For as long as I can remember, Japan has always been at the top of my travel bucket list. As a lover of Japanese cuisine, I was prepared to bring my stretchy pants and eat to my heart’s desire. Believe me, I had great difficulty narrowing down this list, because almost everything I ate was delicious. But I tried to highlight certain things that I don’t think can be replicated anywhere else. Without further ado, I present to you my Top 5 Eats in Japan (in no particular order!)
1. Matsusaka Beef
We were originally dead-set on trying Kobe beef at some point during this trip. However, during a walking tour in Osaka, our tour guide mentioned that Kobe was basically a tourist-trap and that Matsusaka beef was of better value. Welp. We made reservations at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M (Japan, 〒542-0076 Osaka, Chūō-ku, Nanba, 1-chōme−5−24 だるまビル 2F) and treated ourselves to a premium set menu that absolutely blew our tastebuds away. Due to its extensive marbling and tenderness, the cuts of meat literally melt in your mouth like butter. All in all, a bit pricey at ¥8,424 ($104 CAD) per person but definitely worth the try.
2. Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki
For those who don’t know, okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake made of eggs, shredded cabbage, flour, and whatever topping/sauce you desire. We tried the Osaka-style but I much prefer the Hiroshima-style. The main difference is that the ingredients are layered instead of mixed, and includes either yakisoba or udon noodles. We got our fix from Okonomi-mura (5-13 Shintenchi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima), a building with four levels dedicated to various okonomiyaki booths–you really can’t go wrong with any of them. One pancake can easily be shared among two people for approximately ¥1,000 to 1,800 ($12-18 CAD) (depending on the toppings) It was so good that we went back twice!
Watched one of Paolo fromTOKYO‘s food recommendation videos and immediately knew that we had to check out this place! Gyukatsu Ichi Ni San (3 Chome-8-17 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021, Japan) is a small, cozy, basement restaurant that we probably would’ve missed had there not been a queue out the door. We waited about 20 minutes in line before being welcomed into the 16-seat space. This spot is known for their beef cutlets that guests cook themselves on a personal hot stone plate. The loin was so soft and decadent, and is served with cabbage and rice. Honestly, I’m salivating just thinking/writing about it. 10000% would return to Tokyo just to eat this again. A basic set starts at ¥1,300 ($16 CAD) with the option to choose more meat servings. Rice refills are free.
4. Hiroshima Tsukemen
Hiroshima gets another point! I don’t remember how Adi came across Bakudanya (Japan, 〒730-0034 Hiroshima, Naka Ward, Shintenchi, 2−12 トーソク新天地ビル) but am I sure glad he did. This no-fuss joint is famous for their spicy cold noodles, where you are able to choose between a spice level of 0 to 100 for the soup. My mouth started tingling at level 4. Piling on additional sesame was strongly encouraged. As it was super hot and humid in July, this dip-noodle dish was greatly refreshing. One regular sized bowl comes with two pieces of pork, shredded lettuce, cucumbers, and green onions; it will set you back ¥743 ($9 CAD).
5. Lawson Egg Sandwich
THE HYPE IS REAL Y’ALL. I still can’t fathom how something so simple could taste so good; it is the perfect ratio of bread, egg, mayonnaise and… crack? Who knows. Compared to 7-Eleven and Family Mart’s versions, Lawson (multiple locations) comes up on top. This was the quintessential breakfast food, and at a measly ¥220 ($2.70 CAD), was quite affordable. Had I not already overpacked my luggage, I would’ve smuggled a few back with me to Australia.