Eat Like the Japanese

It seems like the only people I have seen in Japan carrying extra kilos, (Sumo wrestlers notwithstanding), has been more often than not, Australian tourists – like me! I was thinking that there was something in this. Perhaps it should be a wake up call for Aussie lifestyle and diets.

At breakfast the morning after our arrival, the reason why Japanese appear so lean was becoming obvious. But first we had to make it to the breakfast restaurant.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm, or Does It?

Factoring in that there was two complexes that make up the Washington Shinjuku Hotel, I became a tad concerned about how busy the restaurant might be, particularly at breakfast time.

Arriving promptly at the buffet restaurant at the allotted time, would be the best way to stay ahead of the crowds all wanting breakfast at the hotel in Shinjuku, or so I thought. But this is Japan. photo credit

So when the lift doors opened to the 25th floor, it seemed that my concerns were totally unfounded. Only a few people were waiting at the restaurant’s entrance. They had even provided a couple of chairs for us. How thoughtful, I mused.

Then it dawned on me. Chairs? How long could the actual wait time be?

It was as if they were reading my mind, because an attendant quietly placed a cardboard clock on the counter, indicating a wait time of 30 mins to be seated for breakfast. Oh!

But it must be wrong I thought, as there was only one couple ahead of me, wasn’t there?

Several minutes later, we were ushered into a specially assigned waiting room…. full of guests waiting for breakfast. Water, mints and reading material was provided. This was a little concerning! When was breakfast?

All was good though, because a mere 20 minutes later, we were invited to enter the restaurant. I was still impressed by the Japanese organizing capabilities. A waiting room – great idea!


We were given breakfast cards to keep and use at our table. An ingenious concept that I had not seen before. Just flip your card depending on your status, ‘Having a meal’ when you take one or those,’ more please,’ trips to the buffet and ‘End of Meal’ when you leave.

No confusion or wasting table space with empty tables waiting to be cleared of dirty dishes, in the restaurant. Such a clever idea. So Japanese and so organized.

Breaking the fast

Endless varieties of lettuce featured at the buffet

As well as a slight obsession with fresh lettuce, (so far the single most recurring food theme of this holiday), an array of pro-biotic fermented foods such pickled kelp, mustard greens, dried plum and leeks featured significantly at the breakfast buffet.

I was starting to see more reasons why Japanese have a healthy diet.

You had to be super quick if you wanted to try these Deep Fried Fish Balls and the cooks could not keep up with the demand for Gyoza. Two foods that are probably not that good for the waistline.

I wasn’t sure what the above delicacies were. Apart from the greens, it looked like leeks, some kind of breakfast cereal on the left and beans and pasta in the middle. Any ideas?

I focused on the pomegranate juice; (at least I think that is what it was), but I could not altogether resist the American style donuts and had to satisfy my curiosity with a Japanese Sweet Potato Cake, ( bottom left in the photo below). Yes I was satisfied – but the cake was a little too sweet to eat for breakfast, but still quite delicious!

The view from the buffet window might have taken my breath away, but it did nothing to assuage my appetite. Plenty of walking was scheduled for today, so that would work off the donuts, wouldn’t it?

No wonder the Japanese are lean.

More about our day, walking over 15 kilometres around Shibuya next time.


39 thoughts on “Eat Like the Japanese”

