Arigatou, Japan!

Our last day in Japan started off like most days: with hot green tea. However, this cup was a bit more unique: It was served to us at 6 am alongside an incredible sushi breakfast at the world-renown Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market. Yes, we enjoyed fresh tuna, eel, crab, shrimp and a variety of other fresh fishes just after sunrise – and it was incredible. And what better palate cleanser than sips of green tea in between bites!

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This final day only got better as it progressed, and by dinnertime, we were enjoying the meal of our lives. Our group from The Republic of Tea took over a 150-year old sushi restaurant (Bentenyama Miyako Sushi) headed by a fourth-generation sushi chef. As customary, it began with a cup of classic Sencha green tea and very quickly progressed. Dish after dish began emerging from behind the counter: ahi tuna with flakes of nori seaweed over rice; sea urchin; freshly cooked crab legs; red snapper sashimi; clam soup; seafood egg custard, and then the pièce de resistance: eight beautifully crafted nigiri, each topped with something magnificent from the Tsukiji Market. Eel, smoked salmon, snapper, yellow-tail, squid, tuna, mackerel, shad and snow crab were displayed before us in amazement. The taste was unlike anything we had experienced back home – much fresher and smoother.

And with full bellies, our trip came to a close. It has been an incredible journey and we have gained so much knowledge about Japan’s history with tea. From learning how the tea is grown to how its use in tea ceremonies has been an integral part of the culture for centuries. We discovered so much about all the unique cuisine types, from the familiar sushi to the beautifully intricate Buddhist lunch we enjoyed atop a hillside in Kyoto. Cup by cup and sip by sip, we got to know Japan a bit better. Goodbye and arigatou!

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