the airport and explore! The food looks very interesting and inviting, not to mention beautifully presented. Unlike Japan, Koreans love their sugar -- they put it in everything -- even butter!!!

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    1. OMG I cannot imagine what sugared butter tastes like in cooking - or perhaps they also have the unsugared sort? As a kid I used to love raw cake mix - specially the butter and sugar stage.

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  14. The photos are really fascinating. Japanese food is so artistically arranged and visually appealing. Unfortunately, I'm a little too westernized to fully appreciate it. I'd be attracted to the sweet waffles.Those round yellow bottles with the smiling faces are funny but rather unnerving.

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  15. Japan is cool and everything Japanese is cool, period.
    I am a fan.

    Wow, beautiful pictures. You have presented nicely some of the yummy dishes from Japan. No where else in the world we can see food presented so nicely and this could be one of the factors that make more and more people love Japanese foods. Besides they are healthy too.

    Nice ! thanks for sharing such a lovely post :)

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  16. Sorry, but I got a real giggle over the "western" foods because I hardly recognized them--LOL! Such pretty displays that you hardly want to eat them. All quite fascinating!! :)

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    1. The omlette always had a bit of tomato ketchup in it. Yes, it is part of the fun to see foreign "takes" on your own food, isn't it! I think the Japanese visitors we've had are too polite to say that they think the sushi we have here (in England) isn't the real stuff. But they NEVER want to try it! :) There's also something they have in the US which a Japanese friend said isn't recognisable to Japanese people (dragon roll sushi?) They don't have it here, so I didn't know what they were talking about.

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  17. Japanese food is such an art form. I loved seeing your pictures of some of it!

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  18. I love Japanese food, oh well except real sushi, I mean raw fish in that sense and wasabi. But all their kind of soups and noodles are simply irresistible. I used to go to Japanese restaurant a lot when I was in Asia. These pictures are very entertainting. The lil lad is so cute.

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    1. I think sushi can be quite an art form in itself. I find raw fish a bit of an acquired taste!

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  19. You captured that little boy beautifully Jenny. The food either looks fabulous, or intriguing! or at the very least - colourful and wonderfully presented.
    Isn't it just such a blessing to have good friends. A few days away at the cottage was clearly just the very thing to retrieve balance. :)

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    1. Yes, it is easy to get too focused on one problem - very good to be doing something quite different!

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  20. For a long time, my idea of Japan was always that it certainly would be fascinating place to visit, but that I would probably have trouble finding something to eat that I really enjoy. Well, not only was I "cured" of that wrong idea a few years ago, when I had an excellent and most delicious dinner of real Japanese food at a Japanese restaurant in Paris, but your post served to emphasize that, indeed, Japanese food is something I could actually really grow fond of.
    Love the cake shop model - there even is a tiny pair of shoes!

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    1. Yes, that was exactly my feeling, I was really concerned actually as I had eaten some really horrible stuff here that purports to be Japanese food! I never quite got into miso soup I have to admit and raw fish bothered me a bit but on the whole there is so much beautiful food.

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  21. I don't recall many cities that appear attractive as the train gets nearer the central stations. As for the yellow bottles I can't even begin to imagine what might be in them.

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    1. I didn't know either. I didn't dare buy one and find out! I thought their grins looked rather sinister ...

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  22. I was introduced to Japanese food during my college years in the early 70s, when it wasn't nearly as well known as it is today. Great pictures.

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  23. Beautiful photos today. The little boy is so cute.
    I didn't always have salad at my breakfasts ? But when I did I loved it.
    The nice thing about Train Bentos is that what ever area you are traveling through, what is their specialty will be presented among the others. It is so exciting.
    There is so much to enjoy in Japanese food. People who say they don't think they could find food to eat. But...
    Best cheeseburger I ever had was in found in Osaka, fried chicken, panko crusted chicken or pork, potato salad. fluffy buns filled with bar b que pork, sandwiches with ham and cheese or chicken salad. Gosh there is so much more that sushi. They love Italian food you can find all kinds of pasta.
    I did a book review on Friday about my favorite Japanese cookbook and history all tied up together.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I didn't realise that train bentos had local specialities. When we were travelling on our own we felt how little we understood of what there was to see. Well, next time I will be sure to check it out. I missed the book review, I will go back and read it. Thanks!

