>> Thursday, November 03, 2011
It has been just shy of eight months since the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan this past spring.
It was a trying time for all those living in Japan. Many had to bury loved ones, while others are still seeking closure for those that went missing. For millions, the fear of radiation dominated their daily thoughts.
The world responded with an immense outpouring of love, donating funds, time, and energy.
However, no one is visiting Japan any longer. Tourism numbers fell drastically after the earthquake. People, scared of the radiation, are afraid to go. It's gotten so bad in fact, the Japan Tourism Agency recently requested one billion yen in funding from the Japanese government to pay for 10,000 free tickets to encourage foreigners to come visit Japan. Nothing's set in stone yet, but there just might be that opportunity come April.
Bryan visited Tokyo about 2 months after the earthquake. He noticed that the nights in Tokyo were eerily dim as everyone made a conscious effort to conserve electricity. Recently, Bryan and I returned to Japan. The lights seem to be back, and the city seems to bustle just like before.
Well, there is one difference.
When speaking to one of the most famous sushi chefs in the world, I commented on how surprised I was that I was able to get a last-minute reservation at his tiny 8-seater restaurant (usually notoriously booked out 2-3 months in advance).
He sighed, looked at me, and said, "the foreigners stopped coming after the quake."
For some reason that made me so sad.
Japan is an amazing place, and now is the best time to visit. November is when they enjoy their gorgeous fall foliage. Additionally, if you're a food fanatic, it is surprisingly easy to land typically difficult reservations in Tokyo right now. I called a bunch of these difficult-to-reserve places one week before my arrival date expecting to land maybe 1/3 of them. To my surprise, every single reservation was available.
This next series will focus on my recent trip to this resilient nation, including some phenomenal restaurants that I never thought I could visit.
Here's a sneak preview . . .
The award winning wasabi from this super popular sushi restaurant is hand-grated on the premises right before it's served to you.
Uni soup? This creative Japanese sushi bar serves incredible, nontraditional starters.
Chicken breast, gizzard, and liver sashimi? We braved the unknown and tried some exotic Kagoshima cuisine.
Italian food in Japan still has Japanese twists.
Really? A two star Michelin tempura restaurant?
Elegant, whimsical, and intimate dining at a restaurant that seats only three tables a night.
Hailed by many to be the best tonkatsu place in Tokyo, this place serves 57 varieties of pork, including Spanish Iberico pork tonkatsu.
Robatayaki - a fun, interactive type meal where everything is roasted on an open flame right in front of you.
Next week - full details on each of these places!