Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

Breakfast of Champions | January 24, 2011

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If you want to live past 50, better lay down your spoon and flush the cereal down the drain. Throw out all the Pop-tarts while you are at it. Japan boasts an average life expectancy of 82.6 years, and it all starts out with breakfast.

Modern Japanese breakfast has become somewhat similar to Western cultures, consisting of boiled or fried eggs and toast. These days even cereals are becoming quite popular. But the traditional breakfast that has been giving Japanese society the strength to endure the never-ending “Salary-man” workdays or the harsh farming and fishing lifestyles is quite different from what you may be used to.

Traditional Japanese breakfast always consists of rice as it is the staple food of the country. Alongside the rice or on top of it you will find various seafood and fermented foods. One very popular and healthy rice topping is “Natto” that I described in one of my earlier posts. These are fermented soybeans, first seasoned with mustard and soy sauce before placing the slimy and smelly clump on the steamed rice. Absolutely disgusting, and will put your adventurousness to the test – until you get used to it. I personally love it. Other seafood items on Japanese breakfast menus include dried horse mackerel, known as “Aji” or broiled salted salmon fish.

“Tamago Gohan” is another Japanese breakfast favorite, and can be easily and quickly whipped up. Take a bowl of steamed sticky white round rice, break a raw egg into it, add some soy sauce, and mix everything up. Consume with strips of “Nori” – Japanese dried seaweed – or specifically “Ajitsuke-nori” for extra flavored seaweed. If that sounds a little too much, perhaps the “Tamagoyaki,” a Japanese version of a rolled omelet, will be more to your liking.

Some prefer to take “Okayu,” a type of congee or thick rice soup, as part of their breakfast. This Japanese dish is very nutritious and easy to digest. Okayu is often served with toppings such as onions, fish eggs, and “Umeboshi” – a pickled plum. “Miso” stock can also be used to flavor the Okayu, though Miso soup is often a component of Japanese breakfasts anyway. The soup includes hooped green onion, tofu, “Wakame” seaweed and numerous herbs.

“Can I at least have my cup of Joe,” you ask? Hey, something has to get you going in the morning, right?


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    About the Author

    Born in Tokyo. Lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined. Author of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen" -

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