During our last few days in Japan we were hoping quickly between Airbnb’s. We ended up staying in 3 Airbnb’s in just 3 nights trying to find the cheapest possible accommodation. We were apparently there during one of the holiday’s so there was an influx of local travelers. Prices surged to 1.5x to 2x what we were paying so we had to hop around a bit to avoid paying a lot.
One of the last things we were able to do before leaving was to schedule a cooking class. We selected a Japanese street food class so we could try our hand at creating a lot of the food we had been eating on the street. We met at the designated location for our cooking class and were happy to see that the three people in our cooking class were also Americans. They were from LA and just visiting for a couple weeks. They had recently been in China and were spending 1 week in Japan after their China visit. Since we had such a hard time communicating with anyone at all during our stay in Japan, getting to talk with people from the US was a welcome relief and really helped us enjoy the cooking class that much more.
Our teacher had everything set up for us upon arriving. One of the first thing we did was get ready to make home made noodles. We threw all the ingredients in and started kneading the dough with our hands. This was just the initial phase apparently. In Japanese tradition we took the partially done dough and put in a Ziploc bag. We then put the bag on the floor and started kneading the dough with our feet. Can’t say I’ve put my feet on a lot of the food I’ve eaten so this was certainly a new experience!! Once complete you take the Ziploc back and put it in your pocket. This keeps the dough warm which apparently does something that’s helpful or makes people feel like it’s important.
While the dough was warming up in our pockets, we moved on to making the rest of the meal. We make some Yakitori which is just meat on skewers and started those warming up. We then moved onto the Chopstick Oknomiyak. This is another traditional food found on the street. You create an egg based batter to start out, then throw in a few ingredients once it’s on the grill. Once you put the batter on the grill and add your ingredients, you have to use chopsticks to starting rolling the batter. Ashley was easily the best in our class!
I had just watched everyone do it and it seemed pretty easy! I confidently got started making my dish.
It was all going great until I actually had to start folding the thing over. The batter was going everywhere and I couldn’t get the thing to roll over to save my life. It started tearing and I ended up making the worst one in the entire class. We finished making our noodles and it was time to eat! We were all pretty hungry by then and the food actually turned out pretty well!!
Once the class was over we were led to a shop just 5 minutes away. The shop was a local Japanese knife shop that had handmade knives from all over Japan. Prices ranged from $50/knife to $200+/knife with everything in the shop being at least partially hand made. We had read reviews on the shop prior to the cooking class and they had very positive reviews. Once we got there and started talking to them we figured out why. They weren’t pushy and were extremely helpful in helping us pick a knife. We explained we wanted something pretty mid-level and ended up picking up a knife for $90. For just $15 they would pack it and ship it back to the United States for us so it was perfect for our situation.
One of the best pieces of advice the shop gave us, which we both still remember easily, is that you should never use your knife to cut through something you wouldn’t bite through. Practical advice that’s easy to remember, I like it!
We had our bags with us at the cooking class and move onto our second to last place.
This was the first place we stayed that actually felt like someone’s real home. Many Airbnb’s are set up just to be Airbnb’s. We stayed here just 1 night and then quickly moved onto our next place.
We finished out our last couple nights/days just walking around the Dontonbori area which was nearby.
Final thoughts on Japan
Overall, Japan grew on us a lot as time went on. Everyone in Japan is extremely respectful. I think we heard one person raise their voice above a talking voice and he was the exception and getting glares from everyone around him. Japan is easily one of the safest places I have ever been in my entire life. I feel safer in a city of millions in Japan walking around at night than I do walking down the street anywhere in the US during the day. This is also one of the cleanest cities I have ever been to in my entire life. Despite the fact that trash cans are non-existent in a large city (blows my mind) people do not liter here. I even witnessed a bit of liter which was odd, and as I saw it a random passerby picked it up off the street and put it in her bag and kept going. Amazing.
The main drawback to Japan is the language barrier. You’ll find almost no one local here who speaks English. There was your occasional person who would speak the basics, but generally speaking no one here speaks English. I found this incredibly odd given how often you hear people in the United States talk about Japan and the multitude of articles online referring to travel in Japan. Ultimately, Japan is a fantastic place but it could have been so much more if we could have connected with the local people.