“Oh, I could never live there, I can’t imagine eating raw fish.” This is what I hear quite often when I tell people (mainly from the US or continental Europe) that I live in Japan.
So what’s up with this raw fish bit? Do these people really think that here in Japan all we ever consume is sushi and sashimi? And the answer unfortunately is - yes, they do think that.
Sadly, whenever Japanese cuisine is mentioned, raw fish is the first thing (and sometimes the only thing) that immediately comes people's minds. Granted, not to everybody’s mind, but to a surprising number of people nevertheless.
Which, if you ask me, is quite dumb. It’s like thinking that all Americans ever eat are hamburgers, Germans – sauerkraut and sausages, and Russians – borscht. And everybody knows that’s simply not true. In addition to hamburgers, Americans love their hotdogs, Germans – black forest cake and beer, and Russians – pierogis and vodka. And the same is true about Japan. We like and consume all sorts of food over here, including everything that has been mentioned above. Yes, even hotdogs and black forest cake, though not necessarily at the same time.
In fact, the sheer variety of food in Japan can be mind boggling. You’d need several lifetimes to try and sample everything that this country has to offer in the culinary department. And that’s just the Japanese cuisine. Then there’s French, German, Italian, Chinese, Brazilian, Indian, Iranian Korean and scores more.
What? Too high-brow for you. No worries. There’s more fast food here than you could ever think possible. There’s even a kebab joint (halal at that!) and a taco stand in our provincial town.
Actually, it helps to think of Japan as one huge izakaya (pub). Food is plentiful, yummy and for the most part cheap. Yes, cheap. Don’t listen to those who tell you stories about just how expensive food in Japan is. Just because they spent 10 dollars for a glass of orange juice at their Roppongi hotel doesn’t make them experts on prices in this country. Though it does make them experts on how not to travel and spend money, that’s for sure.
In reality, Japan has plenty of eating options for every budget and taste. My budget is rather tight and my taste – not too picky. But because I’m lazy by nature, I don’t like to cook. In most other countries I lived in, this was a tough combination. Normally, eating out, or buying ready-made food was more expensive than cooking at home. Not so in Japan. If you factor in the time it takes to make a meal from scratch, water, gas, and then still deal with cleaning up afterwards, it makes more sense to just outsource the cooking to your local supermarket, especially after 6PM (look for discount stickers).
Let them do the slaving over a hot stove bit. I’d rather just eat. Which is what I frequently do. And then have my husband clean up. Because every man should learn how to sort plastic for recycling from burnable trash, right?