  1. Wow, sounds like a lot of the higher calorie foods are rationed. That’d help with the waistline for sure. The Japanese always seem such a gentle and refine nationality, perhaps they eat with the same restrained refinement. I could take a lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that is true, Chris. Restraint and respect. Lots of different foods, but small portions were definitely standard.I actually like lettuce so I coped fine. Soft boiled eggs were not seen, but hard boiled and soft scrambled I did find at the various establishments. I think reducing our portion size is the easiest way to reduce our intake. The size of meals has crept up along with living standards. It is as if excess food is some kind of status symbol.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. That is what my hubby and I are doing at the places where we now serve huge meals. Good idea. We need to do more of him, as my hubby’s girth is ever increasing as the townhouse life restricts movements. Can’t wait to get back to a house with a yard again. Better for him, I think.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Traditional Japanese food is healthy and reason for their normal weights. However, I noticed the do-nut making its entry and more and more sugar laden foods are also making their inroads in Japan.
    It is becoming a catastrophe here in Australia. Personal choices don’t make it anymore against the might of the multinationals and their million dollar advertising budgets.
    One of my regrets of never having visited Japan. Enjoy your time there and the big walks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Gerard. We must resist the pressures of advertising and the multi-national corporations. Fight against the offers to supersize and up-sell food portions. How many times do we see the 2 for 1 offers, making us stock food in our kitchen pantry that we don’t need? Then we have to cook it before the expiry date passes. We have more than enough – we don’t need more.


  3. Part of the Japanese lifestyle – and thus, a reason for their longevity – is their diet. It’s high in vegetables, rice and fish. I was stunned a few years ago when I noticed some entrepreneurial Japanese were opening American-style fast food restaurants. I’m thinking, ‘Are you people crazy?! Don’t do that! You’ll just get fat and die sooner!’

    I first had Japanese cuisine at a Japanese restaurant in New York City in 1997. I was already a fan of Chinese food, but I’m well aware there ARE differences. It was a unique and gastronomically invigorating experience! I don’t do sushi and unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a good local Japanese restaurant. But I’m definitely eager to try the food again. And again and again…


    1. Can you prepare some Japanese dishes at home, Alejandro? I am not a fan of sushi, either. But do like Gyoza! I also like the smaller portions, so manageable and you don’t feel bloated and full after a main meal.


  4. So glad I am not hungry while enjoying your post.
    The end of meal cards are a great idea and still smiling at the “waiting for the right partner” chair skeleton
    Fun cuiture rich post


      1. And thanks for bringing us to Japan –
        Loved the extras like views thru the window

        Not what we get in Magazines
        We get the food pics – but blog posts usually give us the extras like this post does –

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so enjoying your blogs about Japan bit by bit. 20-30 minute wait time for a good breakfast is considered quite short. In some parts of Asia you wait a bit longer for breakfast 😁 Agree with you on smaller portion sizes. Definitely a way to not overeat. It also looks like serving a variety of food for one meal is common too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mabel, Thanks for the lovely comment. I was lucky I got into breakfast in under half an hour. Perhaps it might have taken longer if I had left it later in the morning? As for serving a variety of food, that does seem traditional, as you will find out when I write a later post on my final night in Kyoto. How are things with you? Keeping busy? I checked our Google Docs (book) earlier today, and wondered where we go from here?


      1. Some people do wake up for breakfast, and because food is such a big part of Asian cultures, no surprise people don’t mind waiting for good food in the morning. Life isn’t bad this end, Amanda. I had a think about our book the other day. I think it’s coming along nicely. Going to have a re-read of what we’ve done so far 🙂


        1. Great to hear that life is good for you, Mabel. Let me know what you think if we need to expand the book more. Yvette has kindly sent me a copy of the Lady by the River Book and I have so far found it inspiring – especially with the discussion questions at the end. It is such a heartwarming story about the initial motive and purpose of the book. Your chapter was excellent. I have made a few notes from it and might use them in a Sunday Sayings post soon, if that is okay with you?


          1. So lovely that Yvette sent you a copy of Lady by the River. Everyone’s contributions was amazing – so diverse yet similar in that we all went through challenges and learnt. Happy for you to refer to my piece or really any other chapter in the book 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  6. We had traditional breakfasts while staying with a local family near Kyoto. It wasn’t as fancy as your buffet for sure! But it was perfect : clear soup, onigiri, omelette, and tea of course! It was perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s something about Japanese food for sure.. so light and healthy. There is a Japanese woman here who runs her small, quiet Japanese restaurant near my work place. I’ve been there a few times for lunch, the portions were definitely small but the food was appetizing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The few times I was there, I ate ramen which was very mild and less flavorful than other ramens around the town, but it felt healthy and quite authentic, which I think is the case because the Japanese woman is also the primary chef. 🙂 They usually have grilled mackarel served with rice, gyoza, Japanese curry and ramen on their lunch menu. Yet to try Japanese curry but I am not super curious about it hehe. I’ve heard from colleagues that the mackarel is delicious! I need to go there sometimes, I mostly end up going for Polish for lunch haha.


