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Travel Photos: Seafood and Sushi in Japan

December 22, 2011

Thanks to being blessed slash cursed with a digital camera, I took something like 1600 photos in six weeks of hanging around Japan, and no small portion of those photos involved edibles.

Ikura (salmon roe).

So I am delighted (slash dismayed) to report that this marks the first of what will probably turn into many many small installments of my Japan food photos.

And I decided to start with perhaps the most expected of foods (sushi) with a little of the unexpected thrown in (like tsumire— a fish version of meatballs– and fugu— poisonous blowfish). Enjoy!

First a few photos from a seafood restaurant that some friends hand-picked for me in Tokyo. We started off with a giant platter of sashimi, and then sampled some hotaru-ika (firefly squid) okidzuke, which are squid that have been pickled alive (!) in a combination of soy sauce and their own ink (released as a defense against the soy sauce).


Then we ordered some tsumire (fish ball) nabe, which was perfect for a chilly fall evening.


Nabe is a kind of hot pot soup that is heated in the center of the table and eaten communally. Usually you can only order nabe in restaurants in Japan in the fall and winter, but many people make it on their own at home, too. (My favorite flavor of nabe broth is kimchi!)

A sign announcing the start of Nabe season outside a restaurant in Kyoto.

A different night in Tokyo, I got to check one more must-eat off the list: Takoyaki. Or fried balls of dough, each stuffed with a bite-sized bit of octopus. Often topped with mayonnaise and bonito shavings.

I also want to share photos from another amazing meal. A former student of mine and his family treated me to a fancy traditional kaiseki lunch. We were the only customers in a small restaurant in Shinnanyou, Yamaguchi Prefecture, where the two chefs had prepared an elaborate and seasonal multi-course meal, consisting mostly of seafood. (My former student had told the chefs that I don’t eat beef or pork.)

First course. (Including shrimp, pickles, salmon roe, and a Japanese omelette stuffed with eel.)

Second course: Sashimi.

Third course: Hamo (notoriously difficult-to-prepare fish) & matsutake (!) mushroom in broth.

Fourth course: Soy-sauce-glazed fish with white asparagus.

Fifth course: Shrimp, eel, eggplant, and shiso tempura (with a bowl of sea salt for dipping).


Sixth and final course: Sweet mountain yam dumpling in broth with mushroom bamboo rice.

Yamaguchi Prefecture (where I used to live) is famous for fugu, or blowfish. I had some time to spare in Tokuyama train station, and noticed that they even sell these do-it-yourself fugu sashimi kits.


This type of platter is the way fugu is usually served. The plate itself has a blue chrysanthemum design on it, and the fugu sashimi is sliced so thinly that it becomes transparent, and you can see the plate’s design right through the fish. (The package on the right here also contains some fugu skin strips.)


A giant blowfish in Tokuyama station (the symbol of Tokuyama) next to some cranes (the symbol of Tokuyama’s amalgamated new city, Shunan.); A tourism billboard for Shunan City, featuring a veterinarian helping a blowfish.


Some fugu sashimi I ate on a previous trip to Japan; The fugu skin as an appetizer, and accompaniments for the sashimi (you place some scallions on a slice of sashimi, roll it up with your chopsticks, then dab it into the dipping sauce.)

And now, back to…

Unfortunately, Japan completely spoiled me for enjoying sushi elsewhere (say, in Wisconsin…), since all the fish there tastes so fresh. One of my favorite kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants is called Appare Sushi Maru in Okayama, where I like to start every meal with a plate of salmon, end every meal with another plate of salmon, and eat some plates of other stuff in between.


Salmon with onions and a Negitoro (fatty tuna mush with scallions) in the background; One of the few rolls (maki rather than nigiri) on the menu: fried shrimp with lettuce and mayonnaise.


Two other types of nigiri that they do best at Appare Sushi Maru… agedashi nasu (deep-fried eggplant) and ebi-ten (shrimp tempura)!

And did you know that November 1st is SUSHI DAY? I learned this from a poster taped to the door of the restaurant:

(If anyone knows whether or not this is an actual holiday, as opposed to one celebrated in that restaurant alone, I would appreciate being enlightened on this point.)

English menu at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo.

Saving the best for last… (topped with ginger and scallions).

So happy belated sushi day to everyone, and check back soon for more photodocumented Japanese eating adventures and recipes.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2011 5:02 pm

    really nice pics of my favorite food after mediterranean kitchen! :) Did you eat all this food?

    • December 23, 2011 11:28 am

      Yes, of course! I ate it all (it helped that I was there for almost six weeks…).

  2. December 22, 2011 9:06 pm

    one of these days we would love to do an eating tour pick a place any place

  3. Heather Simpson permalink
    December 27, 2011 4:05 pm

    Kaz says Sushi Day IS a real holiday, he had heard of it before. And don’t forget to celebrate November 22 which is Conveyor Belt Sushi Day!


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