Washoku, or traditional Japanese cuisine, has been added to UNESCO's intangible heritage list.
How is Nagomi Visit going to celebrate?
Simply by making washoku more accessible to everyone.
We want to continue to provide opportunities for people to try real washoku with locals all over Japan.
As mentioned in the following article, the UNESCO listing not only focuses on Japanese food but recognizes that "washoku plays an important role in strengthening social cohesion."
We at Nagomi Visit sincerely want to help strengthen not only local familial ties but in the global community with washoku.
And of course it would be silly to keep all the delicious washoku in the world to ourselves so why not share with a Nagomi Visit or two!
Thanks to Tokyo Weekender for mentioning us in yet another article!
Since the first Nagomi Visit in 2011 when the program was founded, we were always about connecting people. However, who knew Nagomi Visit would become a place for celebration too!
We've seen so many celebrate their honeymoons, anniversaries, and birthdays with Nagomi Visit.
Looking back at all the Nagomi Visits that happened all across Japan, really love the creativity that has gone into our program.
All because of you amazing Nagomi Visitors out there!
What did you do at your Nagomi Visit?
Here are the many ways past participants have enjoyed their Nagomi Visits.
1. Participate with friends and family
Many of our guests participate as a couple, with friends, or family members. It's definitely an activity people of all ages seem to agree on.
2. Go solo
Enjoy it solo! If you are traveling alone and striking up a random conversation at a local izakaya bar seems a bit too far fetched, Nagomi Visit is a great alternative. If you are participating solo, you have the advantage of being able to speak one-on-one with the host so it's your opportunity to ask all your Japan related questions. Don't be shy!
3. Try new foods
We hope everyone will be discovering something new during their Nagomi Visit but if there is something in particular you want to learn more about, such as macrobiotic home cooking, it doesn't hurt to look for a host that matches your interest!
4. Cook with your host
Learn how to make dishes like gyoza dumplings, battered takoyaki octopus snacks, savory okonomiyaki pancakes, and more. It will just be like learning to cook with a friend so the environment will be relaxed and casual.
5. Stop by a nearby supermarket with your host
Your host will be able to show you food and ingredients they love and eat everyday. If you have something in particular you are looking for, your host might also be able to help.
6. Meet more than one host
Many participants are going on multiple Nagomi Visits to learn more about Japan. Sometimes in just one city or multiple cities with the most popular combination being 1 host in the greater Tokyo area
and 1 in one of the Kansai area cities such as Osaka or Kyoto. But remember, there are many hosts all around Japan so make sure to check our coverage!
7. Experience rural Japan
Though we setup guests with hosts who are within an hour reach from wherever they are staying, some people opt to visit a little further out to experience a different side of the city. Many are surprised with the real local scenery found just outside the city center.
8. Celebrate a birthday or anniversary
We have seen so many celebrations go on throughout the months! For birthdays many hosts and guests work together to surprise a friends or family member. There are also times when the host just goes ahead to plan a small surprise for the guest. Everything goes so just use your imagination and you can do some amazing things!
9. Plan activities
Sometimes the hosts suggest activities or you can too. This may be going to a local park, showing how to do origami, pretty much anything to add a bit more fun. Want to learn some kendama tricks? Just ask.
10. Meet again
The beauty of the Nagomi Visit is that although the visit itself lasts 2-3 hours, it's an opportunity to make a promise to meet again. Whether it is a few days later while you are still in Japan or if the hosts is visiting your home country.
Loving the fact that Tokyo Weekender, Japan's oldest free English publication, did a piece on Nagomi Visit. Expats currently living in Japan already participate in our programs but we are hoping this coverage will help more people to step outside of their usual communities!
Having been asked this a couple of times, we decided to compile a list of some (English language) Japanese home cooking recipe books. However that said, ironically our recommendations would be to check out a few websites before you buy your first Japanese cookbook.
The main reason is that the internet provides the necessary support when trying to cook Japanese food for the first time. Probably the most frustrating part will be figuring out what are the necessary Japanese ingredients, finding them, and familiarizing yourself. Cookbooks may have general recommendations on where to purchase ingredients, what can be left out, or what can be substituted, but not everything will be crystal clear.