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  24. The Japanese seem to take as much pride in presentation as anything, in food and in other areas. Even a simple lunch in a bento box is a work of art!

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  25. How interesting! I don't care for fish or any kind of seafood, but I'd love to try some of the other foods in Japan. I might have bought one of those drinks in the yellow smiley face bottle just out of curiosity.

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  26. Love the colors and the presentation and noted that the amounts are far less than one receives here. Currently watching anime, a series with subtitles...interesting culture.

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    1. I love some of the anime films, I'm awestruck at the quality of the animation, even the ones which are not Ghibli (which is the best known here).

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  27. My landlords arrived back home yesterday after spending five weeks in Orford, Suffolk. They bought a semi-detached there for rental/investment purposes and did renovations to the property while there were there. They have family who live there in Orford who own and run a tea house.

    I've not eaten a lot of Japanese food...and as there are no Japanese restaurants here where I live...the status quo shall remain, no doubt. :)

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    1. I commented on your blog again Lee, I'm geting really confused but I am glad that I know which tea shop you mean! i have often gone there. :) Yes indeed.. it's hard to eat Japanese food if there isn't any around :)

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  28. I'm so glad you had a chance to take a break, it makes such a difference doesn't it? I'm most intrigued by your photos of Japanese food. It is all so beautiful but I have a dreadful feeling that after a while I might yearn for something homely and scruffy like a nice oozy cheese on toast! Jane xx

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    1. I usually find myself yearning for Marmite. And, yes, cheese toast. Hard to beat. :)

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  29. Fabulous I cannot wait to visit Japan. I have been very impressed with Japanese food far more than I expected to be. :)

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    1. Look forward to reading about it when you do !

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  30. The Japanese certainly make an art form of their food, don't they? I love the picture of the little boy. How sweet he looks in his traditional costume! Lovely post, Jenny, and yes, Suffolk is gorgeous too! I hope your worries have all blown away!

    PS This is from my new blog address. It's changed and so has the look. A sort of fresh start :)

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    1. Glad to see your new blog Val and I have subscribed!

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  31. I completely understand the need for a few days 'away from it all'. Sometimes it's hard to switch off, isn't it? Thanks for sharing more of your photos - I particularly love the 'autumn cake' one - such elegant presentation!

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    1. Yes, it was almost too beautiful to eat.

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  32. The food looks quite incredible. We had a japanese meal locally in SE London for my sons's birthday this week. I loved the food but couldn't face 'bubble tea' which my daughters ordered. It had tapioca in it.

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    1. Yuk. We only saw a couple of places selling bubble tea in Tokyo ... I don't know where the idea came from. But if it has tapioca in it I might give it a miss...

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  33. Jenny, the tea room in Orford that my landlord's brother and wife own and operate is the Riverside Tearoom, as I commented in my response to you on my blog. :)

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  34. Japan usually gets 10 out of 10 for presentation. Every little detail is thought out.
    I would like to try one of those waffles.

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    1. They have them in meat and tuna flavours too - I was told those are for the boys. I got the impression that sweet stuff was considered rather girly.They have obviously never heard of Yorkie Bars. (perhaps you have not either - they are a chocolate bar that had a big thing about appealing to he-men)

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    2. I love Yorkie bars! I didn't know they were supposed to be for tough guys.

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  35. Love all your food pictures! Looking at food from other nations gives you a great peak into their culture.

    Glad you got a break - they are necessary to maintain sanity. I went without a break from work for too long and finally got away for a weekend in Myrtle Beach. Came back and quit my job...don't recommend that (quitting the job without having another one, not the going away part).

