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Travelogue: Spirited Away


Peter Green
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Here's my post on Koshihikari, and here's the entry of Koshihikari in Wikipedia.

Koshihikari is the rice variety that has remained the most popular among the Japanese for decades, which is unprecedented in this country, where the people love to hear the words shin hatsubai (new release) and shin shouhin (new product).

The Koshihikari rice produced in the Shiozawa area of the Minami Uonuma region is the very best, and the most expensive (7,000 to 9,000 yen or even higher per 10 kg as opposed to the 5,000 to 6,000 yen for Koshihikari rice produced in other areas of Japan).

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March 28 – Geek Like Me

This was it. The main event. Our raison d’etre for this trip (at least in Scud’s view).

The Tokyo International Anime Fair.

This was the 8th fair, having started up in 2002. When this had shown up in the little bit of prep I did for this trip, it pretty much cemented Japan as our choice destination.

I won’t print Scud’s response when he heard about this. This is a family food site, after all.

But there’s the crux of the matter. This is a food site, so I need to be careful in what I post. I can’t very well drool on completely about anime and manga without some nod to the dietary.

Soooo…….

Here’s breakfast.

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I’d been promising Scud that I’d do something with those pretty little potatoes I’d picked up a few days back, and I was running out of time. Plus, I’d been relatively disappointed in the spud we’d had at Asakusa the other day, so we needed something to put the mighty tuber back on its pedestal.

Breakfast, thus, was a matter of potatoes boiled in water heavily laden with salt and lemon. I like this as the lemon permeates the potato, and gives your taste buds a good wake up call.

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Drained, you have the potato in all its glory. Nature’s perfect delivery system for salt, and capable of carrying a healthy dose of animal fat in the form of melted camembert cheese.

So, food obligations out of the way, let’s look at Big Sight, and the TIAF.

I won’t go into details on getting there. Leave it be said that things didn’t go well, and, decked out in business suits as we were, we ended up getting a bit wetter than I’d planned (“I was fine, it’s just you that sweats like beer mug on a hot day,” says the Boy).

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Big Sight is, well….pretty big. I’m not 100% certain why, but it has a large saw sticking out of the lawn in front.

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That’s outside of Big Sight. Inside there’s the rake of good fortune (kumade).

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The rake of good fortune is the centrepiece of the November festivities on the Day of the Rooster and the Otori shrine. From what a read (on the conveniently attached sign) originally – in the Edo days - it was just the rake with the mask, but bits and pieces started getting added on, good luck charms refleccting the trends of the time. Looking at this I get overtones of scenes from both Akira and Paprika.

Saws, rakes, I’m tempted to go off on a monologue on the hardware store as arbiter of good fortune…..

Back to the TIAF.

Our plan actually worked. Given my (tenuous) links to the movie industry, we gained access as professionals (Scud as the bag carrier), our international passes ready for pick up at the desk. This placed us on the floor, at which point we could start looking at what was on offer.

The trade fair really covered three topics.

The first, and most important, was to give a head’s up on new projects that were coming available, and to try and work up distribution deals. The typical commercial anime will release a first season with 26 episodes, more or less containing a (hopefully) solid story with the opportunity for further expansion. This in comparison to the OVA, where the authors have a story to tell, and they’ll do it in whatever length they find appropriate (an example of this is the Hellsing OVA currently being wrapped up, which redid the anime and then moved on to get the whole manga worked through).

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For those who liked Ghost In The Shell, Mamoru Oshii’s bringing out the adaptation of Mori Hiroshi’s Sky Crawlers.

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And there was a new Lupin III being release, Green vs Red, in honour of his 40th anniversary (if you’re not familiar with it, the series tracks the exploits of the grandson of the famous French anti-hero, Lupin Arsene).

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And they had Lupin’s car (but they wouldn’t let us pose in it).

And, in other upcoming work,Takashi Miike’s doing a revival of the old Yatterman, due out in 2009. That should be…..interesting.

