For one, it was a place I had always wanted to see. So instead of doing a day-to-day thing like I usually do, (you can breathe a massive sigh of relief), I thought I'd make it much simpler. I'm going to break it down into a few themes.
Japan is known for a few things, but most notably: 1) food, 2) neon and concrete 3) zen gardens and temples 4) its people, and how fucking nice they are, 5) crazy ass fashion. Yeah. There's something for everyone.
I'll start with the food.
In short - we've screwed ourselves over. From now on, I don't think we are really ever going to enjoy sushi ever again. After experiencing the sublime ridiculousness of sushi there, everything else in comparison is really just meh.
I took quite a few pictures of my food, in the vain hope that I could taste the pictures through the viewfinder of my camera, but no dice.
They make the sushi in front of you, using fish that isn't more than a few hours old. In fact, if there's leftover fish past 6pm, you get your food half price.
Their sushi isn't fancy either. All that 'California roll' business isn't real sushi. They have - no jokes - an organisation, the 'sushi police' in Tokyo, that go around to restaurants to check that they're serving 100% authentic Japanese sushi. If you're 'Americanising' your menu, then you get a fine.
All good places serve very standard fare, nigiri (fish draped over a ball of rice), sashimi (solo fish) simple rolls made with tuna or cucumber. The difference is that there are about 20 different types of raw seafood to choose from. If you like octopus, five different types of prawn, three different 'cuts' of tuna (tuna is like beef there - you get the rump, the fillet, the t-bone - and each comes at its own price), then you'd love sushi in Japan.
The Brit and I didn't vary our fish too much, but we were practically lolling off our bar stools in delight.
It literally just melts in your mouth. I've never experienced anything like it. You just want more and more and more - you cannot stop eating.
Luckily, sushi is the one thing in Japan that actually isn't expensive. (Thank fuck for that. Because we ate it everyday). Compared to some of the other food, the sushi was reasonable. Usually, in non-Japanese places, you get your wasabi as a powdered paste, or squeeze it out of a tube. It's also usually nuclear green in colour.
In Japan, they grate the wasabi really finely from it's original root form into a paste. Like ginger. It's just that much better. As I said, we're fucked basically. We can't ever dine at Yo Sushi ever again.
The 'shabu shabu' experience did two things to us. 1) Bankrupt us, 2) Died from a foodgasm.
It's basically a fondue, but with the world's finest beef and other vegetables, that are cooked on your table in a bubbling pot on a gas stove. Except that the beef is the thin, marbled variety, born from cows that are, wait for it, massaged daily, and fed beer, amongst other luxuries.
By the sounds of things, the cows live the same life that some WAGS do in Britain. The meat is known as kobe beef, and the cattle are raised in crazy environments. I have never tasted beef - and South Africa is a country full of meat eaters - quite like this in my life. Not even when I travelled Argentina.
Anyway, it's expensive, but it'll blow your head off. I'm glad we got to taste what Jesus would feed his prophets for good behaviour, basically, and experience the whole ritual firsthand.
Shrooms in Japan look like they're more for making you trip your balls off, not for eating.
Apparently ramen is originally from China, and the Japanese found it and adapted it to their own tastes, but either way you can find ramen everywhere. Also really cheap. The noodles aren't spindly little things, but rather thick shoelace thingies, with anything on top of it.
You can have ramen noodle with chicken or pork katsu (the Brit's favourite), or weird looking shrooms like the bundle above (my favourite, but look appalling when you try to eat them. At one restaurant, I had a situation with a bundle of tiny rubbery shrooms on my face. Don't ask. It was so embarrassing.)
At every restaurant or bar, you get handed a wet towel. Some have been freshly steamed in hot water, while some are cold. But the level of service is amazing. No tipping required in Japan, and if you spill something they'll rush over to you and bring you another even if it was your fault. (Guilty as charged.)
If you're into food as much as I am (from burgers to raw fish), then the food alone is just one reason to haul your ass across the world and go to Japan.