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Japanese Comfort Food Roadtrip

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I had the amazing good fortune of being able to live in Japan during summers during college and for close to two years after graduating. Really just a profound experience and one of the things I loved the most during my stay - third of course to best friends and second to my girlfriend/now wife - was Japanese comfort food. Kaiseki is nice, but for my money I will always take a good bowl of ramen, donburi, udon, soba, curry katsu and a couple of skewers of yakitori and a cold beer.

I'm returning back to Japan for three weeks this summer on an annual roadtrip with friends and my wife to see the parts of Japan we never got to as broke students. We're traveling to:
1) Nagano
2) Kamikochi Valley
3) Kyoto
4) Osaka
5) Hiroshima
6) Nagasaki
7) Beppu
8) Hakata/Fukuoka
9) Kagoshima
10) Yakushima
11) Miyazaki
12) Tokyo

I take a lot of DSLR, iphone, X100S food photography photos so I'm looking forward to capturing a lot of notes and images from the trip. But I'm really hunting down right now the best - don't miss them if you can - comfort food spots that people dream about after. I don't want to visit fancy spots - really the "locals only" hangouts that excel at just a few dishes.

Help and suggestions would be deeply appreciated! I'll be blogging about the trip on tumblr.

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  1. Not sure how much help you can get here for specifics with such a broad query. I would suggest first checking out the local tourism sites for those places. The Japanese ones are best but many have English. They will usually list what the local specialty foods/dishes are and some will provide lists of local restaurants. You can then cross-reference on Tabelog for which looks best.

    Maybe we can use this thread to also list what the favorites of those places are. I'm just listing comfort food type of stuff off top of my head, not necessarily all the local specialties...

    1) Nagano- soba
    2) Kamikochi Valley
    3) Kyoto- paitan ramen, nishin soba
    4) Osaka- okonomiyaki, takoyaki, kushi age, kitsune udon
    5) Hiroshima- okonomiyaki, shirunashi tantanmen
    6) Nagasaki- champon, sara udon, buta kakuni
    7) Beppu
    8) Hakata/Fukuoka- tonkotsu ramen, tonsoku, motsu nabe
    9) Kagoshima- tonkotsu ramen, satsuma age, pork dishes
    10) Yakushima
    11) Miyazaki- nanban chicken
    12) Tokyo- ramen, curry rice, tonkatsu, yakitori, etc...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Silverjay

      Thanks! Super interesting list - I have never heard of paitan ramen which looks super good and the same for sara udon.

      I'll try to focus a bit more on asking for more specific reccs on the best places to find meals for that in a bit.

    2. If this is a true road trip (i.e. you will be driving), one of my favourite things to do is to go to every highway rest stop and buy really good local milk. Plus specialty snacks. But the milk is what I love the most.

      (not what you were looking for, but a suggestion, nonetheless)

      2 Replies
      1. re: prasantrin

        Thanks - this is a good insight and appreciated! Sadly, we're not driving. Just JR Rail Passing-it for the trip but that doesn't prevent me from getting good local milk in Nagano or elsewhere if we take a bus with a rest stop run.

        What sort of speciality snacks are you think of?

        1. re: luckorchance

          Each major train station now has a pretty huge and diverse selection of local specialty items for sale. Some stations have several shops dedicated to this sort of thing. My suggestion, which is what I personally do, is to arrive early to the station the day you depart and do some shopping.

          I would also familiarize yourself with the song "いい日旅立ち", which has become the official JR West travel song (though I have heard it in other regions, most notably, on continuous loop at Hakodate Station in Hokkaido). It is seemingly unavoidable when traveling in Japan by rail these days, though it is quite a charming tune.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q_AI0...
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOOfmb...