Bucket list Japan: 10 magical ways to experience japanese cuisine

Bucket list for Japan

From street food during cherry blossom season to open a cold Japanese beer after world-class skiing. Culinary experiences add a golden touch to your adventure, in environments you will never forget. This bucket list for Japan has something for those on a lower budget and for those looking for a luxury trip.

Here’s your bucket list for Japan with ten amazing places, with ten different ways to experience Japanese cuisine. Read, taste, and enjoy your meal.

Wagyu in Tokyo

This vibrant capital is filled with delicious bites. Not just in terms of fashion, but of course also when it comes to culinary experiences.

While walking the streets with neon signs, you can find both traditional and experimental things to taste. In this city, known for sustainable fashion and karaoke bars, you can start by trying Japan’s version of Italian carpaccio. Wagyu carpaccio should be ordered if you want something that melts in your mouth. Want to step outside your comfort zone? Then you can always try a restaurant with various skewered offal. Otherwise, sushi is an obvious choice, after all, we are in its homeland.

After you’ve chosen from the above, it’s time to stroll through the city’s hustle and bustle – towards a peaceful garden. In the middle of the city lies Hibiya Park, with lots of rose varieties and other flowers when the season allows, which is also close to several food markets. Buy something delicious from Tsukiji Outer Market or a sweet treat from a nearby café, sit in the garden, and enjoy!

An Asahi on the stratovolcano Asahidake

We move on to the skier’s paradise. Hokkaido is a world-famous dream for those seeking powder skiing. Food tastes best outdoors, and that rule shouldn’t be broken in Japan, right? So, here’s how the culinary experience could be maximized in Hokkaido in winter:

During the night, there has been a substantial dump of snow, the wind has calmed down, and the ski gear is prepared. Rent or bring your own equipment to take a ski trip, because now we’re heading towards Mount Asahidake. With its height of over 2200 meters, this active stratovolcano is the highest in Hokkaido. This area is not like a regular ski resort; here it’s all about backcountry skiing. For those who are eager to ski in knee-deep snow during the winter months but are not used to adventuring on touring skis, you can join a guided tour in the area. It’s a thrill to head out and create lines in the deep snow, but safety is of course paramount. Make sure to have the right gear and knowledge before heading to Asahidake.

And for the sake of it. Don’t forget to go to a supermarket and buy Asahi, the beer that means sunrise in Japanese. An Asahi to celebrate with on the trip to Asahidake. It’s unbeatable to open one of these after a unique nature experience in Japan. A definite point for the skier’s bucket list.

After an unforgettable day, you’re surely hungry. Near Asahidake, there are several of Hokkaido’s food-filled towns. Do you want an example of the ultimate food day? Check out the next point, Sapporo (3.)

Sapporo

Sapporo is also part of Hokkaido. Is outdoor adventure your thing? Then this city is worth your time. If we stick to the cold season, there are many ways to cozy up in this beautiful snow-covered city. After a day of skiing, there are nearby hot springs to bathe in, and a big plus is that some hotels offer hot springs too! This also works well after a hike in the summer.

Warm up there or try a Hokkaido-style curry soup. Once you’ve warmed up, this place is also known for fantastic treats like ice cream and chocolate. In winter, there is also a Snow Festival with lots of food stalls in February. If you happen to match the dates, put on (many) layers of clothing and head out to fill your belly after adventures in the snow.

Eat traditionally during blooming Hanami

When cherry blossoms bloom, Hanami begins – the festival that celebrates the arrival of spring! Put aside your country’s food traditions and instead try the food at Hanami in cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. See where the flowers bloom when you’re going to Japan during the spring season and make your way there to celebrate.

The most common thing during the festival is to celebrate with a so-called Hanami Bento Box, which can contain everything from rice balls, sushi with various fillings, or small Japanese-style sandwiches. You can order the boxes at restaurants or go to a supermarket to buy them on your own. Then finish with a traditional sweet from cherry blossom season – Sakura Mochi. If you don’t feel like arranging your own food, no problem, this festival is full of food markets.

After a peaceful picnic or visit to a food stall, you can take a stroll through craft markets, enjoy Taiko Drum Performances, or find a Hanami fest at a karaoke bar. A unique and genuine Japanese experience during your trip.

Kyoto – the Japanese tea city

In this tea city, you feel the wings of history, with proximity to magnificent nature and plenty of experiences combined with food. Here you can take a cooking class or participate in a traditional tea ceremony – which is perfect when the city is known for its high quality of this warm drink. Perhaps a matcha at one of the city’s matcha cafes? If you want to try some local dishes, you can also visit Nishiki Market.

