', simply meaning ‘I humbly receive’, is what Japanese people would always say when they are about to eat or drink. It's the one thing that I always hear when I’m in japan, and yet, it always manages to surprise me when I hear it is spoken out loud by someone sitting across from me or beside me at a dining table, for I’m yet used to such practice of etiquette.
Being back in japan has always been one of my travel goals. Now that I’m back, there is not one moment where I didn’t appreciate the fact that I was once again able to hunt for food of Japan that I love so much. It can be anywhere; the basement halls of train stations where one may find choices of shops, cafes and restaurants, the basement level of a department store building where one may find tons of food stands and a supermarket, the small street alleys where one may find teeny tiny basement bars, cafes, and restaurants, or the many street side convenient shops and beverage vending machines. ALL are good places to hunt for that authentic eating or drinking experience that you just can't get at home.
One thing I learned in japan when it comes to etiquette is that one does NOT eat or drink while walking. You don’t see people walking around munching or drinking something. When they want to, they would stop at some eatery place or a convenient shop or street side vending machine to do so. When they are done, then they would continue on walking. This is why it’s so damn hard to locate a trashcan on the streets of japan. The same etiquette applies for talking on the phone. NOBODY uses his or her phone while walking. They would step aside and stop somewhere to finish their conversation or texting before they continue on their journey. They even refrain from talking on their cell phone on the bus or train. They are definitely the quietest people I know. And I love them for it.
Though their etiquette is far different from one that I’m accustomed to, I can't help but to love their way of appreciating food. To say ‘itadakimasu’ is equivalent to saying grace. To be thankful for what you about to receive and to be polite to those whom you are dining with. I learned pretty quickly that though the portions of food in japan is far smaller than most international cuisines, their array of choices of accompaniments included in many meals is far more satisfying than just a single large portion of a dish. Another aspect of Japanese cuisine that I appreciate.
For a week and a half I was spoiled beyond belief. Meals alone worth the hassles and exhaustion of a business trip. Not one meal was too much or too little. They always seemed just right. Portion wise, choices wise, flavor wise, and experience wise. I refuse to believe that it was just a typical excitement one gets when traveling. I know now, after several trips to this nation of the rising sun, that I always feel giddy, joyous, and child-like when I’m in japan. And I never feel that same way when I travel to any other country. So, now whenever I find myself sitting in a Japanese restaurant back home and about to eat, I would quietly say to myself ‘itadakimasu’. Just as a quick jog down the memory lane on what it feels like being in japan.
All pictures are just some of the fruits of my culinary adventures in this past trip.