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Having tried her fair share of hotel breakfasts in Japan – some good, some an acquired taste – Samantha is best placed to prepare you for a unique start to the day.
Hotel breakfasts in Japan
I am a firm believer that the hotels you stay in play a huge part in the enjoyment of your holiday. After all, we spend at least half the day in them (albeit asleep!). A hotel and the services they provide really can make or break a trip. Everyone has that classic story of the nightmare hotel that had bedbugs, and stone cold scrambled eggs for breakfast (that later gave your family member food poisoning).
It’s important that the hotels you spend your hard-earned money on are high-quality, clean, comfortable and well located. Somewhere that you’ll look forward to returning to after a long day of sightseeing, and geisha spotting. As well as that sake fuelled evening of karaoke! It’s also important that it has a yummy breakfast that will fuel you for another day of Japan exploration.
Hotel inspections in Japan
On my recent trip to Japan I stayed in no less than 11 different hotels of varying degrees of style and grade. They ranged from tiny Japanese ryokan (traditional inns), to budget hostels, and luxury big name chains. As with most hotels in Japan, they were all very clean with great customer service. There was one funny thing I couldn’t help but notice that they had in common though – a very wide (sometimes bizarre) range of breakfast options.
Here are my top 5 unexpected items you will most likely find in a hotel breakfast buffet in Japan:
This is more commonly found in Western-style hotels. Ryokan almost always serve a very traditional Japanese breakfast featuring fish, rice and, of course, miso soup.
Miso soup I can forgive as it’s light and refreshing, perfect for the start of the day. However in some hotels I was faced with corn, mushroom and pumpkin flavoured soupy delights. For a meal that inspires images of cosy, winter evenings this was the last thing I needed on a hot summer’s day in Japan.
2) Fried food
No not fried eggs… not at all.
Apparently 9am is the ideal time for chicken nuggets and chips as these featured heavily in most breakfast buffets. Other fried culprits included fried fish, fried chicken and even fried balls of cheese! Perhaps a good idea if you need the energy to climb Mount Fuji, but maybe a heavy breakfast choice for most people?
A nice contrast to the deep-fried options, a healthy salad if ideal if you’re looking to start the day off with something light and refreshing. I saw many a salad bar in the hotels I stayed in, featuring all the usual items – salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and of course potato salad which seems to be a firm favourite. Eating light at breakfast also means you’ll be ready to go hard on the conveyor belt sushi plates by lunchtime!
Oh curry, I will never understand why curry is considered a breakfast food in Japan but from my own experience having lived there for 3 years, and having Japanese friends, I can assure you that yes, some people just like curry for breakfast. Bear in mind though that this is Japanese-style curry which is slightly sweeter and less spicy than its Indian counterpart… but still… curry… really?
5) Rice and pickled vegetables
Heavily represented in traditional ryokan breakfasts, rice is a staple breakfast item for most Japanese families. It is healthy, filling and goes well with your morning curry! You will also find an array of pickled vegetables, known as tsukemono to go along with your rice. The most popular items are usually radishes, cucumbers and even sour pickled plums.
Whether you choose to go native and opt for a traditional rice and fish combo, or stick to what you know, we all agree that hotel breakfasts in Japan offer something for everyone. By the time you finish you’ll be full (literally) of energy and inspiration for your exciting day ahead. But don’t forget to save room for all of the delicious lunch and dinner options Japan has to offer… tonkatsu, okonomiyaki, sushi, ramen… I am getting hungry just thinking about it.
They do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, luckily we’ve sampled all of the delights of hotel breakfasts in Japan (curry included) and are on-hand to answer all of your foodie questions.