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The second element, and probably just as important, is to advertise available services, particularly with respect to projects that are already released. There are a lot of people out there who’ve had a piece of One Piece and Naruto, be it ever so small a part of the post production, who’ll leverage on that 15 seconds of fame (Warhol’s 15 minutes has been way discounted over the years) to get more work (and perhaps another few seconds).

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Then there’re the schools. I probably spent more of my talking time here while Scud wandered around gawking, looking into which universities were doing what. Part of the TIAF is the search for new talent, and a lot of that is coming up from a collection of universities offering animation courses.

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My concern is that perhaps too much of this is heading towards CGI work, which gets too wrapped up in the detailing, and loses track of the storyboarding, but that’s just me….

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Some interesting concepts coming from those young folk.

Third, there’re the foreigners.

As you’d expect, the Korean studios were there. When you sit through the credits at the end of most anime (doesn’t everyone sit through all the credits on cartoons?) you’ll see a lot of Parks, Kims, and Chois in those rollers. But the Seoul crowd are so well integrated into the industry that you don’t really realize they’re there at times.

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It was good to see the Maple Leaf out, with the Vancouver Film School, and the Taiwanese and Mainlanders were both out in force. The Chinese in particular are pushing their material fairly hard, but it still has a ways to go in terms of the storylines.

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And fourth, there are the awards, where the industry not only looks for what’s the best of the year (Neon Genesis Evangelion:10 takes Best Animation) but also recognizes the folks that have been putting in the years putting together the products that keep some of us glued to our screens.

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This goes beyond just the animators and writers to include the composers, design specialists, and even those who developed the paint for the cells (Shigeharu Kitamaru of Tayo Shikisai Inc).

Okay, so here’re some of the obligatory tourist shots.

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Tezuka Osamu’s work is still very much in the forefront. They must have one of the richest character portfolios outside of Marvel Entertainment.

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And Studio Ghibli had their own space (of course), with lots of the originals on display from the films (here’s some Nausicaa), as well as the Panda film that they’re currently showing (and we missed) at their museum.

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We checked out the new technology, although immersion visualization is getting kind of old. It's good for the arcade systems, but it'll take a while to get us wearing 3D glasses in the house.

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I keep hearing a Devo soundtrack in my head while I look at this.

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This looked like it had the makings of an interesting anime. At least its in the spirit of the site.

There's a strong retro element in anime, countering the push for CGI that I'd mentioned earlier. In the same way that you see (and hear) a lot of vinyl in the bars (records, not couches), you also have a strong sense of tradition in the editing and work habits of some of the studios.

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Old school.

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Scud and I were approached by a TV crew part way through (“Hey! He’s bigger and sweatier than anybody else! Let’s use him!) but we begged out of the interview (“Why do you have so many bags? What do you have in there? How much do you weigh?”)

The walking, the standing, the watching was all getting pretty relentless. After several hours we broke for food. As expected, the convention centre was expensive, and the choices weren’t particularly thrilling. But you're trapped, so there's not much you can do about it. The Boy and I figured that noodles were the safest bet.

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Scud had a simple bowl of ramen with vegetables, while I ordered the kim chi pork noodles. Concerned, they did inquire if I could eat “spicey food”. I let them know I was willing to take the chance.

Live on the edge, say I.

Removing the jacket, Scud was extremely impressed by how I had been able to recreate the coastline of Norway in sweatstains on my shirt.

As noodles go, they were fairly industrial. The pork had a nice fattiness to it, but the noodles themselves were “just there”. We'd been spoiled by the other places we'd been eating. Service, however, was excellent, handled by a working crew that all appeared to be in their 60’s or older. In fact, as a comment on the “greying of Japan”, you don’t see the young in the sort of jobs they used to cover – fast food. Service in these places (and I use the term “fast food” not just to cover McD’s and Co, but for the general assemblage of ramen places, bars, yakitori stands, etc) seems to fall more upon the elderly than the youth.

Scud and I were running down. We went back for another sweep to look into some of the material on display, check out some of the running sample clips, and get down more titles for future reference, but after about another 90 minutes we were ready to go.

There was a small sales area near the exit, and we did check it out in case there was anything interesting to pick up.

