Traditional Japanese cuisine

Sushi (寿司)

Sushi is a Japanese dish of prepared vinegared rice usually with some sugar and salt, accompanied by seafood — often raw — and vegetables. Styles of sushi and its presentation vary widely, but the one key ingredient is "sushi rice", also referred to as shari (しゃり), or sumeshi (酢飯). The origin of sushi can be traced back to ancient China, with the earliest known record dating back to the 2nd century BC. Today sushi is a staple dish found everywhere in Japan, from restaurants to convenience stores, and is regarded as the poster child of Japanese cuisine. Here are some of the different styles of serving sushi: 

Kaitenzushi (回転ずし)"Revolving sushi"

Kaitenzushi is a form of serving where the prepared sushi is placed on a conveyor belt that runs in circles and you are free to take whatever plate is coming. You typically sit in front of a small kitchen area where the chefs prepare the sushi. Alternatively - this is what locals actually prefer to do - you can order directly from the chef to enjoy a "fresher" plate. Plates come in different colors reflecting different price tiers (80~450 Yen/each). After finishing your meal, at check-out, you pay for the total number of plates based on the color code.

Tachigui (立ち食い) = "Stand-up eating"

Tachigui-style eating was first introduced in what is now Tokyo during the Edo Period (1603-1868). During that time, restaurant owners catered to laborers and working-class people who needed inexpensive yet nutritious, fresh, and flavorful food. Here, I ordered tachigui sushi aka "stand-up sushi"

Izakaya food (居酒屋料理)

Izakaya is a type of informal Japanese bar that serves alcoholic drinks and snacks. They are casual places for after-work drinking, similar to a pub, a Spanish tapas bar, or an American saloon or tavern. Popular orders are Oden (おでん = Japanese stewed fish and vegetables), Yakitori (焼き鳥 = grilled chicken skewer), Korokke (コロッケ = croquettes), Karaage (唐揚げ = deep-fried chicken) etc.

Teishoku (定食)

The beloved teishoku (= combination set meals) are extremely common in Japan, fairly cheap and filling. From lower-end (円700-1,000) meals served in fast food restaurants like Sukiya, Matsuya, Yoshinoya, Otoya, university canteens etc. to more pricey (>円1,800) higher quality ones in local specialty restaurants, there is an infinite variety of dish combinations to choose from.

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Arguably, this is one of my favorite dishes. Dubbed as a mix of pancake and pizza made of flour and cabbage, topped with sauce, mayo, and bonito flakes (katsuobushi, かつおぶし) you can find it everywhere in Japan, is very easy to make and a popular party dish.

Yakiniku (焼肉、Japanese BBQ)

Yakiniku is an umbrella term for any Japanese grilled meat dish (chicken, beef, pork) seasoned with a variety of sauces/flavors. Yakiniku restaurants are extremely popular and can be found across the country, with local variation, of course. In this video clip, my friend and I dined at one of the top-rated yakiniku places in Tokyo: Yakiniku Horumon Takeda in Akabane (instagram: akabane_takeda). This place also has all-you-can-drink lemon sour, an alcoholic beverage made of lemon/lime juice and sparkling sake, for only 円500 ($3.51). 

Bento (弁当、Japanese take-away lunch boxes)

Bento is a single-serving, packed meal, transported by the eater already assembled and ready to be savored. Historically rice or noodles are used as the foundational starch, accompanied by fish, eggs, or meat. These two main focal points are accented with a variety of pickled and cooked vegetables, and a few bites of fruit, creating an easily balanced meal for healthy eating away from home. Bentos are sold almost everywhere - from bento-specialized shops to supermarkets and convenience stores. Also popular are ekiben (駅弁)- bentos that are sold at train stations, in small shops right on the platform.