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One man’s culinary paradise is another’s cultural wasteland

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By Clay Jarvis

In the jobless summer following my second year of university, I survived on nothing but creamed corn and bunless hotdogs. For seasoning, I used all I could afford—Dairy Queen pepper packets, the salt from my tears—but my diet, like the summer itself, was a lost cause. I told myself that even though I was eating stuff UNICEF would throw in the garbage, it was going to be the worst food I would ever have to eat. Then I moved to Tokyo.

I’m no foodie—obviously—but I know bad food, and I often find myself choking down flavorless crap when I go looking for restaurants that claim to serve my favorite ethnic dishes. Thai, Malay, Mexican, Indian—the world’s most wonderful cuisines are all available in Tokyo. But instead of being a rich and fulfilling cultural experience, the food served at the majority of these restaurants is either heartbreakingly bland, weirdly bastardized or completely ruined.

The common explanation for the overwhelming blandness of Tokyo’s foodscape is that Japanese people don’t like spicy food, or their palates aren’t used to it, so restaurants, in an attempt to build a clientele, decrease the potency of their dishes. This is a load of bullsushi—enjoying spicy food is a matter of exposure, not race—and a rather gutless cop-out on the part of our city’s restaurateurs. If you want to court Japanese customers, start an izakaya. If you want to pique the interest of open-minded, curious people, not only in a menu but in a culture as well, you have to do it with authenticity. For the love of Gordon Ramsay, the staff at a Thai restaurant shouldn’t have to ask, “Do you want it spicy?”

Most Tokyo residents would say “No.” To them I say, “What do you want?”

Food is culture, and when you see a lack of interest in another culture’s food, you see a lack of interest in that culture. This is why good food is so hard to find in Tokyo. It’s not the tender tongues of the Japanese that are being courted—it’s their lack of interest in things non-Japanese. If Thai food can be made to seem less different from Japanese food, restaurants serving it might increase business; it certainly works for Italian restaurants and their noodle-heavy menus.

But if you blast away at some salaryman with both barrels of a scorching tom yum soup, you not only turn his rectum into an inverted volcano, you reinforce in his mind just how different Thailand and Japan are. In other cities, ethnic restaurants are prized for the authenticity of their food and the vitality they bring to neighborhoods, but in Tokyo, that’s no way to run a business.

A wariness of The Different permeates Tokyo and prevents it from being one of the world’s truly great cities. I expect this attitude from some donkey-rider in Saitama, but I’ll never understand how such narrow-mindedness and disinterest can exist in the mind of anyone who chooses to live in a city of this size.

Why would people move to and endure life in a large city if not for the opportunity to be inundated with and influenced by the people, the ideas, the sights and the flavors? That’s certainly why I came here. It’s also one of the main reasons I find Tokyo so disappointing. You can discover the odd oasis of foreign noise and flavor here, but often without any accompanying interest from the local population.

It’s easy to compare Japan to England—both countries are conservative, aloof, pale and full of starch and carbs—but you can’t compare London to Tokyo. One is a gloriously dirty hellhole brimming with culture both foreign and native; the other is just a larger version of every other place in Japan. One has Indian food that’s uncompromising and delicious; the other has Indian food so bad it’s practically a hate crime.

But London is not England, just as New York is not America and Vancouver is not Canada. These great cities are anomalies in countries renowned not just for their overall blandness and stupidity, but for their serious issues with race. Yet the residents of great cities choose to face the tensions and confusion that accompany exposure to new ideas. They’ve learned that progress comes from cooperation, cooperation from acceptance.

Tokyo, though, is Japan. The country’s regional differences might extend to dialect and hairstyles, but they don’t affect Japan’s overall attitude toward The New or The Foreign. From the Shinagawa banker to the rural Chiba snaggletooth, all are raised to respect, conform to and disregard the same things.

And so, conceding defeat, countless Tokyo chefs mute and mutilate their dishes, turning formerly foreign food into culinary katakana—barely recognizable, its meaning unclear, but something Japanese people will, finally, attempt to put their mouths around.

Clay Jarvis is an elementary school teacher and a member of several bands you’ve never heard of.

