Can someone please transport us back to Japan? We fell in love with the country five years ago when we visited for the first time. It was the height of summer, and even though it was incredibly hot and humid, we didn’t let the weather slow us down. Every day we would walk for miles—never taking a cab—exploring the immaculate cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, and Miyajima. We have never felt so welcomed in any new place before, and the people were warm, polite, and always helpful. On several occasions as we stood on the sidewalk looking at our map, strangers approached us and not only asked if we needed assistance, but then walked with us for several blocks to make sure we arrived at the correct destination. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Los Angeles anymore.
Four years ago, we had the pleasure of visiting Japan for the first time. Adam’s band was performing at the Fuji Rock Festival, high in the mountains three hours north of Tokyo. After the last show, the rest of the group went home while the two of us ventured around the country for ten days, falling completely in love with the Japanese people and their inspiring culture. We took bullet trains to Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Miyajima, and Hiroshima, traveling across the countryside, spending a few days in each city, visiting pristine gardens and ancient Buddhist temples, while learning where to find the best vegetarian meals and how to properly ask for them. Throughout the day, we often found ourselves saying, “watashi wa bejitarian desu,” hoping they would understand that we were politely communicating, “I am vegetarian.” We snacked on inari (sweet tofu pockets filled with sushi rice), we lived off onigiri with umeboshi (white rice triangles wrapped in seaweed with a sour plum center), we found unique tiny restaurants on hidden side streets serving bowls of hot udon noodles, ramen, and miso soup, we tried a savory pancake called okonomiyaki, sampled multiple flavors of sweet mochi candies, and discovered a delicious noodle dish called zaru soba. This light and refreshing entree quickly became our go-to meal in Japan, and since it is served cold, it makes a perfect summertime dinner that is easy to prepare and fun to eat!