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Japan — a trip to the land of the eternal miracle

There are many exotic countries in the world with original traditions, unusual dishes and a strange way of life. But Japan for us remains the most mysterious and incomprehensible.

A foreigner who comes here for the first time does not get tired to be surprised at everything that happens in the Land of the Rising Sun.

And this is wonderful!

Everyone knows that the Japanese are avid workaholics.

This is a national tradition, because before the beginning of the 20th century there were no days off in Japan. Today, most civil servants have one full day off, a short vacation and a long working day. Staying at work for a couple of hours above the limit is the norm.

Although in recent years, the state begins to regulate the duration of the working day.

Wednesday, for example, declared a day without processing.

There are even special people who go around the offices and at 5 pm they expel all employees. Many are not yet accustomed to free themselves so early, and instead of going home, they go jogging.

On Wednesdays, crowds of white-collar workers from the surrounding skyscrapers rush around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, meeting one more requirement of the government — to monitor their health and keep themselves in shape.
The order is not idle, because the Japanese love to eat. A good rest for a Japanese man means how to eat and drink.

On holidays, all the highways are filled with thousands of cars, residents of Tokyo are sent to other regions to try local gastronomic specialties.
On weekdays, the Japanese have lunch right at the workplace. Caring wives are packed into bento-boxes many beautiful dishes.

But if the wife is out of sorts, there is a chance to get a “Japanese flag” for lunch — a bento box full of rice with pickled red plums in the middle. An excellent reason for the jokes of colleagues.

You can drink food in the office with plain tap water.

In the capital of Japan, there is really very good and tasty water, it is even bottled and sold abroad under the brand «Water from Tokyo.»

Bento box with various snacks for lunch at work

On weekends, children pull their parents into the fast food network “Kare-ya”, where they cook curry dishes, which are extremely popular among the younger generation.

Women are busy cooking tsukurioki — «for 5 days.» This is a real trend — 7–9 simple dishes that can be cooked on weekends, put into boxes, and for a week do not worry about what to feed the family.

Japanese women are willing to attend tsukurioka workshops and buy hundreds of books on this topic.

And men love the Sunday dish ti блюдzuke — «something for tea.» All that was found in the refrigerator, finely chopped, fried, poured on rice, add algae and pour it all over hot green tea. In the evenings, the Japanese like to go to some restaurant.

For example, in the network of eateries «Otoya», which serves Japanese home cooking.

The most popular thing is nikudzaga — beef, slowly boiled in a mixture of mirin and sake sauce and mixed with boiled potatoes, carrots, onions.
It is always crowded and in izzakayyah — Japanese counterparts pubs, where you can drink sake and a quick snack. Very interesting place — izakaya fishing. There are many such institutions in Tokyo.

Pay a certain amount, and you are issued coupon cards of various denominations and a fishing pole, to which you must catch fish passing by. The value of fish is different, a trifle is 1 coupon, flounder is 5. Fish that are caught are cooked as you wish — they will make sashimi or grill. Fish are caught by families, couples, companies.

And they rejoice, like children, hooking up and pulling out even a shrimp dormant at the bottom of the pool.

In honor of the lucky one, the restaurant staff beat the drum and loudly sang a song of praise.

Alcohol-warmed visitors gradually join in and in a couple of hours, an atmosphere of universal love and happiness reigns in izakaya.
Recently, Tokyo’s fashioned maid café, where waitresses in short skirts depict maidservants: “Yes, my lord, what do you want?” The signature dish is a hard-boiled egg that is smashed on the customer’s forehead, then blows on the forehead, kisses and sticks decorative plaster.

Institution for fans of innocent role-playing games.
For those who prefer the games more seriously — Yoshiwara’s nightlife quarter or the “Soapnya” establishment, where clients can enjoy air mattresses filled with aromatic oils, foam baths in which you can play Periscope with girls and other interesting ventures.

Two hours of pleasure for a foreigner — $ 900, for the Japanese — two times cheaper.
Not far from Yoshiwary there is the only lane in Tokyo, where the atmosphere of the 19th century was preserved, because in 1945 almost all of Tokyo was destroyed by the carpet bombing of the American Air Force.