But Scud wasn’t willing to bring back one of the full-length Mine Fujiko pillow cases (about 5’5” long, and lots of room for padding), and he was pretty much convinced that the mouse pad would probably get him an appointment with the counsellors.

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Oh, well.

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Scud's one lucky kid! Those Ryugin pictures made me snuffle in self-pity. Why was I foolish enough to marry a man who hates fish - and then move to Japan?

The anime fair looked so fun, and my husband covets one of those mousepads- were we going to go, but we went cherry-blossom viewing that day instead. It's a shame you missed the Ghibli museum; my favourite part of it was a mock-up of Miyazaki's desk and study, and an artists' studio, with all the cells and paints. Very old-school.

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It's a shame you missed the Ghibli museum; my favourite part of it was a mock-up of Miyazaki's desk and study, and an artists' studio, with all the cells and paints. Very old-school.

But it does give me a reason to come back! (but it'll be Serena's turn next)

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This looks just like some of my partner's art installations from the late 70's to early 80's!

Come to think of it, it also looks like his living room, but that's a subject for another time.

My daughter is quite jealous of your travels, as am I. I would have wanted 4 bowls of that rice, and we could have spent days in the book shop!

That saw is an Oldenburg piece... he's made a living being 'witty' by designing huge sculptures of oversized every day objects.

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March 28 – That’s Amoray!

Well, actually it wouldn’t be moray eel, but the song works better this way.

We crashed comatose when we got back to the room, turning on the television, cracking some beers and cokes, and sifting through the twenty odd kilos of anime material we’d dragged back with us. I tell you, we were the object of unbridled envy on the subway, at least amongst the under 10 set who had their eyes glued on big carry-all bags with the anime characters on them.

I hadn’t been paying attention to the television, but Scud was firmly in couch potato mode. He called from the other end of the room:

“After 2 weeks here, Japanese TV still scares me.”

I looked. There was a main screen of dancing girls dressed as mushrooms, while separate windows in the corners had a giant rat and a very large cat doing gyrations of some sort.

At random a cut-away of a woman with odd hair and an apparent nervous disorder would spin across the screen.

I looked away.

Scud had been asking for eel. “Wait for Tokyo. Tokyo’s the place for eel,” said I.

Well, here we were, with only this night and the next left to us.

We’d better find some eel.

There was one not too far away, just down the hill in Higashi-Azuba, that I’d read about on Bento – Nodaiwa. I checked with the front desk, and they knew it, and recommended it as well. It’s an old converted rice barn, going back to the 1840’s, so it sounded like it would measure up on the funky-meter.

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I like it when you come in from the cold and the dank to someplace cozy. This place was definitely cozy.

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Worked over tables of dark, thick wood, well worn by the comings and goings of the decades, and worn down upholstery that’s almost as beaten up as me. No pretensions, no fuss.

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And I get a mouse for my chopstick rest. Rodents and ricebarns just seem like a natural pairing.

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This all just called for hot sake. Kikumasamune is what they carry, and that’s good enough for me.

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We took the set menu of eel, just what the boy asked for.

The English menu referred to “spitchcock”, a term I’ve seen in passing, but never paid attention to. It refers to an eel, split and then broiled.

Our first tray was a bit of tuna on the left, a bowl of big, broad, starchy green beans under the yellow lid (the photo did not work out), and eel in a jelly – soft and warm.

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The skin on this just holds back a bit, and the overall impression is of rich eel, with a slightly rubbery chewy feel as you bite into the jelly to get at the skin.

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This place is just way comfortable. We’re served by a trio of older ladies, all dressed traditionally, and all bubbling with smiles and “dozo”s.

Ah, this is the perfect evening for this. Almost. Cold and wet is good, but it would be even better if it was snowing outside.

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And, with our first selection done with, we move on to what’s behind door number two.

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This is eel grilled – sirayaki – golden and crisp. Scud was in Heaven, with that rich smell that eel has about it just wrapped around us in that cozy little, dark room.