From Kyoto, you can also combine a unique boat trip with a unique snack. By booking a boat trip just outside the city, you can ride along the Hozugawa River for two hours, to eventually reach Arashiyama, a very popular bamboo forest to visit. The journey there is an adventure in itself, and if you’re lucky, there’s a food boat waiting in the water along the way. Buy a dango (Japanese sweet dumpling served as balls on a skewer) or another snack they sell at the floating lunch spot and then continue your journey. Upon arrival, a romantic walk awaits you in the old bamboo grove in Arashiyama. If you want even more adventure than a boat trip, you can also book rafting on the river.

Food with Hiroshima-style

Hiroshima is a place most people have heard of, and it’s understandable that tourists want to get to know this port city. The stories, memories, and peace monuments after the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb here in 1945 are, of course, reasons why people come here. Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park in central Hiroshima, Hiroshima’s “Peace Memorial Museum,” and Orizuru Tower are some examples associated with it.

This destination makes you want to travel, walk, and cycle around quite a bit to see everything – so what does that entail? A chance to discover food with Hiroshima-style, as the place puts its own touch on everything from sushi to noodles.

Hiroshima is known for Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake with layers of everything from noodles and cabbage to various toppings. After trying this, you can cycle on the relatively flat terrain, head to a grocery store, and buy an edible souvenir – the sweet treat Momiji Manju. Inside the soft dough hides various options of flavors. Which one is your favorite? Chocolate, matcha, or cheese cream?

Catch your own meal on the Japanese coast

Along the Japanese coast, north and south, there are fishing trips to embark on. On the beautiful Izu Peninsula lies Shimoda, where you can go on a booked fishing trip, bring back the catch, and have it cooked at a restaurant. Of course, this is just one of many places, as there are literally a sea of opportunities. Another example from the north is catching tuna in Hachinohe, while taking in the city’s stunning environments. Choose your fishing spot and check it off your bucket list.

Feel like a water adventure can’t fit in? Then you can always swing by a market along the coast – Japan has something for all seafood lovers!

Fishing is, of course, not for all seasons and not allowed for all places, so make sure to check the rules and dates for where you’re going.

Okinawa

Okinawa is one of Japan’s prefectures. Here, there are plenty of subtropical islands to discover. Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu Islands, which have several specialties in the kitchen. There are Ryukyu restaurants with a historical and traditional serving, inspired by both China and Southeast Asia. If you want to keep the budget down, you can always buy something from a food market or grocery store for a picnic by the water. Want to be somewhere in between? Buy a local Okinawan beer or go to a farm to pick fresh mangoes or passion fruits. Okinawa is one of the blue zones in the world.

Sunrise and snacks in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Do you want your adventure to consist of fewer luxurious restaurants and more food experiences in nature? Well, it’s just as good to go out on your own! Just as we concluded in the winter (2. Hokkaido), there is something unique about eating outdoors. Japan offers lots of cool snowy adventures, but there’s just as much in the summer – so let’s look at that.

In this country, a picnic can be unforgettable by visiting one of the many national parks for a hike. In Fuji-Hakone-Izu, there is the super-famous Fuji, the mountain that nature lovers wish to experience once in their lifetime.

Pack Onigiri (rice balls), nuts, instant noodles, and of course plenty of fluids – to set out on one of the trails. The most popular is the Yoshida Trail. It’s a well-developed trail that many want to try, but is therefore also well-tried. Just climbing Fuji is a very long hike, as it takes 5-7 hours up and at least 3 hours down. At the same time, it offers an unbeatable panoramic view when you reach your goal. There are also mountain huts, Mt. Fuji Mountain Huts, which can be a good option to stay on the mountain. Here you’ll also find everything from curry soup to ramen to fill your belly after a demanding hike. The prices are higher compared to earlier shopping, but maybe it’s worth it for a night on one of the world’s most famous mountains?

Of course, there are many more national parks and easier trails to discover. Choose the one that suits your level, buy some local groceries, and get out there! Let the food taste among the mountains!

Ps. Just as with all outdoor excursions: Make sure to check the weather, equipment needed, and other safety aspects.

Osaka – food high up in the sky

Finally, we return to city life. In the country’s third-largest city, Osaka, there is the Umeda Sky Building, a 40-story building filled with everything you can imagine. The main reason people come here is to visit the building’s observatory, the so-called The Floating Garden Observatory on the top floor. Here you also have your place for the ultimate date. Have a drink or coffee at the café overlooking Osaka, then fasten a heart-shaped lock for your love on “The fence of vows”.

When you’re done with the heights, you can descend to ground level again, and then find the Kitashinchi district, where you should try a traditional meal from the Kappo kitchen. Kappo consists of many small meals, where the chef’s craftsmanship is in focus. The food usually contains seasonal ingredients, which are placed on the plate with precision. In addition, the restaurants are appreciated for their cozy atmosphere – not a bad place to add to your bucket list.

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