From the Sempai: Rachael of Tokyo Terrace

Welcome to the second edition of "From the Sempai!" The first post, including a brief explanation of what "sempai" means, can be found here.

Today I would like to introduce Rachael, a food blogger here in Japan over at Tokyo Terrace. I discovered Rachael's blog through Twitter, and being an avid food blog reader, was blown away by what she "brings to the table." (Groan, I know. Couldn't help myself!) As a fellow expat in Japan, and a foodie herself, she has discovered how to make the most of local ingredients in her kitchen. (Oh, and her photos are GORgeous.) In the time she has lived in Japan thus far, she has certainly learned something about "surviving in Japan," and would like to share some of those thoughts with us:

1. Go down hidden streets.

Japan is a pretty safe place. I’m not saying ignore your instincts, but try exploring a few side streets that you might otherwise pass by. Near our apartment we discovered several produce vending machines where local growers supply things like spinach, potatoes, and leeks on a daily basis. How cool is that? We never would have found these little machines if we hadn’t gone off the beaten path.

2. Learn Japanglish.

Japan has their own version of English. Even if the person you are talking to speaks English, it will be a different breed. For example, if you try saying ‘bank’ instead of ‘banku’ you may not be understood. One of the strangest experiences for me was looking for the cell phone company Soft Bank. We kept asking for directions but our pronunciation was not correct so no one caught on. The vowel after the consonant is very important to use!

3. Be creative with food

For me, surviving in Japan has meant figuring out how to make food I love (and reminds me of home) using what is available. No, I can’t find Kraft singles for grilled cheese sandwiches like dad used to make - but I can find something close! Look at Japanese ingredients in a new way and think about what you can do to create something with familiarity from something so foreign.

4. Be traditional with food.

I know, I just suggested being creative and looking for ways to make food you are familiar with. But part of feeling a sense of belonging and getting to know a place like Japan is enjoying the food. There is so much to be said about how much people put into their food and Japan is no exception. Every dish has a time, a place, and a purpose. Understanding this gives a great deal of insight into why the Japanese are the way they are. In the end, understanding the culture through the food will make you feel more at home.

5. Get online.

Since you found this website, you are probably already doing this. But it is worth saying that the online community of expats is beyond helpful. When it comes to coping with a new, unfamiliar life, knowing there are others out there who are experiencing the same thing is priceless. Whether it is through starting a blog (as I’ve done), reading blogs and websites, or joining Twitter, it is helpful to get those little web blips of advice about how to manage life in Japan.

Thank you very much Rachael!

If you're looking for inspiration, dear readers, head over to her blog and see her mouth-watering photos and recipes for yourself.

Rachael White is a native Minnesota girl who grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, (USA), got married to a Colorado boy (whom she met at college in Iowa) and after getting married, the couple packed up and moved to Tokyo, Japan. Her blog,, is where Rachael’s Midwestern roots blend with the hustle and bustle of Japan’s food scene. Rachael has been an expat in Tokyo for two years.

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