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I hit the fish (heathen that I am) with just a hint of salt at our server’s suggestion. I’ve been pretty good about

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Something I hadn’t really commented upon, but there were numerous times while eating that we would watch some piece of ceramic on our table just move itself to another position. The little smudged spot is where this bowl began its career on our table. Whether this agitation is the result of small earthquakes, passing underground trains, or hungry ghosts, I really can’t say, but it’s quite amusing for the two of us just to sit there and watch our table setting rearrange itself.

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The chawanmushi inside wasn’t disturbed in the slightest, serenely waiting for us to dig in through the shredded nori and the sweet highlight of the candied orange peel and the crips greens to get at the body of the custard itself, hiding away more eel with sharksfin in its savoury body.

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At one of the other six tables in here I spotted a manly-sized Sapporo on the table of two salarymen, and so switched over.

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And then there was the broiled eel.

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The broiled eel came with rice, pickles, and a soup in accompaniement.

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This soup was done up from the liver of the eel, and had an aspect (my notes say) “of looking into a mountain pond after a small storm, greenery scattered over the surface, a slight disarray, but with a certain clarity as you see the rocky bottom.”

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Scud was getting very excited about this.

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And who wouldn’t get worked up over this? The glistening meat, the sweet sauce overpowering you with its weighty aroma?

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I can feel the meat pulling away, the skin just tugging a bit in a forlorn goodbye, and then the taste of that rich flesh bulled up with the sweetness of the sauce……

Pickles and rice accompanied our eel and soup, but those are of little consequence in the face of the sheer luxury of eel.

And we finished with fruit.

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Growing up, I had always been….disconcerted…at the presence of fruit as a dessert. It was always something we ate, generally between meals, not an item to be afforded pride of place at the crowning moment of a meal.

But one thing I was missing on this trip had been fresh fruit. Somehow it didn’t make it very often onto our menus, and, given the cost I’d observed in the markets, I can now appreciate how the cool, clean, palate refreshing power of a simple melon can be a wonderful thing.

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Scud was happy.

I was happy.

Our serving ladies were happy (at least they smiled and bowed a lot).

A good meal.

It was time to go home.

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And fourth, there are the awards, where the industry not only looks for what’s the best of the year (Neon Genesis Evangelion:10 takes Best Animation) but also recognizes the folks that have been putting in the years putting together the products that keep some of us glued to our screens. 

Ooh! A little shot of Heidi there :biggrin:

Perhaps the single most important influence in popularising cheese amongst the Japanese.

(please note that I am not implying that Haiji was the only influence, or responsible in any way for introducing chiizu)

----

Hopefully you won't begrudge the Japanese for pushing up the price of elvers/angulas in Europe.

In the UK forum we have tails of people consigning their unwanted dishes of a hundred baby eels to the gullet of another diner (this post onwards). Here we get to see part of a fully grown eel savoured and relished and realising a much more appreciated potential.

Edited by MoGa (log)
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In the UK forum we have tails of people consigning their unwanted dishes of a hundred baby eels to the gullet of another diner (this post onwards).  Here we get to see part of a fully grown and eel savoured and relished and realising a much more appreciated potential.

Ouch! 200e of eels not touched! I don't feel bad at all now about spending what we did on that meal in Tokyo.

(interesting, too, that the quotes also mentioned Ryugin as a "destination"! How I lucked into getting there, I'll never know. I guess it's just my year)

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March 28 – Crashin’

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Our beautiful apartment was beginning to show the wear of a week of the Green men (boys?).

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Our walk home had taken us by way of the nearest 7-11 to top up on money, Nodaiwa having not been able to take our credit cards due to a phone failure. Luckily, I believe in traveling with a certain amount of cash, so this wasn’t a direct concern, but still necessitated us stopping by the Wall of Pocky

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that I’d written of way back in

post #158. Are we really up to post 360 with this? I know we were concerned when we stuck on 333 for awhile. As Scud says "333....half evil".

It wasn’t particularly late, but we’d both had a full day of it. We watched a certain amount of Japanese TV, and when we hit the trauma level switched over to the computer to watch a Hellsing OVA that Scud had “found” on the internet.

