When you speak about Japanese culture (at least in Europe) you can usually categorize two different kinds of people. On one hand, the one more into traditional culture (ikebana, calligraphy, taiko), on the other hand, the one more interested in Japanese pop culture (mangas, music, games).
It depends on when you started loving the culture. In the end, we all end up liking a mixture of both.
I started discovering Japanese culture through videogames like "Alex kid", "Altered beast" or "Donkey kong" and then through different movies like my personal favourite (and golden palm at Cannes): "Unagi" -the Eel- from Imamura Shohei.
If I had the patience I would not be so far away from creating plant arrangements - Ikebana (生け花)! I decided to trust my friends on this one though ....
One thing that, however, comes right on the table (translation of a French saying that I find particularly appropriate here) whoever you speak to: Japanese food!
It might be hard to find good Japanese restaurants and even harder to find non sushi restaurants, but nobody can deny that Japanese food is really famous.
I would like to tell you about the specificity of the food in Fukuoka.
The classic Hakata ramen (博多ラーメン）
Ichiran in Roppongi
Photo: Fabian Reus on FlickrAs weird as It might seem, I’m not a big fan of ramen.
However, how could I not mention first the Tonkotsu (豚骨 or pork bone) ramen every Fukuoka citizen is so proud of...
The taste of the soup is quite strong and it usually comes with 2 slices of meat. It might be the type of ramen I appreciate the most.
I want to mention a place that might be familiar to you: Ichiran Ramen (一蘭). I know it is a quite expensive franchise but, with the particular ramen pot, the global atmosphere and the quality of it all, it a good window to the “Hakata ramen experience”.
Enough about classics, let’s get adventurous!
The Motsunabe (もつ鍋)
My personal favourite! A lot of people know about nabe (hot pot) in general, few (Sumo lovers like me) know about Chankonabe but almost nobody knows about motsunabe before coming to Fukuoka.
The trickiest part starts here. How do I convince you to try it? After all, French people already eat intestine, sheep brain and of course the famous frogs leg/ snail combo.
First thing, if you ate "dry" intestine before you have to know that the texture and the taste here are going to be diametrically opposite. It is a little bit chewy but not really. I want to define it as soft and mushy!
It comes with lots of Japanese vegetables and generally, you can pick from two types of soup. I would recommend you to take the traditional salty one.
You might be able to find really cheap motsunabe (400yens/person) but I really recommend you to invest a little more money (120yens/person) and have something worth remembering!
A great place in Fukuoka for motsunabe is called Shoraku. It is specialized in motsunabe and not far from the centre. A perfect place to relax after a long (and cold) day.
Kyushu Mentaiko (明太子)
My biggest surprised in Fukuoka. Before arriving here, not once have I heard about a famous food in Japan called mentaiko...
For Japanese people though, mentaiko might be as famous as Hakata ramen! There are Mentaiko pictures everywhere and this is what people usually bring back home as omiyage (お土産) form a trip in Fukuoka when they don't bring back the traditional biscuits.
Photo: ayustety on FlickrMentaiko is "marinated roe of pollock and cod”.
It is not usually eaten alone as the taste is really bitter. Japanese families often put some on top of their rice bowl.
I, myself, am not keen on eating Mentaiko with rice or raw. But once it is cooked, it tastes less bitter, a little spicy and particularly delicious!
In the Izakaya here in Fukuoka in is common to find cooked dishes including Mentaiko.
I love the mentaiko pizza or, even better, mentaiko tamago (omlet with mentaiko) or, even even better, mentaiko tenpura!
I took this picture in my favorite Izakaya called Sumibi-Yaki Kurofune - 炭火焼黒船 .
This izakaya, located next to the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel, is a little expensive but the quality of the food is totally worth it!
As you can see, there are many different types of good food here and these are just the most famous dishes. They have a real special meaning to Fukuoka citizens. Please try them all at least once if you come around!