Just Hungry is the most comprehensive site to familiarize yourself with Japanese cooking. Maki who runs the site, knows what it is like to not have access to Japanese ingredients 24/7 so all her advice is extremely helpful with lots of information on understanding Japanese ingredients, when using substitutions are okay and not, and there is also a huge community of fans all over the world who help each other. Plus Maki is very good about answering questions, though amazingly enough many of them have been answered on either the Just Hungry site or her bento focused site Just Bento. Though not recipes, her articles on The Japan Times are also very informative if you are looking to want to learn more about Japanese cuisine.
Some other recipe sites are Just One Cookbook, No Recipes, and the English Cookpad recipe sharing website. Probably the most obvious drawback about the Cookpad website is that these are translated recipes so it might be difficult to follow since many of the recipes assume you are in Japan and already are familiar with the ingredients. But once you familiarize yourself with the basics it will be a good source of inspiration.
If you are really serious, Elizabeth Andoh's books are a great read. They are not for the casual cook looking for a quick recipe, but instead are best for those wanting to really understand in depth about traditional Japanese home cooking and ingredients because everything she writes is thorough with a non-Japanese audience in mind.
Japanese Farm Food is good for someone who doesn't mind a bit more narrative in their cookbooks than just straight forward recipes and descriptions about ingredients. You will get to learn a bit about what it is like to live in rural Japan. It is of course good as a cookbook but the book is so beautiful that it will probably end up better as a coffee table book.
Kurihara Harumi's books are also an option but they are more contemporary Japanese home cooking, meaning some of the ingredients she uses include western ingredients. Just imagine a Japanese Rachael Ray so her recipes represent the modern Japanese kitchen. Her books are probably more recommended for those already with a basic knowledge of traditional Japanese home cooking. The same probably goes for some of the recipes on Cookpad.
Here we have decided to compile a list of guides you can use to help plan your Tokyo trip. This ongoing guide will assume you have already browsed through general information like the almighty Japan Guide. Apologies in advance for being a bit Tokyo-centric here but will hopefully be able to change this to a solid Japan guide article.
Hey Kumo's A Guide to a First Tokyo Trip is a great comprehensive Tokyo guide but also has a good section on Getting Connected which will be helpful for those struggling to figure out the wifi situation in Japan.
The Thousands Tokyo Select has great articles on places that may not be thoroughly featured in conventional guides like this post on Yanaka.
Where To Eat
Time Out Tokyo is a great basic resource with many Top 10 or Best in Tokyo lists but Food Sake Tokyo should definitely be the go to site for foodies who love food from Michelin-starred restaurants to bargain eats.
Bento.com is also a good resource with restaurants reviews covering the Kanto and Kansai area, but the photos on Tokyo Eats may be helpful in finding places, although most places are in Tokyo and some in Kyoto.
Where To Stay
Again, Time Out Tokyo does a great job of listing the best out of the bunch in Tokyo in their Budget hotels and hostels in Tokyo article.
Need a good book to read during your travels in Japan? Michael Booth's Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking is probably the best for a foodie. Here is a good overview of the book on the Japan Times.
Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guide would be a fun alternative guide but is unfortunately out of stock so in the meantime check this One perfect day: Tokyo article or though not necessarily in a guide format, take a look at her blog for inspiration.
The Japan Times is good for basic local news in English of course but Makiko Itoh's columns are great for foodies of all levels.
Hopefully this will give you an idea of what types of people participate in Nagomi Visit. This is a summary of our first two years.
Basically what all this means is that we have 5 times more participants than last year! Woo-hoo!
There is also more diversity with guest from 19 more countries than last year, where a large number are from the United States, Australia, Singapore, Spain, Canada, UK, and Italy. Though most are travelers, we love that more expats in Japan are using our program to help explore outside of their communities.
What is not included in the infographic is we now have more hosts who are vegetarian or vegan or can arrange these meals. There are also many who can make meals without pork, beef, or handle various allergies such as shellfish which has also helped us to welcome a more diverse group of guests!
Although the Kanto and Kansai area are the most popular with Tokyo at the top, then Osaka and Kyoto, we are glad to see more in other parts of Japan including Nagoya!
We thank all of you who have made this possible!
Arigato to all of you since you made this happen! Woo-hoo!
We started as Nagomi Kitchen back in November 2011. There were three hosts who were part of our home visit program who were friends of ours. Founder Megumi was the only cooking instructor we had for our cooking classes. We actually didn’t even have a proper website back then.
During the early years we were literally doing everything from finding hosts from our personal network to teaching the cooking classes.
Many things happened since then. After much thought we renamed our organization to Nagomi Visit International and became a registered nonprofit organization. Our first step outside of the greater Tokyo area was to expand our activities into the Kansai region.
