November 1st, 2013
08:00 PM ET
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World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Tokyo, Japan in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, November 3, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.

"Maybe the most important thing you need to know about Tokyo, from my point of view is, every chef I know – every high end chef, from Spain, France, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles basically every chef I’ve ever met. If you asked them, 'If you had to spend the rest of your life, in one country, eating one country’s food for the rest of your life, where would that be?' They’re all gonna say the same thing. Japan. Tokyo. Period," says Anthony Bourdain.

"For me, that’s an argument ender. It is a humbling experience," he says. "You come here and you see how much precision, you see how much perfection is possible – with so few components. And you come away from that changed, and a little frightened."

During Bourdain's trip to Tokyo, he searches for (and finds) sushi master Naomichi Yasuda, takes a late night / early morning jaunt to Tsukiji - the city's massive fish market, savors the salty, savory, pickly delicious snacks of an izakaya and gets all knotted up over the city's fetish and manga-reading subculture.

Now that he's showed you his side - here's the Tokyo we know:

Are you being served? Tokyo's 'butlers' spruce up cosplay cafes
Being waited on hand and foot now comes at an affordable price in Tokyo. A new butler-themed cafe in the Japanese capital is proving a hit with young females in search for a relaxing afternoon, an English lesson and just as importantly the chance to interact with friendly foreign men. (Read more)

The best sushi restaurants in Tokyo
Ask five Tokyoites to name the best sushi restaurants in the city, and you’re likely to get five different answers – the old "how long is a piece of string?" quandary.

But the great thing about Tokyo is its sheer breadth and depth of choice when it comes to eating out. Sushi is no exception, and at least one of these five restaurants or chains is sure to please just about any hungry visitor; just don’t expect to be chowing down on California and spicy tuna rolls. (Read more)

Manga maids need not apply: Japan’s high-end concept cafés come of age
You’d like a teenage girl to serve you tea while dressed in a cutesy maid outfit? You got it. You want to dine on a gurney in an Alcatraz ER-themed restaurant or eat burgers surrounded by life-size anime characters? No problem. Just get yourself to Tokyo, the city seemingly teaming with 24-hour cartoon craziness and the embodiment of "wacky Japan."

But away from these Japanese stereotypes, there is a growing scene of altogether more grown-up concept cafés fusing areas to eat and drink with spaces for business meetings and relaxation. (Read more)

B-grade dining is tops in Tokyo
Think back to your younger, broker (or possibly drunker) days, when you enjoyed home-cooked beans folded into instant mashed potatoes and eaten hot from the pan, or ice cream piled onto your favorite donuts. It's cheap, tasty and satisfying as all get-out, but most definitely not about to find itself on any Michelin or Zagat lists.

The term "B-grade food" sounds just plain weird, implying something less than great. Yet stroll into any Japanese bookstore and you’ll spot dozens of magazines and books emblazoned with the characters "B級グルメ" – "B-kyu gurume." So why is second-rate dining so hot right now? (Read more)

Step up to the plate: from baseball bats to chopsticks
A chopstick making company has whittled down broken baseball bats so sushi can be shoveled with a swing.

Hyozaemon specializes in traditional hand-crafted eating utensils and in 2000 introduced their "kattobashi" chopsticks. The name is a play on words combining the Japanese word for chopsticks, "hashi," with a familiar chant heard at Japanese baseball games. (Read more)

Thirsty? Read all about Japan's glitzy whiskey scene, age-old tea rituals and burgeoning craft beer industry and then learn how to drink sake.

Previously on "Parts Unknown":
South Africa
Taste the Rainbow Nation
Sicilian food to soothe the soul
10 things to know before visiting Sicily
A sense of place in Copenhagen cuisine
New Mexico
In New Mexico, choose a side: red or green
Bourdain cops to mistake on Frito pie canned chili claim
10 things to know before visiting New Mexico
– Granada, Spain
Traditional tapas in Granada
11 things to know before visiting Spain
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
In Jerusalem, even food origins are contentious
10 things to know before visiting Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
Bourdain has traditional Palestinian meal
– Congo

SPAM and coq au vin on the Congo River
Peruvian food, from guinea pigs to pisco sours
Peruvian food is having a moment
Make perfect pisco sours and ceviche
South America's pisco enjoys North American revival
Breakfast in Libya
Where fast food tastes like freedom
iReport: In Morocco, eating is the spice of life
Street snacking in Morocco
O Canada! Our home and delicious land
Come for the strip bars, stay for the poutine
Colombian cuisine – from aguardiente to viche
Americans just don’t understand the potato. Colombians do.
Los Angeles Koreatown
The ever-changing flavor of L.A.'s Koreatown
Bridging generations and cultures, one blistering bowl of bibimbap at a time
Los Angeles food trucks are in it for the long haul
Fall in love with Myanmar's cuisine
In Myanmar, drink your tea and eat it too

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Filed under: Asian • Japan • Japanese • Parts Unknown • Sushi

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. H. B.