I dug into my snack from Takashimaya that I’d brought home, and we called it an evening.

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Well, maybe after a few more beers we called it an evening.

Note: edited to add more mess.....it's a guy thing

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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*SIGH*

It's time to go home already???????

Eel, warm sake, the sights, the sounds...............You've managed to actually make this home body want to travel!

Thanks so much, Peter. You really are talented in both words and pictures.

P.S. I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you how cute you and Scud are!!!!

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I spot Koalas in your wall of Pocky boxes and 333 spells beer to me... particularly identify with the black rubber glove reaching for the Yebisu...your paper mess in the apartment is amateur night...no knickers, no empties, wrappers etc, you are actually quite neat for chaps...

damned spelling

Edited by insomniac (log)
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And I get a mouse for my chopstick rest.  Rodents and ricebarns just seem like a natural pairing.

Didn't the waiter/waitress say something about what was written on the paper containing the chopsticks?

It roughly says that when they use natural eels, the liver in clear soup and grilled liver may have hooks in them. Please take care.

Natural eels are used in April through December.

***

Moving bowls: Very funny you mentioned them. That can happen when the bowl contains hot liquid and the bottom of the bowl is wet; the air in the cavity at the bottom of the bowl expands.

Fruit at the end of an expensive meal: It's traditional. It's called mizu gashi (watery confection). As I mentioned somewhere else, some people mistakenly think that mizu gashi can mean yokan, kanten, and other watery confections. Mizu gashi means fruit.

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Peter - even though I am in the middle f the throes of a bad bout of flu (come to think about it, is there any good ones?), your eel dinner really looks scrumptious. And the only sushi delivery place that serves eel chobab (eels over vinegared rice) is closed on a Sunday. On Mother's Day!!! *wails and sobs...

I really need a bowl of that chawanmushi so bad.

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And I get a mouse for my chopstick rest.  Rodents and ricebarns just seem like a natural pairing.

Didn't the waiter/waitress say something about what was written on the paper containing the chopsticks?

It roughly says that when they use natural eels, the liver in clear soup and grilled liver may have hooks in them. Please take care.

Natural eels are used in April through December.

Hi, Hiroyuki!

Yoonhi wanted to know, when they refer to "hooks" in the liver, are they referring to metal hooks from catching the eels, or to hookworms (parasites)?

If it's the parasite, how would you recognize it in your food once it's cooked?

Thanks,

Peter

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March 29 – Drum roll, please

It was our last full day.

The TIAF was starting their public show, but I was actually feeling animed out.

Shocking, I admit.

Knowing how to get there, I urged Scud to attend, but he was hesitant….aw, hell, he was just lazy. But, then, we know where he gets that from, don't we.

Still, I couldn’t spend our last day in Japan just watching tv and making a mess of the room. We had to get out and do something.

So, we ate. No messing around, we knew where we were going.

Sushizanmai is the place I’d walked past the other day, dragging Scud down the hill on one of my ill-fated “let’s look just a little further”. Add that to my collection (still growing) of less inspired moments.

This place is, as expected, part of a chain, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in Japan. It’s roots are in Tsukiji, with the flagship store there taking very good reviews. One of those (I’ve lost the source) mentions that the owner – Kiyoshi Kimura (shades of Azumanga Daioh) – was a buyer before he opened the restaurant in the market.

Now, according to what I read, the shop in Tsukiji is a kaiten – conveyor belt – restaurant. That wasn’t the case here, we were dealing with a traditional cut-and-serve-to-order counter.

Fine by me.

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Looking up the place on the internet now, I find that they also have a sushi school offering a license path that will take you through courses and an apprentice ship in a year and three quarters. Heck, after three years, you, too, could be a Branch Manager!

On that sobering note……..I asked for sake (only two more drinking days left!), and took what they gave me. Unfortunately, my notes for this are basically non-existent, so I’ll have to rely upon you folks to identify this make for me. The web page describes two types of sake – hot and cold.

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We started with mackerel. Good, solid, fishy smell and taste, the way I like it.

