Almost 2 months in and I think I’m starting to get a hang of the food here. Sort of.
Whenever I go out I’m still pretty confused by everything. I have no idea how to eat many things. Usually I just wait for someone else to start eating and do that they do. If it’s a group outing I just have other people order things, and then silently blink back the tears as I realize that i have no idea what I’m eating and therefore it is unlikely that I’ll have it again since I don’t know what to order.
But in truth, I don’t eat out all that much. Not even at the cafeteria. I just had my first bento lunch last week, which amazed everyone. I’ve not had tempura yet; I don’t think I’ve even seen a place with tempura. I’ve eaten at the cheap cafeteria about 5 times, almost all of them in the very first week. This confuses many people.
And I can see why, frankly. 300-700 yen for a meal out in town sounds really cheap, especially for Japan. It’s delicious. It’s also ridiculously fattening, sodium filled, and in huge portions (no idea where the “Japanese people eat low-fat small portions” myth started from, but trust me, it’s a lie). If I eat out, it’s only for social reasons; there is just no good reason to do so otherwise. Going out in Japan is crazy expensive compared to staying at home, and food is no exception. Seriously, how do these people get social lives? One coffee at a cheap cafe costs more than a bag of coffee that lasts you a few weeks, one beer in town is roughly 7 beers in the supermarket, and one meal in town is tenfold compared to buying it frozen.
And I’m not talking conbini fast food here. Nor about crazy sales-hunting habits. Not even about being extra picky. You don’t even have to be a good cook. You just have to adapt a bit and voila, everything becomes cheap.
Everything Western is expensive and most likely low quality. I have already accepted the fact that I won’t feel taste of sour cream, cheese or tomatoes again anytime soon. Seriously, this thing was supposed to be sour cream. It was pretty expensive too.
Cheese is low quality and highly expensive (and hard to find); tofu is 45 yen for 350g. Western sausages are 500+ yen for a small kinda tasteless bag; fish sausages are 40 yen a pop. Tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. are 100 yen a pop, and they don’t pack much taste (this is highly subjective, by the way, as people from the US haven’t complained about it much but for someone growing up on a farm they might as well be made of plastic), but cucumbers are pretty damned good. And 200 yen for about 6-7 big ones. Apples are ridiculously expensive (haven’t even tried one because I am *not* paying that much for an apple), but bananas are as cheap 90 yen for a hand. rice averages at 300 yen/kg if you buy it in bulk. 200g of beans is under 100yen. Western pasta is about 200 yen for a small bag, but yakisoba or udon is affordable. Things get really cheap really fast (though it’s ridiculously easy to overdo it). Lots of my meals are less than 100yen, and they’re not exactly cup ramen (had it once; it was like an explosion of salt that left me hungrier than i was before I ate it).
Of course, there is that problem of everything is different to what I know, I live in a dorm room equipped with a single-burner-kitchinette, so I have to relearn cooking from scratch. After a few more-or-less successful experiments with food that I used to know how to make, I’ve decided to redo it from scratch. My cooking style, that is.
(these sarmale cost me a fortune, but they were delicious)
It was a bit weird at first; I still don’t really know what I’m buying half the time. As in, I know what they are but not how to cook them. I recently bought a bag of kintoki beans and spent quite a bit of time googling how to cook them before realizing that they were already cooked and could be eaten as such. They were absolutely delicious, by the way. I’ve basically given up on recipes completely. I just throw some rice in the rice cooker and throw a bunch of stuff on it to see what happens. It’s rare that the result isn’t pleasing. Very not-washoku style, though. I like to joke about how I’ve turned into an everything-is-yasai-itame kinda gal, where I just throw a bunch of stuff together and call it yasai itame to make it sound legit. For the record, every Japanese person that I’ve told this to said that they do the same, but with yakisoba or curry. It’s all good.
That being said, I definitely have a problem. I am fairly sure that I eat more sweets in a week here than I used to in a month. It’s just so easy to go to the conbini and want to try out a new type of pan, maybe some funny looking candy, a new kind of pocky, and get a delicious daifuku while you’re at it. But it really piles up, and I think I’ve built a sugar addiction =/.
By the way, to put everything into numbers…
Money spent on food this month: almost 16.000 yen. 6000 were spent eating out 8 times, 3000 on various ready-made sweets, and the other 7000 on groceries.