The Japanese Breakfast vs. The American Breakfast

Please close your eyes for a second and think about your idea of the perfect, most delectable breakfast you could have. Think about every nuance. Are you eating it at a restaurant that really makes your tummy smile every time you go? Perhaps it’s at your Mom’s house or another family member. What breakfast foods are running through your mind? Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section.

The American Style Breakfast

When I think about the perfect breakfast, it’s gotta be one thing for me…pancakes. I think about a piping hot, short-shortstack of fluffy, buttermilk pancakes with whipped butter on top and just the perfect complement of maple syrupy goodness streamed on top. Throw in a serving of scrambled eggs and a class of chilled orange juice, and there we have it…breakfast heaven! You could just as easily replace the pancakes with a hearty plate of waffles, or french toast, and I’d still be a happy dude. There is just something about those syrup-based breakfast dishes that reminds of home. It reminds me of waking up at 6:00 am on an early fall Saturday mornings, where my brother Derrick and I would sit and watch the morning cartoon lineup together. Mom (or one my sisters) would wake up a bit later and sometimes ask the magic question. “Boys! Y’all want some pancakes?” Umm…YEAH!! They’d cook up a batch of slamming pancakes (sometimes with eggs if we were lucky) with turkey sausage. AHHHHHhhh…I think I feel a bout of homesickness coming on.

In my head, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and orange juice are the quintessential elements of a perfect, American-style breakfast. But if you ask somebody else, like maybe my Dad, you may get a different answer.
*I’m pretty sure Dad would say grits (like a cornmeal porridge) are a part of an ideal breakfast.

Now if we’re not talking ideal, but just your run of the meal weekday…it was always a heaping bowl of cereal with lowfat milk (Mom always bought 2% milk, and now I’m hooked on the stuff! Thanks Mommy!!). Cereals…I used to eat so many different kinds. As a kid I was more partial to the sugary cereals: The Original Cap’N Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, Count Chocula (General Mills), Boo Berry (General Mills), Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams…pant…pant…Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs, Crunch Berries (a type of Cap’N Crunch), Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Berry Kix, Cookie Crisp…I could keep going, but I’ll stop there. During the teenage years, I started to enjoy cereals like Clusters, Wheat Chex, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Bran Flakes, and even started to get more into oatmeal. I won’t lie to you, though, I’m still a huge fan of the kids cereals, it’s one of my unabashed pleasures.

Though I know it’s not big for everybody, in the Ash family, breakfast was always a big deal.

The Japanese-Style Breakfast?

Even in America breakfast can vary from place to place and region. Breakfast menus can sometimes be a product of where you come from. Nowhere have I gotten to experience this more than in Japan.

When I came to Japan, it was so cool to hear some of the other things that people had for breakfast. Everybody had such different breakfast menu ideas. I don’t remember exactly what was common in England or Australia, but it was different from the American style. The Japanese-style breakfast, though, was nothing at all like the American style I was used to.

What exactly does a Japanese breakfast consist of? Well, much like back home, it depends on who you ask, but the standard breakfast that I’ve heard Japanese friends and co-workers mention consists of the following: miso soup (味噌汁), natto(納豆), steamed rice (ご飯 or gohan), and grilled fish (焼き魚 or yakizakana). I remember, when I first got here, thinking “Huh? Fish for breakfast??” It’s quite different from my Georgia-ideal breakfast, but it has really grown on me. Once you’ve gotten used to it, this can be quite a hearty, tasty breakfast, too.

I have heard other people mention eating fruit for breakfast here in Japan and, in rare cases, even cereal or pancakes**.
** Why the freak is maple syrup so expensive in Japan…and soooo thin. I’m not saying I want my syrup to be cane syrup thick, but if it’s going to be that expensive, I want it to really get the job done

Having tried both styles, I have to say that both have their benefits. I think the Japanese style breakfast is FAR healthier and far lighter than the American-style that I like. After eating this type of meal, I feel like I had my fill, but I don’t fell heavy…if that makes sense. After my ideal American-style breakfast, I feel like unbuckling my belt and unleashing my mighty stomach. On the other hand, when you talk about straight up deliciousness, I have to say the American style all day.



Mugicha, also known as Japanese roasted barley tea, is a traditional summer drink in Japan. It is a commonly held view among Japanese housewives that barley tea has cooling properties. This, along with the fact barley tea is full of Vitamin B, fiber, and iron, makes mugicha a beloved symbol of summer in Japan. During the hot summer months, many restaurants will serve barley tea instead of water and it is also readily available in vending machines, convenience stores, and grocery shops.

