A visit to the Land of the Rising Sun is a shock and delight at the same time.
Our journalists visited the west of the country — in the Kansai region, saw the temples of Kyoto, the deer reserve of the ancient capital Nara, met with ninja spies, Ama divers and mastered the local art without regret to lower all the money on food in the Dotombori quarter of Osaka.
Argue with fate in Kyoto
In Kyoto, the Japanese come from all over the country to put on white tabi socks with a thumb compartment and geta shoes, which resemble mini-shoes, with full make-up and hair styling, to go for a walk. Change clothes without assistance is unlikely to succeed.
The smallest nuances are important — a combination of a kimono and a top cloak with a belt and a separate bow, a collar and decoration on the waist, as well as a bag.
In Kyoto, the Japanese dress in national clothes and go for a walk.
To the main attraction of ancient Kyoto — Kiyomizu temple, built of huge logs and without a single nail, — the road leads through an old shopping street, crowded with shops and restaurants. What a Japanese man does not like mochi delicacies made of sticky rice paste with a sweet filling! Colorful dango balls are served on skewers as the main dessert.
Pastry shops lined with boxes of vagasi and motigashi, ice cream and waffles moffles from roasted mochi. Even Kit-Kat bars with mochi. And the ubiquitous smell of green tea is an expensive variety of gyokuro, as well as sencha and a drink of geisha and the poor genmaycha with brown rice.
But the main role in all tea ceremonies is played by tea match.
A few spoons of powdered green powder are carefully knocked down with a bamboo whisk to a lush crema, and a drink with an unusual taste is obtained.
Matcha tea is popular not only in the country of origin, Japan, but throughout the world.
Walking through the double corridor of the Fushimi Inari temple, founded in 711, is best in the rays of the dawn sun. The galleries painted with fiery-red cinnabar let the rays through, and the kitsune’s werewolf foxes — servants of the goddess of rice and fertility Inari — run away until dusk.
The Japanese believe in signs from above and follow them faithfully. Here it is imperative to purchase papyrus with a prediction.
If you are predicting something not too joyful, a piece of paper can be folded and hung on a special rail waving in the wind.
In the evening, the priests will burn all the bad predictions. And you take the following, and it will certainly show your fate that you are not ready to abandon your plans, but you want to come from the other side. It is worth trying to raise a special stone and mentally formulate a desire.
When zagadali, lift the stone again.
If it seemed easier, then everything is in order, and the wish will come true.
If not, do not despair and guess a new one!
Feed the deer in Nara
In the ancient capital of Japan, Nara, deer walk through the streets. They stand at bus stops with people, as if waiting for public transport, meet you at the entrance to the national park, looking into your eyes with hope: won’t you buy specially prepared cookies for them from the tray?
In Japan, everyone bows to each other, and deer, echoing traditions, nod to you too.
How then not to treat them with a treat?
But be careful!
Seeing the desired dessert in your hands, the deer forget about politeness, they are surrounded on all sides, pushing and knocking the cookies out of their hands.
Reindeer in the Japanese city of Nara can be found absolutely everywhere, from bus stops to national parks.
Inside the largest wooden building in the world — the Todai-ji Temple — there is a fifteen-meter bronze Buddha weighing 500 tons. And those who will climb into his nostril will surely fulfill their wish.
For such a maneuver, it is not necessary to have a fragile Japanese constitution.
It is desirable for owners of an average physique not to gain extra weight during the trip, and this in the Land of the Rising Sun threatens very few people.
Breaking away from the «tail» in Iga
The Ninja History Museum has been opened in the former estate of representatives of the clan of professional spies Iga.
There are many hidden doors and fake walls in it, and the guide, trained in some tricks on instantaneous disappearance, silent running and throwing darts, will show how the life of «people in black» was arranged.
A dish of nabemono-sukiyaki is a boiling broth with noodles, Chinese cabbage and mushrooms, in which transparent slices of beef are dipped.
After the espionage entertainment, it will be most useful to have nabemono-sukiyaki. This is a designer dish, which is cooked in a pot, in a broth boiling on a stove.
It came from the Edo era, when it became possible to eat beef. And in translation it meant “how nice it is to warm yourself at the boiler”.
Transparent slices of beef or tofu pieces of cheese are dipped in boiling broth with bean noodles of harusame or udon, leaves of Peking cabbage or chrysanthemum and two types of mushrooms.
Cooked meat is recommended to dip in a fresh egg.
It may be strange in our opinion, but very tasty.
Take a “volcanic” bath in Toba
Ama divers, despite the mass production in the region of artificial pearls, continue to reach the shells in the traditional way, plunging into cold water.
These mermaids were the founders of freediving and dived naked until the seventies of the last century, with only one rope at the waist.
In an extreme situation, the husband could pull them to the surface.
Ama take guests in their hut right on the beach, tell stories from life and treat freshly caught clams with green tea.
Previously, ama divers were diving for pearls completely naked.
Toba is worth staying at the Todai ryokan. Japan is a country of volcanoes, so there are many hot springs here. Hotels tried to build just next to the geysers, so as not to spend money on heating water.
Once hot springs were the only way to warm up before bedtime.
But now it’s nice to plunge into them before stretching out on a classic futon that will be spread in the room while you are having dinner.
The Kansai region is famous for its high-quality kaiseki Japanese cuisine. This is a gastronomic ritual, during which serves a large number of a variety of dishes prepared according to special author’s recipes.
Based on the financial capacity of the guest, the chef will select the necessary ingredients and serve them in a certain sequence. Our evening kaiseki composition was dedicated by the chef to cherry blossoms.
