Experiencing a Kaiseki Feast
The ultimate in Japanese cuisine, kaiseki is a feast for the senses and spirit. Consisting of a variety of exquisitely prepared and arranged dishes, a kaiseki meal is a multicourse event to be savored slowly. Both the ingredients and the dishes they comprise are chosen with great care to complement the season. There are hundreds of exceptional kaiseki restaurants in Japan, from old-world traditional to sleek modern; a standout is Kagetsu in Nagasaki. Traditional ryokan also serve kaiseki.
Spending an Evening in a Robatayaki
Harking back to the olden days when Japanese cooked over an open fireplace, a robatayaki is a convivial place for a meal and drinks. One of the most famous is Inakaya in Tokyo, where diners sit at a counter; on the other side are two cooks, grills, and mountains of food. You'll love the drama of this place.
Dining on Western Food in Modern Settings
Japan has no lack of great Western food, and some of the best places to dine are its first-class hotels. The New York Grill, on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, epitomizes the best of the West with its sophisticated setting, great views, great food, and great jazz.
Buying Prepared Meals at a Department Store
The basement floors of department stores are almost always devoted to foodstuffs, including takeout foods. Shopping for your meal is a fun experience: Hawkers yell their wares, samples are set out for you to nibble, and you can choose anything from tempura and sushi to boxed meals.
Slurping Noodles in a Noodle Shop
You're supposed to slurp when eating Japanese noodles, which are prepared in almost as many different ways as there are regions. Noodle shops range from stand-up counters to traditional restaurants; one of my favorites is Raitei in Kamakura.
Rubbing Elbows in a Izakaya
Izakaya are pubs in Japan -- usually tiny affairs with just a counter, serving up skewered grilled chicken, fish, and other fare. They're good places to meet the natives and are inexpensive as well. You'll find them in every nightlife district in the country.
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