This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

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67 Comments
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"One that has Indian food that's uncompromising..." Like chicken tikka masala?

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"...renowned for their blandness, stupidity, serious problems with race.." Mr. Jarvis certainly knows how to make friends.

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I think a summary goes like this: some Brit likes spicy food. A lot of Japanese don't. Bullsushi. Snaggletooth. End.

If he can't find what he wants in Tokyo, he isn't looking hard enough. I know of several...like 12.... smaller cities around Japan that have great... well... very good restaurants. And if spicy food meant good food, then the Michelin guide would be written in Thai.

All you have to do to write a food column about ALL of Japan is be a school teacher? Is there some qualification I am missing, or is being in bands that can't get steady gigs in Tokyo all it takes to be a journalist these days? If he weren't British, he could be a Tea Party Senate candidate, but I read the article actually thinking that this guy had a serious point.

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Obviously Jarvis has no idea how businesses work! and has no clue at how many authentic restaurants are around!! in Nagoya, you can find the most authentic of east indian, mid eastern, asian!! and are in abundance...i m soo sure Tokyo would have even more...he is a newbie to this country..

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Many Japanese actually like hot food once they are introduced to it. Unfortunately, often the owners of ethnic restaurants are Japanese and believe the fallacy that Japanese are unable to eat hot food. The foreign chefs are then told to make the food mild.

Actally, I have given up asking Indian restaurants in Japan to make a curry hot. If you do, they will just add chilli to their mild curry with the result that balance of spices is destroyed and all you will taste is the chilli.

Thai food can be made hotter by the addition of prik (chilli) nam pla, or, at least, the chilli from the prik nam pla. You may have to order this as the prik nam pla on the table probably has virtually no chilli in it. Quite good Thai food can be found in Thailand in certain places such as Shin Okubo, Kinshicho and other areas where Thais hang out and do their shopping.

I suggest that the best test of an ethnic restaurant before you eat in it is to ask whether they serve Japanese or imported rice. If they serve Japanese rice, everything else will be aimed at Japanese customers. Japanese rice is good for sushi as it sticks together in lumps, but it really does not go well with Thai or Indian food.

Middle Eastern food also seems to suffer from Japanese prejudices. "Japanese don't like the smell of lamb, so we do only chicken or beef doner kebabs." This seems to be the motto of almost every kebab stall in Japan. If a Middle Eastern restaurant does not serve lamb, it will be Japanised food.

Even good Chinese food is hard to find in Japan. Most of it is Japanese food with a bit of oil added. If there is no duck on the menu, the restaurant is guaranteed to be no good.

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The reason why other large cities are able to offer more authentic ethnic restaurants is because there's usually a large enough population of that ethnicity to support it. So what if Japan tweaks other people's food for Japanese taste? Every country does that to a certain extent.

Tokyo, despite is lack of good Mexican food (which I actually miss the most when living in Japan), is still home to some of the best restaurants in the world. If you're too focused on complaining about the non-existent authenticity, you'll miss out on the wonderful innovation in these Japanese hybrid-dishes.

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The reason why other large cities are able to offer more authentic ethnic restaurants is because there's usually a large enough population of that ethnicity to support it

Anyone recognized that English speakers never call French cuisine "ethnic food"? Only food from non-white countries are labelled as outside the norm.

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Interesting point. We Americans in fact use "ethnic food" only for non-white countries. I never heard it being used for French or German food.

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I am from one of the best centers of food in N.America. Seattle. We have aweinspiring Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, French, Indian, Etheopian, Lebanse, Mexican, Spanish and just about every other food you can think of. In most cases cooked by people from those places with the pride and devotion of sharing their culture with others that true artists can be expected to show.

Tokyo, on the other hand does indeed have the most pathetic showing of international food I have ever experienced save perhaps for Singapore or Hong Kong which were pretty dull and limited too.

The best Mexican food in Japan would not measure up to the worst Mexican food in either Seattle or Salt Lake City. Thai here is pretty sad, the one good place I managed to find closed because not enough people supported it. Italian here is Japanese with Italian names. Go to Boston if you want an example of to die for Italian outside Italy.