    I've lived in Mexico now for 20 years. When I first came here, I knew I'd like it, but felt I'd have trouble putting up with all that hot food! How wrong I was!

    While some recipes put the "chiloso" (hot peppers) right into the food, most of the time the hot peppers are served on the side. In restaurants, a bowl of jalapenos on each table is as common as ketchup and mustard on American ones.

    I started out trying to "like" the chiloso foods by adding hot chiles and hot sauces VERY gradually, working upward to more and more, until I found my personal "level of tolerance." What I learned is that these hot peppers are truly delicious in their own right, all aside from the "heat." They're also highly nutritious. The trick is not to omit them, but to only take up to your own tolerance level and no higher. Then you can delight in their lovely flavor. It made me realize all the wasted years when I couldn't endure even a touch of hot pepper.

    Mexican cuisine is now becoming more "haute" all the time, and it's probably very good. But nothing can compare to the homecooked stuff they've enjoyed for centuries, and some of the best dishes are also some of the most commonly eaten foods of the poor.

    What can beat a big bowl of guacamole? It's a world classic. At the very TOP of the list, too. Just never put any mayo into it, as some people do. Guacamole has only onion, avocado, tomato, garlic, lime juice, cilantro and hot chiles to taste (I use pickled jalapenos). It can be made quickly if you already have salsa picante on hand – just mix it with avocado.

    Avocados may be a delicacy in the States, but here, many people have their own trees, and an overabundance of them results. There's one variety, which is small with purple skin, and can be eaten right out of the hand, like a pear with a big seed in the middle. Delightful, skin and all, just as it is. A neighbor had a tree where each avocado was as big as a football. A whole family could enjoy large portions of guac made from just ONE.

    A taco comes in a variety of fillings, and it can be hard to choose a favorite. The same is true of enchiladas and burritos – and for special occasions, Chimichangas, which is a fancy, fried burrito, crispy and heavenly.

    When I lived in the States, I thought Mexicans added cumin into everything. This isn't so. I used to be able to tell that a recipe was Mexican simply because it had cumin (comino) in it! Which shows a high level of ignorance in my homeland about the vast variety of fine Mexican foods. In my area, near Guadalajara, cumin is not used often, but oregano IS. Both are good, though.

    Salsa picante has many variants, but the original (which is fat-free) uses onion, tomato, lime juice, jalapenos, fresh cilantro and garlic. Truly fabulous. I've substituted using salsa instead of ketchup over fried eggs. Vastly better! It's a delightful topping for a good steak, on sandwiches, and many other uses. And it's habit-forming!

    One of my personal favorites is Chicken/Avocado Taquitos. First you steam chicken breast barely done, so it remains moist, tender and succulent, then cutting it into slices. Toast some flour tortillas till they puff, but are still very pliable, on a dry cast iron pan. Wrap the chicken in them with a few slices of avocado and a dollop of picante sauce. Food of the gods!

    With a population that has endured real poverty for many years, many of their recipes are mostly veggies, which is good for health. But, like we do, Mexicanos tend to eat far too much fat and salt. In the healthiest cuisine categories, I think the oriental cuisines win the brass ring most of the time. But Mexican dishes can be brought into line, if properly done.

    They make wonderful soups and stews here. They are also in the habit of including a lime wedge with any bowl of either one. Squeezing it into the bowl adds nutrition, reduces the need for salt, and pumps up all the flavors in the food. They also have a habit of serving a selection of "add-ons" with soups and stews, similar in some ways to the dishes of condiments offered with curries. You choose the ones you want and add them to your bowl. Delicious and very good for you. You can even do this if the soup you're serving is canned! But not in creamed varieties.

    What isn't common enough here, though, is baked goods. This is because many families don't have ovens. It's much better now, but there are still many who don't own one. When they taste my homemade baked goods, they almost drool visibly! I have no doubt that, as time goes on, they'll invent some of their own classics. They are very good cooks, on the whole.

