Today we’re happy to introduce you to Lena, from Nagoya is not boring, who together with her partner Elisabeth Llopis, is offering food (and other experiences) in the great city of Nagoya. Both of them love this city so much that they are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to show people how amazing Nagoya is. You can support them before it’s too late!!
Thank you for your time today Lena. You know we are real foodies at Arigato Japan as well, and I’m pretty sure this interview will be 99.9% food-oriented…! But, first of all, can you please introduce yourself?
Of course! Hi, my name is Lena and I work tirelessly at promoting Nagoya to foreign visitors through Nagoya is not boring and the food tours I run in the city. I am originally from Germany but have been living in Japan for over 5 years.
I used to work as an IT consultant in Tokyo, but I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy working for a Japanese company, and I am also not a big fan of Tokyo. The city is just too big, loud, and crowded for my taste.
So, after 3 years of living and working there, I quit my job, and together with my boyfriend (now husband), I went on a 1 year trip around the world.
During my travels, I participated in lots of food tours and realized that such tours are the best way to get to know a new place. This is where I got the idea of starting my own food tour business once back in Japan. We decided to move to Nagoya after our trip and I started offering my first food tour in October of 2019.
How long have you been living in Nagoya and why Nagoya? In terms of food, what do you recommend to try there?
I moved to Nagoya in July 2019 after my trip around the world. My husband is originally from Aichi and so it seemed like a natural choice. After living here for over one year I couldn’t be happier. The city is big but not too big and the location in the center of Japan is perfect for someone like me who likes to explore everything Japan has to offer.
Nagoya is absolute foodie heaven, but many foreigners aren’t aware of this fact. The local cuisine is called Nagoya Meshi and there are roughly 20 dishes that you can find only here in and around Nagoya.
To first time visitors, I always recommend trying something with Red Miso the fermented soybean paste so popular in Nagoya. Dishes such as Miso Nikomi Udon (Udon noodles stewed in red Miso soup) or Miso Katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet in a Miso sauce) are incredibly flavorful and perfect for anyone who has ever complained the Japanese cuisine is too bland.
You are offering a Nagoya food tour for foodies. Can you please let us know about this? How do you choose the places you go to?
We are currently offering two different food tours in Nagoya. The ‘Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour’ introduced travelers to the local cuisine. During this tour, you will get to sample different local dishes at 4 restaurants as well as other snacks at stops along the way. The tour takes place in Sakae, the downtown area of Nagoya with shopping and nightlife opportunities around every corner.
The second tour is a ‘Street Food Walking Tour of Osu’. Explore the Osu Shopping Streets one of Nagoya’s most popular areas. Snack on the best street foods, local specialties as well as National favorites and learn about the local history as well as the finer points of the two major religions in Japan.
I chose my food stops by asking locals for recommendations, browsing the internet, and of course eating my way around the city. I choose the places not only because of their delicious food but also their story, the friendly owners, or their importance in popularizing the dish.
Why would you recommend travelers to join a food tour when they visit Japan? (or any other country in general)
When I think back to all the amazing experiences I had during my year traveling around the world, I remember the food tours most vividly and fondly. Experiencing a city through its food is simply the best way to get to know a new place. Especially when you aren’t too familiar with the local food, don’t know what and how to order, or how to eat whatever you are being served.
Especially in Japan, there is usually a fascinating story behind each dish and a special way to eat it. You can only truly understand Japanese cuisine if you have a knowledgeable guide. So I highly recommend to everyone to join a food tour while in Japan.
You started to offer online experience as well, can you please tell us about it?
Yes, we have started offering our very first food related online experience. It is an ‘Ogura Toast Online Experience’ and introduces participants to the local Nagoya breakfast dish called Ogura Toast and the breakfast culture in and around the city.
Even without traveling to Japan, you will be able to make your own Nagoya-style breakfast from Ogura-an (sweet red bean paste, which you can buy at Asian markets or on the internet outside of Japan) and toast.
Hard question here: what is your favorite Japanese food. If you can only eat one dish for the rest of our life!
This is actually a very easy question for me to answer. For the longest time, my favorite dish was Sushi (cliché I know). But when I tried Hitsumabushi, the eel dish from Nagoya for the first time in 2013 I was amazed by how delicious it was. Since then I eat Hitsumabushi every opportunity I get (and it is not a cheap dish to order all the time).
Hitsumabushi is so special because of the way it is eaten. You divide your serving of eel on rice into 4 parts. Serve the first into a separate bowl and enjoy the flavor as it is. Juicy grilled eel with crispy skin drenched in a sweet soy sauce-based sauce with rice. The second serving is seasoned with additional condiments such as Wasabi, Sansho, and green onions. The third serving is turned into an Ochazuke by adding broth and your favorite condiments. And the last serving is for you to enjoy however you like best. Adding broth, or condiments, or simply eating it as is.
With Hitsumabushi you get 3 incredibly delicious dishes all in one, and this is what makes it so special to me. Anyone who would like to try Hitsumabushi and know more about its origin should join my Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour where I go into detail.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I would like to take the opportunity to encourage each and every reader to consider visiting Nagoya. It is a city often skipped over when people travel along the golden route between Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
But Nagoya has so much to offer. Not only the delicious food (of which I hope I convinced you already) but also the fascinating history (it is the home of the three great Samurai who unified Japan), and amazing culture (arts and crafts were developed here when Nagoya was the seat of the Owari Tokugawa Clan during the Edo Period).
You can learn more about these and many more Nagoya-related topics on the Nagoya is not boring website or by booking other not food related experiences there as well.
Thank you for your time, it was great to know more about you and your company!