I knew going back to Japan was going to be fun. For those of you that don’t know, I lived in Japan when I was 11 to 13 years old and I always looked forward to a return trip because it really is one of the coolest countries in the world. The Japanese food, culture, and people are just on a different level from how Westerners operate. My experience living in Japan played a huge part in shaping my formative childhood years so going back was filled with countless nostalgic memories.
The latest trip I took a few weeks back was strictly business and only about 6 days long- which is not enough time in Japan. I knew I wouldn’t have that much time to get out and explore due to work obligations but I tried to make the most of it and check out some great Izakaya and sushi restaurants in the Yokosuka area.
I started my trip flying from Guam to Fukuoka, on my way to Tokyo. I had an hour to kill in Fukuoka so immediately went for some ‘ramen’. “Okay now I’m officially back in Japan”, I thought, after I finished a large bowl of ramen and some Gyoza.
Tokyo to Yokosuka
If you’re considering going to Japan you’re going to rely on the train for most of your transportation in the cities. While riding the train down from Narita to Yokosuka, I forgot how much of a megacity Tokyo is.
Tokyo is unlike any other city in the world when you start comparing it’s size, efficient transport, and cleanliness. But in a lot other ways it’s just another big city with a whole bunch of people.
Disclaimer – I’ll be the first to say Tokyo is okay but doesn’t make it to my top 10 favorite cities list. It does have a lot offer and it’s worth a visit but again, it’s just a another big city. In my opinion, the best of Japan is outside of Tokyo.
I stayed in Yokosuka, a medium sized city 2 hours south of Tokyo on the mouth of Tokyo Bay. It’s home to a large U.S. Naval base but has somehow retained it’s Japanese-ness even with the large presence of Americans.
Yokosuka has its pros and cons. The down side being it’s kind of sleepy at night with not much going on. On the other hand there are tons of amazing little mom and pop restaurants around every corner once you get away from the main drag near the Navy base. I personally love to explore the little Izakayas and Yakotori places on the sleepy side streets in Japan.
Thinking about going to Japan? Here it is: the fool proof itinerary!
If you are thinking of going to Japan and it’s your first time, I’ll give you the basic, fool proof itinerary and some recommendations to make it a trip of a lifetime. 10 days is pretty standard for doing Japan but you could could compress it to 7 days if need be.
Here it is folks! You can’t go wrong with this. And for anybody who has other thoughts, write a comment where you would go instead!
- Tokyo – 3 days, 3 nights – Ginza, Kabuya, Shinjuku, Shibuya,
- Kamakura or Yokohama – 1 day – much better alternative to Tokyo, easy day trip – good start for temples
- Hakone – 2 days, 2 nights – amazing iconic views of Mt. Fuji, “onsens” (Japanese hot spring), and stay in “Ryokan” traditional Japanese house
- Kyoto – 3 days, 3 nights -take bullet train -Fushimi Inari Shrine, Golden Pavillion, bamboo forest, Higashiyama district (temples)
- Nara or Koyasan– 1 day, 1 night – more temples and shrines, deer park
- Osaka – 1 day, 1 night – Osaka castle, Dotondori street
Japan has so much to offer!
The rest of my week in Yokosuka consisted mainly of work and going back to my hotel room to do more work. I was, however, able to enjoy some great lunches at the Japanese curry houses and stopped into one of my favorite rotary sushi places in town.
Seared Salmon Sushi is my favorite!
A couple of my favorite meals from the week included a window shop Izakaya place and then a hole in the wall Yakitori restaurant.
Bacon wrapped tomato Yakitori – AMAZING!
I tried a couple of new things at the Yakitori place and Izakaya that I typically would never think to try if not for my host encouraging me.
One was a drink, called Sochu-hai. Apparently the Japanese like Soju (a Korean liquor) and mix it with Oolong tea (Japanese black tea) over ice. I’m not a huge fan of Soju but it was surprisingly smooth and refreshing. I was told by my host that Soju is less hard on the liver so you don’t get (as) hungover and it’s healthier with the tea. Sure, I’ll buy it.
The other thing I tried was Mostunabe, or Pig Tripe soup (pig intestine). Now, I’m not really a fan of intestine – menudo is okay – but I was told this place was famous for it so I had to try.
It was actually really good and consisted of a delicious miso base. The intestine was almost flavorless and had a soft, chewy texture which absorbed the flavor of the miso base. It was like eating a tofu soup.
An Izakaya is a Japanese restaurant that typically sells smaller plates along with inexpensive side dishes that taste great with drinks. They are kind of like the Japanese version of Tapas bars.
The Izakaya I went to was in a residential neighborhood on a very quiet side of town. You would never even know it is a restaurant as it looks like a house. We ate at the bar and ordered a sashimi plate and Japanese drinking snacks 🙂 “Mama” runs the place and we shared conversation with the other 2 customers, a businessman and Japanese family.
This place served one of the best Sashimi plates I’ve ever had with spread of tuna, octopus, squid, and “Aji”(Japanese Horse Mackerel) Izakaya menu – I just asked for the fish (sakana)
Other bar snacks:
Weird salted mackerel and corned beef dish
Teriyaki potatoes – fantastic!