When researching what to expect in Japan before my move to the country, a common theme that kept popping up was how amazing the food is. Much like other parts of the world, food makes up an integral part of the Japanese culture and a seemingly lasting impact on tourists who have sampled the cuisine.

My previous exposure to Japanese food prior to my move was limited to what is possibly considered the most mainstream dishes, mainly sushi, ramen, and miso soup.  My expectations were therefore mainly shaped by feedback from people who had traveled to the country. Within my first few weeks in the country, I quickly came to realize that the cuisine is indubitably vast and exciting, and that meticulous attention to detail and careful presentation are undeniably critical elements. The preparation is also varied, and I have so far sampled simple traditional food and interesting international fusions. One thing that is evident is the pride the Japanese have in the food that is locally sourced and produced. Rice, which has been a staple food for over two thousand years, is one of the main accompaniments for most dishes, and has many popular variations, including onigiri (small parcels of rice wrapped in seaweed), kayu(rice porridge), mochi(pounded rice cakes), omurice(plain egg omelet draped over rice cooked with tomato sauce), just to name a few.

Another staple is fish, with fishing villages doting islands all over the country, and the Japanese seem to have tried every possible method of preparation under the sun. In true Japanese fashion, they have innovated the presentation and eating experience, and unique experience can be had in one of the numerous conveyor-belt sushi restaurants, locally known as kaiten zushi, located all over the country. Meat is also another staple, with Kobe beef a globally renowned delicacy, and the price a clear indication of the superior quality. For the vegetarians, fear not, as there is a plethora of vegetables and vegetarian dishes on offer in the country. One experience that is different from its counterparts in the west, is the popularity of family restaurants, which surprisingly offer good service, delicious food options, and great value. All in all, I am fully sold on how special the Japanese cuisine is, and every meal is a further dive into the colorful Japanese culture.