Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is that edible?

Food is something that you very gradually learn about, without even realizing it. You grow up not liking brussel sprouts, then you get a bit older and you try them again for some reason and you like them. Same deal with beer. But usually you eat similar kinds of foods with similar kinds of tastes, and any change is gradual. Unless you end up in a foreign restaurant with a bunch of mates who can usually make recommendations, and a comforting Whopper is only a few hours away. Or, unless you end up in Japan. Then you're screwed.

So as you've probably guessed, I've had trouble with food here. The first few days were alright as I had friends showing me around, and even though the food wasn't great, it wasn't bad. And the best part is I didn't have to order it myself. But the first time I needed to get my own food, I found myself stuck. Are there supermarkets in Japan? What do I actually say to the person behind the counter? Do you need to take a shopping basket like everyone else is doing? Is it ok to take an umbrella into the store? Is the stuff inside the can with the word "ツナ" cooked or flavoured or anything?

So the first day I managed to make a tuna sandwich with tuna just like I expected, and funny bagged tomatoes. The bread tasted like plastic and the tomatos were expensive and old, but I was fairly happy with it. It was edible, and I didn't get any really funny stares at the supermarket. So, I tried to do the same thing the next day, which turned out to be a mistake - I bought what I thought was another normal bun to make a sandwhich, but I got home and found it was pre-spread with margarine and this funny black stuff. So, forced to be adventurous by the 110 yen that I just spent, I tried to make another tuna sandwich, and immediately regretted it. I found out from a nearby Japanese person that the black paste was red bean paste, and decided it was a better idea to through the remaining half out than to finish it. It was really, really awful.

Needless to say, I havn't been eating too much recently, a lot of the time I have found the thought of being hungry more bearable than the thought of having to deal with Japanese food again. Which isn't to say I havn't found some really really nice food in Japan, but the food I have found hasn't been remotely nearby, and hasn't been too cheap either. Izakayas are great, but only when you're with someone who can understand the menu enough to order something decent.

Now, for those who havn't travelled yet, you may not know how crazy backpackers are, but it suffices to say they're pretty crazy. Every night people are going out partying and drinking, waking up, recovering, rinse and repeat. The first few nights I've got back from exploring later than they've gone out, or was too tired to really give it a crack. But last night everyone decided to go to a nearby all-you-can-drink karaoke place with some Japanese friends, and I decided to tag along. To cut a long story short, all-you-can-drink apparently doesn't mean all-you-can-handle-to-drink, it means all-the-drink-you-can-physically-drink-in-2-hours, with a charge of $5 a drink if you don't finish everything that everybody else ordered. Couple with my lack of food I learned the hard way to not go drinking with backpackers.



    lol you know mum and dad are stalking you via this blog, right?? :P

  2. Lol. I really thought you'd be more prepared than I am at this :P I guess I was one of those soon-to-be crazy backpackers. Good luck though, and try shopping at supermarkets right before closing where prices are 50-75% off. Cheers.

  3. Red bean paste bun? Is that the one Doraemon always eats?

  4. hmmmmm, red bean paste bun.

    Didn't occur to nibble it before adding the tuna?

    hahaha to Ruffle Roses (is that Brianna?) comment. Either way, open honesty is the best!

  5. Supermarket Bento is always a good option for a quick meal. Around Kansai the best seem to be at Seiyu. Coop ones are always healthy. Izumiya's bento is OK, but their Upmarket Sushi (in the fish section) is the best. Heiwado ones are not so great. Avoid bento from convenience stores!

    Learn to enjoy Ramen, Gyudon, Udon and Soba and you'll never be short of low cost meal options.

    Doutor a coffee shop chain, makes great hotdogs (250yen) and corned beef and salad rolls (350yen)

    As for bread best to eat sliced bread until you can read what's in the rolls! A loaf (1/3 of Australian size) should set you back about 100-160yen for the generic supermarket type. Bakery bread for the same size costs 200-400yen.

    Natto is Japanese for Baked Beans, it's cheep and you can live on it if you can acquire the taste!

    And yes, about an hour before closing time everything is 50% off.