In a narrow alley there is a series of miniature ones, where the locals sit shoulder to shoulder with tourists, in cramped quarters, and not mad, because the food here is inexpensive, but very tasty.

One of the symbols of the Japanese capital — the 634-meter Skytree — the tallest television tower in the world. Here you can easily spend a couple of hours: several observation platforms at an altitude of 345 and 450 meters, panoramic restaurants and cafes, a glass floor, standing on which you can see a skating rink at the bottom, many souvenir shops, interactive maps of the city.

From the TV tower you can clearly see the building of the Japanese brewing company Asahi, crowned with a strange golden object.

According to the architect, the sculpture symbolized the fire that should burn in the souls of the company’s employees, but the sculpture did not want to stand upright. In the end, she was left to lie on the roof, and residents of Tokyo immediately dubbed the object «Golden shit.» Which is also not bad, because in Japan it is a sign of increasing wealth.

There is even a special gift poop, covered with gold leaf and packed in expensive lacquer boxes.

A popular gift for those whom you want to prosper. Welfare also brings Tanuki — a fabulous creature in the form of a raccoon dog with large eggs. In Japanese fairy tales, Tanuki is a rather ambiguous character.

Dodgy and gangster manners, but the size of the eggs is everything — it’s not by chance that Tanuki figures are installed in front of hundreds of Japanese restaurants, attracting good luck and success. There are even temples dedicated to Tanuki, where people who want to get rich come to pray. But serious Japanese businessmen go for luck not to Tanuki, but to the Fox Temple not far from Tokyo.

On the first day of the new year, you can meet the presidents of Toyota, Hitachi, Panasonic and other serious companies.

Skytree TV Tower is one of the symbols of Tokyo

Many “experts” of the Japanese traditions say that sushi in Japan is not as popular as in Russia, and they are treated like cheap fast food. This is complete nonsense.

Once sushi was really served to quickly saturate the traveler.

In the first drylands, there were no napkins, they wiped their hands on the curtains, and according to the degree of their salinity, travelers immediately determined the degree of popularity of the establishment.

Today, good sushi are quite expensive, and a table in the iconic sushiriya must be booked in advance.

The most famous place is a restaurant for 10 places in the subway, where 90-year-old Jiro Ono conjures in the kitchen. The restaurant received 3 Michelin stars, a film was made about it, and the record — a month in advance.

For $ 320, Jiro sculpts 21 drying in front of you.

They should be eaten immediately, while sushi remembers the warmth of the master’s hands, and Jiro is one of those Japanese people who believe that perfection can be achieved only for many years in one thing.

Talent is important, but honing the skill is the most important thing.

It is not by chance that Jiro-san buys the ingredients for his sushi from sellers who sell only one type of product, but excellent!
In expensive sushiriy use several varieties of rice. Wasabi in Japan is added to sushi by the cook himself. Sushi is dipped in soy sauce for a second, or a leaf of ginger is dipped into the sauce, and sushi is smeared on it.

By the way, eating sushi with your hands is quite acceptable.

They are washed down with rice balls with traditional genmai-cha — green tea with fried rice.

Assorted sushi

Excellent sushi I had a chance to try in the restaurant «Tsukasa» from the chef Hanashima Shoji. The walls of a small institution are decorated with scrolls with hieroglyphs — Khanashima-san is fond of calligraphy — and photos of the pet chef — a Scottish Fold cat named Tiger.

The chef famously sculpts sushi and puts on top microscopic transparent fishes sirauo, which merrily look at us with beady eyes, a local eel of anago, softer and more tender than the usual eel of unagi, pieces of tuna from the delicious side of the fish and puffer fish slices. Fugu is a specialty of the restaurant. In Japan, they learned how to grow safe fugu, without poisonous entrails.

It costs less and is available all year round. But Khanashima specializes in wild fugu, the best time for catching which is winter and early spring. The chef thinks it tastes better, and the pleasure of working with dangerous fish is greater.

The proportion of risk increases the level of euphoria. Chefs who cook wild fugu receive a special license for cutting fish.

The matter is not easy: you need to carefully clean the fugu, put the poisonous entrails in a metal container that is locked, and send it to the recycling service.

A dinner with a fugu will cost you $ 300. You will be served different
parts of fish, including skin, which is thoroughly cleaned of small spines.

