Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Eating in Japan…When You Don’t (Often) Like Japanese Food


Hi, I’m Jenna’s BFF Lauren. I’ve appeared in this blog many times, as I visited Jenna in Japan in August of 2010 and March of 2014. This will be my first post and it’s a long time coming. I’ve decided to do a brief “guide” on food I liked in Japan. I’m not a big fan of Japanese food but I do make a few exceptions for vegetable sushi and some ramen. This will be basically a brief rundown of my favorite meals from my second visit to Japan.

American or Japanized American Food

Swanky Denny’s


This is one of two restaurants from this trip that Jenna and I reminisce about the most. When we were staying in Toyoko Inn Shinagawa Oimachi, which is in a quieter area of Tokyo, we went to eat at an “upscale” Denny’s which we fondly refer to as “swanky Denny’s”. 

Japan has a ton of “family restaurants” like Denny’s and Jonathan’s. If you’ve been to Denny’s in America, it’s pretty much the same concept. Normal reasonable food at  a sit down place for a normal reasonable price. 

But not including the “express” version we went to at SkyTree (which I did not like) this is the only one I visited either of my times in Japan. It had an upscale vibe to it and Jenna and I got to relax and talk in our booth and have our own space which I think is why I really liked it. 

The food was good. I got a hambagu, which is a hamburger without the bun, and it comes with some rice. Not exactly American, but still quite good, and certainly not traditional Japanese food. These are very popular at  family restaurants. 


Jenna has been to Jonathan’s and other Denny’s and would recommend both. But the swanky one we went to was her favorite. 



Becker’s 


Jenna and I only know of one Becker’s and it’s at Ikebukuro Train Station. I’m sure there are probably others, but we don’t know where they are. I’ve eaten there three times (once the last time in Japan) and Jenna’s eaten there more. It’s one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. Don’t confuse it with Beck’s Coffee House, it’s not the same thing. 

Becker’s has a variety of food, and I believe their menu changes a lot. It’s a casual place with a busy cool vibe. Similar to Panera Bread in service set up but not in décor and with a more varied menu.

The last time we were there together Jenna got Vietnamese and I got taco rice (the Okinawan version of Mexican food). It was my first time having taco rice (rice with taco toppings) and it was really good. And then we both got Sakura cheesecake which was also really good. The fries and hot chocolate (?) in the picture I had like forgotten about because they weren’t that great.



But still, very recommended! And Ikebukuro is an awesome place to visit in Tokyo and you will likely be using the train station anyway (it’s on the very important Yamanote line) so why not visit?

McDonald’s


Yes, haters are gonna hate on this one. I went to Asia to eat McDonald’s. But if you don’t much like Japanese food McDonald’s is a “bastion of western civilization” as I called it then. Eating in Japan can definitely have downsides and surprises if you don’t have Japanese language skills and aren’t into adventurous eating. And then there’s McDonalds, which is pretty much exactly the same in Japan as in America. So if you came to Japan for the museums or the anime or the landscapes or the history and you’re homesick for food just the way you expect it to be, McDonald’s will save your life.
And they’re everywhere. And cheap. And if you’re in a touristy area anyway they will likely have an English menu. 

They do however have some different seasonal food and offer hot dogs as an option for breakfast. But don’t worry, they also have Hot Cakes and Egg McMuffins. 


They also had Shake Shake Chicken then, which Jenna was a little obsessed with. It’s a breaded chicken breast which you shake in a bag with your pick of seasoning. I think one was cheese and one was maybe pepper? They don’t have it in America, but they so could, it is not at all Japanese or Asian food related. 


Oh, in case anyone was wondering, this was Sakura (cherry blossom) time in Japan which is very much merchandised all around the country. There are all kinds of special Sakura foods out around March in Japan. Sakura doesn’t have much, if any taste, but that doesn’t stop the marketing. The McDonald’s Sakura soda drink tasted kind of like sprite with cherry flavoring. 

Konbini Food

Ah, konbini’s. I went to a ton of konbinis in Japan and there’s no telling how much money Jenna has spent in them. A konbini is a convenience store and they are everywhere in Japan. Popular ones include 7 Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson. 


Yes, you can get a meal here, although you may have nowhere to eat it. But they are great if you want to take food back to your hotel or eat outside or whatever (you can eat in some of them). They will have chips, ice cream, candy, and a variety of prepared food. They will microwave it for you. The downside is if you can’t read Japanese you may get surprised by what you just bought. I made Jenna read things for me. But if you’re not picky you should be fine going on appearance. 

Japan is just as safe, if not safer than America for food, so you can experiment away (unless you have dietary restrictions).  Tip: If you see an ice cream or something that is colored green it is probably matcha (green tea) flavored. I don’t like it, Jenna does. 

Here’s a small idea of what you can get, these are all normal things for me to pick out at a konbini:  


Clockwise from top left: normal water, a milk and coffee drink, a chocolatey pastry, a packaged sandwich (this one is likely chocolate & peanut butter), & Cheeza crackers. You should totally try Cheeza crackers, they should sell those in the U.S. 


This was the first time I ever had Doria, and it was awesome. Doria can mean more than one thing, but this kind was basically just rice and cheese. I love cheese. It was from the konbini Sunkus. Also in this pic are a strawberry soda and a corn bread thing, both of which were meh. 

Traditional Japanese Food You Might Like

Jenna’s Favorite Ramen

Okay this one may not be very helpful, but here is the obligatory discussion of ramen. If you haven’t had ramen, it is a certain kind of noodles in different broths. There are a ton of varieties and everyone has their favorite. Some if not most ramen places only have one main type of ramen, although you can get variations on the theme. I’ve had shoyu (soy sauce ramen) in the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, corn ramen in a Hamamatsu restaurant (didn’t like that one much), and this one my favorite: 


It’s Jenna’s favorite too. Ramen is basically junk food, but this particular one is very filling. It was miso ramen, which is a soybean variant, you’ve probably had miso soup at Japanese places in the U.S. If you like that, and you like noodles, you’ll like miso ramen. This particular one was called Golden Miso Ramen and it was at Kagetsu Arashi. It's a chain with many locations.


Yes, that is a KFC in the background. And a Lotteria, which is a Japanese burger and fry kind of place. So if you were missing home and in this mall food court, you’d have at least two options.

Kaiten Sushi


Jenna and I mention this like every time we see each other. Kaiten Sushi was awesome! I actually got Jenna into this after seeing a video online that looked cool. Jenna didn’t really want to go, but she acquiesced, and after we went the first time Jenna decided it was awesome!

We went three times in the less than two weeks I was in Japan. 

Kaiten Sushi is conveyor belt sushi. There are a ton of these places in Japan. Sushi (and other stuff) goes around and around past your booth and you pick what you want off the conveyor belt. There is also a cool touch screen where you can order what you want and a cute little train will deliver it to you. The touch screens at Kappa Sushi and Hamazushi at least have English options. 

It’s good quality but dirt cheap compared to America. A plate of vegetable sushi is around 100 yen (or about $1.00). At the end of the meal you call an attendant over and they count your trays to give you your bill. The plates are color coded. 

In addition to fish sushi and vegetable sushi options at Kappa Sushi include fries and cake.


Seriously, if you like sushi, you must go.

So that’s all for now. I may post again someday with pics from my first trip which should be entitled “how to eat fries everywhere you go in Japan”. :)

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