This is an article bound to tickle some into self-righteous reactions but it will help visitors to Japan to discover the genuine article if they have the will to delve into the true gastronomic culture of this incredible country instead of limiting themselves to clichés and preconceptions acquired back home!
Home-made Taraba crab Chirashizushi.
Tokyo is Tokyo, and like Paris, London and where else, it might be a place where you can eat (up to a point) and enjoy great Japanese food but it produces next to nothing and is always unashamedly borrowing from the gastronomy of other regions.
It is particularly obvious when it comes to sushi.
Sushi was not invented in Tokyo, or Edo for that matter, as many tend to believe when they eat Edomae Sushi, which is only one form among a plethora of styles. To begin with, Edomae sushi/Tokyo sushi is made with little truly fresh fish. Actually Edomae sushi was a style created by stalls in the streets to be served at all times of the day and night with preserved fish or seafood. Even now the internationally praised sushi restaurants in Tokyo use few fresh ingredients. Almost all is arranged, albeit artistically, for best conservation while served with haughty pride and consequently impossible prices.
Large rainbow roll at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City.
But what about Tsukiji Market and its “great” sushi bars?
Unfortunately Tsukiji is only a market conceived for a sprawling metropolis, and while many a gastronome, reporters and critics included, falls into the touristic trap conscientiously organized with local and international media, it is devised first and all to feed untold numbers.
The “great” sushi bars serving “great” sushi at “great” prices are only cleverly making a mercantile use of leftovers.
There is also a misconception of tuna being all brought to Tsukiji Market before anywhere else. It is not. The greatest part of the Japanese tuna, and bonito, catch is first unloaded in the harbor of Shimizu in Shizuoka City. Actually Tokyo has first to wait that fish and seafood has reached a port somewhere else in Japan before even announcing availability on their stalls. Tujkiji Market is after all only a dealer/auction market!
Unfortunately for some the Tsukiji Market will be soon moved to a vastly different address and will consequently lose its interest!
Flying fish sashimi in Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Island.
Why don’t you take your suitcase, camera and chopsticks and board a train, bus or ship (a plane will do, too) and start exploring the shores of this beautiful archipelago?
Obviously each region or island has its own unique products, notwithstanding the fact that all sea products have their own regional names. For example, “tachi” in many areas stand for Scabbard/cutlass fish, but in Hokkaido it means cod milt/male cod sperm sacs, a delicacy popular all over the country!
Frankly speaking, the choice of venues is an impossible embarrassment!
Vegan sushi in Shizuoka City! You will not find it in Tokyo, unless you are either ready to fork out stupid prices or make it yourself!
Even in my own Prefecture of Shizuoka I would have to recommend you at least half a dozen establishments, all authentic, reasonable and serving sublime food. For example you would have to visit Yui (Shizuoka City, Shimizu Ku) for fresh sakura ebi/cherry shrimps, Kambara (Shizuoka City, Shimizu Ku) for aji/horse mackerel, Omaezaki City for fresh shirasu/sarine whiting, Numazu City for fresh katsuo/bonito, Sagara Cho (Makinohara City) for long and silvery tachiuo/scabbard fish (also called cutlass fish) and strange yagara/trumpet fish, Yaizu City and its fishing port Ogawa again for tuna and bonito, Shimoda City at the tip of Izu peninsula for kinmedai and all kinds of seabream, and Hamana Lake, Hamamatsu City, for conger eel, eel, and oysters. And I have only started!
Another sushi millefeuille at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City!
Any region with a shore in Japan has the ingredients and the skills to offer beautiful, tasty and reasonable creations without having to resort to dubious artifices.
The real “oyakodon/parent and child sushi bowl” with fresh sea salmon and its roe in Wakkanai, Hokkaido Island!
And do not expect to find fresh wasabi, root, stem, leaves, flowers and all as it is not grown in Tokyo!
You will find it there but for what prices and how fresh?
Most sushi restaurants izakaya/Japanese bistros will serve wasabi paste of various purity and quality in big cities, even in Kyoto.
But we are lucky here in Shizuoka as we witnessed its birth in Utogi, Shizuoka City in the 17th Century!
Not only the Bay of Suruga, the richest in Japan, will offer you a mind-boggling array of seafood but also the land and mountains of Shizuoka Prefecture produces the best wasabi in the world to accompany it!
Please note this is only a short essay to entice you into some delightful thinking and research!
RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES
-Sake: Ichi For The Michi by Rebekah Wilson-Lye in Tokyo, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Another Pint, Please!, Beering In Good Mind: All about Craft Beer in Kansai by Nevitt Reagan!
ABRACADABREW, Magical Craftbeer from Japan
-Whisky: Nonjatta: All about whisky in Japan by Stefan Van Eycken
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
This content was originally published here.