I spent the last two weeks in Japan with my mother (the best travel partner ever, by the way), eating great food and having a blast. It was intended as a “satogaeri” trip (which translates to “returning home”) but it felt more like a full-blown vacation for me, with opportunities to visit all the touristy places one would see in travel guides.
I was afraid at first that I have become a foreigner in my own country and stick out like a sore thumb (although Japanese by birth, I moved to the states when I was nine, so I appear more as “American” to the Japanese eyes) but was surprised to find that I camouflaged into the backdrop of the cities seamlessly. I’m convinced that it was the camera I was carrying everywhere. They knew that I was one of them.
The first stop in our Japan tour was Ichikawa in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo, where I lived for several years before moving to Southern California. We stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house for two days, walking down the memory lanes and being amazed at how much this little town has changed since my last visit 10 years ago.
They were very kind and fed us very well during our stay, taking us to great places, like this stylish tempura restaurant in Matusdo. (By the way, what you see in the above picture is not a sushi bar but a tempura counter where a chef deep-fries all great things imaginable in front of the hungry patrons!)
The warm aroma of fresh oil welcomed us when we walked into the restaurant (it wasn’t at all greasy). They ordered the “omakase” course for us (leaving the menu up to the chef), and tempura kept pouring in all night! Unlike the mushy tempura often served in the not-so-good Japanese restaurants in the states, the tempura here were all fried incredibly crisp and light.
We enjoyed tempura shrimps, crabs, assorted seasonal vegetables, fugu (puffy fish!) accompanied by dashi-based dipping sauce or just lemon and salt (my boyfriend only eats tempura this way), finishing up the meal with tempura anago bowl (saltwater eel) with a side of delicious miso soup.
The ladies split a bottle of red wine from the Nagano region (my uncle was a designated driver .. a good man), which was light and refreshing — a perfect accompaniment to the satisfying tempura. Oh, and I even tasted the delicious tempura green tea ice cream!
And speaking of being well fed, they even took us to a noodle shop for lunch and I ate soba that was cooked to perfection. I ordered the cold buckwheat noodle bowl with tororo imo (grated mountain potato), raw egg and crab meat.
And this was only our second day in Japan!