French is perhaps the best of the lot. But still well behind the average in Seattle. One good Vietnamese place in Komata. And one good Iranian place Zakuro.

Otherwise I have to cook most ethnic dishes if I want to eat anything remotely like the true dishes.

Tokyo, and Japan in general do to food and culture what they do to foreign words. They strip it down to where people from the place of origin would never recognize it. The Katakanization of culture = the erradication of most of the originality and unique qualities. Japan seems more and more content to live in a Japnese vacuum devoid of things from outside, or to blindly accept things named foreign for the real thing.

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By the same token you never hear Japanese referring to French, German, American etc cuisine as ethnic.

Ethnic in Japan means colourful 3rd world clothes and trinkets.

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Problem is more of a lack of variety. Every restaurant serves the same things. Italian - pizza margherita, spaghetti bolognese. Thai - tom yum kun, pad thai. They imitate well, but there's nothing bold in their dishes.

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Agree with bababooey and tkoind2.

Actually, in smaller places like where I live, I've found some very good "ethnic" restaurants. You just have to know where to look. I think he's right though, in that the ones people usually talk about the most are usually watered down.

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I agree with Klein2 in that it appears that the author has mislabelled "non-spicy" food with "bad food". I note also that the author seems to be saying that if they can't get the food they like (which is native to another country), Tokyo's food is all bad. If you want to eat authentic Thai, go to Thailand! Likewise for Indian food. Why should restaurants in Tokyo risk financial ruin by serving food that only a handful of gaijin will eat?

When I lived in Japan, I learned to enjoy Japanese food. Surely most visiors to Japan would want to do likewise? There's a huge variety of Japanese cuisine, and while it may not generally be spicy, I'd call it subtle rather than bland.

As others have pointed out, most countries are guilty of adapting foreign cuisine to local tastes. Chinese food in Australia is generally very different from what is served in China, unless you can read and order from the special menu which is only written in Chinese. Serving what will sell in the local market is not at all unique to Japan.

Claiming that the food served in Japanese restaurants is worse than creamed corn and hotdogs is just plain silly, and frankly offensive to the chefs in Japan.

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But London is not England, just as New York is not America and Vancouver is not Canada. These great cities are anomalies in countries renowned not just for their overall blandness and stupidity, but for their serious issues with race.

Dumbest comment from a JT commentary ever.

Why would people move to and endure life in a large city if not for the opportunity to be inundated with and influenced by the people, the ideas, the sights and the flavors?

You do know that some Japanese are actually BORN in Tokyo? I bet that just blows your mind!

Clay Jarvis is an elementary school teacher and a member of several bands you’ve never heard of.

"never heard of". Good.

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Area where I live is pretty good with international food and we can get some pretty good food that tastes authentic. Granted those places are still outnumbered by the chain and localized flavour places, plus many of those places are a bit further from the station and tucked away.

If I want Pizza or Pasta I hit a Pizzeria, if I want nice Italian meat dishes, etc I hit one of the Italian restaurants. Noticed a lot of the "Indian" restaurants are actually Nepali and serve mostly nepali style food.

Unfortunately noticed that the 2 Mexican restaurants closed down, they had a nice "lunch buffet" for 1000Yen.

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Actually, while I dislike the author's crude attempts at humor and use of childish stereotypes of Japanese and foreigners alike, I do agree with his basic premise. Japan is not a truly cosmopolitan city in regards to its culinary options. Real "ethnic" food, like you could find in many of the cities he mentions does not really exist here. (For example, someone name me just five really genuine Mexican, Cuban or Jamaican restaurants.) Probably for the reasons he states -- Japanese folks, especially men, really do not want a truly different dining experience, they want it in their comfort zone. But, also, because there are not the ethnic immigrants here in large numbers that could support those kinds of restaurants. Kind of a chicken or the egg situation.

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Yay! Yet another commentary written in a tone that makes me feel like I am being yelled at by another foreign resident who has found something to dislike about Japan! Will the supply of disgruntled newbies operating under the misapprehension that they are writing insightful, witty commentary never cease?

