Taste Of Meiji

Taste Of Meiji

Taste Of Meiji

Taste of Meiji

The most exquisite sushi ever encoutered up-to-date was at a 5th generation sushi shop, established Meiji 4 (1871).

Daitokuya is a historic sushi shopis in the pristine Boso peninsula in one’s home prefecture of Sunny Chiba, which also happens to be full of magical mysteries throughout this extraordinary prefecture.Chiba Prefecture Michi No Eki Map - Land Of The Rising SonInterestingly enough, the son of the current sushi master, Kurihara-Taisho is now training in Ginza when once finished (apprenticeship may last 10 or 15 years), he will become the 6th generation to run his family shop, persevering these one and only immaculate flavours of a bygone era.

大徳家寿司-Land Of The Rising Son

In Japan, can one see the preservation of a family history embodied in their shop and the generation of these sushi artisans creating the same flavours of sushi handed down from generation to generation.

Imagine anywhere else in the world where one can go to an establishment and experience flavours created from the sea and the surrounding family farms starting from150 years ago.

大徳家暖簾-Land Of The Rising SonOne of the deep charms of Japan is, regardless of the modernization having taken place from the Meiji Restoration, there are still shops in the nooks and crannies in the Land Of The Rising Son preserving the way of Old Japan.
大徳家の明治時代の看板-Land Of The Rising Son大徳家のお店の暖簾-Land Of The Rising Son大徳家-千葉県房総市千倉-Land Of The Rising Son

Even as this is so, true to the nature of the Japanese, the essence of Meiji has been duly captured at Daitokuya.

Here, Kurihara-Taisho now invokes the spirit of kaizen—building upon previous generations—honouring his ancestors deliciously tweaking historic dishes—maintaining the divine heritage of this extraordinary art.

大徳家寿司屋-なめろう-Land Of The Rising Son

Speaking of extraordinarily old establishments, take the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamagata Prefecture—the oldest hotel ever—run by the same family for 52 generations.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamagata Prefecture - Land Of The Rising Son

Where else can one find a business established in 705 CE still running today, while holding the Guinness Book of World Record for the oldest hotel?

Time marches on and stops for no one, and it is fascinating to watch Japanese food culture circling the globe over the last 30 plus years—in the form of sashimi and sushi.大徳家寿司屋-なめろう-Land Of The Rising SonSeeing these morsels of the Gods become loved by those around the world who understand the flavour and texture of raw fish warms one heart greatly.
大徳家寿司屋- 色々 - Land Of The Rising SonIndeed, if a true connoisseur of the delights of the sea, one would make their way to this extraordinary shop and taste the flavours of Meiji-era sushi, if at all possible.
For the truth will remain—one can never sample delicacies such as these anywhere else in the world—but for at this one shop—in the pristine picturesque town of Chikura in Sunny Chiba Japan.

大徳家訪問01 - Land Of The Rising Son 大徳家訪問02 - Land Of The Rising Son 大徳家訪問03 - Land Of The Rising Son 大徳家訪問04 - Land Of The Rising Son 大徳家訪問05 - Land Of The Rising Son大徳家大将-Land Of The Rising Son

Gravy ‘n’ Rice

Gravy ‘n’ Rice

Gravy ‘n’ Rice

It is always a joyful occasion when introducing the Japanese to the miracle of gravy ’n’ rice.

This remarkable meeting of two culinary culture touchstones fuses these staples into a flavour unlike any other.

For certain the Japanese hold rice in the highest esteem in connection with the cultural significance of this sacred grain, and the evolution of Japanese civilization.

Rice Fields in Japan - Land Of The Rising Son

Of equal significant meaning, but of less cultural magnitude are the humble drippings of pork roast, which are then turned into gravy.

Indeed one’s beloved father, in the French Canadian tradition was deeply fond of porcine and the versatility of this staple.

In fact, he loved pork so much, he would save bacon grease to add to his world famous pancakes.

Save Your Bacon Grease - Land Of The Rising Son

Pancakes Maple Syrup Bacon - Land Of The Rising Son

Not only were his pancakes excellent, he was also fond of (deep) frying eggs in bacon grease as well, something his spouse put a stop to later in his long life (June 15, 1935 ~ April 5, 2022).

Eggs Cooked in Pork Grease - Land Of The Rising Son

Historically speaking, the Japanese do not roast whole pieces of meat or birds as Japanese kitchens are rarely equipped with a proper oven.

