A Tribute to Japan

>>  Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have always loved Japan.

As a child, I was exposed to a bit of Japanese culture because my parents were Taiwanese. Taiwan was occupied by Japan for 50 years (between 1895 and 1945), and thus my grandparents lived under Japanese rule for a large part of their lives. Inevitably, they absorbed various aspects of Japanese culture. In fact, my maternal grandparents felt more comfortable speaking Japanese than Taiwanese or Chinese with their kids.

As a college student, I decided I wanted to learn more about Japan. I studied the language for two years before spending a summer interning at Hitachi Chemical. I absolutely loved living there. One of my favorite things to do was to roam the immaculate and beautiful supermarkets after work, picking out my dinner for the evening.

Of course, it's not just about the food. I also loved the people that I met. Even after leaving Japan, I continued to hone my language skills, building long lasting relationships with Japanese friends through language exchange partnerships.

The news of the recent earthquakes and aftermath in Japan is downright devastating. My few friends who live in Japan are in Tokyo, so they are safe, although extremely frightened. My heart continues to ache for those who have suffered great losses, and I pray for them.

The Japanese are quite resilient, and I am confident they will rebuild, recover, and come out stronger in the end. As a tribute to them, please join me as I begin a series dedicated to Japan: a celebration of their unique culture, rich history, and (of course) amazing cuisine.

Sneak preview ahead . . .

Bryan and I had the privilege of visiting Japan this past November. Bryan had a business trip there, so I just came along for the ride. We stayed in Shibuya, a bustling area with one of the most famous and crazy crosswalks in Tokyo.

The view from our hotel on top at Cerulean Towers

I always get one of these whenever I come to Japan!

You gotta love the plush version!
Of course we had to stop by Domo-kun's home - NHK Studio Park!

You can get your favorite characters in all different sorts of colors.

Or Hello Kitty wearing all different sort of "suits." (yes, this is borderline disturbing)

Or if you prefer kitchenware, visit this super fun neighborhood in Japan devoted to restaurant supplies, fake plastic foods, and other fun kitchen gadgets. It's where I got my cookie stamps!
Or stop by Tsukiji fish market to get some seriously quality (and expensive!) knives.

The food in Tokyo is among the best in the world. Here, we visited one of Tokyo's most famous molecular gastronomy restaurants (1 Michelin Star)

One of our favorite ramen places with handmade noodles, of course!

Kurobuta Pork tonkatsu at a former bath house.

Street food! Do you know what these are?
Everything I learned about sushi I learned from my mom  . . . and this place.

Probably the best sushi I've ever had in my life at this 2-star Michelin unassuming sushi bar.

Cherry Blossoms at Shinjuku Gyoen

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