Its basic economics and its the same everywhere. Sure, some Japanese do like spicy food. Just not enough of them to make restaurants that offer only spicy foods a viable business. It is the same story everywhere, just about every country in the world has a Chinese restaurant yet almost none of them (well, except those actually in China) serves the food the way it is served in China.

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Yay! Yet another commentary written in a tone that makes me feel like I am being yelled at by another foreign resident who has found something to dislike about Japan! Will the supply of disgruntled newbies operating under the misapprehension that they are writing insightful, witty commentary never cease?

More like, will JT and Metropolis publishing disgruntled newbies operating under the misapprehension that they are writing insightful, witty commentary never cease?

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senseiman -- is that the best defense you can offer? What you are really saying is that if you relocate to Tokyo you need to dumb yourself and your taste buds down in order to be "happy". Because everyone here likes their lives and their food pretty bland. Fine. Totally true. But then please don't offer up Tokyo as a truly great/international city, like a London or Boston, or others. Which, in the long run, is not a good thing for Japan, as fewer and fewer ex-pats will want to come here, and, Japan does need foreign investment.

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fewer and fewer ex-pats will want to come here, and, Japan does need foreign investment.

foreign investment is not dependent on expats living here, nor about improving the flavorless food. though fewer living here might result in fewer lame articles such as this one.

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herefornow

No, I didn't say anything of the sort. What I was saying was that if you don't like the food and feel compelled to write about said dislike, don't do so in an obnoxious, condescending way as the author of this piece did.

I'm perfectly sympathetic to those who prefer spicy food and wish they had better access to it in Tokyo (I don't live there and can't comment on the accuracy of such complaints, though I'll assume they have some factual basis). It is the tone of the article more than the substance (such as it is) that I object to. I bring up the economic aspect merely to illustrate the fact that the food available in cities around the world differs and this isn't necessarily a problem specific to Japan: businesses everywhere cater to the tastes of their customer base.

As for the content of your post, its a bit of a stretch to imply that lack of spicy food is in any way holding back foreign investment in Japan beyond an extreme de minimus amount. I wouldn't mind seeing more restaurants with spicy food in my area but its important to keep the scale of this issue in perspective.

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senseiman - don't worry, you were right on in your post. I thought your point was very clear and fair.

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"It’s easy to compare Japan to England—both countries are conservative, aloof, pale and full of starch and carbs—"

Lol,so true.

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whatever the cuisine, i think the general quality of the food in tokyo is actually quite good. mexican aside, you can find very authentic places if you look, the problem is that they will usually cost quite a bit more than in their native land...

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Having a good quality of "ethnic" food means you need a high number of "ethnic" community around to sustain it. That's why you find the good Thai food around the places already mentioned by others. Although having foreign population to some extend, Japan has still relatively little such communities.

THe author may have better done some homework before coming to Japan and compare cities that grew on immigration or colonization(Vancouver, Seattle, London etc.) up to a certain extend.

By focusing on the curriculum for elementary school, he also must have missed some classes in economics. As a restaurant owner/chef you cater to the community and deliver what they want (and what pays the bills, salary etc.)

Try to find the good Japanese food places all around Tokyo and use your holidays to hop on a plane to taste real Indian, Malay etc.

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Thank you manfromamerica. I thought so too :)

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senseiman -- so, you don't live here, but comment on an article on food in Tokyo anyway? Did you ever stop to think that maybe the author's tone was the result of wasting too much money on food here labled as Italian or French, or Thai, or Mexican, etc? When, in actuality, it is just bland slop cooked up by someone who has not even bothered studying that area's real cuisine. Maybe if you did actually live here, you'd be able to relate to that -- I can. Especially when you are paying top prices for it. And, as regards my point on foreign investment, obviously that was beyond you. In fact, Tokyo is losing ground fast to other cities in the region like Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc. as bases for foreign investors (Japan had a net loss of foreign investment last year.) And, at least part of that is a direct result of Tokyo not being "foreigner friendly". Too much "Japaneseness". And "lack of spicy food" is just a symptom, among many others, of what happens when 98% of the population all look, think and act the same way.

