General Tokyo &
If you've got any kind of food allergies or special needs, it is essential that you let the organizers know so we can run food interference for you.
Japanese cuisine is soy-, rice- and fish-based. This makes it taste and smell really different, fundamentally, from most Western cuisines. Most sauces, for instance, are made from a fish/seaweed stock called dashi (occasionally shellfish-based, too, from clams or shrimp) and have soy products in them. The stock for ramen noodle soup is usually pork-based, sometimes chicken. If you have allergies or objections to any of those main ingredients, you'll have to be very careful about what you eat. There aren't a lot of truly vegetarian options, either - though they do eat a lot of vegetables and tofu, it's often with meat or fish, and usually has dashi in the sauce - so if you're a strict vegetarian, let us know that, too - and be prepared not to have a lot of choices available to you. (Even though Buddhism is common in Japan, and Buddhist monks are usually strictly vegetarian, there are very few practising vegetarians, in my experience, anyway. People will frequently simply not understand what you mean if you say you don't eat any meat or fish.)
If you have time before you go, I'd strongly suggest going to a local Japanese restaurant and trying some things. Really, let me say that again: go eat some Japanese food somewhere, and see what you like. Americans have a reputation in Japan for being fussy eaters, but mostly it's because the tastes and textures of food over there are just so different from much of Western cuisine. People don't like a lot of "surprises" in their food, it turns out. If you can find a few things you know you like, you'll be much happier navigating menus, trust me.
Also, if you're a big fan of sweet things for breakfast, be prepared to be a bit nonplussed by the traditional Japanese breakfast if you stay at a traditional inn somewhere. It usually consists of rice, fish, pickles, and some simmered vegetables and tea. It's possible that there will be a tiny egg omelet involved if they're trying to cater to your Western tastes, and possibly coffee. There will be no danish!
There are local supermarkets, of course, and we can hunt one up and help you find things. (When you're illiterate, it is occasionally hard to tell if you're buying laundry detergent, rat poison, or, say, instant creamer for coffee.) There are, also, a multitude of convenience stores that sell all sorts of prepared foods that you can keep in the refrigerator. Once you can figure out what you like and/or do not have problems eating, it can be an easy and inexpensive way to grab a quick bite, and is what I generally suggest everyone do for breakfast.
If you anticipate not being all that thrilled with some of the food, I'd suggest bringing along some kind of packable emergency food you like - sports bars, other kinds of instant food, etc. That way, if for some reason a meal isn't too your liking, at least you won't be too hungry until we can help you find something else to eat!
Tanteidan Guide Home
copyright 2014 Anne R. LaVin