Kyoto temple - Japanese Street Food

Japanese Street Food – My First Taste of Japan (and they didn’t go easy on me…)

Japanese street food conjures images of blissful tranquility eating articles of food that send your tastebuds to Heaven.

That wasn’t quite what my first experience of Japanese street food was..!

I should clarify; I love Japan. I love the people, I love the food (including the Japanese street food). But sometimes I just didn’t get it right.. and I didn’t on this occasion..

We fly into Tokyo and cross the international date line which meant we arrived the day before yesterdays tomorrow, which was weird as it meant we had to wait a day for the jetlag to kick in.

We book into a hostel in the Minowa-Senji area of Tokyo which used to be the labourers area but has improved to accommodating skint travellers instead.

Our hostel, the New Koyo is hosted by Bobbie who was really helpful and spoke good English, the first trait being extremely common in Japan, the second not so much.. The best way to describe the hostel is think : Changing Rooms meets Prisoner Cell Block H.

Thin corridors, cell like iron doors with small, 3inch square windows in the centre of the door, but they had a little kitchen, internet access and free tea, so we were happy.

Love Japan? Read more about our travels through Japan, the street food and eating the infamous fugo fish.

The standard Japanese wake-up time seems to be around 6:17am, this is approximately the same time that the huge sumo like crickets start their dawn chorus. No matter how I put this you won`t really believe me, but they are loud, I am talking hands over your ears as blood squirts from between your fingers and you pull a face like you just dropped a TV on your toe – loud.

So we get ready and embark on a trip to the sights, but first stop is breakfast, our first eating experience in Japan…

While looking for somewhere to eat we pass many a civilised looking establishment, but oh-no, we don`t want to eat in those… We want to eat where the Japanese eat, where they weally eat. We want Japanese street food.

For some reason in my mind this always equates to; the worst looking place to eat. And we find it. A small shoebox in the wall, non-English speaking environment, everyone sitting on stools around a horseshoe bar about 8 foot long as two Kamikazee looking chefs dish out the food in their brown `whites`.

I march in dragging Anna by the hand before she has a chance to say no, we squeeze past everyone, making them all shuffle in their seats and take the last two places at the very back of the bar.

Once firmly trapped inside we notice we are being watched by everyone. Not subtle glances or fleeting turns of the head but stared at with a look of `what ya hell these two yung gwasshoppers here doing?`.

But I whisper to Anna that the secret is to keep your cool and pretend you eat here all the time… I start with the international sign for menu, which is the action you make when slapping a mosquito in the air with both hands and slowly opening them to see if you caught it.

Chef shakes his head, he looks mad, says something in Japanese.

Now the looks are accompanied by grins and a `watchya gonna do now gwasshopper?`. This stage usually requires the point-and-shoot tactic, but I can`t see over the bar at what everyone else is eating so I start to think fast.

By now Anna is facing the wall trying not to catch anyone’s eye and kindly whispers to me no-way in hell is she eating in here. The heat is rising, the pressure is on. Everyone is waiting for my move, I can read their faces – they all think I will quit and leave.

But with Ninja like reflexes I spot a large pot of boiling brown stuff in the corner and go for the bluff.

I give my audience a big smile, nod at the chef, wink at Anna and gesture a large bowl of THAT.

There is shock, I can see it on their faces and hear it through the mexican-wave of gasping that grips the room. Checkmate, I presume.

Then IT arrives, a brown mixture of intestines, tripe, thick cubes of some kind of fat and a reeking smell that your body instinctively knows is a DO NOT EAT smell. I breath in the fumes deeply and with my best `Just how Mumma used to make it` look, eat the lot, down my water, fold my chopsticks and hold my head high.

One last and final nod at the chef, a conquering shake of the head to my audience and leave the establishment. No sooner am I one foot out of the door and I can hear the giggling all the way round the bar.

It was from that moment on that I vowed to Anna that we must not eat anywhere that doesn’t have a plastic rendition of the food outside or an English menu. Which Anna kindly pointed out was more about stopping further damage to my pride than our stomachs.

And we still didn’t learn our lesson…