SUSHI, ANIME, CHERRY BLOSSOMS OH MY!

If I could have dinner anywhere in the world where would it be?

Without a question in my mind.  Japan.

Japan seems like a world of mind blowing stimuli.  All things adorable, kawaii, themed restaurants, Nintendo, bento boxes, shiba inu dogs, tea culture, hot springs, anime, robots, gardens, Samurais, and endless street food?  All the things I love in one place?  My brain can’t handle it.  I’m overwhelmed just fantasizing about it.

Tokyo tops Paris with the most Michelin star rated restaurants.  Not that this matter to me, it is a good indicator of what’s happening though.  Japanese food culture has a distinctive style, attention to detail and the freshest ingredients anywhere.  Small dining spots where you sit at the counter right in front of the chef makes dining a very intimate affair.  American dining has us trained to order meals through servers while the chefs are cooped up in the kitchen and rarely get a chance to interact with the people that is enjoying their food.

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The food in Japan is still a great mystery to me.  Yes, I’ve eaten at hundreds of sushi restaurants here in America, I regularly eat at “hole in the wall” ramen joints in Little Tokyo and can fry up a mean ‘tonkatsu’ on the solo.  But eating at the birthplace of it all seems like almost too good to be true.

Heres a quick guide on how to make your own Tonkatsu at home.
tonkatsu

Food:

Street food in Japan seems like a wonderful thing.  Anytime you see an open flame and some meat on skewers you cant help but get excited.

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Street food never looked more chaotic and colorful.  Just point to the ones that look tasty to you.
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My love of soft serve ice cream is undying.  I will go on a wild manhunt to find the place that sells all these soft serve ice cream flavors.  When I find it I will immediately get fifteen cavities and gain a ton of weight.  Its going to be glorious.  There’s really nothing better than soft serve ice cream.  Nothing.
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Wacky Vending Machines:

So, are you thirsty from all that ice cream?  How about an ice cold beer to quench your thirst?  BEER from a vending machine?  What?  So you mean they actually trust people? I’ll take four for the road please.
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Maybe after several vending machine beers the novelty of “hot” vending machine food would appeal to my drunken tastes.
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I couldn’t talk about Japanese vending machines without adding this picture of a giant Hello Kitty vending machine.
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Nature:

Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu, Japan fairy tale flower tunnel. The gardens are home to about 150 Wisteria flowering plants spanning 20 different species.  This place is truly a visual feast for the eyes.
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The cherry blossoms must be quite the site as well.  This is in Sakura.
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The intricacies and attention to detail in the beautiful tradition.
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Sometimes when I’m sitting in my cubicle at my mundane office job I wander off in my head and daydream about travel. I think about wandering the streets of an unknown place and trying food I know nothing about.  Travel is an exciting mystery you try and solve as you go.  Language barrier is an added challenge but we are lucky in this day and age to have translator technology on our phones.
I like to think I have a plan while traveling but usually its a simple rough draft.  Sometimes getting swept up in the momentum of what’s naturally happening is the true way to go.  Sometimes I like to do a little research on the internet before I leave and map things out a bit but sometimes I’ll find myself on sites that don’t use website translation software and are written in other languages and I quickly go to my iphone or web translators.

It’s nice to hope some people speak English (or Hungarian which is highly unlikely unless I’m in Hungary).  Best thing to do look at sign with pictures on them. Easy to understand food imagery helps.  Besides look at how cute this is!
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Just this amount of cuteness brings a tear to me eye, just like that little onion bear on the bottom row.
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Tokyo has unique architecture.  These apartments look like little doll houses!  So beautiful!
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Sleeper pods.  Efficient and semi creepy.
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Unique stores and restaurants.
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How about the creative genius that is Hayao Miyazaki.  There’s a museum in Mitaka dedicated to Studio Ghibli.
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So back to my original question….If I could eat dinner (or breakfast) anywhere in the world where would it be?

Sushi Dai 

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I stand by my dream to have a fine sushi-for-breakfast experience at Sushi Dai, located just steps from the Tsukiji fish market.  Some would ask me why wouldn’t I choose a Michelin rated sushi establishment?  Or why not at a fancy and sleek dinner in the stylish part of Tokyo so I can bust out my top hat and bow tie?  Me?  No.  I stand by my love of “hole in the walls” and street food.  Some of the finest food in the world are the places that are the most unassuming and modest.  Go where the fisherman go.  I respect a modest place with beautifully tasting food.  After all, Its whats inside that counts.  Fish that is cut with a Samurai-like precision and rice that is kissed by the gods themselves.  Omakase menu, which features 10 pieces hand picked by the talented chefs based on seasonality of the fish.  I like the idea of the chefs choosing what they think is the best for you.  The chefs are the composers of this beautiful symphony that is your meal, in this case my breakfast.  Also the best thing about breakfast is that you have two more meals waiting for you over the rainbow.  Fresh fish out of the ocean sure beats your regular breakfast of Cheerios eh?
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Hell yeah it is.  Just look at this sexy monster.

Helpful websites:
http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/
http://www.yelp.com/biz/%E5%AF%BF%E5%8F%B8%E5%A4%A7-%E4%B8%AD%E5%A4%AE%E5%8C%BA
https://hungryhungarianblog.com/2014/08/14/lets-bento/

Because I have not traveled to Japan (yet) I found all my photos on the web and I sited where I found them below.
photo credits to:
http://udivitelno.com/plants/item/155-tonnel-glicinij-v-japonskom-sadu-kavati-fudzi
http://inlovewithjapan.tumblr.com/
http://www.kawaiistudyjapan.com/
https://www.pinterest.com/

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A PROFOUND KAWAII.

