Sushi Club of Houston President Carl Rosa has taken Houstonians to Japan since 2007. Rosa takes three groups throughout the year to visit the beautiful land of Japan, tour areas you won't find in a typical traveler's guidebook and taste the best cuisine Japan has to offer.
In August, a group of 16 Houstonians will travel with Rosa to Narita, Tokyo, Nikko, Mount Fuji and Kyoto. Each trip lasts 10-12 days and everything the travelers pay for (hotels, meals, travel fare) comes at an economical price. Rosa also caters to the interests of the group so that they can do what they would like to do while they're in Japan.
For example, if the group enjoys sports, Rosa will take them to a Japanese baseball game, or if they enjoy being active outdoors, then they will rent bikes for the day.
"What I really want to do is bring people to Japan and show them how to get around, how to use the bullet train," Rosa says. "I will take them to places they will never find on their own."
In fact, the vast knowledge of Japan that Rosa has allows groups to visit areas and taste outstanding and authentic cuisine they probably never would have experienced traveling to that country by themselves. Rosa travels to Japan once a year on his own to find new places for groups to see and new restaurants for them to dine at.
"I want them to understand the difference between what they have been eating in the United States and what they have in Japan," Rosa says. "It is night and day."
The biggest differences between Japanese food served in America and Japanese food served in Japan are flavor, quality and portion size. Japan's sushi can be up to four times the size of what is served in America.
"Imagine a piece of tuna nigiri in your hand from the tip of your finger to the middle of your palm," Rosa says. "It is astonishing; you learn sitting in a traditional Japanese restaurant that there is a phenomenal difference in flavor more than anything."
Brian Harrison has traveled with Rosa twice; the first trip was in November of 2008, the second trip three years later in 2011. Harrison appreciates authentic Japanese cuisine.
"People took pride in what they were serving," Harrison says. "There was more of an emphasis not only on the skill, but of the people dining with each other."
Harrison notes that the people in Japanese restaurants are very happy to help anyone with menu selections or understanding the cuisine.
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"Be patient and open-minded," Harrison says. "There may be some things that you don't like that they have on their menu."
Seth Waldman, another two-time Japan traveler, definitely kept his mind open and tried blowfish during his first trip to Japan.
"There is always a possibility that it could paralyze you," Waldman says. "Regardless, it was one of those things on my bucket list to try."
If you're an avid Japanese-food lover and want to embark on a journey through Japan, visit the Sushi Club of Houston's Web site for information about future trips.