Anthony Bourdain has a favorite solo travel destination that he calls both thrilling and challenging, and not only is it his favorite place to travel alone, but it also inspired his latest graphic novel, according to Travel + Leisure. The celebrated chef, author, and unconventional host of travel TV has a serious love relationship with the city of Tokyo, and it shows how much he loves a challenge.
“Tokyo is very exciting alone. It’s intimidating, but thrilling. Every time you need to feed yourself at a restaurant you’re taking the plunge, stepping through the curtains into a room filled with locals, menus in Japanese, feeling awkward and freakish—the tallest guy in the room—having no clue what it is that they’re serving. That’s thrilling to me, absolutely. When you finally get to the point when you can order breakfast at a restaurant? That’s a great feeling of accomplishment. That’s what I love about Tokyo. You’re forced to learn stuff every inch of the way.”
While Bourdain may not have set foot in Japan until he was an adult, his obsession with Japanese food and culture was driven by childhood memories of watching classic Japanese films with his father, such as Seven Samurai and Sanjuro. While movies are notorious for making locations seem larger than life, Tokyo seems to go beyond its portrayal on TV and film, with its over-the-top nightlife. And, according to Bourdain, the food is to die for.
“Ask just about any chef — if you had to be trapped in one country to eat for the rest of your life — they’d all pick Japan.”
Bourdain says his first trip to Japan taught him the difference between good sushi and great sushi, and the latter was well worth traveling great distances to find the best.
Even being primed at a young age to embrace Japanese food and culture, Bourdain’s selection of Tokyo as his favorite travel destination speaks volumes from a guy who has been to 75 countries. The Japanese culture and Bourdain’s travel there has not only inspired him on a culinary level and for an episode of his TV series Parts Unknown, but he has a Japanese graphic novel series, and just released “Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi,” the latest installment.
While most think of Bourdain as a chef and TV host, many do not realize he’s written 10 books. It seems the best part about writing his latest book was it justified extensive travel throughout Japan, and most recently to Okinawa Island. Other locations he “researched” include the Tsukiji Fish Market, and the “honky-tonk” neighborhood of Kabukichō, with its microbars and izakayas. All contributed to his story of a master sushi chef who engages in culinary battles in a bizarre, dystopian future.
“It was an eye-opening, traumatizing, life-changing experience. Let’s put it this way — every opportunity given, even the most ludicrous excuse to go, I will go. I just love it there.”
While the chef naturally writes cookbooks as well as crazy Japanese fiction, he does admit his culinary sensibilities and background as a chef influence the writing of fiction. It seems there is one trait that will get his characters into serious trouble whenever he’s writing a story.
“The bad guys in my books don’t respect quality food and they tend to get killed. I respond to, and sympathize with, people who are passionate about food. And I’m deeply suspicious of people who are indifferent.”
While Bourdain previously profiled Tokyo in Parts Unknown, for the upcoming season, he’ll visit Okinawa Island and reveal some of the hidden treasures in that part of Japan. He says Okinawa is much different from the rest of the country, to the point it’s almost like an entirely different country in itself. Other locations for the upcoming season of Parts Unknown include Cuba, Ethiopia, and Istanbul.
[Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images]