Japanese food: the good, the bad, and the natto.

I’ve been in Japan for almost two weeks now, and I’m finally feeling like I’m actually here. One of the things that has helped me feel like I’m in Japan (you know, besides from the two million Japanese people who live in Sapporo) has been the food I’ve eaten.

I guess I’m a bit of a foodie, because lots of the key things that define Japan for me are foods. So let me share with you some of the foodstuffs that are making me feel at home in Japan.

Like most countries, some Japanese food is all-round amazing, some of it is not really tasty in itself but somehow is really good, and some of it should be eradicated from the face of the earth.

In other words, with Japanese food you have: the good, the bad, and the natto.


The Good

I guess one of the least well-known Japanese dishes is ‘curry rice’ (カレーライス). This is a shame, because it is almost incontestably tastier than the better known dishes such as sushi or even – dare I say it – ramen.

For me curry rice has a real home-made feel to it, even if it’s from a restaurant with a vending machine. But curry rice that is actually home-made is even more amazing. Especially when the person who makes your curry shapes the rice into a map of the island of Japan you’re staying in.

Check this out.

Japanese curry rice in the shape of Hokkaido


The Bad

You have probably picked up on this by now, but one of my favourite things about Japan is canned coffee. I love it.

The thing is that canned coffee is, if I’m honest, not very good in terms of being coffee. And yet it is somehow amazing.

And like the curry rice, part of the great thing about canned coffee is the way it looks. By which I mean, the insane over statements that get printed on the cans.

Check this out.

A can of coffee

In case you can’t read it the claim for this particular coffee is,

“Gold Is A Premium Coffee With A Radiant-like Beauty Perfected With Premium Beans.”

Not a single word of that is true. And yet somehow it’s still really good.


The Natto

Again, you may have heard me talk – or rather rant – about natto in the past. I do not love it. For the simple reason that it is nothing more – or less – than condensed foulness.

I would post a photo to prove that point, but it’s hard to convey the depths of the horrendousness of natto through a photo. So I’ve made a video.

However, I haven’t edited it yet, so you’ll have to wait a few days for that.

But if you could watch the video, then you would have picked up that I have a cunning plan to get myself to like natto. Well, I say ‘cunning’ .  .  .  stupid is probably a better word.

See I tend to be quite vocal in my hatred of natto (as with anything, really) and this has caused me to be reprimanded on several occasions by natto-lovers. I have been informed that natto is simply an acquired taste, and that to reach the necessary level of acquirement it is necessary to eat natto at least ten times.

Now I try to be a trusting, outgoing kind of person so I have decided that I will give this ten times natto thing a shot. By my count I have now clocked up five attempts at eating natto, leaving five more bowls of the slimy, smelly skunge before I am able to either eat natto with some degree of enjoyment or not eat it with a clear conscience.


And there you have it: Japanese cuisine making me feel at home in Sapporo.

What about you? Do you have foods that you love/hate about Japan, or anywhere else? Or foods that make you feel like, “Ah, now I am really here!”?


9 thoughts on “Japanese food: the good, the bad, and the natto.

  1. Emily

    Hmm, Natto is something I have never tried and from this, maybe I don’t want to. Then again I will try anything once (Durian ice cream anyone) and want to travel the world stomach-first. Whenever I get itchy feet but can’t just hop on a plane I try to take myself off to a restaurant and pretend I’m not in rainy Cambridge but a café in Istanbul or a Sushi bar or similar. Dumplings are my current food love (pickled onions being a close second) and I have recently graduated from making regular runs to the Dumpling café near the grafton to buying the pre frozen ones and will soon pluck up the courage to try actually make them myself.
    When traveling I’ve often found that cheap street food often the best- maybe because I’m not thinking about the price so much but also because it’s often the only thing they sell and therefore they are really really good at it. The best so far has been a plate of Lomo con Huevo in Cusco, Peru for 2 soles (60p) which consists of a plate of rice, thin noodles chopped and mixed in with beef and onion in a soy sauce mix and topped with a friend egg. The strange thing about some Peruvian food is its fusion with Asian food after there was an influx of South East Asian populations into Peru as part of the Slave trade in the 19th century. On the flip side probably the worst thing I have ever eaten (or tried to eat as it turned out) was fermented shark in Iceland. Imagine eating an eraser soaked in ammonia; and then imagine that in reverse, because it wouldn’t stay down for long.
    The best bit is that there is still a whole world of food for me to try, including curry rice.


    1. levibooth Post author

      Fermented shark? Hmmmm, that sounds like another use of ‘fermented’ when people really mean ‘rotted’ . . . I’m glad I don’t have to try that!

      Totally with you on street food. Although the sensible side of me sometimes freaks out a bit over the approach to food ‘hygiene’ you get in some countries. One of my first experiences in Japan involved a food stand at a festival I had stumbled upon. I then stumbled my way through the needed Japanese to order a couple of doughnuts, and was given an extra one free – I guess either out of admiration or pity, but either way that third doughnut was very tasty!

      In summary, you should definitely come and visit Japan. The food here will rock your world!


  2. sando

    Gyoza and Takoyaki!! I love them so much I could eat a mountain of them. And though I am a big fan of curry rice, for me nothing beats a good plate (or two, or three) of real fresh sashimi. Soba noodles with a bowl of miso soup on the side remains one of my top 5 comfort foods, that’s where I usually go when I feel “homesick” for Japan.

    The things I wasn’t particularly impressed by were that BBQ squid and lamb thing I had in Sapporo but then I only had them once, so… Ramen portions way too big for my little stomach and oden I thought was OK but a bit bland.

    As for natto, I can eat it on toast with cucumber slices on top (try it) or mixed with spaghetti, a good dose of spring onions, soy sauce, some wasabi, daikon or a fried egg.

    There are so many other things though that taste so おいしい and/or that I haven’t tried yet so this list’s order may vary slightly depending on how often I’ll get to visit and try new stuff!


    1. levibooth Post author

      I like the idea of mixing natto with as many other ingredients as possible. My Japanese teacher gave me a few other ideas the other day (including adding sugar!) so I now have a far few natto approaches to try.

      I’m with you on the soba noodles front, but to be honest I am yet to be totally won over by sashimi. Not that I dislike it, just that there’s many other Japanese dishes that I prefer. I guess it’s 「十人十色」 as they say (“to each their own” is the best translation I can thing of).


  3. Anonymous

    Hi Levi I’m leading the service at Headingley this morning and we will pray for you and your fodd issues! Sue Ricketts


  4. Pingback: How a handful of words gave me the joy to keep on track in Japan | Reversed Thunder

    1. levibooth Post author

      Hey, thanks dude. Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of blue cheese either to be honest (and I generally love cheese!). I like your post, it *almost* inspired me to try natto again. . .



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