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LMAO. OK, herefornow, lets address your complaints one by one, shall we?

First, I don't live in Tokyo, but I have been there many times and have lived in Japan for a number of years, so I'm familiar with the general nature of his complaints, which affect the quality of restaurants nation-wide. I've eaten in lots of restaurants serving lots of bland food and, as I said above, I'm perfectly sympathetic to that complaint. So I'm not sure what you are on about. The issue of price is a new one inserted by yourself which wasn't addressed in the article. It might be a valid point, but you can't fault me for not addressing it when the author himself made no mention of it.

And about foreign investment, well lets just say that I disagree. For starters, the fact is that foreign direct investment into Japan has exploded since the mid-1990s. You can pretty easily locate statistics to demonstrate that (Bank of Japan, METI, etc). Shareholdings by foreign investment funds in Japanese firms were almost non-existent in the 1980s yet now make up a substantial amount of shareholdings in listed firms. M&A activity is also way up and hostile takeover attempts are now part of the corporate governance landscape (even if no succesful attempts have yet occurred). All done without the benefit of spicy food on the menus of Tokyo restaurants. Incredible, I know.

There may be some year on year decreases but I would suggest...with the greatest amount of respect and delicacy possible... that these may be more closely tied to the over-all slowdown in global investment and not the lack of spicy food in Tokyo restaurants.

Moderator: Stay on topic please. M&A activity is not relevant to this discussion.

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senseiman - you rock!

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I know a few good places in Tokyo to eat but I'd have to agree that finding authentic flavors are pretty impossible. When I talk to restaurant owners, they do always tell me that they have to cook for the local tastes. I can see this from a business stand point but I think it's a cop out. Anytime I cook my native food (southern US) my Japanese friends love it. They always ask for it anytime they come visit. I think if the restaurants actually took a chance-they'd be surprised of the positive response.

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Here's a revelation for you Clay : most people like the way their food tastes in their own country. I know one Japanese lady who spend her childhood in the states. She loves Dr Pepper, and so do I. Most Japanese can't stand the stuff. A lot of Japanese people prefer "Japanese" Italian food and "curry rice," which is nothing like the real stuff. In the states, "Chinese" food is basically fast food and tastes like crap to the Chinese, but I like it. What am I trying to say? Your opinion means very little.

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My post was getting a bit long, so here's part 2 : as for spicy food, my wife loves it. The mild version of what she orders is way too spicy for me. There are plenty of restaurants in Tokyo that offer authentic food. Just look it up on gurunavi. Someone mentioned Shin Okubo - good place for "real" Korean food. There's a really good Nepalese curry shop near my house. The thing is, Clay, having just lived here for a month doesn't mean you've actually seen Tokyo. Just walking around the city doesn't qualify either. Try buying some magazines or surfing the net to look for good restaurants.

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From personal experience.

If you want 100% truly authentic taste than you need to travel to the place of origin.

In ALL countries foreign food is adjusted to local tastes and locally available ingredients. As for Indian food in England being authentic. Hah, I know quiet a few Indians that live in London and they all say the food is so-so and many Restaurants deliberately serve it hotter than they would eat it themselves.

Also many seem to be confused(Japanese and Foreigners) with thinking Spicy equals Hot.

You can get good ethnic food here that is pretty authentic, just be careful to check with natives of that land.

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Someone said this guy was British, can't remember who, but are you sure? His name is more American, his spelling is more American, and his lack of knowledge of the obvious fact that the Indian food sold in Britain's Indian restaurants is not authentic Indian food seems to be a dead giveaway. He probably also doesn't know that Chinese food in restaurants is tailored to suit the tastes of the locals, not just in Japan but in all countries. Would he like to order chickens' feet? No? Why not? It's the sort of thing you get in China, that makes it authentic, right?