Mugicha provides cool summertime refreshment.

Mugicha provides cool summertime refreshment.



The concept is simple and surprisingly effective. Keeping your head cool while you sleep has long been associated with an increase in melatonin and most grocery stores in Japan sell several varieties of ice pillows during the summer. These adorable ice pillows come in all shapes and sizes, with animal shaped packs available in smaller sizes for children.

In a pinch, you can also buy an ice pack. They tend to be cheaper than the brand-name ice pillows but also tend to be slightly harder and not as comfortable to sleep on. Nevertheless, either method will work well and keep your body cool.


Kakigori, also known as Japanese shaved ice, comes in two varieties. Festival style kakigori is simple shaved ice with artificial flavors such as lemon, green tea, melon, “Blue Hawaii,” or strawberry poured on top. Most street vendors will use either an electric or hand operated machine that rotates a block of ice over a stationary blade and shaves the ice flurries into the container below.

Green tea flavored kakigori is both sophisticated and cooling.

Green tea flavored kakigori is both sophisticated and cooling.


Another variety of kakigori typically served in restaurants is the green tea flavored kakigori,or uji kintoki, which is topped with sweetened red bean paste, ice cream, condensed milk, or tapioca pearls. These kakigori flakes are much thinner than their festival-style counterparts; they turn a street festival food into a sophisticated, traditional Japanese dessert.


This seems counter-intuitive, but it is by far the best way to beat the heat in Japan. Going shopping, meeting friends for karaoke, or visiting an artsy museum during the hottest part of the day (from about 12 noon to 3pm) splits up the day and gives your body a break from sweating. Even just an hour disruption from the heat and humidity of Japan can be a lifesaver. If you would rather spend the summer outdoors, beer gardens, parks, and botanical gardens typically have ample amounts of shade that allow you to enjoy the atmosphere without the risk of heat stroke.

Temple grounds, parks and gardens often provide ample shade. (Pictured: Jindai-ji Temple, Chofu, Tokyo).

Temple grounds, parks and gardens often provide ample shade. (Pictured: Jindai-ji Temple, Chofu, Tokyo).


The Japanese population may be one the biggest spenders per capita on skin care products, much of which are marketed towards reversing the damage of UV radiation. Along with these expensive skin care products, many women in Japan also carry sun umbrellas or parasols. These parasols are lightweight, come in all sorts of chic patterns, and provide an enjoyable amount of shade. Other options include carrying around a small handkerchief to keep sweat off your brow or foldable fan to provide a gentle breeze.

Parasols have long been a favorite way to beat the summer heat in Japan.

Parasols have long been a favorite way to beat the summer heat in Japan.

Haneda Late Night/Early Morning Bus Service

New convenient transportation for visitors to and from Haneda International Airport in Tokyo during the hours from midnight through early morning when access to trains is difficult is now available thanks to Keikyu (Keihin Kyuko Bus Co., Ltd.) which is offering bus service to and from Haneda to and from Tokyo Metropolitan and Yokohama (includes Shibuya, Shinagawa, Odaiba, Minatomirai, Yokohama, Kawasaki and Kawata areas). All buses depart from and arrive at Haneda Airport International Terminal, and have plenty of baggage storage space even for large suitcases.

For the entire list of origin and destination locations, please visit here.

Japan Airlines “Japan Explorer Pass”

Travelling within Japan can sometimes require deep pockets, but now foreign visitors can travel domestically at an extremely reasonable rate thanks to Japan Airlines’ “Japan Explorer Pass” which offers year-round travel to 30 cities in Japan Airlines’ domestic network. There is a fixed fee of 10,800 yen (includes tax) per flight for 1-5 domestic flights (also called sectors) by Japan Airlines’ Group sold in one-way flights with a maximum of five flights. For example: Tokyo-Osaka-Fukuoka (2 flights or sectors) = 21,600 yen.

Eligibility for the Japan Explorer Pass:

  • 1. The pass can only be used by non-residents of Japan who arrive and depart by international flights (includes Japanese customers with permanent residences overseas)
  • 2. It is applicable for domestic flights operated by Japan Airlines and Japan Transocean Air.
  • 3. Reservations may not be changed after ticket purchase
  • 4. Non-refundable
  • 5. The ticket must be purchased via Japan Airlines’ websites including the new three overseas English websites for the Americas, the U.K., and Hong Kong
  • 6. The ticket is available for purchase up to 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure time of the domestic flight
  • 7. No restriction on which airline is used to fly to and from Japan

These prices are really a boon to visitors who would like to explore Japan, especially when traveling long distance, such as flying from Tokyo to Kyushu, Okinawa, or Hokkaido.