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    1. Haha! seems like you are pretty happy in your present job though so that sounds like it was the right thing to do.

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  36. Great report, as usual. By the way, I should be back in the normal swing of things this coming Wednesday.

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    1. Good, I will visit again. Hope all is well for you Jerry, sounds like it is!

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  37. So many pretty pictures, Jenny. The Japanese flair for presentation is amazing. I lost heaps of weight in Japan, because not everything appealed to my palette, and as you say, they do not go much for the sweets. The Autumn cake does look picturesque - a pity to devour it! And the little boy looks so very cute and sweet. Great post!

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    1. I have to say I didn't have to continue with my 7-2 diet while in Japan because I did just eat less and less fattening stuff. I don't like most Japanese bread and bread is something I eat too much of at home.

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  38. The Japanese seem to take so much trouble with the presentation of foods. I really enjoy the bento boxes we can get locally.

    Darla

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  39. Seeing how tidy and organized the shop was makes me want to get rid of a lot of stuff.
    I fret and worry a lot too. Stay calm and grab a beer my friend.

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  40. The light in your first pictures is absolutely stunning. WOW!!

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  41. Jenny...your comment re Orford etc., was in my "Speedy Gonzales" post...not on the post re Molly the cat etc. :)

    Peter and Carol Merrin operate the Riverside Tearoom...next time you go there make yourself known to them. Peter and my landlord are brothers. Peter and his wife were here in Australia for a visit just before Christmas last. :)

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  42. So nice to have an understanding friend and a lovely place to go to when you need to unwind. Your Japanese pictures are lovely … and tasty! The food looks so elegant. I remember in Tokyo we had ice cream at Baskin Robbins, the US ice cream shop, and they had Japanese flavors that were very interesting to the taste buds. They do eat much fresher meals in Japan than we do.

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  43. Looking at that lot I say my weight would increase, but the flavours would be better than here.

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  44. If more British schools had the enticingly presented Western style meal you pictured, maybe children would eat more healthily instead of living on chips and crisps.

    Funny how the bento boxes look as if they're full of sweets - it must be because everything's so small and brightly coloured.

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  45. What a great post! I love the little boy's tennis shoes, combined with his traditional kimono.

    I live in the greater Seattle area, and there has always been a very strong Asian presence here, so I've always loved Japanese food. In fact, one of the first school outings when we were in high school was to a Japanese restraurant, and I've never looked back. Every couple of weeks or so, I have a great craving for Japanese food and go out to eat. As you say, everything is usually so beautifully presented. Another thing I like is that Japanese food usually serves sauces on the side, while Chinese food pours to sauce over the top. I like having sauces on the side so I can use as much or as little as I like.

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  46. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. You know why. :) A few random comments from someone who's lived in Tokyo for 10 years:

    1) I've never eaten at a truly bad restaurant in Japan. Average, meh, so-so, yes. Bad, no.

    2) Japan doesn't understand bread, or sandwiches. This makes me very sad.

    3) I cry (again) when I think about the prices of fruit, vegetables and cheese.

    4) Everything else, happiness.

    So, everybody, have some fresh fruit and cheese on my behalf!

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  47. You made me hungry, Jenny, though I finished today’s dinner two hours ago. The boy dressed in simple kimono would have been ready for autumn harvest festival probably held at the shrine in the neighborhood, I think, but just one possibility. The kimono for Shichi-go-san is more formal.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you for letting me know this Yoko. I did notice his trainers and wondered if I had got this wrong. I wonder what a Japanese harvest festival is like. I think in England many of our festivals are now almost forgotten. Harvest festival is still kept in some places.

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  48. I really enjoyed reading more about your time in Japan Jenny. I would love to have one of those Bento boxes, but think I'd find it hard to choose between them all, they look so beautiful. It's interesting to read from other comments that they comprise the local areas' specialities.
    Presentation is wonderful for the Japanese food isn't it. They even made your Western style breakfast look beautiful.
    Cheers and thanks for the time spent in preparing this post and all the great photos :D)

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