The amazing power of the internet, word-of-mouth, the media, and our growing number of supporters helped the Nagomi Visit community of hosts and instructors to expand, eventually making it normal for Nagomi Visit activities to happen everyday simultaneously all across Japan. Now we have close to 100 hosts all over Japan.
We gotta be honest. It was a lot of work and will continue to be but if it wasn't for all of you we still wouldn't be here two years later so arigato so much! Oh, and don't forget to keep in touch :)
The show we are going to be on today has been posting various teasers on their Facebook page about the episode we are going to be featured on. This is very exciting. Here is one of the main ones translated into English.
On this week’s Table of Dreams
This kyaraben (character bento box) was actually made by a Japanese anime loving French couple.
Right now short homestay programs called home visits are becoming popular among travelers who want to learn more about real Japanese food. This is a kyaraben that was made in one of these home visits.
Food can play a crucial role in fostering meaningful conversation between people of various backgrounds.
This week’s “Table of Dreams” may make the world a better place. The dining table becomes the center stage where people come together to connect with the world.
June 29th (Saturday) from 22:30, rerun on July 6th (Saturday) 9:30 on BS Fuji
So if you have been following Nagomi Visit for awhile you probably already know that our program is going be featured on television this weekend June 29th 22:30-23:00 on BS Fuji.
Now this is BIG NEWS because it is not just a measly few minutes of screen time but a full thirty minute documentary (if you want to be exact probably 29 minutes minus a one minute long Kirin commercial) about what Nagomi Visit is about and what we are trying to accomplish as an organization. It's just us and only us for the full episode. Amazing!
When we were first contacted by the producers it was sure a dream come true but at the same time a bit hard to believe since we had been contacted before with similar offers. Even after meeting the crew and all the filming, it still felt like a dream.
Finally it is slowly starting to feel real with a photo and description about our program on the show's website and only a few days away until the episode airs.
Hopefully we will be able to do a recap for those who are not able to see the show live but before that, here is a rough translation of what it says on the website.
"Know what a home visit is? It's a program where locals welcome travelers from all over the world to come to their home to eat lunch or dinner.
When you're traveling, it is often difficult to find a chance to really interact with locals and get to see what it is like to live in the place. However, with a home visit travelers can get a glimpse by going to a local home and sharing a meal.
Megumi Kusunoki who founded and operates this home visit program believes that there are many cultural boundaries that can be broken just by sharing a home-cooked meal. Not everyone has to be a native speaker in each other's language because food will help to cultivate good conversation.
The program is becoming popular around the world because the experience is similar to a long-term homestay program but can be done in just two or three hours.
There are currently over 60 hosts (note: there are actually 70 as of now), and over 220 groups who have visited these various households from 35 countries.
In this episode we will be following a French couple making a Japanese character lunch box, a solo traveler from the United States among others. You will also see Nagomi Visit host Eri Taniguchi as she prepares to meet five travelers from Italy. The five of them who are artists and designers are visiting Japan in hopes to see the country they first came to know through animation and its culture. Eri prepares various dishes for the day including inarizushi fried tofu pouches filled with sushi rice, miso glazed dengaku, braised pork belly kakuni, fermented squid shiokara, and salted umeboshi plums.
Will the guests like the Japanese dishes they tried for the first time?
Let us explore this Home Visit: a new kind of cultural exchange that begins at the dining table. It is where people first come to connect as travelers and locals, but eventually cultivate real friendships."
This thirty minute show was a result of four days of filming spending many amazing hours with various hosts, guests, Yuko one of our Cooking Visit instructors, myself Alisa Sanada the Chief Operating Officer, and of course our founder Megumi Kusunoki.
A big huge arigato to all those who were with us during the filming including friends and family cheering us on in the sidelines. Yes, because of your support Nagomi Visit will be making its first major television appearance but that is not the only point I'd like to make here.
All those days of filming and waiting for the show to air have all been an important journey.
Hearing stories directly from hosts and guests, it reassured that they are not just participants but are people who strongly believe in our program's goals of true cultural exchange. We were also grateful to really see that there is a growing solid Nagomi Visit community and it is not just a scatter of ties between individual hosts and guests. Lastly, for the Nagomi Visit team, this will be a big opportunity to share with more people what really motivates us as individuals to run the program we love so much.
So thank you all not just for the screen time but the whole experience!
Lets see what happens on June 29th 22:30-23:00 on BS Fuji!