Japan's Good Eats, Sweet Treats

 A Japanese tea ceremony to calm the mind

A Japanese tea ceremony to calm the mind

Japan's singular culinary experiences that will make you swoon

 Buddhist cuisine is simple yet flavorful. 

Buddhist cuisine is simple yet flavorful. 

One of the best parts of traveling to far-away places is the opportunity to broaden my palate a bit, trying something that I could probably never replicate in my own kitchen. It's those singular culinary experiences that had me steadily swooning in Japan. Here's a mere taste of my adventures in good eats ...

After touring Yokohama's Kotokuin Temple and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, a lunch of Buddhist cuisine or shojin ryori  seemed most appropriate. I'm not sure if the custom has anything to do with Buddhist belief but, as an aperitif, we were served a small serving of plum wine in a ceramic cup. The arrangements of seasonal veggies and soy protein appeared modest, but packed a ton of flavors in every bite.

If you love sushi, Tokyo will smile upon you. I snapped this photo of my "dessert" course at the ninja-themed, contemporary restaurant, Ninja. Not only did I have sushi for dessert, that morning I also had it for breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market.

 Um, dessert, anyone?

Um, dessert, anyone?

Prior to having matcha or green tea during a Japanese tea ceremony, it is common to receive a plate of sugary sweets to offset the bitterness of the tea. These adorable cubes tasted pretty much like pure sugar, but with a red bean filling. Look closely and you can make out an intricate design of the three-story pagoda in Sankeien Park.

 Too pretty to eat.

Too pretty to eat.

Tempura is another staple for the first-time visitor to Japan. It comes in most bento lunches, and some restaurants, such as Sansada in Asakusa, serve nothing but tempura entrees.

 Frying vegetables at a high heat can actually help lock in the nutrients...or at least I like to tell myself that.

Frying vegetables at a high heat can actually help lock in the nutrients...or at least I like to tell myself that.

Soft serve ice cream of all flavors, such as green tea, plum blossom and vanilla are found in most high-traffic tourist destinations in the Kanto region. Depending on the prefecture’s most popular agricultural crop, you could be walking around with a cone of wasabi-, sweet potato- or soy sauce-flavored ice cream while admiring the sites.

 Betcha haven't tried soy sauce ice cream before.

Betcha haven't tried soy sauce ice cream before.

I was really taken a back with the general presentation of food in Japan. Here, we unwrapped our three-level Kabuki bento box at Chiyofuku restaurant in the nostalgic and rather lovely city of Sawara. Unwrap a present and then eat it? Sign me up!

 Freakin' adorable.

Freakin' adorable.