Indeed, the average Japanese housewife’s need for an over, or the concept of roasting something whole lies outside Japanese culinary protocol.

The only thing the Japanese housewife is roasting is a piece of fish, one for each member of the family in the ubiquitous fish grill, which is present in all Japanese kitchens.

パロマコンロ - Land Of The Rising Son

魚頭焼き- Land Of The Rising Son

It is because the Japanese do not have a concept of authentic gravy is exactly where the magic lies.

There are pretenders to the throne of sauces, such as the popular yet mundane demi glace, or other types of Japanese sauces (tare), which although delicious, can not match the heavenly combination of gravy ’n’ rice.

焼肉のタレ- Land Of The Rising Son

Eating gravy ’n’ rice for the first time is an enlightening experience for any Japanese person lucky enough to be offered gravy ’n’ rice and may only happen once in a lifetime.

One could say the meeting of sacred Japanese polished rice, and pork grease gravy, which is prepared by gently folding flour into pork fat while mixing the secret flavoured water, containing the hidden mystery of our clan’s gravy recipe invoking a somewhat religious experience.

Enlightenment- Land Of The Rising Son

It’s almost as if introducing the Japanese to gravy ’n’ rice created a fusion of Japanese and Occidental culinary civilization, in the unlikely combination of gravy ’n’ rice.

Adding authenticity to the complete meal entails roasted potatoes slathered with New Zealand grass-fed butter and a generous helping of fresh Aomori garlic.

Don’ forget a health drizzle of Australian macadamia nut oil, and a sprinkle of herbs and spices, which only adds to the perplexing menagerie of flavours one has coaxed out of the lowly potato.

Gravy can be successfully made from may different kind of fat drippings.

A traditional turkey dinner often related to Occidental holidays is a case in point.

For certain, there is a vegan recipe for gravy one can smear all over veggies and indeed even fruit until the heart has become content.

Here one would only need to substitute a vegetable soup cube and other magic (salts, herbs, spices) available to those who chose not to eat the carcasses of dead animals.

Perhaps one can consider gravy ’n’ rice as a metaphor for foundation of a wonderful life.

The foundation of life is rice, and topped with gravy, adds variety and spice to life .

Rice Stalk - Land Of The Rising Son

Not Peanut Butter

Not Peanut Butter

Not Peanut Butter

Not Peanut Butter

Many moons ago, there were several Canadian carpenters building 2 x 4 houses in sunny Chiba Prefecture.

Anyway, meeting these Canadian carpenters was most fortuitous.

2 x 4 house wall going up

The head carpenter returned to Ontario Canada after the small local housing company went bankrupt, and the Canadian carpenters were let go.

He was then engaged to send over two containers full of housing material and 3 Canadian carpenters to build one’s very own Canadian 2×4 house in beautiful sunny Chiba, where one resides with the honourable wife and 5 beautiful cats to this very day.

It was interesting to meet these skilled craftsman here in Japan, in which to their shock, surprise, and sometimes dismay offered a significantly different experience from their hometowns in the Eastern part of Canada.

One particular Canadian carpenters was having significant issues adjusting to Japanese food, and was longing for some good old Canadian comfort food, peanut butter!

Peanut Butter

Now, peanut butter is something relatively recent to the Japanese and is still not really so widely available in regular supermarkets.

However, to this homesick country Canadian boy, he saw an entire wall full of what looked like peanut butter, hallelujah!

Thinking he has found peanut butter paradise, he purchased a unit and excitedly brought it home, dreaming of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (PB&J).

One happened to be visiting the Canadian carpenters on that very day, and he held up the yet unopened container saying in a hopeful voice “this is peanut butter, right?”

His hope of a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to soothe his homesick soul was crushed under the boot-heal of reality when told gently, “no, this is miso (soybean paste).”

味噌の種類

To which he replied with a deep melancholy look in his eyes, “what’s that?”

One informed him that miso is one of the main staples of the Japanese diet.

Miso is a versatile paste which can be mixed into sauces, dressings, batters, vegetable dips, and soups (or whatever tickles one’s fancy).

One of the very best things about miso is that it is a cultured food, and a natural source of healthy probiotics (also known as “good bacteria”), which is beneficial for digestion (nothing quite like a healthy bowl movement).

An all time personal favorite, the traditional Japanese breakfast is always accompanied by a hearty bowl of miso soup as the companion to the rice, fish, natto and pickles.

和風朝食セット焼き魚 おひたし みそ汁

Often miso is a feature in the ramen shop, where one can choose between soy sauce, salt, pork broth (tonkotsu), or miso flavor.