The reason Chinese food sold in Tokyo's Chinese restaurants seems like Japanese food is probably because some of the things he calls Japanese food are from China. Like mabou doufu, gyoza, kata yaki soba, etc. Plus if you eat in a chain restaurant it will never be truly authentic. More like revolting. Pizza? In America you get the closest to the real thing, but it's never going to be truly authentic, regardless of how many Italians you have living there. Chinese food? Outside of the Chinatowns most of the food will be tailored to suit local tastes and local supplies. Even in the Chinatowns you'd have to make a special request to get authentic Chinese food. Look at the sushi they sell in America, avocado? WTH? That's absurd. Authentic my foot. London is worse though, especially with the Japanese food. You can't have authentic sashimi without suitable fish. Simple and obvious. So why should Japan be held solely responsible for a lack of authenticity that verges on being outrageous, when there are similar horrors in other countries?

If you can't find a restaurant that's actually run by people from where the food originates it will never be authentic. I really don't believe he's tried, he's just gone to the grotty and cheap chain versions of such restaurants and of course it's rubbish. That stuff is for people who have no time to get real food. (Like mcdonalds is.)

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Just because you don't like the way it tastes, doesn't mean it's bad. For example, Thai food, Korean food, Indian food and etc are way too spicy for most Japanese if they made it the way it's supposed to be, so it is natural to make it more for Japanese to sell in Japan. Many foreigners dislike Japanese pizza (mayo pizza and etc) but most Japanese love it. Many Japanese can't stand sweet iced tea they get in western countries and love green tea while many foreigners don't like the taste of green tea. I think this article is senseless.

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And when Japanese people eat Japanese food outside of Japan, often enough it is not a satisfying experience... so, here we go.. Just because you think its great it doesn’t mean its great for everyone. Just because you don’t think its great, it doesn’t mean it is not great to everyone else.

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Exactly, fishy. Surprise! The world doesn't revolve around you Mr Jarvis!

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You can never recreate the authentic taste of real curry,chili,thai curry etc.. when in a foreign country.Either they adapt to the locals particular tastes as many have comented or the right ingredients cant all be found. Even if you go the original countries on holidays you need to go where the locals go to because once again if you stick to where all the other tourists are going the food will not be as good either. Who is to say what "real" thai curry or mexican chilli etc..should taste like anyway?Every single restaurant will taste different.

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This article is way below journalism standards..lacking insight balance and any message of value.Its a shma eto waste the space with such amateur level stuff..thats what the comments section and blogs are for

P.S He praised Londons food! well i just had one week there and the food was the worst ive had in any major city...sauces from a bottle, bulk cheapo wines and sky high prices. all my friends agreed that London is the worst place for getting good food. Tokyo may have smaller portions but like anywhere you have to look hard to find the best ones

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Lighten-UP folks! Recognize the humour in Clays article. I had some great chuckles...Thanks, Clay! Ive been living here in Japan for about 12 years now. Im originally from Vancouver, Canada. Ive had both good and rather disappointing culinary experiences in Japan, much the same as anywhere in the world. I suppose each experience with food has much to do with how hungry I am before waltzing into a restaurant. Yes, Yes, it seems no matter where were from, Clay had a searing remark to raise everyones eye-brows, but HOW can one NOT burst out laughing at,"culinary katakana--barely recognizable, its meaning unclear..." ? Clay, you are SO rude. You made me laugh til I cried. Im probably just homesick. Bon appetit!

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You can get spicy food in Japan. Go to Korea town in Shinjuku. Up the road where I live, there is an Indian place run by Indians and you can get spicy food there too. Did not Michelin give out stars to European restaurants in Tokyo? I think quite a few French and perhaps Italian restaurants got stars.

But there is an another aspect. English people don't know how to cook. Japanese do. So English had no choice but to accept foreign food because their food was like dog vomit. Where as Japanese just as southern Europeans had this dining culture where food was an important part of life. In England it was just something you stuffed not to starve. You could compare it to cavemen living in caves, then one day outsiders who were living in huts came in contact with cavemen. Japanese were not cavemen. English were, and here lies a big difference as far as food is concerned. I suggest this gentleman to stop whining if you do not want to go back to your little cozy cave of yours.

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Clay had a searing remark to raise everyones eye-brows, but HOW can one NOT burst out laughing at,"culinary katakana--barely recognizable, its meaning unclear..