For more information, please visit here.

SHOPPING: 6 “Must Have” Souvenirs From Japan

From New Year’s surprises, to matcha flavored munchies, tax-free bargains and more, Japan is a shopper’s paradise! To help create your shopping list, check out our tips for “must have” souvenirs from Japan:

1. Matcha Flavored Snacks


Matcha is powdered Japanese green tea enjoyed for its bittersweet taste. While matcha is known for its use in tea ceremonies, it is also popular ingredient in snacks, including cookies, biscuits, cakes and chocolates. You may even find your favorite snack from America offering matcha flavored treats in Japan!

2. Fukubukuro


Visit Japan during the New Year to get your hands on fun grab bags filled with an assortment of store items at a deeply discounted price. You never know what you might get but that’s just the fun of it!

3. Japanese Traditional Goods

Japanese Traditional Goods

There a great deal of goods that positively scream Japan which means that you don’t always have to overthink it when looking for souvenirs. Items such a folding fans, fuurin wind chimes, and sake sets are easy to find in department stores and even 100 yen stores. You can also find great seasonal gifts such a yukata (summer kimono) in department stores such as Uniqlo.

4. Tax Free Souvenirs


Shopping for the perfect souvenir doesn’t have to be a costly venture. Shop hundreds of stores nationwide that offer purchases free of sales tax! Go ahead and splurge on a little something extra for your loved ones with all the money you’ll save.

5. Plastic Food Replicas


Surprisingly detailed plastic food replicas are prominently displayed at many Japanese restaurants, making ordering a breeze. These replicas are also available for purchase in areas such as Tokyo’s Kappabashi or Douguyasuji in Osaka. Plastic food themed gifts such as magnets and key chains are also available.

6. Japanese Ceramics


There are many styles of Japanese pottery and ceramics, available in all price ranges. From rice bowls to tea sets and sake sets, you are sure to find a unique style that will be a treasured gift.


Say Hello to Tazuu!


Fun-to-pronounce Tazuu is a free of charge question and answer internet service designed specifically for people who want to visit Japan. Tazuu facts: more than 90% of questions asked get answered; you can ask questions in English; approximately 50% replies are posted within 2 hours after a question is asked.

Most people who reply are Japanese locals familiar with the area you have questions about, and who can answer precisely and quickly, so you can ask in as much detail as you like. But, you say, you don’t speak Japanese? No problem! Ask your question in English – it will be translated into Japanese and then the reply will be translated back into English (human or machine translation).

You can start asking questions almost immediately if you have a Facebook, Google or Twitter account! All posts are checked by their trained staff members within 24 hours of their posting.

For more information, please visit here.

DAY TRIPS: 6 Quick Trips To Take You A World Away

Take in the view from a soaring city tower or a mountain peak. Relax in a soothing hot spring, or see how your favorite products are made. Extraordinary day trips await you in Japan!

Check out this list of useful tips for one-day travel excursions:

1. Airport Layover Excursion


Long layovers don’t have to be spent cooped up in the airport when you can take a short train ride to stopover cities such as Narita, Ota City, or Sakai. Do some sightseeing at a local shrine without having to travel to central Tokyo or Kyoto.

2. Nature Adventure


For the price of a cup of coffee you can get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city with a quick train ride to Mt. Takao. Hike the beautiful mountain trails just 50 minutes from Tokyo.

3. Take A Tourist Detour

Mount Fuji Hakone

Planning to take the train from Tokyo to Kyoto? Why not break up that long ride by stopping off in cities such as Hakone or Nagoya and spending a couple of hours sightseeing on the way?

4. Rejuvenate At An Onsen

Hot Spring Onsen

Tired after a long day of sightseeing? Take a quick trip to one of the thousands of hot springs and bathhouses that Japan has to offer and relax with the locals in the therapeutic waters.

5. See How It’s Made

Japan Factory Tour

Take a factory tour and see how companies such as Toyota, Cup of Noodles, and Asahi Beer make the products you see every day. You may even get a sample fresh off the production line!

6. Enjoy The View From Up High

Tokyo Skyline

Most major Japanese cities have skyscrapers and towers where you can ascend to take in the view from above, including newer destinations like SkyTree in Tokyo. If you want the scenic vistas without the entrance fee, try the Tokyo Government Building’s 202 meter high observation deck which is open to the public free of charge and has a café where you can grab a bite while you enjoy the view.