Our marketing production guru Lizzie Gosman headed off to Japan last year on our Japan Revealed tour. Share some of her gastronomic memories here, and learn what Japanese ice cream flavour became her new favourite...
"One of the highlights, and fondest memories, I have of Japan is the food. Each region has its own speciality, and it is universally fantastic from Nikko’s curry to the goheimochi (sticky rice cake) in the Japanese Alps. I think my favourite was Hiroshima’s speciality – okonomiyaki, a thin pancake topped with cabbage, meat, egg and noodles, all cooked in front of you as you sip a beer or sake. If you are lucky enough to stay in traditional accommodation, Peregrine trips stay in ryokan (travellers inn) and shukobo (temple accommodation), then expect simple, yet delicious feasts of eight or nine dishes, including rice, miso or broth, pickled vegetables, fish, tofu, sometimes tempura and fresh fruit. Bento boxes are a must on the shinsen (high speed trains) and you can pick up pre-prepared bento boxes from small food stands on train platforms.
Make sure you take time to wander the markets. In Kyoto, the Nishki Markets offer up vegetables in wondrous variety, beans, fried fish, various forms of tofu… Enough to make me wish I could go food shopping and cook up a big feast. In Tokyo getting up early and braving the packed morning trains is worth the effort to see the bustling Tsukiji Fish Market. After you’ve dodged vendors zipping around on their motorised forklifts, gaped at stall after stall of tuna and deep sea oddities, indulge in some of the freshest sashimi you’ll ever have. But the markets aren’t the only place to ogle a wide variety of gastronomic delights. Visit a department store in Ginza – or any main city - and then head to the basement levels (yes levels) where you can browse aisle after aisle and stall after stall of traditional food, and some not-so-traditional food, from across Japan. Pick up some serves to take away, find a spot to eat it and people watch. If you are after coffee, be daring and grab a preheated, sweet coffee from a vending machine (otherwise stick to Starbucks – coffee is not Japan’s speciality).
In the big cities you can get everything and the quality is of the highest standard. Try shabu shabu and sukiyaki – broths into which you dip thinly sliced meat and vegetables to create a healthy, tasty meal that feeds the soul as well as the tummy. Also, there's noodles galore - ramen, soba, udon – usually served in a big, beautiful bowl of warming soup or Japanese curry, as well as pan-fried gyoza and green tea ice cream. The ice cream is the perfect dessert after a healthy Japanese meal and a great pick-me-up after a walk - in fact, use any excuse to eat green tea ice cream. Don’t be deterred by the thought of eating on the fifth floor of a building, or intimidated by ordering from a faded photo (or even vending machine), these culinary risks provide you with mouth-watering rewards. In fact, if you’ll excuse me now, I’m just popping off to the airport to get the first flight to Toyko for a bowl of noodles and a plate of gyoza. Topped off with a bowl of green tea ice cream… mmm."