I suggest this gentleman to learn Japanese. If Indians and Arabs wrote their menus in London in Arabic or Hindus these people would still be stuck in their little cozy caves of theirs wouldn't they? It reeks, chip on the shoulder, I have no food culture and can't speak Japanese complex.

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Owners of restaurants need to make a little thing called "profit", you know cover their expenses, pay rent, employees salaries and all that Jazz. Yes they could cater to a few whiny foreigners, but how long would they remain in Business? It's Toyko, the food is gear towards generating profitable sales, based on what the majority of people want to eat. It may be bland to you, just as your writing is bland to me but I'm not going to write a letter requesting you to change your writing style because you are who you are.

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Some people here don't get it. The problem with foreign foods in Japan is teh fact of making them suitable for the "Japanese" palate. In other countries people seek out places that sell the real deal. Authentic is king where i come from. I would never pay for an English style Indian in Britain and i certainly wouldn't pay for a Japanese style one here.

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In other countries people seek out places that sell the real deal

Visit Shinjuku.

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Tokyo chefs mute and mutilate their dishes, turning formerly foreign food into culinary katakana—barely recognizable, its meaning unclear, but something Japanese people will, finally, attempt to put their mouths around.

Mr Jarvis, have you ever eaten chop suey in a restaurant in the United States? Finished off with a fortune cookie? Even the humblest gyoza establishment here does a better job. Likewise for spaghetti in Japan, although I'll pass on the natto garnished with yakinori variety. 'Methinks the man doth complain too much'.

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English (British) food was like dog vomit. God! I do not know who this neogreenjapan person is, but he or she sure has a great way with adjectives, food being so bad, that it is like dog vomit! I am Mexican and I can not even try to imagine comparing food to dogs? I do have to agree with Clay Jarvis, most Japanese are WIMPS! Oh, my curried rice at Coco Ichibanya level 2 of SPICE is upsetting my little wimpy Japanese onaka, yesterday some fat cow next to me was suffering through his lunch and trying to explain to him that if food is too spicy you can not really enjoy it. I am Mexican and I wanted to pull out some HABANERO CHILI PEPPERS that would melt, burn off this fat cow's wimpy tongue off! Just kidding, even habaneros are just way, way too crazy for me now. Just one suggestion for Clay san, LEARN TO COOK! I have Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Peruvian friends and they ALL COOK SO YUMMY!!! They learned at a young age, but actually you are never too old to learn, and I was first so scared to mess up the food, and got in to arguments with some of my friends, but now I can make a very yummy CHAHAN, the Chinese fried rice, but to fit my Mexican taste buds, that my Chinese friends say is too hot or spicy and I tell them to not be wimps. Ah, but Sri Lankans! OMG!! These guys are REALLY, REALLY crazy!! I saw one Sri Lankand guy downing RAW RED PEPPERS, with SEEDS and all as if they were CANDIES!! OH lord Krishna, pray for this guys stomach and when it COMES OUT, you will be yelling for ice cubes from the w.c.!!!

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I would never pay for an English style Indian in Britain

Don't make me laugh. You think chicken tikka masala and balti are "authentic" Indian food? They originated in the UK, just like "Napolitan" pasta originated in Japan.

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I've had plenty of nice Thai, Chinese, and Korean food here. It's not sold at Family Mart. You need to go to the places where the Thai, Chinese, and Korean people go. You know, just like you do everywhere else in the world!

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As I read this, the T.V was playing, and on it, was another Japanese show were they go and demo various restaurants. (What are the odds huh?) They went to a Thai restuarant, the chef (Japanese) mentioned how he had toned down the spices, and it could be accompanied with omelette-rice. It doesn't bother me so much for the lack of authentic "ethnic" food, however, what irritates me most is when Japanese go abroad and complain how unfaithful the "foriegn" versions of Japanese dishes are to the original! So much so that they create a committee to police restaurants abroad calling themselves "authentic". I mean how hypocritical is that?

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fresh coriander.....used as a garnish on a curry gravy/ in Thai food etc Ever seen it used here? "Japanese don't like it " is the reply when I ask why it's not served here.

