This month I’m excited to introduce my colleague Vanessa, who is here to share a postcard with us.
Take it away, Vanessa!
Konnichiwa! My name is Vanessa, I’m another member of the Boutique Japan crew. Hajimemashite! Nice to meet you!
Fall is finally approaching, and with it lots of travelers seeking out the cooler temperatures in Japan.
Many of our upcoming travelers are couples, but what makes Japan such a universal “date vacation?” I think it’s one of the same things that makes “date night” so exciting… the food!
It’s no secret that Japan has some amazing, delicious, skillfully prepared food. But there’s something that goes beyond taste here, and is only really understood when experiencing it in Japan.
Whether enjoying some casual fare in a boisterous izakaya, or sitting on delicate tatami mats at a beautiful ryokan with an all-out kaiseki dinner, there’s is a certain level of intimacy that always shines through. Experiencing this is what makes Japan the perfect place to explore with someone you love.
Let’s start with the casual. In my old neighborhood, Koenji [a great Tokyo neighborhood], there are lots of yakitori restaurants near the station. These places are completely open air – you’re basically eating on the sidewalk with an overturned barrel as your table.
It’s dinner time, salarymen are getting off work, filling in to unwind with a beer and some quick bites. But even this experience is somehow intimate. The tables, well, they’re teeny, so you have to sit close to one another. And there are many of these tiny tables crammed into the limited sidewalk space, so you are sitting close to all the other patrons, the day fading from the sky above your heads. The food encourages you to share with your dinner mates, and eat with your hands. It’s delicious, it’s messy, the smoke billows into the night while the patrons let off steam with endless skewers and crisp cold beer. Perfectly cozy and satisfying.
But how about the other end of the spectrum? Perhaps the polar opposite of sidewalk yakitori is the refined ryokan experience. Staying at a ryokan, as you may already know, is intimate in many obvious ways. First of all, you’re encouraged to wear a cotton robe (yukata) that they provide for you. So everyone’s walking around in their robe and slippers. It’s quiet, hushed, and everyone has slightly flushed cheeks from hopping from one tranquil onsen to another.
At a seaside ryokan in Izu I once visited, there were a few baths to try, indoor aromatic wooden baths and outdoor rocky ones next to the breaking waves of the ocean. Seeing the full moon rise over the ocean here is something I’ll never forget! At mealtime, guests gathered to eat together in a tatami-mat dining room. Over a drawn-out kaiseki meal, you’re forced to eat slowly, savoring the smaller portions, trying to pick out the tiny details, and glad to be relishing it all with a loved one.
Japan runs the gamut, and of course, most meals in Japan will run somewhere in between sidewalk yakitori and high-end ryokan kaiseki. But you’ll still be surprised over and over at the level of delicate care in even a 1,000 yen lunch set or carefully-prepared bento box.
I hope your travels bring you and a loved one to Japan soon to have some amazing meals together!
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