Today we’re happy to introduce you to Jessica, a huge fan of Japan and its food! Let’s learn more about her and her “Japanese Food Guide” project.
1. Hello Jessica. We are very thankful for your time today! Being such food lovers ourselves, we are excited to learn more about your blog, but first, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi and thank you for having me. My name is Jessica and I’m a travel writer from Melbourne, Australia. I absolutely adore Japan, it’s where I kicked off my travel writing career, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Tokyo, the place I called home for a decade.
I have a particular passion for Japanese culture and festivals. For that reason I could never dislike the Japanese summer no matter how hot and humid it gets because there is always a reason to dance in the streets!
My husband and I moved from Tokyo back to Melbourne in mid-2019 and a few months later we welcomed our daughter, who we are bringing up to know all about our second home!
2. Why Japan and what made you move here before?
My husband and I first visited Japan in 2006 when we were on a six and a half month RTW trip. We spent two months of that time in Japan – one month traveling to some of the major cities and sights, and one month doing a homestay in Tokyo. It had definitely been my husband’s idea to add Japan to the itinerary, but from the moment we landed we were both instantly enamored by the country.
Of all the countries we visited on that trip, Japan felt not only like a place we wanted to go back to, but a place we could actually live. We had returned from that trip engaged and so we decided that as soon as the wedding was over and we had saved enough money to travel again, we would move to Tokyo.
Like many people who move to Japan, we thought that our stay would probably be one or two years, but – you know how the typical expat story goes – we ended up staying much longer!
3. Can you name one food item that is unique to where you lived in Japan and that you would recommend 100%?. Also for our future travelers to Japan, is there a food you can recommend for adventurous eaters and one for those who prefer to play it a little safe?
It’s not unique to Tokyo, but a dish that I think many visitors don’t know about is shirunashi ramen, which is ramen without the broth. I love this option as it feels less heavy, and you still get the flavor of the broth infused in the noodles. Plus it’s great for summer when you want ramen but don’t really want to be sitting over a hot soup.
I think a lot can feel adventurous when you’re new to Japan. I know it took my palate quite a while to adjust and come to appreciate some of the different flavor profiles I wasn’t used to eating back home, such as various pickled foods and seaweeds.
I think more than a particular food, I would recommend adventurous eaters allow themselves the experience of being “lost in translation” by choosing things without knowing exactly what they are. You might not always get something you love, but you might also discover something extraordinary.
If you prefer to play it safe or you have allergies that don’t allow you to choose blindly, I think okonomiyaki is a universally-loved choice. Fortunately, slowly but surely Japan is becoming more aware of diverse dietary requirements, so vegetarian and gluten-free versions of the dish do exist!
4. Everyone has a special reason for something they started. Your blog is entitled “Japanese Food Guide,” What inspired you to choose that title and begin this project and what is your main goal for what you would like readers to experience on your site?
I wanted the title to be self-explanatory. When I first started blogging, I wrote about lots of different things, which was enjoyable, but I wanted this next project to be more focused and for the title to reflect that. And I felt Japanese Food Guide told readers exactly what the site is about.
The idea came to me during 2020, when the travel industry came to a halt and so did most of my work. I knew that I wanted to continue telling travel stories and to share more about Japan, but with a question mark over when travel would resume again, I decided to concentrate my efforts on explaining Japanese culture through food. It felt like an ideal way to keep that connection with Japan while I can’t physically go back, and create a great resource in the process.
My main goal is for readers to be able to discover things they didn’t know about Japanese food culture so that they can enjoy Japanese food on a deeper level, and expand their understanding of the culture and history that surrounds it.
5. We are only human, so we don’t get excited about everything we do in life, yet there are those special moments when we get ecstatic about our passions. From the work you have done so far, is there one blog post/project that you were most excited about and why?
I think I’m most excited about the team I’ve put together. This is the first time that I have engaged with contributors and it’s been really motivating as things can come together much more quickly. Having that support with content has definitely taken the pressure off me and allowed me to concentrate on other parts of the business too.
With everyone’s different areas of expertise, I am constantly learning new things, so it’s a real joy to see new articles come to life with information that is both helpful and engaging for readers, no matter where they are in their Japan journey.
6. I saw that your posts on area and restaurant guides are focused mainly around Tokyo. Do you have plans to cover other popular towns and cities? Any special place in mind that you have been dying to visit and write about?
Yes, absolutely! The plan is to cover the entire country, from big cities to lesser-known destinations. Right now most of the contributors live in or near Tokyo, and of course it’s often one of the first cities people visit, so it seemed like a good place to start.
One place that has escaped me until now is Kanazawa. I’d love to sample all the local foods on offer at the 300-year-old Omicho Market! I’d have to put Hokkaido on the list as well, as I’ve only spent a short time in Sapporo. I do remember the miso butter corn ramen we tried though, which is exactly as it sounds – miso ramen with corn (and other vegetables) along with a big piece of butter on top!
7. You must have eaten countless Japanese dishes. If you have to choose only one, can you tell us which is your favourite Japanese meal and your favourite Japanese drink of all time?
I had a feeling this question was coming! It never gets easier to answer, but I think I would probably choose katsudon as my favorite Japanese meal. There’s something about the egg enveloping the pork on top of the hot rice that makes it the perfect comfort meal, and my go-to on a cold and wet day.
As for my favorite drink, apart from the staples of tea and coffee, I think I would go with Calpis Water or Calpis Soda – the first in general and soda on warmer days when you just feel like something fizzy. If it’s summer festival time, however, you’ll probably find me with a ramune or the occasional chuhai.
8. Thank you so much for your time. We have learned so much and would love to see more of your work in the future. But before we go, for our dedicated readers, is there any message you would like to share with them?
I would tell them that Japanese cuisine is so much more than just food or drink, and you can learn an incredible amount about Japan through understanding its food culture.
I hope you’ll find Japanese Food Guide a useful resource and discover something new that will take your understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture to the next level.
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