(CNN)Japan is often called a “Galapagos” when it comes to technology, as the country’s cultural isolation tends to produce innovations found nowhere else in the world.
The same can be said about its food.
Japan is a culinary wonderland thanks to its unique heritage, a national obsession with cuisine and an almost religious embrace of freshness and perfect production.
The result is the following 25 edible treasures that we can never get enough of.
Breaded, deep-fried until crisp and golden brown, then drizzled with a sweet and piquant sauce, meat doesn’t get any better than tonkatsu.
At Tonki, they don’t take reservations.
The lines are long, but the succulent hire tonkatsu, served with a mound of shredded cabbage to assuage your guilt, is well worth the wait.
Maisen is also an unbeatable stand-by.
Kabayaki is a skewer of unagi eel that has been filleted, dunked in a thick, sweet soy-based sauce and then grilled.
We can’t verify the purported stamina-enhancing properties that make it popular in summer, but we love it for its intense, smoky-sweet flavor.
Connoisseurs swear by Obana in Minami-Senju, one of the oldest unagi shops in the city.
Chicken soup for the Japanese soul.
Ochazuke is about as far from haute cuisine as you can get.
It’s a bowl of plain white rice and green tea mixed with dashi kelp broth, usually topped with salmon flakes, nori or umeboshi pickled plums: just the thing you crave when you’re feeling sick, hungover or down in the dumps.
This humble dish gets a stylish makeover atBar Zuzu, where ochazuke is made with healthy brown rice and toppings like soy-sauce-marinated tuna (690, or $6.90).
Not everyone has the daily luxury of enjoying a kaiseki dinner and a proper matcha tea ceremony.
Thank goodness, therefore, for matcha sundae.
A matcha sundae usually consists of layers of sweet azuki bean paste, chewy mochi rice balls and crunchy toasted rice, topped with some silky matcha ice cream.
Matcha in Uji, Kyoto, is so superior that the town’s name has become a synonym for matcha in Japan.
Famous tea shops in Uji including Tsujirihei Honten and Nakamura Tokichi now have outposts around Japan and the world.
If there is one cut that triumphs others at a yakiniku session, it’s gyutan — grilled thin slices of beef tongue.
In addition to a strong beef flavor, beef tongue, when grilled, is fragrant with buttery grease and has a slightly chewy texture.
Sendai is said to be the capital and birthplace of gyutan.
Inspired by a beef tongue stew cooked by a French chef, the then-apprentice chef Keishiro Sano decided to prepare it differently to suit Japanese tastes.
He later returned to Sendai and founded Aji Tasuke, a restaurant famous for its grilled beef tongue and oxtail soup.