Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22: Tokyo

April 22: Tokyo

An island song
Like a floating river
Rain Rain Fall Fall

Toriyoshi ni ikatai n desu gu

I want to go to Toriyoshi

It is raining and cold today, quite a change from yesterday’s sun and warmth.

Three more phone calls on our mobile, we have dropped below $10 a call!

For the second time, we get a gallery map that you have to hold upside down to see the list of works and right side up to orient yourself to the reception desk. Hmmmmmmm….

Today we visit a renowned Japanese basket collector, S-san. Keiko comes along to provide translation. It takes over 2 hours by car to reach his house in the countryside (longer coming back, we hit traffic approaching downtown). The toll for the ride comes to $25 (each way), the car is outfitted with the equivalent of Fasttrak, there is no toll taker when we exit.

S-san lives in an old barn (behind where his parents live now) that had been used for curing tobacco that he and a carpenter have fixed up, over a long year. It is a revelation, all dark wood, one large room surrounded by other smaller rooms; a dining room table he built himself out of leather and old wood set on stone slabs, an attic we can only glimpse that is below a thatched roof, small cutouts for wood burning in the middle of rooms, and a modern bathroom. Even more amazing, he rents! He has a 20 year lease, so must have figured it was worth fixing up. The landlord must realize how lucky she is!

We bring a bottle of Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir as a gift, explain it is from area between LA and SF. S-san has cooked us lunch: tasty pork spare ribs (more meat on the bones than we would have in US, we get to eat with our hands!), rice with various roots mixed in, three or four veggies in vinegar, strawberries topped with caramelized sugar and whipped cream mixed with yogurt (spoon supplied for this course), cava sparkling wine. All excellent, the ribs cooked in a wood burning oven. A home-cooked meal is a real treat, and in a restored country-style house a bonus!

Then he brings out various baskets from his collection, he is one of two major collectors of 20th century Japanese baskets (the other is an American living in Japan), and it is clear how passionate he is and how delighted he is with this passion. He is coming to our area in May for an auction and gala to help raise funds for a museum in Hanford (San Joaquin Valley), and we offer to reciprocate with a home cooked meal if he has any free time. He loves Acme bread (as do we!).

After the long ride back to Tokyo we stop at a gallery that represents an artist we liked in a museum in Kirashiki. They bring out many pieces of her work, we agree to mull it over. The gallery owner is a long-time friend of David Hockney and has one of Hockney’s polaroid pieces, from 1983, for sale, only $80,000. It’s a great piece, just out of our price range!

Keiko gives us a tip for dinner, a yakitori spot that grills small skewers. The cabbie drops us off and points. We cannot find the restaurant. The people near the restaurant have no clue. We get some bad directions and stumble past the place. We find another restaurant willing to call the place we want, and they give us directions back to near where we started. We ask again…finally, we open the door of a spot and we are in Toriyoshi. The finding of the place after the cab dropped us off takes longer than the cab ride. There is no name in English. We are the only non-natives there, a long u-shaped counter with two grillers and two sous chefs.

We order a bottle of Chilean Chardonnay (thought we were getting a glass) and a draft beer, and start ordering skewers. The food is very fresh tasting, little seasoning or spices. Among our skewers are: quail, soft bone (gristle), duck, chicken breast, chicken livers, livers with egg (eaten whole and like a soft boiled yolk), green onions, two types of mushrooms, grilled eggplant and some only in spring green bok choy stem (maybe the best of all we ordered). We eat and drink way too much, enjoy it all, We share the wine with the threesome sitting to our right, they help us a bit with the ordering. Total $130 (most people must eat for less than half of this). Another great tip from Keiko.

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