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Mar 7, 2012 03:02 PM

Is food in Japan safe after Tsunami? Is traveling Recommended? Also please give restaurant suggestions.

My wife and I wanted to know if you have experience with how japan has dealt with the after-effects of the terrible tsunami. Has travel, tourism, and food been effected? Is it safe to eat sushi, meats, and other things without concern? Please forgive my lack of knowledge about these things, but I just want to make sure we are safe and my wife eats healthy food.

Also if we do go, we will spend 1 week probably in tokyo. If you can provide the best palces for:
Sushi, Kaiseki, Ramen, Yakitori, Horumon, Tempura, Breakfast, Modern Cuisine, and anything else you think we should not miss! Food is our passion and I would not say that "money is not an option" but we are willing to spend for lifetime experiences!

Ps. We were in japan for 2 days a few years ago and went to molecular tapas bar in mandarin oriental and absolutely LOVED the experience. sitting at a suhi bar and watching the chef make each dish for us was truly an unforgettable thing. thanks!

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  1. judging from the number of posts between march last year and now, i don't think you have anything to worry about.

    as for the "best places", it would help if you can look through the board and come up with a list of places that you would like to eat at. but i'd think that you would receive pretty generic answers even with that list (since these particular items have been covered so many times, maybe with the exception of horumonyaki), unless you have a recommendation that has not been mentioned here before, or a specific item that you want to eat at a specific location etc...

    1 Reply
    1. re: akated

      Thanks I know what u mean...I did do a LOT of searching but the ssheer number of restaurants people suggest is overwhelming. Also I usually use pictures and trip advisor a lot but for some reason the tokyo places have almost no reviews or pics so its much harder to pick.

    2. If you loved the Molecular Tapas Bar at the Mandarin Oriental, you may want to consider Yamada Chikara in Minami Azabu. Caveat - I have never been there, but if you do some Googling you will find some glowing testimonials. The chef apparently worked at El Bulli for a while before opening his own place.

      Dinner is 16K yen per person, unless the price has changed in the past several months.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ruprecht25

        Caveat to what I am about to say: I have not been to Yamada Chikara for a few years, so things may have changed, but it was already very hyped when I went and I found it vastly overrated. The style was actually quite traditionally Japanese with some modern twists, nothing like the Molecular Tapas Bar, just not that amazing Japanese food with a small number of nods to modern techniques.

        For 16K you can do a lot better in Tokyo. Given the hype one of my bigger disappointments in Tokyo over the years. There was lots of food, no question about that, and they make a real effort. The problem was that it just wasn't particularly good. Emperor had no clothes, just like Creations de Narisawa. The sashimi was particularly poor.

        ruprecht25 - if you have not been, I wouldn't bother.

      2. If you find the information in this forum overwhelming (it can be), buy the Michelin Guide. It's a reliable guide and it will cover your sushi, kaiseki, yakitori, tempura, splurge meal and even horumon with pictures and info on price etc. If you liked Tapas Molecular Bar for this reason, you definitely should have your lifetime experience at either a top sushi-ya or a kappo kaiseki, where you can sit by the counter. I liked my meal at TMB a lot, but the intimacy of a small restaurant, like Koju (my favorite), is even better and something almost exclusive to Japan.

        I was in Tokyo at the end of last year and tourism and everything were absolutely normal. If it wasn't for some lights turned off at stations and vending machines, I couldn't say anything had changed at all. As for the food being safe of radiation, no one knows for sure. That particular region (Ibaraki) produces, or used to produce, a lot of food in Japan...

        1 Reply
        1. re: babreu

          Is the food safe in Japan ? The only thing I can say is that it is alright, as Tokyo's  water supply is controlled every day. Restaurants have been questionned about their products by customers(some families are more concerned!), and so they are  conscientiously doing their job... But I still am a little glutton, it is always more, even if I am careful I eat a variety of food and  I still eat sushi.. My last visit was last week at Ginza Suskiyabashi, Jiro-san is 87 years old, and very stylish..
          My recommendations, after for your trip, to taste a little of everything, I have made a list here below with the links (print the map, look at the food pictures if they appeal to you) :
          - soba Nigyou, one star Michelin (station MitsukoshiMae), recommended lunch set is 'o-shibori', you can add tempura :

          - nabe(=hot pot) of tofu (station Akabanebashi) :

          - tempura Mikawa (station Monzen-Nakacho), one star Michelin also :

          - sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza, 3 stars Michelin :

        2. For a short trip it should be safe (it's not likely that you will get individual food items that are massively contaminated). Living here is probably less safe - chances are you eat food on a regular basis that has been subjected to contamination above the legal limit (which limit itself may or may not be dodgy - there are widely divergent views amongst the experts, and I am no expert so don't have a clue what is most likely to be the correct information) and there is obviously a cumulative effect of regularly ingesting contaminant.

          The more you find out about the situation the more worrying it is. There has been substantial cover-up by the government, but worse than that is the fact that many things that are being done which help spread contamination in Japan are perfectly legal and part of the government's strategy.