Mandatory multiple changes of tasting sets in combination with sprigs with pink flowers were addressed to a cherry orchard from the play of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov.
Arrange a Belly Feast in Osaka
Osaka is considered to be the gastronomic capital of Japan. It was in this region that there were warehouses for rice storage, which was sent to the shogun from all over the country as a tax.
Therefore, Osaka came to be called the «Shogun’s Kitchen», and the locals at the genetic level have a love for food, which is called Kui-Daore, which means «eat till you drop.»
Panasonic Brand Chef Alexander Seleznev learned the basics of healthy Japanese cuisine at Tsuji Culinary Institute.
There are several educational institutions for professional chefs. The most famous is Tsuji Culinary Institute, founded in 1960 by the famous chef and promoter of Japanese cuisine Shizuo Tsuji. The institute teaches Japanese, Chinese and European cuisines.
Each course lasts from one to three years.
Teach not only the best chefs of Japan, but also foreigners — owners of Michelin guide stars.
By the way, the famous confectioner, Panasonic brand chef Alexander Seleznev recently visited Tsuji. An adept of proper nutrition, he decided to learn the basics of healthy Japanese cuisine, then to use them in Russia.
In Tsuji, he was taught to boil dashi broth, delicately slice sashimi and sculpt nerikiri — bean paste candy in the form of birds and flowers.
The main difference between the gastronomic diversity of Osaka from Tokyo is that all the existing national types of dishes and methods of their preparation are presented here. Locals try to follow the rule of «at least 30 products a day.»
Moreover, they mostly eat local and seasonal products, but such exotic ingredients as lotus root, bamboo shoots, devil’s tubers, brandy, ginkgo fruit, yams root, godo root, pine mushrooms and other unseen pieces are used.
At the main market of Osaka Kumorone, you can find everything from giant tuna to puffer fish fillets.
The seasonality rule applies to fish consumption, the full range of which can be seen on the Kumoron market. This main Osaka market has been operating for over 200 years.
The carcasses of giant tunas here are cut with two-meter swords, similar to samurai, and octopuses wink as if invitingly wink in the hope that you will buy them. In general, any large fish and seafood in Japan prefer to eat raw or with minimal heat treatment, which is called «from under the knife.»
Therefore, you can try local delicacies right on the market: a liver fish cleaner with a flashlight on your head, a tender belly of blue tuna, spicy sea urchin caviar or a puffer fish fillet.
Here on the market you can see how sushi is masterfully made: at a speed of 1 sushi in a couple of seconds.
They say that at first «sushi» train on a paste made from soy, similar in texture to rice, in order not to translate a precious product.
Those who want to roast should try the local street food. “Japanese pizza” Okonomiyaki in many street establishments cooked teppan on a hot stove, which is built right into the table. Noodle, cabbage and eggs flat cakes are fried on their own, then fish or meat is spread on them, poured with various sauces.
Yakinik’s restaurants are very popular, they are also called Korean barbecue.
Here, visitors fry teppan marble beef, which is produced in several regions of the country, but the best is from Kobe.
Thin strips of fatty meat are prepared instantly, they are eaten with a fresh salad with tofu, kimchi or seaweed.
After such a heavy meal, it is customary to eat a plate of cold ramen, a traditional noodle broth and various ingredients.
From local street food try "japanese pizza" Okonomiyaki, noodle cakes with meat or fish, sprinkled with sauce.
Japan is a country of innovation, and this applies to everything, especially cooking.
Locals are happy to cook at home, and prefer to do it without oil and steamed, to preserve the texture and natural taste of the products. Perhaps it is a healthy diet that makes the Japanese one of the longest-lived nations in the world.
Technological giants are trying to translate the national love for healthy food in household appliances. In every decent home, there will definitely find a steam microwave, bread maker with a regime for gluten-free bread and other devices that support “healthy” cooking regimes. Recently, “slow” juicers, which because of the low speed of rotation of the screw, retain the vitamins and juice structure, are gaining popularity.
Fashion for these and other devices is adopted in other regions of the world, including Russia and Europe.
The main exhibition center Panasonic is also located in Osaka, where you can see the concepts of new products that have yet to enter the market. A stove that cooks exclusively by induction, or an electronic tap with a filter on the touch control: using the buttons you can adjust the pressure, temperature and even the pH of the water. The top of Japanese engineering is a refrigerator with integrated sensors and cameras, connected to the “cloud”.
It allows the owner to remotely “look inside” and check the availability of products, and if necessary, he will order the missing items from the online store or offer options for dishes from the available ingredients.
What to try
Deep sea algae hijiki.
They are boiled, fried and added to the salad.
Sake of Osaka and Kyoto distilleries.
Moti — Briquettes of sticky rice mochi are baked in sesame seeds, powdered sugar or other sprinkles and deep-fried.
Momiji Orosi Spicy Paste from grated daikon with red pepper.
What to bring
Daruma — multi-colored dolls that look like dolls, but with one eye.
You need to make a wish and finish another.
If the wish is not fulfilled, the daruma needs to be thrown away, and it is better to return to the temple where it was purchased, and instead take the new daruma.
The traditional daruma doll must be returned back to the temple or thrown away if the desired desire is not fulfilled.
Japanese cosmetic masks with green tea extract, carbon dioxide and seaweed squeeze, sapphire microparticles, snail essence and cocoa extract.
Bell Furine appeared in the edo era.
It is made of metal or glass, which makes it sound melodious, and then hangs in door and window openings.
Thank company Panasonic and the tourist office of the region Kansai for organizing a trip to Japan.