Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25: Tokoname – Owari Seto – Tokyo

April 25: Tokoname – Owari Seto – Tokyo

Soba and more Soba
The Spring comes
When the day is over

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

Pics: that sink on top of the toilet again, Toy Story 3 promo right outside our hotel (we pimping for our neighbor down the street), a machine in the subway that we think allows you to throw away liquid before crushing your cup, a bunch of G-san's work, and Steve doing his best turn and wave

Today we are visiting G-san, with Steve along to translate. To reach his house and studio from Tokoname, it takes 3 trains and a long car ride (with G-san driving us in a new Lexus the last 20 minutes or so through mountains).

He is renowned for skewing a style of glazing that has been lost for 350 years, and for being a contemporary ceramicist unlike any in Japan. He has been labeled the world’s best contemporary ceramicist by someone we know in the US. Not many make this journey; e.g., Steve has never been, the last time someone from his company visited was 10 years ago, and that was with L-san, a major art collector from Phoenix.

G-san and his wife are delightful hosts; she joins us while we have our welcoming coffee and sweets. Her sitting with us was very unusual.

The visit is scheduled for an hour. Three plus hours later we have seen an amazing range of work, looked at items in storage, and unexpectedly had lunch with G-san in one of his favorite noodle shops. We are now faced with an interesting dilemma, which of his pieces to purchase, if any. It is a big ticket, and he is not someone whose work we are familiar with, yet we know this is something we can’t pass up. Ahhhhhhhhh, the joys of being an art collector!

We decide, maybe we should at least get a small token piece. I select a coffee cup like one that we used at our welcoming, DB comes back: it is $650! Hmmm…better save our yen for one of the big items!

G-san is having an opening at a gallery in Santa Monica in September and keeps teasing DB about wearing a kimono to the opening party (a tea ceremony using some of his ceramics). We realize that if it is after September 12, we will be on our next big trip, national parks and an art detour to Des Moines and Omaha with the Oakland Museum.

After several trains, we are back in Nagoya for the mochi run to Mochicream. Steve only wants one for his ride, this is where we part ways, Steve home to Kyoto and we to Tokyo for two more days. Turn and wave, turn and wave, turn and wave!

DB and I double up on mochi this time and agree that three of the four rank in the top 5 all-time of desserts. Collectively, the three may be the best dessert ever. 4 for $7; worth any amount of train travel if you are in Japan, and maybe if you are in Asian, and possibly just thinking of traveling from your house wherever you live.

We are eating dinner in Tokyo at Steve’s final recommendation of the trip, Honmura-an, in Roppongi. The owner is someone who spent 18 years in the US, including a lengthy stay in Berkeley.

We show up, and Kobari-san greets us, and we share connections. Not too hard to do, he went to Cal and was in the food scene there and ran a well-known restaurant in NY for years. He’s good at name-dropping, guess the last names of: Steve, Alice, Ruth, Annie, and Yoko (you better get at least ONE of these!). Hint on the first one, his middle name starts with I-

Dinner is terrific, we leave the ordering to Kobari-san. We start and end with soba noodles, Kobari-san’s reputation was made on soba. Also have small chicken meatballs with hot mustard, tempura (all veggies we don’t recognize), thick/spongy tofu (definitely an unusual consistency) with wasabi, and a few other unusual courses. Apricot mochi for dessert (and two more for the plane ride home). Three plum wine cocktails and a beer, $150.

The art on the walls is intriguing, turns out the pieces are from Japanesque in SF.

One last tourist event, we head to Shinjuku, the world’s largest subway station, with over 50 exits, to see where Scarlett and Bill stood and chatted in Sofia’s best film to-date. Okay, we get off the train and start walking towards the east exit. We continue walking. We check a map, ask a couple of times, continue walking, check two more maps, ask some more. We have walked from somewhere outside of the Narita airport (west of here?) for something like a mile and we’re still underground.

Ahhhhhhhhhh, up and out, and there is a ton of neon. If Scarlett and Bill stood and chatted here, they were the only two people not moving. The masses are swarming, how they escaped the station to all end up here is beyond me. Now we return down into the station, and we see our line right away. Is that possible?

Welllllllllllllllll….yes, because it is the SECOND stop in this station for our line! We get on the train and go to the spot we first got off, I don’t know why we didn’t think of this on the way out, that we could transfer on our own line, go one stop, and still be in the same station.

Sorry, I am not making this up, though I could be, it is damn close to fiction.

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