The first experience one had eating ramen back in January 1987, was a hearty bowl of miso ramen on a cold winter day. This delightful meal included spring onions and slabs of pork (kakuni), and the most delicious miso ever, and when eating this incredible dish it was love at first bite.

Miso Ramen with Kakuni

However, much to the chagrin of the Japanese companion, the entire bowl of soup was drained of all liquid with abject delight.

Along with being chastised for these poor manners, the lecture was also accompanied by the phrase, “if you drink all the ramen miso soup you will die of high blood pressure one day.”

Slurping up the soup is now looked upon as better manners as it helps the environment by eliminating food waste.

Moreover, as of this writing, one is not dead yet, so it looks like it’s okay to swill the ramen broth.

Wall Of Miso

Bonus Peanut Butter: When interpreting for American engineers at the world’s largest synthetic paper factory, this outstanding Japanese company always prepared a delicious lunch box for them. However, one engineer was not adventurous whatsoever in their eating habits, and brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the factory every day. It is here where he washed down the PB&J sandwich with a coke, every day. When inquiring each day as to how PB&J sandwich was, his answer was always the same, “predictable.”

Akitaya – Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Akitaya – Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Akitaya – Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Akitaya; Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Anybody who has been in Japan for a couple of days, understands this is the food capital of our shared earth.

Now, I’ve come across many many unique and delicious restaurants, or what we refer to as “shops” in my journey here in the .

Way back in the day, when I commuted a couple of days a week to Tokyo, I found myself waiting for the bus to take me back to the countryside.

As I was walking along the street near the bus terminal I saw a big open window with large puffy billows of white smoke pouring out, and diligent men in white uniforms grilling skewers of pork. There were also several customers standing at the outside counter enjoying themselves, which along with a line up at the entrance was a very good sign.

秋田屋外Oh my gosh, I thought to myself, is this my lucky day or what?! 

Thus, I went into Akitaya, and there started a long and meaningful relationship that lasts up to this very day.

Needless to say, I was looked upon with suspicion as this shiny white face doesn’t shout out, “I know how to speak Japanese or read it either” as there of course was no English menu. 

秋田屋のメニュー01

The server gruffly pointed to a seat at the very narrow counter where the patrons were elbow-to-elbow, snarfing skewers and quaffing drinks. This is where a cheap wet towel was then slapped in front of me and I was tersely asked “what da ya wanna drink!

To which I replied, in highly polite Japanese, “a bottle of beer for this hungry and weary resident of Japan, if you please”. 

Well, things got smoother after that, I could read the menu, and my gosh there so were so many delectable items there, I can even taste them now. 

First of all, they have what is known as motsu nikomi, which is pork tripe in miso sauce. 

もつ煮込み

By the way, any Japanese shop worth their miso, always has a worthy motsu nikomi.

Of course, I ordered that along with some tongue and cheek meat and buta nankotsu (pork trachea) on a skewer.

焼き豚 ガツ盛り合わせ02With the very first mouthful of motsu nikomi, I could hear the angels singing hallelujah, and I knew I had at last found the elusive perfect motsu nikomi. This was simply the most outstanding motsu nikomi dish I had ever experienced up until that very moment in my entire life, with each bit of pork tripe melting in my mouth. 

It got even better, as there was this old lady roaming around serving the customers and chitchatting them up like they were her very own children, which in essence they may very well have been.

老婦人04Having never married, she worked her entire life in just this one shop serving the hungry and tired salary men who run the system which is Japan. 

Imagine that!

She also handed out her special homemade pickles only to the select customer that are regulars and that she liked, of which I was one.

老婦人07


She used to like to wear my hat.

I loved her sense of humour.

I was going to go to Akitaya one day at the end of December, it was closed, but I ran into her coming out the door. I said “ I am so disappointed that you are closed today, and I can not have your wonderful food”, to which she replied “well you can line up here until we reopen after the New Years holiday on January 4th”. 

老婦人02

It was December 29th on that sad and hungry day.

老婦人08

She was the last remaining sibling of the family that established this shop after coming down from the far away northern prefecture of Akita, where these siblings opened up this pork guts shop in Hamamatsucho near my bus terminal for which I am grateful.  As time marches on, she too has passed away, and her mischievous spirt lives on here in this blog and in the .

There were so many delightful dishes there such as kusaya, which is fermented fish that stinks when being cooked, but oh is it amazing when it melts in ones mouth as the sweet savoury meat of this fermented fish complements your favorite alcoholic beverage of choice.

