Japanese Cuisine  
  Where to Eat  
  Kaiten Sushi  

  Japanese Cuisine: Being an island nation with a relatively small amount of arable land Japan has focused on rice and seafood in its national diet, much more than on other food sources. The result is a delicious, healthy cuisine emphasizing various kinds of seafood, including fish and shell fish, prepared in a variety of unique ways.  
  Where to eat: The most important thing to remember if you are trying to keep you food costs in line in Japan is not to eat in hotels. Although the food is normally excellent it is usually very expensive (except in the smaller, local hotels); breakfasts can cost $20-35 for modest portions; soft drinks can cost $5-6 for a 6 oz. bottle. Far better is to get out of your hotel (unlike the leading characters in the recent movie Lost in Translation), and try some of the local restaurants. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them in each city, serving every kind of food, most at very reasonable prices. You can buy a “breakfast” of items at local convenience stores (they are everywhere) for $4-6. You can have a delicious lunch for $8-12, and an excellent dinner for $10-25.

One of the wonderful things about Japan is that almost all restaurants will have a display in their window or in a special case near the door showing very realistic plastic models of each of their dishes with the prices as well. This makes it pretty easy for you to literally “see something you like”, point it out to the waiter, and know what it will cost, even without reading any Japanese! And remember that there is no tipping in Japan, so you can save even more.
  Sashimi: This is one of the quintessential Japanese dishes. Sashimi is basically raw fish that is lightly dunked in soy sauce before eating. You can be sure that Japanese raw fish is not like other raw fish. Chefs in Japan know who to pick the freshest and most tasty cuts of fish that will almost melt in your mouth. Really good sashimi can be expensive, so unless you are a gourmand, we suggest you avoid the most expensive restaurants and you will still have an excellent meal. Standards in Japan are so high that even a moderate meal there will be excellent by our standards. Be sure to try some unique items, such as horsemeat, if available, and the various kinds of tuna and shrimp.  Top  
  Shabu-Shabu: This dish feels like it should have come from Mongolia. It consists of very thinly sliced pieces of beef (they usually slice them when the meat is frozen to get the very thin cuts), cooked at your table in a boiling broth. Again, better in cooler weather, but always delicious.  Top  
  Sukiyaki: When the weather starts to get cold this is a great dish. With its combination of meat, vegetables and broth it will warm your insides. Not recommended in the summer.  Top  
  Sushi: Basically you take some sashimi and put it on top of a special rice, add some wasabi, and you have sushi. This description does a disservice to the work that goes into selecting the freshest fish, cutting it properly, etc.  
  A variation on traditional sushi is to be found in a kaiten sushi restaurant. These restaurants serve sushi, but they have bar or counter type seating. Along the bar, on a raised portion is a moving path, like a small conveyor belt, but sometimes just moving water. Plates of the various kinds of sushi are put on the belt and the customers take off whatever plate(s) they want. There are a variety of different colored plates, each signifying a different price (these are posted on the wall for all to see.) At the end of the meal the waiter or waitress just adds up the number of your empty plates at each price to determine your bill. Fun, fast and convenient.
  Tempura: This is a dish that most “foreigners” are familiar with, but they have probably not had good tempura. The batter should be light and crisp and the items fresh. Try to have tempura that is not dipped in soy sauce, but rather kept dry and dipped in a mix of salt and green tea. Very delicious!  Top