Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21: Tokyo

April 21: Tokyo

Through the fingerprints
on my window -
cloudless blue sky.

Nihon-ryoori ga dai-suki desu
I love Japanese food

Pics: Giant cuckoo clock outside our hotel (goes "off" five times a day), sake kegs at Shinto Shrine (sake maker is a sponsor!), Keiko and THB outside specialty bakery, one of the special buns, one of the (1964?) summer Olympics venues.

It is warm and sunny, reaching the low 70s, by far the warmest day of the trip. We don’t have sweaters or jackets with us today, a first.

A rather hectic day, here are the highlights:
• Workout in the second basement fitness center
• Breakfast buffet, same-same except they have a great make-it-yourself coffee machine
• Meet our local guide, Keiko, who did her post-graduate work and a few years of work in NYC
• Visit a Shinto shrine and have a ceremony where we are called out by name (we’re the only ones there, so it had to be us) where we have asked for victory (old joke: the head guy said it doesn’t work if we’re talking about the Cubs). They give us complimentary sake along with Victory write-up
• Start touring Tokyo, visiting galleries, design stores, pastry shops (DUH!), food halls, and looking at some unusual architecture
• At one pastry place, they also run a small ceramics gallery and we meet two of the ceramicists in the show, one is from Iran. Nice work!
• Lunch at nice spot, where DB has bonito sashimi as main course, I have veg curry, and Keiko has chicken and pork cutlet, along with several all-you-can-eat sides, total for three is $36.
• More galleries and street walking, pick up some wine for house visits coming up (Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, $40/bottle)
• At one of the galleries, we meet the owner, he was at Collect, a big show in London and DB remembers his booth because all the work was sold by the beginning of the first public viewing. He speaks English very well (and un poquito Spanish), sells art jewelry along with other objects. He has a few beautiful ceramic pieces in the back room we like a lot.
• Finally make it back to room to rest up, then Keiko’s recommendation of dinner at Ginza Seamon for sushi. And, we’ve hit the jackpot, this is as good as you get anywhere in the US, the top of the line. DB starts wearing out, I’m all for helping her. Total including 4 Seamon draft beers (excellent), $220 and well worth it.

One comment about getting around town: we take a mix of subway and taxis, and in all cases we have no clue where we are, in some cases the cabbies don’t know. Keiko, who lives here, says she never pays attention to the addresses, they are meaningless. Cross streets don’t have names. To find the restaurant, we have a fax from the restaurant to show the cab driver. When we get there, we have gone less than 1.5 kilometers, it has taken 15 minutes, we take no wrong turns, and the cabbie looks at the map (and his GPS) no less than 10 times.

Without a local map or some prior visit, you can’t figure it out. And by local map, I mean it has the names of significant buildings located on the proper blocks. So, tonight, our map included the Chanel store and several other names. Our restaurant was on the 6th floor of the Sagamuchi building, a very non-descript spot in the middle of the block. And, we didn’t know the name of the restaurant because basically it doesn’t have a sign out front, or a name that means much; the key notation was that it was on the 6th floor.

Welcome to Tokyo. We walked back to hotel, 10 minutes or so…

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