        1. I had grilled mackerel on my last night in Kyoto, Pooja. And my son absolutely loves ramen. I can’t say I have had a Japanese curry, but as i am not a great fan of curries, I usually pick something else from the menu. Maybe your comment will spur me on to try it one day. What constitutes the typical Polish lunch? Is it Pierogi? Or Bigos?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ramen is one of my favorites too! in fact noodles in general are my favorite food. There is a huge variety of soups in Polish cuisine which I am a fan of, my favorites are rosol (chicken broth with pasta), jarzynowa (veggies with cream), grzybowa (mushroom) and zurek (polish sausages, potatoes, eggs and cream – super filling). Besides the soups, for lunch there are usually – the classic kotlet schabowy (pork cutlet) served with potatoes and salad, fried fish, battered and fried chicken breast, golabki (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat, rice and veggies in tomato sauce), and goulash (spicy stew originating from Hungary). The sides are usually boiled potatoes, special flour dumplings, some salad. Soups are definitely my favorite part of Polish cuisine! Pierogi is actually for special occasions – like the holidays and few restaurants have it in their daily lunch menu unless they are restaurants specializing in pierogi.


            1. Oh, okay. Thank you for explaingin all of that to me. Some fo those dishes I will look up and try to replicate.
              When I was in Poland they kept giving my group Pierogi, but it must have been because they considered it a special occasion!

              I am a fan of soups myself, but it is just too hot to serve them to my family in summertime. I have had authentic Polish cabbage rolls made by a Polish friend years ago and loved them. I tried to make them myself and they took a bit of work and sort of fell apart a bit. I failed at Golabki! All those dishes are making my mouth water! Something I really liked about the Polish cuisine I was served out in the country and to tie in with this post, was all the pickled veges they served. I tried and ate them all along with a beautiful smoked sheep’s cheese in the Tatra Mountains, which I might have mentioned to you before?

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I’ve never tried making most of those myself :p I have better ways of getting them – the restaurants and my fiance’s family haha. Golabki does sound a bit complicated. I am surprised you enjoyed pickled veggies – I heard that most foreigners don’t like it. I don’t like them either except pickled cucumbers 😀 Smoked sheep’s cheese is the best – the grilled is the best when eaten with blueberry jam – yum!

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Grilled sheep cheese with blueberry jam Oh my goodness, now you have my mouth watering, Pooja. I love the pickled beets, carrots – so good. And recently, I have been snacking on baby pickled cucumbers. ( better than biscuits or some chocolate!!) I think the palette changes as we age. Maybe it is the body trying to tell you what it needs?

              Liked by 1 person

  8. I lost a lot of weight when living in Taiwan. Not that I had much to start with. I do imagine that soft boiled eggs are not on many restaurant menus as the uncooked yolk could cause problems under many circumstances. Breakfast in Germany was also very different. Lots of bread rolls and meats and cheeses. Most Americans were complaining. We eat too heavy and too much. Still a problem for me but at this point, I think I quit caring. I love sweet breakfasts but they don’t love me so I probably wouldn’t eat anything but the hard boiled eggs. You never know. If my daughter was along, she’d eat lots of the national dishes. 😉 Fun to see their foods.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The German breakfast is very similar to the Danish one. I love those fresh rolls! And salami etc. A great start to the day. Sweet breakfasts are sort of anathema to me, as I grew up with cereals and fruit. A very healthy breakfast diet. But I do like to have a sweet thing if it is there….it is tempting indeed. There is nothing wrong with enjoying everything in moderation. When we are older we can afford to be a little easier on sticking to the rules. Food is one of the best things about life!

      Liked by 1 person

Everyone is important. What do you have to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.