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Like magic, a salmon joined the school.

And, as per Sushi Sen there’s plenty of blow torch action to be had, both tuna and eel.

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Scud was of a mind for more eel after the last night, and I wasn’t going to get in his way.

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Sushizanmai has (I also read) a reputation as a popular choice for the office crowd in search of a relatively inexpensive sushi lunch. Standard sets were in popular demand, and I was quite happy to drool over them as they went up on the counter in front of me to head out to the tatami rooms (now, how happy the clients may have been to see me salivating at the counter is another matter).

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Fast hands. That’s something you really appreciate when you’re watching a professional chef working the lunch crowd.

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Along with the go boards of fish, there were also some bowls (donburi? Am I wrong) going out, the fish cuts laid out in stunning colour over top of the rice.

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Oh, as we were saying, this is a popular lunch spot for the office crowd. It would also appear that lunch comes with power-napping options, as there was a couple at the corner of the bar who were flat out unconscious throughout our meal.

At least I assume they were asleep. I didn’t see fugu on the menu.

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Ah, the simple goodness of eggs. Sea urchin and ikura. An uni each for Scud and I, and the salmon eggs just for me (the Boy isn’t a big fan of these, I don’t know why….he’s fine with beluga and sevruga….and he came up with one interesting match once of lumpfish on crispy bacon strips…but that’s another story).

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Scud had to have a donburi, so one came loaded with tuna, crab meat, scallops, and ikura (which I took as my cut).

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I was more interested in some of the odd bits that I found on the English menu. In the front was “rock seaweed”, and behind that leek sprouts, and I had to try more nattou, it’s brownish colour giving it the look of a wrapped up luggy.

The place was beginning to get packed, and I watched as a waiter tried to jostle the couple at the end of the bar awake.

I’d heard of people living in the internet/manga shops, but I hadn’t considered 24 hour sushi restaurants as an option when I’d been planning my accommodations.

Maybe next time.

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(Honest, these shots were taken at different times. Check and you’ll see the knife has moved, even if the somnolents haven’t)

After this we figured we needed a little more to round us out, so it was a standard lunch plate for Scud and I to pick over.

We’d been eating for the better part of an hour, and, to Scud’s discomfort, I’d taken up with the fellow next to me whose English was very good. We got started on food, and then we were pouring each other drinks.

Scud hates it when I start talking with strangers, as it’s not something a proper Vancouverite does. Normally you should get to know someone from a distance for a certain period of time before making the round of formal introductions. Say, perhaps, 10 or 20 years.

But that doesn’t hold while traveling. Time’s too short. My new friend not only got us on much friendlier terms with the chef with his jokes, but also recommending the cherry trees down by the ANA Hotel next to us in Asakasa, and also filling us in on a good option for dinner (but more on that later).

So, our plans for the day were set. Even if it was overcast, we had to do the cherry blossoms.

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Our first stop was just across the street from the Oakwood, a small park on the other side of the main drag. Sure enough, the trademark items were there: people having small picnics and enjoying the scenery, and film crews.

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The film crew ran through the park, did about three takes, and then raced back out to the street to load into a mini-van, obviously off to the next shoot.

Scud and I just walked down the hill.

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My friend’s advice was spot on. The avenues around the ANA were beautifully canopied, and the pedestrian walk over gave you even better vantages for viewing. We joined the throng and took our stills and video.

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We figured we’d just walk on from here, and see what we could find. Asakasa has plenty of foreign food on hand,

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But there was also plenty of casual local stuff (can it get more casual than this?).

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We stopped to take in some of the shrines as we walked, which you are continually coming across in this city.

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And we had a look at the newest icons of culture (Scud had refused to take in the Tata Museum. I was so bummed out).

And we admired the older government buildings.

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Before you know it, you’re at the Palace. I’d been trying earlier in the week to get Scud to come down here, but he hadn’t been too interested. But now, just through ambling, we’d managed to get it in.

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We had to make the approach from the Sakuradaemon, of course, bustling in with the tourists hordes out to see the petals.

