PHOTO ESSAY - japan

You don't even need to chew. It just sits there and melts on your tongue. Like a Quaver, but much much better. This was the best thing I had ever eaten, and Japan’s culinary reputation did not disappoint. The Wagyu beef is cut very thin to allow all the marbles fats to melt, which it begins to do at just above room temperature. Such pride is taken in every dish in Japan, from these high end steaks to the tiny ramen shops underneath the railway lines.

There is obviously far more to Japan than just the food, but it is a very important place to start. Tokyo’s size, scale, and variety of districts takes time to explore and do it justice. The buzz of Shinjuku and Shibuya, the quirkiness of Harajuku, and the serenity of Gyoen park in cherry blossom provides an array of experiences very few cities can match.

While the coffee shops and restaurants are often filled with solitary diners sitting in silence, there is a real buzz about the social scene of Japan’s cities after 5pm. After work drinks is a big part of local culture, which inevitably leads to a loosening of their inhibitions to reveal the funny and inquisitive side of the locals. Wandering the narrow alleyways of Omoide Yokocho in Tokyo or Pontocho in Kyoto gives you a sense of ancient Japan, with the small steamy restaurants call you inside by wafting smells into your path.

If you can resist spending all your time eating, the temples and countryside should definitely be explored, preferably by the brilliant train network. After a lavish lunch in Kyoto, you can quickly zip across the country to find yourself eating seafood for dinner in a tiny fishing village, exploring the quiet sides of this otherwise manic country. Sleep in a traditional Ryoken, stay in a Buddhist monastery, drink chai, and hike the wonderful trekking routes of the Kiso-Ji valley to get away from it all. There is so much on offer, you will need to come back.