Food Japan Literature Translation United Kingdom




by HAYASHI Fumiko (林 芙美子)

HAYASHI Fumiko is the proto Japanese food-blogger. For real. Her soul is so restless right now with anger that she didn’t live long enough to get to take pictures of every meal she ever had. I kinda feel like all that booze in her tea (see below) got to her tastebuds somehow, but apparently tomato and peanut butter sandwiches are a thing.


I lived in a boarding house in London for just two months, but despite the fact that the menu never changed in those two months it still surprised me. Oatmeal, ham and eggs, bacon, tea– it drove me crazy, and to this day when I see ham and eggs and bacon, I start feeling like my heart is blocking up.

In Japan, as well, it’s an undying custom to eat miso soup 365 days a year, morning, noon, and night. Perhaps for the English breakfast, like miso soup in Japan, ham and eggs are a constant companion every day of the year. However I thought the oatmeal in London was rather tasty. It may be eaten with butter melted into it while hot with salt, with marmalade, or with milk and sugar mixed in.

Having a freshly-baked croissant from a nearby café every morning and the smell of coffee was what I looked forward daily to in Paris. If you eat too much for breakfast your mind and body feel sluggish all day long, so I felt that the French breakfast was the very best.

There were times when I would just have a freshly brewed cup of coffee without any breakfast, but in general I prefer black tea, bread, vegetables, or whatnot. At that time I was eating cucumbers like mad. I would slice them finely and wash them in some strong salt water. Then I’d put them on bread slathered with butter to have with tea. Don’t add milk to your tea, instead stir in two or three drops of whisky or wine. To me, this is the very best breakfast that can be had.

If you’re staying up all night and your head is getting a bit light, after brushing your teeth, take a bottle of whisky out from the refrigerator and have a wee drop. It’ll put so much life in you, you’ll be shocked. It is odd how on an occasional midsummer’s morning it is impossible to eat.

On summer mornings, I enjoy having various odd things for breakfast. If I’m eating rice,  I like to add a pickled plum to it even if it’s freshly cooked and hot, and I like to add some cold water, as well. Spring, summer, fall, or winter, freshly cooked rice is delicious. ‘Standing’ rice is far better than ‘sleeping’ rice. I hate rice which still has its shine or has holes in it. Like the form of a sleeping child, there’s nothing that can be said about serving up a bowl of plump, cooked rice. Miso soup is good for those who smoke, but in my house, I only make miso ten days out of any month. The rest of the time is generally vegetables on bread with black tea. For some reason, I eat miso soup and rice more in the winter.

Tomatoes will be rather plentiful soon. The pink colored tomatoes called Victoria are delicious on bread. When putting tomatoes on bread, coat the bread with peanut butter then eat. The deliciousness is like ascending to heaven. Beyond that, preserved tomatoes in soy sauce make a rather strange topping for bread. I usually make my own marmalade.

I don’t like canned marmalade very much, so when I’m buying it I usually try to search for it in a jar. Happily, these days good pickled cucumbers can be found in Japan, and eating a pickle with a little mustard on it along with some bits of bread while drinking black tea with plenty of sugar is also tasty. Among  my other inventions that I thought were rather tasty are fried parsley on bread and a handful of daikon sprouts, purchased fresh from a farmer on a summer’s morning, boiled and served on bread with peanut butter. An experiment, that was. But rather good. For breakfast on a rainy day, I feel that whatever else is said, coffee so hot it might burn your mouth with tomatoes is delicious.

In the mornings, some will only eat butter with bread. It makes your skin terribly supple. In other countries they use butter like we use soy sauce in Japan. Dining tables where butter is used sparingly are not very well liked. On a Sunday morning, sardines, tomato and some finely-chopped cabbage goes well with either bread or rice.

As for what tea to have at breakfast, I have undertaken very careful testing, as a person who likes to think she has a taste for what is good. The making of tea and the making of rice are in the same spirit. As for coffee, I feel it does not go well with meat, fish, or any vegetables, so for an average, complex meal I choose black tea. However, coffee is delicious after eating meat– that is, after eating a meal. When drinking tea with a meal, I always think black tea is the best, but what about you?


During this period I was reading Takami Jun‘s novel Landscape with Sleet, which has a depiction of someone eating breakfast at a teahouse on the outskirts of town. With his rather skillful way of writing, the details of breakfast in a cheap teahouse came out very well, and I feel the same as the landlady who says that the proof of quality in cooking is in the rice and tea.

I take various trips often, and I have more memories of the breakfasts I’ve eaten at inns on my trips than I can count. To start with the worst first, one I can remember clearly even today was when I went to Akakura Onsen and stayed at an inn called Kougakuro. I had heard it was a top-notch inn with an automobile to meet travelers as well, so when I was brought steamed food at breakfast it surprised me. Though I don’t know why exactly they couldn’t cook something for me individually when it was May and there were no guests, during the two or three days I stayed there, I spoke to the maid about it a few times when served this steamed food. I don’t know why but three or four years later I can still remember this disappointment so strongly, so this resentment must be rather deeply rooted in me.  The worst food, not confined to breakfast, is in Tohoku. And if you travel near Sakhalin, you will be served food that stinks of fish from morning onward.

As for good breakfasts, I had one when I stayed at an inn called Tsujiume in Shizuoka. There, above all else, the tea was delicious and delightful. In Kyoto’s Nawate, a place called Nishitake cooks up a big lovely breakfast. But more delicious than that is breakfast on a boat. I’m thinking of a trip I took on a boat, but I feel that the rice in the morning on the route to Dalian was utterly scrumptious. And toast in the morning while at sea is rather good, too.

When I think of breakfasts with bread, I think of the marmalade at restaurants in Beijing in the mornings. Had it been boiled? This limpid amber, not sweet, but not tangy marmalade was truly fantastic.

I rarely stay at friends’ houses, but when I stayed at Mr Fukuda Kyuuya‘s home in Kamakura, the breakfast was, I recall occasionally even now, excellent.  In spite of appearances his wife loves cooking, and she can make lovely food in no time at all. The taste of ham fried on a brazier, the way she cooked the eggs, the smell of it all– when I think of it I start to drool. It was delicious.

I have no concern about eating meat in the mornings, but I find being served fish in the morning vexing. If you go to a fishing area in China, they will serve you clams boiled in broth in the morning. I have heard that fruit at breakfast is like gold to our bodies, but really, in China they are just grateful to have enough fruit to eat. In those days in the mornings I cut lemons into slices, put them in water and drank it, which I thought was good for my out of shape body. These days I love the combination of strawberries, sugar and bread, and having hot boiled potatoes fried in butter with sea urchin from Kanazawa is one of the most pleasurable things on a summer’s morning. I have tried sea urchin from various places, but Kanazawa’s is the very best. Toast some bread and spread the sea urchin on like butter– but this is nearly too delicious. — I could write about food forever but with some effort I will excuse myself and write about it in my diary of delicious things I’ve eaten.


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