With two notable and disappointing exceptions, I have eaten only Japanese food since I arrived in Tokyo. I have tried the Chinese restaurant one more time – it may taste good, but the food has not agreed with me so I will not be trying it again. Other than that, really I have stuck to local cuisine.
I started trying to lose weight – that is to say, truly changing my eating habits – about a month before I left Canada. One of the things I had been doing is logging everything that I ate. I used a tool called My Fitness Tracker (www.myfitnesstracker.com). It helped me to not only track but also be aware of what I was eating, including fat, sugar, protein, and carbohydrates. It allowed me to enter everything into my Smart Phone, and even had a barcode scanner so that I could just scan the code of what I was eating and be done with it. If you spent any time with me at all in September you probably saw me use it.
It is a lot easier to keep track of what you eat in North America for several reasons. In Japan I can’t figure out the food labels, and anyways I am hardly eating any pre-packaged foods. However my typical breakfast looks a lot like this picture, and for good reason… that is a picture I took of my breakfast this morning.
My hotel includes a buffet breakfast which in the past would have meant my gorging myself, but I am trying to change my habits so that is out. Yes, those are corn flakes in the top left corner, but add to that a bowl of miso soup, a couple of pieces of grilled fish (I am not quite sure what it was today… maybe mackerel), some Japanese omelet (tamago), and some grapefruit slices. You may have noticed the glass of water in place of either tea or coffee… I have not had a cup of coffee in nearly six weeks, and I am really trying to minimize my tea/caffeine intake. I am, however, trying to maximize my water intake, and this is a great opportunity to do so!
Incidentally there is a decent salad available with breakfast; some days I partake, others I do not. Today I was running late so I skipped the salad course.
Lunch is served every day in the cafeteria at Rakuten. There are several choices, and I usually opt for something rather healthy… although truth be told I am not always certain of what I am eating. I am not eating a lot of beef, although Tuesday I opted for the beef dish because the others did not seem as appetizing. It was good, and as with every meal at Rakuten it was accompanied by a bowl of soup, two side dishes (salads of some sort), and a dessert – yesterday it was a black bean and sesame pudding that was outstanding.
There is a restaurant down the way – maybe five hundred metres from the hotel – that I found out recently is called Sakura. I have eaten most of my dinners there. It is quite good and reasonably priced. For the fist few nights my fare was the same: an order of sashimi, a plate of edamame, and a bowl of miso soup (see a pattern forming with the soup? I thought so…) but I have started to change that up a little now that I am a little more comfortable. While I had given up white rice entirely in Canada I have come to realize that it is a futile battle in Japan, and so I have caved. Some evenings I will opt for the sushi (nigiri) instead of the sashimi. As well I have tried the fried chicken (it is wonderful, and does not seem as greasy as in North America, the seafood pizza, and a few other dishes. I had dinner with a colleague last week and he ordered for us… including deep fried chicken cartilage, and a plate of squid jerky (I am not making that up). Oh, and the deep-fried octopus was also wonderful.
If it seems odd or boring that I am going to the same restaurant every evening let me assure you that a) I am not bored, b) I am not on vacation, and c) it really is wonderful food. The most expensive meal I have eaten there was under $20 per person (remember I am not drinking alcohol). It is very convenient though, as it is just a quick walk from the hotel. It is also a few doors down to the gym where I have started training – more on that later.
On the weekends I am venturing further out. Last weekend I had lunch at a restaurant in Asakusa which served a soup dish which wasn’t bad but wasn’t my favorite. This week-end I will probably end up downtown for at least one evening, and will experiment somewhere new. As for weekdays, I am more concerned with getting my work done, working out on the nights that I do, and walking on the nights that I do not. I am also trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour which means getting onto a train and exploring Tokyo may not be a great idea. On the weekends though… Oh, I will explore!
An interesting note about lunch at the cafeteria: it is free, but they are very observant about what you take – there are signs at every station telling you how much of which you are allowed, down to the number of cherry tomatoes you can take for your salad. I suppose it makes sense – the company is paying for lunch for over ten thousand employees, and letting people go free could cause cost overruns… and when they saw me coming they must have freaked 🙂
Incidentally, if you are wondering how well it is working, I am probably down 5lbs since I got here. I didn’t mention all of the fruit I am eating, but that is part of the diet too (and counted.. when I figure out how to input the rest of my food). Tonight I’m heading to the gym again, followed by Sakura (which by the way means Cherry Blossom). See you tomorrow!