We arrived Narita early in the morning very tired after a restless flight. Here we were, finally, in Japan! I totally harboured secret Japan-lust for a very long time. Okay, so it wasn’t really a secret.
We were starving and after we booked ourselved a tiny (seriously tiny, tiny as in 1.5m x 2.5m) room in a backpacker’s hostel. We were desperately tired, jet lagged and really needed sleep so we decided that we weren’t up for a proper meal and took a short walk around the area to look for a supermarket or a convenience store. We later found out that Japan wasn’t that big on eating breakfast outside. So there wasn’t really anywhere we could get breakfast anyway (other than at the accomodation which were always unduly expensive)
Our first meal in Japan consist of (left to right) Japanese-style potato salad, nigiri-zushi, grilled salmon bento, and pumpkin and sweet potato tempura. All cold. All delicious!
The potato salad was creamy and mildly flavoured. It was basically mashed potato flavoured with (I thought) Japanese mayonaise, rice vinegar and a little salad oil. It also had the usual ham, carrot and cucumber dices in it. Hard to imagine if you have never tried it. I also saw it as a sandwich filling.
I saw the sashimi and sushi counter and thought well how could we have arrived in Japan and not try sushi! This was a pick-your-own kinda sushi counter. I had some doubts about supermarket sushi (and we weren’t in the best area of town) so I only picked out the three most familiar sushi – the salmon (sake), tuna (maguro) and prawn (ebi). They were amazingly fresh and yummy. Who would have thought? Or maybe we were just hungry?
I also got a grilled salmon bento which came with a few other Japanese-style sides (boiled vegetables, konyakku jelly, umeboshi, pickled diakon, potato salad etc.) all placed on top of sticky Japanese rice. We also got pumpkin and sweet potato tempura. The choices were startling. I should have taken some pictures of the tempura/fried goodies selection! Everything was a hit and miss of course. My Japanese was not up to scratch. We bought most of the things blind – sometimes things turned out to be not what we expected at all. But that’s the adventure!
The next day, after being thrilled by our first experience, we decided to hit our local 7-Eleven for some onigiri and some pasta salad. What a find! From that day, almost everyday, I had two convenience store onigiri for breakfast. Each of the chain convenience store (7-Eleven, Lawson, AM/PM, etc.) had their own brand of onigiri. None of them hadEnglish labels. Some had vague, often unidentifiable pictures. So again the hit and miss factor. My favourite fillings were chicken karaage and mentaiko with mayonaise (I am such a fan of Japanese mayo!). Josh amazingly enough fell for the mentaiko as well (I suspect that he didn’t really know what it was). I didn’t really like the umeboshi and it was easy to stay from them because they were usually the cheapest one.
(cold drinks/coffee selection at 7-Eleven)
(rows of pre-made bento, ramen and sandwiches at 7-Eleven)
I liked the supermarket tempura so much, I went back for more. They were about 100 yen a piece. I wondered how they manage to stay crispy even though they would have been made at least an hour ago. There was no sauce though. I bought a little tiny bottle of sauce (which I thought was tempura sauce) but it turned out to be your ordinary Japanese shoyu.
(grilled salmon, fried egg, fish stick, pickled ginger, etc. from the bento shop)
I also discovered a little shop front nearby selling amazingly cheap bento (around 250-300 yen). The grilled salmon was very rubbery but the katsudon was very yummy.
I also bought these little cups of what I thought to be milk pudding type dessert, but they turned out to be yoghurt, which I had to eat with chopsticks. I didn’t like them very much so I left two of them in the communal fridge. I have a scary thought that they might actually still be there!
God, how I miss those convenience store onigiri!