The first thing offered to me at Suntory's Yamazaki whisky distillery - the birthplace of Japanese whisky - is a glass of water. It's so delicious it comes as a shock.
Even before the reason is explained to me, I'm asking: why does it taste so crisp, so different?
The distillery is surrounded by beautiful bamboo forests on a mountain - they must be getting to my brain.
World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Tokyo, Japan in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, November 3, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.
"Maybe the most important thing you need to know about Tokyo, from my point of view is, every chef I know – every high end chef, from Spain, France, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles basically every chef I’ve ever met. If you asked them, 'If you had to spend the rest of your life, in one country, eating one country’s food for the rest of your life, where would that be?' They’re all gonna say the same thing. Japan. Tokyo. Period," says Anthony Bourdain.
Looking for a drink in Japan?
A bottle of sake or a few pints of a domestic beer are the most obvious choices, but wine drinkers should give the local grape, the Koshu, a chance.
Koshu wine is produced by about 80 vineyards in the Yamanashi prefecture at the base of Mount Fuji.
Ayana Misawa, winemaker at Grace Vineyard, describes the variety as charming, with a crisp acidity and low alcohol level.
“Koshu has a very elegant smell," she says. "Aromas like citrus, white flowers."
Chef Toshio Tanabe serves up a a $110 dirt dinner at his French-inspired, Tokyo-based restaurant Ne Quittez Pas. CNN's Alex Zolbert digs in and puts the mud where his mouth is.
Bad news for food-obssessed travelers to Japan.
Unagi - the sweet broiled eel dish that's one of Japan's best eats - may soon be going the way of shark's fins and fish balls: it gets overfished (check), it gets put on an endangered list (check) and it gets banned from restaurants (maybe).
The Japanese Ministry of the Environment officially added Japanese eel to its Red List of endangered fish on Friday, reported Yomiuri Shimbun.
Read the full story - Japanese eel becomes latest 'endangered food' - on CNN Travel.
For Tokyo locals as well as visitors, Tsukiji fish market has long defined the heart, soul and, most importantly, the stomach of this hectic metropolis.
But after 78 years in operation, the beloved Tsukiji fish market will close forever after 2013.
The Tokyo metropolitan government recently released its design for a new wholesale seafood market set to open in 2014.
According to the Asahi Shimbun, the new market will be located in a few kilometers from the Tsukiji market in a complex in the Koto Ward and spread out over 408,000 square meters of floor space.
Read the full story on CNN Travel: "Iconic Tokyo fish market to close, replacement design unveiled"
What linked them, and other famous faces, was their promotion of Japanese whisky, each sipping it in TV advertisements like it was nectar of the gods.
Bill Murray's sardonic character in "Lost in Translation" may have mocked the image of sophistication that Japanese whisky manufacturers liked to portray from the 1970 to the 1990s, but since 2001, Japanese whisky has been steadily picking up awards and gaining the plaudits of international whisky connoisseurs without the need for a knowing smirk or wink.