We took in this, the last of our major sights, and then headed for home. It was time to pack the bags, and get ready for dinner.

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Yoonhi wanted to know, when they refer to "hooks" in the liver, are they referring to metal hooks from catching the eels, or to hookworms (parasites)?

If it's the parasite, how would you recognize it in your food once it's cooked?

Thanks,

Peter

The former, metal hooks (fish hooks).

***

Sake: Tokubetsu junmai shu, Yorokobi (Joy, Delight, Pleasure, etc.). It's the chain's original brand.

Sleeping "salary man": You did see a lot of Japanese sleeping in trains, right?

Bowl: Yes, donburi. Often shortened to don when used in a dish name, as in chirashi don, bara chirashi don, kaisen don, oyako don, and katsu don.

Scud was of a mind for more eel after the last night, and I wasn’t going to get in his way.

But, that's anago, not unagi, right?

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March 29 – The School of Blood and Guts

Talking over lunch at Sushizanmai, my new friend had been quizzing me on what I had and had not had the chance to eat. One of the holes in my cuisine was painfully apparent.

Horumon.

Really, I should have had this back in Osaka. That’s where it’s famous. He explained that the term itself is derived from “mon” for “mono” (thing) and the verb “horu”, meaning along the lines of “to put aside”.

Or, as the Right Honourable Anthony Bourdain would say, “the nasty bits”.

We were looking for something convenient, but still good. He recommended a place just around the corner, that used to be called Horumon Dojo, but had recently changed to a new name, but the insides were still the same.

A quick, arcane check of the cell phone, and he told me I was looking for Jyuan Restaurant. After we finished eating (and before we went on our Sakura walkabout) we verified the location.

So, when dinner time came around, it was a simple thing to cut out the back way, up past the cemetery, cut across the bows of a few pimps, and down the stairs to Jyuan.

(The Pimps of Roppongi Crossing would be an excellent name for a band, come to think of it. Either that or a title along the lines of “The Bridges of Madison County”……)

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Scud and I were pretty early, so there wasn’t any problem with getting a spot to sit down. We found a good looking bit of counter, with a solid looking extractor fan above us, and started taking care of business.

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This was all looking rather Korean. Extractor fans, benches….

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And alcohol, let’s not forget alcohol! However, I can’t name a single grill joint in Seoul where I recall seeing wine, so maybe the parallels aren’t all there. Plus, you honestly don’t get the bottle variety with soju that you do with sake.

The menu was in English, but sake was just “sake”, so I ordered some, cold. What arrived was a great pour in a pretty little traditional wooden box.

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I asked, and was told that this was hakusa (?) sake. It wasn’t as dry and refined as a lot of what I’d been having, but that wasn’t a problem. I was in a mood for some roughing about. Plus, spilling it just gave me an excuse to drink from the box.

And what a great menu! I was salivating from the moment I opened it and saw Large Intestine in pride of place.

They had stuff on here I’d only ever heard of in Jack the Ripper stories. Rumen; reticulum; omasum; abomasum (okay, it was the bovine version of Jack the Ripper); sweetbreads (I recognize those!); trachea (I’ve been punched in that, so I can add it to the recognition list); liver (got plenty of that); heart (less of that); main artery (I’ve driven on those); cheeks (I’m quite cheeky); large intestine (yes!); uterus (I know what they’re for); artery (smaller than the main, I take it); temple (another target); stomach (yup, plenty of that); Adam’s apple (now that’s different); pork loin (boring); rib (more boring).

Under specials they also had beef tongue, and aged beef tongue.

They also had kim chi.

This Korean connection thing is growing again.

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For condiments we had cabbage (rather than lettuce), a very mild gochujang equivalent, something with a lot of sesame, and mayonnaise.

Gotta have mayo.

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And then there was the grill itself, inserted in our table, charcoal glowing briskly beneath the wire mesh.

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First up and on the grill were the sweetbreads. Plump and tasty. Along with these were the large intestine we’d ordered, long strips with a healthy marinade of garlic and sesame. Slices of leek came with this, but there was no raw garlic and chili peppers.