The most valuable part is tender milt, literally melting in your mouth.

In Japan, they learned how to grow fugu without poisonous entrails. It costs less and is available all year round.

The city of Takayama is located in the Hida region at the foot of the Japanese Alps, which are called the roof of the country. There is a very high temperature difference — in the morning and in the evening it is cool, in the afternoon it is hot — the ideal climate for producing sake. Sake is the main alcoholic specialty of the region, because very tasty rice grows here and unusually tasty water is here — and these are the main guarantors of good sake success.

In Takayama, there are several Sacteria, one of the most ancient, Kusudama. Representatives
The fifteenth generation of sachevs have made rice wine since 1625.

High quality and, of course, without the addition of alcohol (and this is found in cheap types of sake, which are sold in supermarkets). Sake is boiled from special varieties of rice that are not used for food, rice must be polished to achieve the desired consistency and leave from 65 to 35 percent of the grain.

Sake from the last type of rice is the most expensive.

In the season of cooking sake from all the surrounding sakeware can hear slender singing.
Previously, each operation was accompanied by a song of a certain length, which replaced the clock.

Now it is irrelevant, but the tradition has remained.

There are even special CDs with a selection of sakeware arias.

Sake is bottled not only in bottles, but also in huge containers braided with ropes. These barrels are often ordered for special occasions and corporate workers.

Another pride of the Hida region is the marbled beef vagyu, which is called here hid gyu. Until the end of the 19th century, the Japanese practically did not eat meat, since they professed Buddhism, and only the arrival of the Americans made them meat-eaters. But today, marble beef is being actively grown all over the country and is no less actively eating it.

The meat of the Hida region in Japan competes with the more widely promoted beef from the Kobe region.

It is not as fat and intense in taste as Kobe gyu, so you can eat more of it.

You can find dishes from marble beef hida gyu — suki yaki, shabu shabu, kebabs, steaks and sushi — everywhere in Takayama

In all the restaurants of the city, pans, in which yaki bitch are cooked, are appealingly appealing.

In a special way, the sliced ​​meat is quickly fried in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar, along with udon noodles, three types of mushrooms and a lot of vegetables, and then dipped in a bowl with a raw egg and sent to the mouth.

Another popular entertainment is shabu shabu. Very thinly sliced ​​meat and vegetables are quickly lowered twice into boiling seaweed broth and immediately eaten. Lovers of steaks in Takayama, too, expanse.

Many restaurants are located in historic buildings and retain the spirit of the centuries.

For example, Hatoya opened in the house of a local merchant, built 150 years ago. Chefs buy meat in the nearby butcher shops, where there is a bull for each bull
a set of documents — a certificate of marbling degree, certificates from the sanitary and radiological services, a pedigree of a bull with a print of a nose instead of a seal.

This is a unique document, because the prints of the nose, like fingerprints, are completely different.
On weekends, there are two morning markets in Takayama where flowers, saplings, rice and other edible things have been selling for a long time. Today you can try rice balls with wasabi, pickled vegetables, rice flour chips, steam buns with minced meat inside, rice flour balls, fried in soy sauce and strung on a wooden skewer.

In the neighboring kiosks they sell beef and sushi popsicle with hida gyu.

Raw meat is not allowed to feed in Japan, so sushi is lightly treated with a torch before you serve them.

Hed Gyu Sushi with Marbled Beef

Nagano, the former capital of the 1998 Winter Olympics, is famous for its temples, the most famous of which is Zenko-ji, recognized as the national treasure of Japan. The temple is famous for the fact that Buddhists of any direction can come here to pray.

There are always a lot of pilgrims, around dozens of guest houses built with their mini-temples, where you can master the art of calligraphy, or sake (redrawing the image of Buddha). On the street in a special bowl burned
incense sticks to attract luck.

Every day at dawn, priests from all the surrounding temples gather in the central hall of Zenkoji for joint prayer.

If you come to its end, you can get the blessing of the supreme priest and supreme abbess.

Jizo figures in Zenko-ko Temple

Under the altar of the temple there is a black labyrinth.

In the pitch darkness, a chain of people moves along a wall, trying to find the key to the lock that hangs on a giant door handle — the one who succeeds in this is more likely to go to heaven.