    Everyone knows about French Bread, but nobody gives any credit to the Mexican bolillo (bo-lee-yo), which is almost identical. Maybe a bit more substantial, though. Instead of one long roll, they make a roll about 18" long, give it a good twist and bake it. This gives you a "tira," which is two hard rolls that are connected but easy to separate. Marvellous!

    Street food of Mexico is almost impossible to resist, but can often bring on "the revenge." But there is a product here that can purify any produce that will be eaten raw (especially like lettuce, celery, cabbage and cilantro). It's quick, cheap and easy to use. Yet there IS no equivalent product in the States. Being tropical, of course, Mexico has no way to avoid intestinal parasites which live in tropical soils. Fifty years ago, there was a terrible scourge of cholera, and then they came out with these purification drops, which stopped it in its tracks. It's available all over Mexico. Yet why is it that this wonderful product is not available where it's needed most in the world, where cholera is killing people right NOW? I wouldn't BE without mine. Even if I get stupid with street food and pick up a parasite, I can begin to treat it in five minutes with 10 drops in a spoonful of water. It's cheap, totally benign in the human body, and it WORKS. People often think poorly of Mexicans, so they can't believe they could develop anything that WE could want, and that makes it easier to keep this product away from Americans. But if it HAD been there when all those people got sick – and some even DIED – from e-coli or salmonella, they could have cured it very quickly and could have purified, rather than thrown away, all that food. There's somebody in the States who has something to GAIN by keeping this product in Mexico. Silver is its only active ingredient, and microscopic silver can't possibly cause harm in humans, even babies. Yet I can have it and YOU can't! That's outrageous. All my produce can be purified, and the only time I pick up a parasite is when I do something DUMB.

    The simplicity of many Mexican dishes is often misleading, making people think they aren't "sophisticated enough." But what is it that counts most with food? TASTE. And only taste. Of which Mexican food has a lot.

    April 24, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
  2. jj

    Glad to see that Bourdain is going to Detroit!

    November 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  3. Brett

    Japanese looks fun to eat. I'd love to chow down on some Hitomi Tanaka.

    November 6, 2013 at 3:30 am |
  4. Erika

    Seafood in Japan these days.. hmm.. after Fukushima radiation traced in the Pacific Ocean..

    November 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  5. Ray G.

    innertron, If you eat pork you are disgusting to 1/3 of the world's population (Muslims). If you eat beef you are disgusting to all the Hindus worldwide. Japanese eat whale as a traditional food. But, on the other had, they and all other countries' increased demand for non-whale seafood is causing depletions in natural populations and leaving some areas "dead."

    November 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  6. innertron

    These people kill whales and here CNN is promoting what they eat! It seems CNN is very happy about the losing battle the Whale Wars is having to help save whales ... hey y'all lets promote Japan's disgusting eating!

    November 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • AGeek

      So you're going to skewer an entire society and an amazingly broad spectrum of amazing food based on one myopic bit you learned from TV. Bravo. Well done. Do the rest of us a favor and stop breathing through your mouth.

      November 2, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • csiko

      What makes a whale more important than any other animal? Do you realize how dumb you sound?

      Also, CNN, please make the whole episode available online. I've only been able to catch the 2 you've posted in full so far. I'd like to watch this one!

      November 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
      • KAS

        What makes a whale more important than any other animal is a) they reproduce very slowly so every time one is killed you have increased the likelihood of them going extinct, b) they are very intelligent and family oriented creatures (more so than many people in the U.S.) and c) they don't taste good to begin with.

        Only a human would continue to try and eat something which doesn't taste good just to make a point.

        If you're going to say why are whales more important than any other animal, what makes humans more important than any other animal? There are enough of us doing all kinds of horrific deeds to each other and everything else, why not whack a few million here and there just because we can? After all, we're just another animal.

        November 4, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • C

      Not all Japanese eat whale meat. I don't like that some do, but I'd never hate Japan for it. I think an equally bad problem, if not worse is that they are overfishing the Pacific. Also frightening is the Fukushima reactor situation. But being an island country, fish is a large staple of their diet and foundation to their cuisine. It's quite a predicament, but it is up to the Japanese to think about what they should do.

      November 3, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • H. B.

      Grow up. You're a linear thinker, and a hater, where things have to be black or white for you to understand them without getting a headache from having to learn about any complexities.

      Japanese food is delicious. Nobody HAS to eat whale meat, and many people there don't, because they're just as concerned about conservation as the rest of the world is.

      You proclaim your shallowness quite loudly. If you're shallow here, you're also shallow in your private life. Which makes you pretty impoverished in the character department.

      April 24, 2014 at 9:40 pm |
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