Empty Plates | Why I Almost Never Write about Food in Japan

An empty place in Tokyo as a way of representing fasting.

“Nothing tastes as good as fasting feels…”

— Donny Kimball

As I write this, I am thousands of meters up in the sky on a Japan Airlines flight back from Boston. Seeing as I’ve been visiting family for the past few weeks and haven’t had a chance to travel anywhere new, I wanted to take a second to address why I almost never write about food. Lately, I’ve been rather inundated with requests to author articles about intriguing restaurants and local cooking experiences. I mean, given that Japan is nothing short of a gastronomic paradise, this really shouldn’t be all too surprising. Alas, while many of these opportunities do indeed look interesting, I’ve had to regrettably turn them all down. Why you ask? Well, put most succinctly, I am basically the complete and utter opposite of a foodie.

Hold on a minute you must be saying. Who the hell DOESN’T like delicious food? Well, as it turns out, a fair amount of people! Shocking as it may seem, there are actually hordes of folks who view eating as little more than a regular nuisance that one must endure. While I can’t comment on others comprising this odd cohort, I personally have just never sampled any fare that compares to the pleasure I derive from doing #DonnyThings. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a matter of food tasting unappetizing. It certainly does (at least for the few minutes it’s in my mouth). I just have never been one for ephemeral affairs like fine dining that seem to pass within mere moments.

An array of traditional Japanese foods at a ryokan in the Japanese countryside

Honestly, I wish I could enjoy eating like some of my foodie friends. I look at someone like my good buddy Zak who goes to great lengths to uncover the next savory indulgence. Try as I might, the fleeting mouth pleasure that I get from food is just never enough to justify the effort. In fact, lately I’ve been more and more embracing a fasting focused lifestyle. Unless it would be otherwise incredibly rude to do so, I never eat more than once per day and regularly go for many days in a row without food. Call me crazy but I just feel mentally sharper when I am thoroughly fasted. These days when traveling across Japan, I often just hold out for a giant steak post trip.

As if my personal penchant for fasting weren’t enough, I am also not at all eloquent when it comes to describing food. Hell, I don’t think my vocabulary extends past the likes of “it tastes good.” What’s more, I’m also utterly incapable of discerning the quality of what I consume. I highly doubt that I’d be able to tell the difference between a local Lawson sandwich and an entrée expertly prepared by a starred Michelin chef. While I may be the go-to guy for getting information regarding off the beaten path spots in Japan, you really don’t want to be taking recommendations from me in regards to food. You’ll only end up at the most convenient spots, not the most authentic.

Now, I certainly don’t recommend that anyone follow in my footsteps when it comes to fasting while traversing the length of Japan. As I mentioned, this country is like heaven on earth for foodies and I really wish I was better able to enjoy the feast. Unfortunately, it’s just not in the cards for me so I’ll instead stick to digging up lost historical narratives. My gastronomic ignorance aside though, you really should go out of your way to sample the local specialties that you encounter during your travels. These delectables are known as meibutsu in Japanese and will give you a deeper sense of the regional food culture. I wish I could say “trust me” but that line seems a wee bit out of place.

To wrap up this weird, one-off piece on why I typically never write about food, I guess I’ll end with what I do eat since I know someone will eventually ask. Honestly, while I wish I had a more interesting answer, my dietary routine is extremely mundane. Basically, unless I have a client dinner or some other situation where I need to dine with others, I almost always default to a massive steak with a heaping serving of broccoli. Occasionally, if I am feeling particularly indulgent, I’ll toss in several brazil nuts to ensure my selenium levels are high. Oooh… the decadence! Can see why no one would want to take restaurant recommendations from me?

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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