Gliding into the forefront of train travel in 1964, the bullet train, or Shinkansen, has continued to wow the world with its blistering speed and soundless stealth ever since. Now linking the very north to the south, the Bullet Train has become the reliable backbone of Japan, joining the rural to the cosmopolitan in the blink of an eye. Snaking its way across Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago, the bullet train rattles up and down the country at a staggering speed of up to 320km an hour. As synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun as Mount Fuji, sumo or sushi, the bullet train is arguably the only way to travel in Japan.
Japanese cuisine has taken the world by storm. And whilst sushi bars revolve their way around eateries in cities across the globe, the original home of this deliciously fresh and seasonal delicacy is a culinary force to be reckoned with. With its humble beginnings in street food, sushi has earned its stripes in haute cuisine and now claims many a Michelin star in decadent eateries across Japan and further afield. You only have to watch a sushi master chef in action in Japan to see why. Japanese food is an art form, it is an intrinsic part of the country’s cultural identity and motivation enough to visit.
From the depachikas, or food courts, of Tokyo, to its famed Tsukiji fish market, the capital is a culinary superpower. Navigate the sprawling maze of the world’s largest fish market before trying your hand at mastering the art of sushi making. Or, visit a station tonkatsu restaurant after a sake brewery tour to really get to grips with the cuisine of Japan. Elsewhere, head to the very north of the Japanese archipelago, Hokkaido, for the freshest seafood you can imagine or seek out the supposed anti-aging qualities of the delicacies of the south.
Yet, Japanese food is not all nigiri and sashimi. Ramen holds the top spot as a late night Japanese meal whilst soba noodles are a staple of Japanese cuisine. Experiencing the elaborate fanfare of Kaiseki, a procession of small dishes presented meticulously on exquisitely decorated crockery or witnessing a tea ceremony make for truly authentic Japanese experiences.
Japan, the land of binaries, straddles both the traditional and the modern in all walks of life. There is nowhere better to see mix of new and old Japan than in its cuisine and with more Michelin starred restaurants to its name than any other country in the world, it is no wonder travellers come from far and wide to sample its culinary fare. In 2013, traditional Japanese cuisine was given the nod by UNESCO and awarded heritage status, the perfect adage to a national cuisine which has cast its spell over foodies everywhere.
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