While in Japan, I tried to seek out some truly “unique” experiences for every meal. What I discovered was that breakfast was a difficult slot to fill. A quick search online provides many recommendations for Western style breakfasts, or Western breakfast buffets at nice hotels, but surprisingly very few Japanese options. It was also strange that these breakfast spots tended to open at 11 AM – much later than a normal breakfast time.
Why? I think a couple reasons make sense. For many in Japan, breakfast is more of a utilitarian afterthought meal, not really a full sit-down affair. It’s something you slam down at home or grab while rushing out the door to work or school, or buy as a drinkable or snackable item in a convenience store (like onigiri in 7-Eleven). Many also now prefer a simpler Western style of breakfast in the morning. A nice piece of bread with coffee these days is as culturally “Japanese” as sushi is. As a consequence of supply and demand, very few restaurants find it worth the effort or cost to offer breakfast in general, let alone a Japanese style one.
With that said, I found a rare place called Uchino Tamago (うちのたまご) that serves probably the most simple and most common of Japanese style breakfasts, tamago kake gohan.
Tamago kake gohan (often just called TKG), literally means “egg splashed and rice”. The part that might make non-Japanese people squeamish is that the egg here is mixed into a bowl of rice raw. It’s definitely not for everyone; mixing raw eggs into a bowl of rice looks like and has the consistency of a slimy bowl of snot. In Japan, this consistency is incredibly common and enjoyed by many. It’s called a “neba neba” food, onomatopoeia for the texture of raw egg and other similarly slimy foods like natto, okra, etc.
Uchino Tamago is a front for a premier egg farm based in the Kyushu region of Japan, near Fukuoka. Even though they’re famous for their tamago kake gohan, the store exists primarily to show off the awesome quality of their eggs.
If you get the TKG, the waitress will inform you that you can choose two eggs from a basket near your seat. She’ll bring you an accompanying bowl of rice with some radishes on the side. There are many condiments tableside, featuring pickled veggies, chili flakes and a plethora of soy sauces. In Japan, there are hundreds of different styles soy sauces, sorted by colour, method of creation (brewed, machine, fermentation) and use. TKG is so popular, there are several soy sauces made just for eating with it.
Wait, hold up, is it even safe to eat raw eggs? It depends. Salmonella is always a real threat, but fresh, healthy eggs have shells that are designed to be natural barriers to germs and disease. If it’s a healthy egg, it should be fine. Given that the eggs at Uchino Tamago come from a special farm, the eggs here (and at most Japanese grocery stores) are cleaned and made for that purpose.
Even in the Western world, raw eggs are not a completely unusual phenomenon, with many athletes and powerlifters downing raw eggs with their shakes. Raw eggs are found in traditional hangover cures and pastas, like carbonara. Eggs are also one of the few complete protein foods available, meaning an egg contains all of the amino acids our bodies require but can’t naturally synthesize on our own. An egg is probably one of the healthiest sources of protein available.
Given what it looks like (see the photos) and the fact that eating raw eggs is more of a dare than a healthy part of a meal in the West, I doubt this breakfast will be blowing up outside of Japan anytime soon (you never know though). Try it if you’re ever in Japan, or just cook up a bowl of rice and give it a shot! Here’s a recipe you can try from Serious Eats.
Uchino Tamago (うちのたまご)
Address: Akasaka Biz Tower, 5-3-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 8:00 – 21:00
Price: under 1,000 yen
*If you’re short on time, but heading to Haneda Airport there is also a shop there 1F Terminal 1.