Abalone

The dish that arrived on our table was met with confused feelings of fascination and disgust. Dressed in our yukata, sitting cross-legged under the low Japanese table, we’d enjoyed round after round of incredible food – thin, oily slices of beef that sizzled on a tabletop grill and melted in our mouths; chilled tofu with vegetables and … More Abalone

Onsen city

As we stepped out of the ticket gates at Beppu station, a family was waving enthusiastically at us. We had never met our hosts, but they seemed to recognise us straight away. We were in touch with them through my brother’s girlfriend Ziggy, who had lived and studied in Japan with them a few years … More Onsen city

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is one of my favourite things to eat in Japan, a kind of fried pancake-omelette, based on cabbage and egg, with different combinations of vegetables and meats. It is fried on a teppan, a large hotplate, until both sides are brown and crispy, then served to the plate sliced up with a small spatula … More Okonomiyaki

Hiroshimayaki

When I think of Hiroshima, I think of rattling trams dinging their bells as they trundled down main streets. I think of a sunny, glittering bay filled with boats; a city intersected by canals, inlets and bridges. I think of escaping a freezing winter’s night by heading into a lively restaurant, windows dripping with condensation, … More Hiroshimayaki

Kansai attitude!

A samurai screamed a short, sharp battle cry, and drew his sword to expose the blade halfway from the hilt. The noise caught my attention, and I turned to see the commotion. The tourist walked away, and a new one walked up, also dressed in samurai costume, to join the staff member in full samurai … More Kansai attitude!

New Year’s Eve in Osaka

With a splash, the first crazy reveller jumped into the icy canal from the arching bridge. A laughing cheer rose from the huge crowd in Dotonbori, the centre of Osaka’s entertainment district, a high-rise cacophony of neon billboards, crushing crowds and outrageously decorated restaurants. As the poor, half-naked, trembling human crawled out of the canal … More New Year’s Eve in Osaka

Journey to Koyasan

There was a quiet excitement and sense of mystery as we travelled towards the secluded temple town of Koyasan, taking smaller and smaller trains through rural areas and up into the mountains. It began wending up a high mountain line, past tiny train platforms bulging with tree roots and overgrown with rich green creepers, some … More Journey to Koyasan

City of friendly deer

With big, cute doe eyes, a deer pushed its wet face into my jacket, demanding a biscuit. Its horns had been removed for safety, and instead were left two polished stumps. In Nara’s gigantic, sprawling park, there were hundreds of deer roaming all around. At one point in history, the deer population was considered sacred; … More City of friendly deer

Fushimi Inari

Near the top of the mountain, we walked into a perfect view of Fushimi Inari’s torii gates. We turned a corner, and there it was waiting for us, with no tourists or anything. A long tunnel of vermillion was being illuminated by a perfectly angled sun, turning every gate a different shade of bright orange, … More Fushimi Inari