At the exit from the temple, one cannot pass by the statue of Pindola, the doctor and the most intelligent follower of the Buddha, who helps to heal all sorts of sores.

Touch the place of the statue that hurts you, and Pindola will take your problems.
The Japanese generally believe in all kinds of amulets, scrolls of desires and letters of happiness.

In the temple, you can buy a charm for all occasions — from diseases, car accidents, the whims of children, failures in business, love, sports, school, etc. .
Buddhism in Japan coexists peacefully with Shintoism, moreover, the two religions organically complement each other. So, Shinto is responsible for the birth and wedding, and Buddhism for the funeral.

Therefore, in Japan, the dead according to Buddhist traditions are cremated.
In Shinto temples there are many gates, after passing through which, people are energetically purified. The Japanese believe that people initially come to this world as good, and everything bad sticks to them over the years, and this life slag must be periodically cleaned.

Therefore, twice a year in all Shinto churches of the country there is a general cleansing of the nation.

Kanazawa is often compared to Florence, and the Maeda family that ruled for 300 years is called the Japanese Medici. In the 600–800s, the city became a significant cultural center of the country and remains to this day.

In Kanazawa there is a Garden of Six Virtues — Kenroku-en — one of the three most beautiful gardens of the country.

The calling card is the pines, which for the winter are surrounded by an intricate construction of sticks and ropes to protect the trees from heavy snow.

Garden of six virtues in Kanazawa — one of the most beautiful in the country

From the garden — 10 minutes walk to three areas with tea houses in which geisha live and work. The most famous quarter is Higashi.

As soon as it gets dark on the streets, shamisen sounds begin to be heard in tea houses, a traditional Japanese instrument played by geishas.

In fact, this is the wrong name for the famous Japanese priestess, no, not love, but art.

In Japan, they are called geyko (art girl), and young female students who have not yet passed the exam are Maiko (art girl). It is the image of a maiko that most foreigners imagine when it comes to Japan.

Higashi — the most famous quarter in Kanazawa, in which geyko work

You can get to the geiko performance only on the recommendation of the regular of these events. Just because you will not be allowed here. But traditional art needs to be popularized, therefore in some houses periodically hold performances for all comers.

And Hanako-san, the owner of Kaikaro tea house, who has been working here since 1820 and was noted in the Michelin guide, told me about how banquets with geyko are held. The banquet lasts 2 hours, first the guests drink, have a snack and communicate with geiko, then the guests are shown 2 dances, and then the drum performance follows. Geiko is beaten into a special drum by the Taiko and monotonously exclaim, «Oh, don-don, tsuku-tsuku.»

Ten minutes of this kind of meditation is well relaxed. A banquet with three geiko will cost $ 600 per person.

If you wish, you can play an interesting game with geiko — fanning down figures, «grandmother, tiger and hunter» (analogue of «rock-paper-scissors»).

There are also games to strip, but, alas, it is impossible to win against Geiko, some studs in her hairstyle are about a hundred.
Modern geyko learn foreign languages, modern literature, master dances, play shamisen and the art of making ikebana. All take the oath not to divulge what they heard at the banquet, because the high-ranking Japanese and top managers of companies communicate with them, who often have no one to pour out their souls. Among the guests of tea houses there are now many Buddhist monks, their income is large, their education is good, and it’s not always possible to talk with a smart person.

So there are two loneliness in tea houses. Although geiko in Kanazawa, unlike their colleagues in Kyoto, is allowed to marry. Many dream of marrying a professional geiko, but it is very difficult to get to know girls closely.

And yet some succeed.

The sexiest part of the body is geiko — unazi — a strip of skin on the neck, which is not painted over with whitewash. If a girl
lifted hair, consider that the key is in your pocket.

Modern geyko learn foreign languages, modern literature, master dances, play shamisen and the art of making ikebana

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pizza that you cook on a hot roast set in the middle of the table. Everything you like is added to the unleavened dough — ham, vegetables, seafood, then it is fried on both sides and poured over with a special sauce and mayonnaise. Fun, hearty and budget.

One of the best windows in Tokyo is Sometaro in Asakusa.

Since 1938, they have been fed various kinds of okonomiyaki, for example, butatama with a pork stomach and an egg.


