Over the course of 15 years and four travel shows, Anthony Bourdain has toured 80 countries, delving into their histories and eating as much of their food as possible.
If you ask him, as Business Insider did earlier this year, what his favorite destination is, he will immediately tell you it's Japan.
"Japan is endlessly, endlessly interesting to me," he said. And even after going on nine filming trips there, "I don't think I've even scratched the surface and I don't think I ever will."
He's especially in love with Tokyo.
"If I had to eat only in one city for the rest of my life, Tokyo would be it," Bourdain wrote for CNN in 2013 on his "Parts Unknown" blog. "Most chefs I know would agree with me. For those with restless, curious minds, fascinated by layer upon layer of things, flavors, tastes and customs which we will never fully be able to understand, Tokyo is deliciously unknowable."
"It's that densely packed, impenetrable layer cake of the strange, wonderful and awful that thrills. It's mesmerizing. Intimidating. Disorienting. Upsetting. Poignant. And yes, beautiful."
We asked him for his go-to Japanese dishes. "Oh, God. It's hard to pick," he said. "Give me some good uni [sea urchin], a really good soba [buckwheat noodles] with duck dipping sauce — duck dipping dressing is really amazing — and I adore good yakitori [skewered and grilled chicken pieces]."
Japan's "uniquely kooky national schizophrenia," as he calls it in his 2010 essay collection "Medium Raw," gels perfectly with the way he approaches traveling.
"I've found that you're not going to have the really great travel experiences if you're not willing to experience the bad ones," Bourdain told us. "The great travel epiphanies seem to sneak up on you because you kind of f---ed up, you took a wrong turn, and you ended up in a place where you permitted events to unfold."
On Tokyo in particular, he wrote for CNN, "I'm sure I could spend the rest of my life there, learn the language, and still die happily ignorant."