          To give some examples, these are some of the issues that have been reported:

          It is legal and was in places even encouraged to blend uncontaminated milk and butter (and other products) with contaminated items so that at the end the blended product is just below the legal limit (but still contains 1000x more contamination than the non-contaminated or barely contaminated product had). Highhly contaminated soil from Fukushima was worked into fertiliser (following encouragement to the effect by the government) which was sold around Japan, which means that your healthy vegetable from Kyushu which was not particularly affected by radiation may now be radioactive courtesy of Fukushima fertiliser. They are incinerating radioactive waste from Fukushima all over Japan (where I am, Tokyo Bay) to spread the joy. Some vegetables that have been declared "safe" following testing were first cleaned on the instruction of the government, then tested. Why is this relevant? The contaminants were often at the surface and were thus cleaned away before testing, so the test results were fine. The rest of the batch went on to be sold in other places around Japan and was not cleaned at source. The result is that the contaminants can seep inside the vegetable and consumers might therefore end up ingesting contaminants from a batch that was declared safe. When testing certain items in the ground, testing was mandated at a certain depth, but most of the contamination would have been at or near the top so while the tests may come out fine, there is no guarantee that the relevant food item is not contaminated in certain places. When the central government tested certain areas, the affected prefectural governments demanded to know the degree of contamination in their area. The government refused to tell them, simply informing them that it is safe and that is all they need to know. Generally speaking, the way people in the affected areas have been treated by the government, especially those asking many critical questions because they were concerned about the safety of their children, has been appalling. As a result, many people have completely lost trust in the government.

          The degree of cover-up and incompetence is beyond belief. There is no accountability as the country is essentially run by the bureaucrats rather than the politicians. Many of us living here simply choose the head-in-the-sand approach or read Japanese newspapers where the self-censorship lulls you into a false sense of security.

          We are at home here so don't want to leave. (Plus what if the experts are right who say that low level radioation is much more harmless to human health than previously thought - e.g., see a book called "Radioactivity and Reason" by Prof Wade Allison...). My wife and I buy our food from cooperatives that measure all products for the relevant contaminants, but that still doesn't tell you where the food in the restaurants was sourced. I am ignoring the issue in restaurants (many of which, especially the cheaper ones, don't know where their vegetables originate) and hope that the damage caused to humans by extended exposure to certain contaminants through ingestion is not as bad as some experts say, because if it is we're in real trouble. My baby daughter gets zero food from Japan, there are enough imported food stuffs available and we make sure that is all she eats.

          It might all be OK; the point is though that nobody knows. The experts admit they don't know. And the government does what it can to make people feel safe, cover things up and devise rules that reduce the economic impact on the Tohoku region and Japan overall, which seems to be a priority ahead of containing the problem to the extent possible in the affected prefectures and preventing a spread throughout Japan. It may be that this tactic will prove to have been the correct one, but we will only know many years down the line when the impact or lack thereof on cancer rates etc becomes apparent.

          On the plus side, water - at least in Tokyo - really does seem to be safe.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Asomaniac

            Yes, there has been some conflicts between prefectural politics, and it cause unfortunately many bad rumors that nothing is done. How many persons think that one year after nothing more is done ? In fact, it is the contrary, the Ministry of Health worked at it. Even, they are doing the best to implement their safety rules

            Ministry of Health link page :
            Limits on Radionuclides foods, after on year will be settled to new standards from April 01st, to 200bq to 50bq for milk and derivatived products, and for other products to 500bq to 100bq (refer pages 3 &13)

            Even the test is spottly, they occur at Supermarket, at Tsukiji, and they will have to follow the new regulation (ex. TSUKIJI Market


            After, even i won't recommend food at the Family restaurants, they list the provenance of their food products, and tofu soy is usually from the US...

            So just to say; it is not perfect, they still work on it,... and i do not eat anymore one - two sushi per week but it depends more of what you believe..

            1. re: Ninisix

              I am afraid I have to respectfully disagree. The Ministry of Health (though my no means exclusively that ministry) has been criminal in their neglect and incompetence. Hard to see how they will rebuild trust by lowering limits a year on, having for example declared Fukushima milk to be safe a week after the quake and retracting after many thousands of people drank it and the damage was done. The declarations by any Japanese government entity should be taken with a massive pinch of salt.

              Official announcements are designed to calm people's fears and give the impression that things are being done. Implementation is what matters, and I have not had any reason yet to think that suddenly things will improve on that front, a year on when as a direct result of government policy much damage has been done outside of Fukushima that is irreversible.

              Given that I live here and will continue to live here, I am really trying to believe things are being handled well or at least adequately, but unfortunately the evidence points in a more disturbing direction. If you want to see how things really look on the ground, talk to parents in Fukushima who have been asking critical questions; they get stone-walled at best.

              1. re: Asomaniac

                p.s. The link is interesting, thank you for providing it. Do you know if the ministry has any detailed guidelines on implementation as well?

                1. re: Asomaniac

                  I do not have the truth about it, but I look more on Internet than news !! And I do understand you preoccupation about your baby daughter (8months old, right?)!! 
                  Last year, it showed us that the prefectural politician have more power than the deficient actual politic government, and all the difficulties came from that said prefecture like the green tea in Shizuoka, where 90% of the 'shin-cha' come from. So this was good business until the tests, the prefecture refused to stop, then the tea was refused to sell in France, then in Japan slowly.. And the Ministry of Health, just in my opinion, has some tests on Supermarkets, and these new rules are for babies so schools will have to do so.. as I heard so !