Okonomiyaki — Japanese Pizza

Wagashi rice and bean paste from Kanazawa.

Many sweets, popular in Japan, were invented here.

Khobamiso — grilled vegetables: young onion, salad, shiitake mushrooms with miso and huba leaves. This dish is in the top 100 best dishes of the country according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture.

As a rule, miso huba is served at breakfast hotels.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, which is obtained from buckwheat grains, manually ground on stone millstones. In summer, soba is served cold, and in winter — hot. To her, the company asked a variety of products.

Soba is accepted without chewing, but sucking in with a noise so that it immediately slips into the stomach. The main advantage of the event is elasticity, so it is served slightly undercooked, like al dente paste.

The best soba is prepared in Nagano Prefecture.


Soba

At the performance of the Tarazuka Theater, where all roles since 1914 have been performed only by women.

In the «Water Bridge» in Tokyo.

Here they sell everything for restaurants and cooks — knives, furniture, dishes, aprons, signs with inscriptions like “It’s better to leave money with us than to lend to friends”, all kinds of dummies of food and drinks.

But the food itself is not here.

In the capital’s restaurant Itirin, marked by a Michelin star.

Chef Mikidzo Hashimoto prepares the kaiseki kitchen, which literally translates as «stone in the bosom.» Initially, it was the monastic kitchen — modest, but very beautiful.

The monks laid a warm stone in their bosoms, which churned hunger a little, and mostly ate them with their eyes. But the term has got accustomed, and now it is so called in a specially prepared and exquisitely served dishes.

Father Hashimoto-san was the rector of a Buddhist temple and was in charge of the monastic cuisine, so the chef knows his job perfectly — on the menu of tofu with the taste of wormwood with kutomi vegetables and shrimps; Bonito shavings with slightly pickled wasabi sprouts; crab cutlet with bamboo root, burdock root and fern; seaweed muzuku with Japanese herb grass mousse and Japanese potatoes. For dessert — mochi in a sheet of sakura —
a dish that is served to a man who came to woo and liked the bride and parents.

In August, a festival of palanquins is held in the Hida region, hundreds of colorful wooden palanquins with religious sculptures are carried along the streets of the surrounding cities.

In Takayama, as many as 11 palankinov, than the locals are very proud.

4 of them can be seen throughout the year in a special exhibition hall.


In August in the region of Hida hold a festival of palanquins, decorated with sculptures

On the Omito Market in Kanazawa. The market, founded 300 years ago, still has several shops that have been inherited from generation to generation.

It’s good to wander between the rows of fish and seafood, look into the mouth of the local black-fry fish, try giant oysters and orange juice served directly in whole orange, and eat Kaisen-don, a huge rice dish with all sorts of sashimi or seafood and vegetables-tempura.

In the Museum of the XXI century in Kanazawa, where exhibitions of contemporary art are held.

Among the top facilities are a swimming pool with a transparent bottom, a killing machine, a puppet seller’s van with either a dead or asleep host, a sideboard that stores sounds.

Pupa Sarubobo — traditionally a red monkey without a face. Such dolls were sewn in the Hida region on the day of birth of children, so that they would keep children from demons. Today, Sarubobo make a variety of colors and give to children and adults.

Each color has its own purpose — to give prosperity, health, family happiness.

Products from gold leaf from Kanazawa.

In local shops you can see how the thinnest plates of gold (0.0001 mm) are made and make an appliqué of gold on a plate or box yourself.

Dolly Sarubobo

Products from gold leaf from Kanazawa.

In local shops you can see how the thinnest plates of gold (0.0001 mm) are made and make an appliqué of gold on a plate or box yourself.

Figure Daruma — deities in the form of a head with one painted eye. Daruma are usually bought when they set a desired goal.

After everything turned out, he draws a second eye. By the number of Darum with two eyes in a Japanese house, one can judge its purposefulness.

By the way, according to the legend, when Daruma fell asleep once, his eyebrows fell out, and Japanese green tea grew out of them.

Colorful handmade balls, filled with trimmed kimono and embroidered with silk threads.

Good for the Christmas tree.

Thank you for traveling to Japan. The National Tourism Organization of Japan and the airline JAL.

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