くさや02くさや01I recall ordering an oolong-high (Chinese tea with shochu), there back in early days. Now remember oolong-high is a staple drink in these types of establishments, and I just though they would also have it as well. No sirree, not at Akitaya! The dry reply from the surly server was “we don’t have that here” Well, lemon-high it was from then on, as there is no at this shop whatsoever.

The staff members of Akitaya are also such very nice people on top of being diligent and dedicated to serving the hungry salary-people of Japan.  

秋田屋スタッフ01焼き豚マスター https://bit.ly/2Zw7xLVThere you have it; a true Japanese family restaurant in the heart of Tokyo, why don’t you go?

Japanese School Lunch

Japanese School Lunch

Japanese School Lunch

Japanese School Lunch

I fondly remember the first time I was invited to an elementary school as a guest, it was my very first experience for the school lunch in Japan.

Wow, having never seen anything like Japanese school lunch, I found what unfolded in front of my eyes to be extraordinary.

First of all, the students on duty would go to the lunch preparation room where they pick up the equipment necessary to serve lunch. They were all dressed in white smocks with white caps.

They would then bring the food back to their classroom, and serve it up to the other students who were lined up.

I found this incredible, to see these children, serving their fellow students.

Isn’t this an excellent way to train your citizens to be thoughtful members of society, where everyone takes turns serving each other.

Of course the homeroom teacher took part in this ritual by overseeing the entire operation.

One more thing I found indeed wonderful about Japanese school lunches was the nutritional value and the deliciousness of these school lunches, which were always well thought out.

And I remember back in the day when I was going around teaching at several different junior high schools, I was always delighted to share in the school lunches with the children, and they were indeed delighted to have this novelty from a distant land sharing their lunch with them.

and I’m sure you will admit, or maybe you’re thinking that your country might welcome Japanese style school lunch protocol.

I firmly believe, this is the way the Japanese are formulated to become meaningful members of our society, while building an innate sense of belonging to your own group, and this is done by “serving others”.

It is also delightful to see the Japanese children start eating all at the same time with a boisterous “itadakimasu“ (this is polite language to be used before eating)

On a side note: Did you know that in the first 3 years in school in Japan, they have no exams or tests? It’s all about discipline, social, hygiene and health lessons.

I hope we can take some lessons away from the Japanese school lunch and apply this mindset to one’s own life.

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Stinky, Slimy, Savoury, Succulent and So On…

One get a mixed reaction from many of the Japanese, and uniform abhorrence of this miracle food from foreigners.

A quick side note: Among the Japanese, Japan is refereed to as East Japan and West Japan (thus JR East and JR West). Which at first may seem confusing as when you look at a map of Japan, one would think North and South.

No dear reader, the are the Japanese at it again, thinking about things their own way.

But I digress.

Generally speaking our Japanese brothers and sisters from West Japan, also dislike natto, not quite as much as, but almost as much, as our foreign counterparts.

Some of the things that might come to mind when you first try this miracle food is wow, this smells like soiled baby diapers, or, oh my gosh, the texture in my mouth is just like sucking on a garden slug, it’s so very slimy.

But do not despair dear reader, as once you get past those two significant barriers, you will find a mouth full of joy, unlike any other.

Who would’ve ever thought the lowly soybean would turn out to be an important, and very healthy staple of the Japanese diet?

Natto is commonly eaten as a breakfast foods, and consists of fermented soy beans.

The soy beans are mixed with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, as known as nattō-kin in Japanese.

If you’ve never heard of this miracle food yet, you have been missing out on something quite important!

The significant health benefit of natto can not be understated.

In particular, the overall health of ones all-important gut bacteria, which benefits greatly from the almighty nattō-kin.

Here are some secrets to whipping up a slimy delectable delight for morning dinning pleasure and ones health and longevity.

Always, start by adding a small amount of vinegar, make sure you use high quality apple cider vinegar!

This allows the natto to become very foamy before adding any of the next following ingredients as you see fit.

Other ingredients:

Spiruina
Hemp Hearts
Fresh Garlic
Fresh Ginger
Egg Yolk

I like to layer the natto onto rice and take a piece of nori, dip it in soy sauce, and make a small elegant piece of sushi. Delicious!

There you have it.

One has now started an incredible natto journey, and, as one continues the never ending quest for mental, physical, and spiritual health and longevity, one has now found an important ally with natto.