Japan Week: Day One

Welcome to Japan Week!

Over the next 7 days, I'm going to be taking you on a guided tour through my 'Top 12 Reasons' why Japan is my dream holiday destination. So, without further ado, let's get going!

1 - Japanese food is *amazing*

Photo - Crazy About Food

Japanese cuisine is as delicious as it is beautiful. The deep pinks and reds of the raw fish, the almost sparkly roe and the zingy green of the wasabi - it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Plus, it's good for you! What more could you ask for? I can't think of many other cuisines in the world where the chefs put such artistry into their dishes. 

Photos - Petite Hermine, J-List, Best Health Secret
Speaking of artistry, Japanese bento boxes take the biscuit don't they? I can't believe Japanese mothers make these for their children's lunchboxes. A healthy lunch that also looks like your favourite manga characters. Amazing. 

Photo - Danny Choo
A common sight in Japan, when ordering food, is plastic replicas of menu items displayed in the restaurant window - to help you choose I suppose! Shopowners send pictures of their dishes away to specialist companies who make bespoke models of them. What's even more fun, is that the models are available to purchase in their own right. Only in Japan. 

To be honest, I'm a little bit obsessed with Japanese plastic food - to the point where I treated myself to this 'super-kawaii' noodle pot necklace on my birthday a few years ago. It's certainly a conversation piece I can tell you! 

Photo - Toxel

In Japan, you can acquire food in fantastical ways. Check out this egg vending machine - every day the chicken farmer comes and fills it with eggs, then the citydwellers can get fresh eggs at their convenience! I do sometimes wonder how many of them are placed for novelty value and how many are actually useful...

Photo - Lunch.

As Japan are the world's biggest consumers of fish, it only makes sense that their fish markets would be become a tourist attraction. Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is the biggest in the world and is open to a limited number of public visitors each day. I think it would be rather exciting to get up before dawn to discover this once hidden world. Until very recently, I had no idea tuna were such giants - monsters of the deep!

Of course, for most of us, popping down to the fish market for dinner ingredients isn't really an option. But, the good news is sushi is actually quite easy to achieve at home! The larger supermarkets stock everything you need to make a tasty sushi dinner. Handrolls are one of my favourite variations - here's how I like to make them...

First you'll need to make up a batch of sushi rice. Once it's cooked, mix it either with powdered sushi vinegar (my favoured approach) or with water, rice vinegar and sugar - then leave it to cool. Once it's cooled and nice and sticky, take half a nori sheet and place 1 tbsp diagonally onto the sheet. Take a couple of grains of rice and dot them on the opposite corner (this will help your handroll stick together. Then, spread a dab of wasabi or mayo (or both!) down the middle of your rice.

Top your rice balls with thick cut slices of fresh, raw salmon or tuna (or if you can't get a hold of fresh fish, smoked works well also). I like to include spring onion slices and avocado for a slightly different texture - plus don't the colours look great together?

Now it's time to roll! Your handroll should look a little like an ice cream cornet. I like to top my handrolls with a little nanami togarashi - Japanese five spice. Oishii!

2 - One country, many climates

When most people think of Japan, they think of Tokyo and that's it - but there's so much more! 

The northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido experiences long, cold and snowy winters - naturally ski resorts have popped up all around the region. The snow-capped mountains look stunning with their winter blanket.

Photo - Japan-Guide
By contrast, the southern coastlines have a sub-tropical climate! The island of Okinawa (Japan's equivalent to Hawaii) has a huge surfer culture. Just take a look at those crystal clear waters - no wonder the island fills with sun-seeking tourists every summer!

Photo - Wikipedia
The idea of visiting one country that offers so many landscapes really excites me - there can't be many places in the world with such variation.

That rounds off Day One of Japan Week - drop by again tomorrow for more Far Eastern awesomeness!

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