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All this is basic supply and demand. Other big cities have a variety of foreign foods because they have enough foreigners to bring in business.

Mainstream "ethnic" food in America or Britain is as bland as it is in Tokyo. You go into any "authentic" "ethnic" food restaurant anywhere, and most of the customers will be from the same "ethnicity."

And woe is you if you come to Tokyo to experience ethnic food. Learn to cook and make it yourself.

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Mexican? Pancho Villa in Sagamihara.

It's not Tokyo I know, but it's damned good Mexican,and the margaritas are a good size, not like those dinky ones you usually get in Japan.

I'd love to post a link, but you can look it up easily.

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Is Pancho Villa near the entrance to Camp Zama my dear Himajin??

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elbudamexicano- it is by the housing area, not camp zama (close by, though). never been there but i've heard that it's really good!!

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manfromamerica;

foreign investment is not dependent on expats living here, nor about improving the flavorless food. though fewer living here might result in fewer lame articles such as this one.

Well said sir! +1 internet to you.

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I thought the article was pretty well written; way better than a lot of the stuff on here, and showed a degree of intelligence and humour often missing from this site.

I would have to agree with Clay as well.

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The author is suffering from the delusion that "authentic" cuisine exists. It doesn't. The "doughnuts" served across America wouldn't be considered doughnuts in most of Europe. Do they still taste good? Hell, I'd kill for Krispy Kreme right now. Do they sell? Umm.. duh. What's the problem then?

Unless we're going to get into the entire EU "naming convention" think where you can't call something by a certain name unless it comes from that particular region then I think people will just have to live with the fact that the locals change the recipe to suit local tastebuds. Curry in England has peas in it, Doughnuts in America are more like cakes, and Pizzas in Japan have corn on them. Get over it.

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So Mr Jarvis figures that "authentic" Thai food should be really, really spicy. Is there any evidence that he actually knows something about Thai food, or any other kind of cuisine, worth knowing?

There is great non-Japanese food to be found in Japan. Maybe some of it, or a lot of it, has been adapted to native tastes, but damn, if the only standard you can come up with for Thai food is that it needs to be massively piquant, then really, nobody needs to hear it.

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Went to central Kyoto 4 years ago for my birthday and really fancied an Indian. Not one place had non Japanese rice and one place even said they cook Japanese rice longer so it is similar. No thanks i don't pay to eat something that does not suit the meal.

If i want Indian fiod now i buy from Indojin online for a tenth of the cost of eating out. Want Japanese my wife makes, British or European i7ll make meself if ingredients can be found.

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Is Pancho Villa near the entrance to Camp Zama my dear Himajin??

Yes, that's the one. I think you need a reservation, but you could check...I haven't been there in ages, I live in Kobe and went there when I helped my son move up there for university years ago.

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To take an American example, Chop Suey was invented by the chef accompanying China's first ever diplomatic delegation to the United States in the 19th Century. Apparently the Ambassador had intended to put on a giant traditional Chinese feast, but when the ingredients from China failed to arrive in Washington on time, he instructed the chef to "just go out into the market here and whip up some stir fried vegetables and meat, as these people won't know the difference anyway." It was a hit, and now you see Chop Suey advertised all over Chinese restaurants in the eastern U.S. - and nowhere else!!

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PS: one of the few (if not the only) Thai restaurant in Japan certified by the Thai embassy is Celadon in Tokyo.

Don't be fooled by the non-descript appearance of the building - it's wicked good.

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Never had trouble getting the staff to make food spicier. Just ask!!

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Ya know if most of your customers like mild spice, but some like it hot, you make it mild. You can always add spice to one or two dishes, but once you made the whole lot hot you can't make it mild again!!!

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Japanese were not cavemen. English were, and here lies a big difference as far as food is concerned.

This could be the most asinine comment I have ever read on here.

Just because you don't like English food, you souldn't make such pathetic remarks. Japanese food is far more boring than British food, and FAR more "caveman" like. At least people cook things in Britain.

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and yet Japan's food culture has the good taste to embrace Hooters LOL

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