Back to Japan (gosh, it seems like a lifetime ago) to give you all a little sample of the food, as a few people have been asking!
As a child I was a fussy eater, no, I am pretty certain I was an impossible eater and had an appetite the size of a sparrow. To me a salad was a plate of lettuce, the only vegetable I would eat was a pea, carrots would be eaten raw but not cooked, eggs scrambled but not made in any other way and my mum's scotch broth had to have a pea in every spoonful or I wouldn't eat it. So, many would say it was a miracle that I grew up to be a lot more adventurous..or indeed that I grew up at all...in the past I've eaten many things I would never have considered eating before (and I am sorry if I offend any vegetarians out there): mussels, crab, horse, rabbit, wild boar, sea urchin, octopus, squid....... but Japan had even more weird and wonderful concoctions to consider (all descriptions clockwise from top left):
1. Noodles with vegetables, Takayama; 2. Chocolate filled pancakes, Takayama; 3. Stuffed dough buns, Miyajima
1. Fish sticks, Miyajima; 2. Chanka nobe, the food of sumo wrestlers, Yudanaka; 3. Handmade fruit lollipops, Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo; 4. Oysters, Miyajima
1. One of the many vending machines; 2. Okonomiyaki - from Osaka/Hiroshima area - a pancake made of flour and cabbage with dried fish flakes; 3. Me with my okonomiyaki; 4. Soba noodles as sushi; 5. Shrimp noodles
1. Nishiki Food Alley - Kyoto's Kitchen; 2. Sushi lollipops; 3. Pastries; 4. Bread & Cakes, Kyoto; 5. Vegetables, Kyoto
1. Fresh sushi rolls, Kyoto; Sweets - including matcha covered bracken starch, Nara; 3. Buffet food, Kyoto - fried burdock, sushi with brown algae - ugh, seaweed salad; 4. Filled savouries, Nara
1. Fatty tuna (notice crocheted Ninja hiding in the salad); 2. Sake, Obuse; 3. Sushi sticks, Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo; 4. Strawberry sweets, Tokyo
1. Chilli flavoured kit kats; 2. Panda shaped biscuits; 3. Hida beef, Takayama; 4. Plastic versions of dough filled buns, Tsumago; 5. Cheese rolls; 6. Jelly drink (nicer than it sounds)
I loved almost everything I ate, the sweet plums, the sushi, the chicken dishes, the cakes, the cherry blossom flavoured ice cream etc. but there were a few things I could have lived without tasting i.e. the brown algae and sushi, if I hadn't been in a restaurant that would have been spat back out on the plate - it wasn't so much the flavour as the rubberised texture or the bracken starch covered in green tea powder or an entire cone of black sesame ice cream!!
Restaurants in Japan were numerous and it was amazing how cheaply you could eat well, from the numerous restaurants in the station in Tokyo to the cafes in Muji, to the amazing supermarkets and takeaway food stalls.
You should have seen us when we were let loose in a supermarket to buy something to eat for lunch on the train - like rabbits caught in headlights, like mad people running around unable to decide what to buy rushing from one counter to the other, picking up packages, putting them down again......
The basement food halls of the department stores were amazing - full of delicacies and the markets were also a great source of entertainment as we tried to figure out what was being sold.....melons costing $80, 3 strawberries for $10 etc.
All in all, my impression of Japanese food - a wonderful experience, cheaper than we perhaps anticipated, fruit was more of a luxury than here in the UK and food was occasionally luke warm as opposed to hot!