It’s no secret that I love food. I particularly like trying out local delicacies when I travel, which isn’t always easy when you’re in a new city only for a few days. Eating local in Tokyo was particularly challenging because of my language constraints. Aside from hello and goodbye, I didn’t know any Japanese and English was not as prolific amongst the locals as I had hoped. Thankfully I came across the concept of Nagomi Visit.
It’s an NGO that arranges for tourists to go to the home of a local family and have a home-cooked meal with them. Our first dinner in Japan was a Nagomi Visit with the lovely Futami family. There was Masato who is a civil servant with a love of British detective shows, his wife Keiko who is a cook and loves to travel and Grandfather Masakazu who is 98 years old and used to work in the Navy. They live in a residential area near the National Training Centre for Olympic Athletes.
I had heard so much about how scarce space was in Tokyo (and given how tiny my hotel room was I believe it but that’s another story!) so I was interested to see what their home was like. I was surprised to find it was much larger than I had expected. They actually had two homes, which were connected by a walkway so that Grandfather could have his space as well. Their home felt spacious and our hosts were very welcoming.
Keiko actually cooks professionally at the National Training Centre and likes to try new dishes. Watching her cook was just a delight as she clearly loved the process of creating new dishes. She showed us some of the more unusual ingredients she was using to cook with, like surimi which is processed fish that has a consistency kind of like firm tofu. Keiko chopped this up and blended it with minced chicken to make delicious chicken balls which were one of her creations. That’s a technique I plan to try at home.
Our menu for the evening was (clockwise from the top of the photo):
Pumpkin & Walnut with Cream Cheese
Japanese Soup with Chicken Balls
Bamboo Shoots with Boiled Rice
Mousse with Azuki and Tapioca
Keiko had created everything from scratch and it was delicious. I have to give some special mentions though: the pumpkin with walnut and cream cheese was a delectable blend of sweet and savoury; the consistency of the omelette was airy and just melted in the mouth, there was definitely a secret ingredient in there that made it both fluffy and slightly sweet; and the soup with chicken meatballs was sublime. I’ve had many teriyaki chickens in my life, and now realise how inauthentic they have all been!
While the food was superb, the company was also great. It was interesting to hear each member of the family talk about their lives, interests and stories. There were plenty of laughs and a lot more common ground than I had expected.
We had a great evening with the Futami family. If you’re looking for an authentic Japanese experience, I can’t recommend Nagomi Visit highly enough (and no I’m not being paid in anyway for this). It’s a great way to meet people, learn about their culture and appreciate the local cuisine. I only wish there were more services like this available in other countries that I’ve visited, now there’s a business idea for someone.