The cutesy or “kawaii” style of art has always put a smile on my face.  I’m just a sucker for inanimate objects with dot eyes and mischievous smiles.

Malaysian artist Suah Wei Hong aka ‘Kuso Design‘ has been creating some amazing work.  Though they may look cute on the outside, these images are simple and profound.  They tell the life lessons of love, loss and family.  Yes, they have cute eyes but they still manage to evoke some strong emotions out of even the hardest heart.  I think the artist was smart using solid background colors to really showcase these characters.

Salmon Roe fight?  Just siblings playing around.
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Mama Salmon cooks all her meals with love.
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What about stressed out daddy Tuna?
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These cookies make me feel all the feels.
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Poor digital camera…another hard lesson taught by the cutest of characters.  Sometimes the newer model isn’t the better choice.  Its just whatever fits us best.
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This image is so simple and yet so compelling.  Loss.  Its a sonofabitch.
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The lesson of patience and birth.
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The lesson of our impending demise.
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Or sometimes its a just a play on words.
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http://kusodesign.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kusodesign

HEY NERD! EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES!

Graphic designer Darkchoocoolat aka Florent Rousseau has been creating some super fun nerdy art.  8 bit fruits and veggies can brighten up my day.  Pop culture anything always sparks my interest.
You should probably eat five fruits and vegetables a day to be in good health.  Its easy when they look this delicious and adorable.
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This health bar is super clever. Not a bad idea if you’d like to see some of your video game characters zombiefied. Something like this would be pretty useful in a game when you’ve died. Plus you gotta think that zombies have different character abilities. Sounds like a fun game to play if you ask me.
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What about everybody’s favorite Mario Bros mushroom? What about all your other favorite characters? The Eye of Sauron, Link, Robocop or Darth Vader? Mushrooms have to dress up for Halloween too ya know.
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Be careful At-At! Banana peels are dangerous.
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Lets not forget about our favorite Breaking Bad scalawag Walter White. Those of us that watched the show know he makes a killer breakfast for Walt Jr so why cant he make a delicious bread?  Actually maybe his bread would taste a little meth-y.
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Here’s the kawaii version of the same print. Besides, we all love inanimate objects with little faces.
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http://www.darkchoocoolat.com/
http://society6.com/darkchocolat

SMILING SPAM AND DISNEY.

Illustrator and character designer Jerrod Maruyama is creating some pretty amazing work.  He’s drawing stuff in the style of kawaii (all things cute and adorable).

like this little TV Dinner
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or this breakfast scene
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Most pop culture icons are subject to his cute-ification.   Breaking Bad, Hellboy, Star Wars and his most popular series,  Disney characters.  I know most of my art postings have been “food illustrations”, but my inner geek is dying to post my nerdy loves.  You have been warned….

I am a HUGE Legend of Zelda fan.
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Pharrell
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Totoro
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Louie CK (fellow Hungarian BTW)
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These Disney characters are cute enough for any adult but would be totally adorable in a nursery.

Dumbo
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Chip and Dale
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Because I cannot post all of his wonderful work you’ll have to take a look at his website yourself.  The little geek inside me gets super giddy when I see his work.  He really captures the spirit of Disney characters very well.  I feel like all of his illustrations has a sweet kawaii feel that I like so very much but also maintains  a minimalist vibe.  All of his character design is very consistent.  Something an obsessive collector (such as myself) goes crazy for.  I mean who could say no to this little smiling spam. Awww….

Little Spam
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(i have contacted the artist to use these photos, hes super nice so please buy his stuff!)

http://jmaruyama.com

LETS BENTO!

Bento boxes are like cartoon foods come to life.   All those adorable little characters, pops of color all placed in tiny little boxes.  Any boring meal could become a work of art.
As I get older it seems as though I am becoming more and more obsessed with everything “cute”.
Kawaii, means “cute” “adorable” and “loveable”.  Seems as though Japanese culture is littered with everything kawaii.   I think if I went to Japan my head would explode from all things adorable. I could hardly contain myself when I go into a Sanrio store and am bombarded with pink and miniature everything.  Too much cute.

Bento boxes that are in the style of kawaii is almost too amazing.  Trying to make food cute?  Yes.  Yes please.   Its like food styling jumped into a big pool of adorable.

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I really respect those moms (and pops) that make little bento meals for their children.  For them to add so much whimsy and creativity into preparing food.  Its really very beautiful.  I really do think this gesture goes deep into the little ones soul more than the parent knows.

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Eating a fun and playful meal that also happens to be nutritious is an amazing gift a parent can give to their child.

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Imagination is such an underused muscle.  Especially if everyone is rushing around this crazy world.  Sometimes its the fine details in life that seep into our subconscious.

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I really respect the art of bento making.   Bento boxes are a sign of care and love. Lots of thought went into the presentation.

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Because we all know we eat with our eyes first.  My kawaii loving eyeballs are already feasting from just looking at these photos.  If I had a meal like this I’m sure I  would enjoy it a million times more if its a little sandwich that looks like Hello Kitty or a rice ball in the shape of Toroto.  S-O    D-A-M-N    C-U-T-E ! ! !

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-i contacted all bento artists for permission to use these photos. you can find them all on instagram or on these sites

@Mdbento
www.flukemonkey.com/bento
@margaret_tatta
margarettata@windowslive.com
@silverleica
www.silverleica.com
@Erikatoh
www.facebook.com/iamerikatoh