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Next was the small intestine, what I’d call kopjang, tubes of interesting intestine slathered in a slightly sweet reddish sauce.

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And then there was some more intestine.

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By this point, the lack of garlic was really getting to us. Our knees were weak, and we were close to passing out. By dint of pictography, I managed to get the staff to understand that we needed some garlic.

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What you see in this picture is a Roppongi $10 (1000 yen) serving of raw garlic.

Maybe I didn’t need it that bad. Heck, I would’ve brought my own bulbs with me on this trip if I’d known it was this dear!

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Still, what’s done is done, so it goes on the grill. There’s some pork loin on there, too. It may be boring, but it’s good.

Anyways, all this called for more to drink. I asked for shochu, figuring that would be the closest to a mean soju binge, but what came instead was a thick, tangy, milky beverage.

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I asked what it was, thinking perhaps an unfiltered, rough sake like we’d had in Kyoto.

“Makkoli” was the answer.

But this isn’t a Korean place?

I’m confused.

And when I get confused, I order more food. Next up was aged tongue. How old? I have no idea. But we figured if it was more expensive, it had to be better.

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And then it was pork temple, not something I’ve tried before.

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The drippings from the temple ignited on the charcoal, and soon a healthy, roaring fire was on the go. This was dealt with by bringing in ice cubes, and swapping out the grill.

They came out a little charred from the inferno, but, as Scud says “there’s nothing that a good dose of mayonnaise can’t fix”.

Spoken like a Canuck.

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What else haven’t we had? Adam’s apple! These were pork, I believe. I’m assuming there’s a porcine gender reclassification clinic nearby. Nothing would surprise me in Roppongi.

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This was also on the list of things my mother never cooked (Adam’s apple that is, although I don’t believe she ever whipped up a dish from cross dressing barnyard animals, either). Kind of gristly, actually, but we found if you finished them in the tin foil with the garlic for an extended period, they softened up a fair bit.

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And we ordered some more loin (at Scud’s instigation).

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And finally, with us grinding to a halt, we decided to take heart.

At this point, Scud called an end to the evening. We’d done impressive damage to a large amount of offal, and we both felt pretty good about it.

But tomorrow was our last day, and there was cleaning up to be done, and packing to be finalized.

So I sent Scud home to do those things while I went out for a drink.

I stopped back at the Hobgoblin for a pint of Old Speckled Hen. I must say, it wasn’t quite a legal pour, by any means, but I was still in a good mood, and took the opportunity to work over my notes in what I find now to be an almost illegible scrawl (as opposed to my normally illegible scrawl).

I was confused with regards to the dinner. Was what we’d had a typical Osakan zombie-fare night, or was this a place trying to be Korean? They didn’t speak any Korean (outside of “kim chi” and “makkoli”), and they insisted that they were not a Korean restaurant. Given the popularity of Korean food in Japan, I don’t think they’d be trying to hide this.

But the impression I had was very much one of an approximation to Korean cuisine. Is this just one of the legacies of Hideyoshi’s attempt at mainland conquest (not to be pulled off until some 300 years or so later?). Should I have been looking for noses on the menu?

My contemplation was cut short by a slight jarring of my stool, and a cry of “I told you not to touch me.” Looking down I saw some poor fellow on the floor, and a Brit at the bar in a somewhat agitated state.

Nothing like a punch up at the local.

Situations like this, you either drink up and leave, or put in your mouth guard.

Where did I leave that?

Next: Leavin’ On A Jet Plane

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It's certainly a nice change to see every part of an animal being used. 'Hormone' food - easy to remember!

I found your restaurant here: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a354301/

There's a run down on the chef here: http://recipe.gnavi.co.jp/chef/1261.html

He trained in France, there are numerous French wine bottles, you got served sweetbreads, yet you fixated on the 'Korean-ness' of a restaurant that didn't even serve you garlic until asked! :raz::biggrin:

Didn't the kimchi have enough garlic to sate your craving?

(Best Korean restaurant I've been to, having not been to Korea yet, is this one http://www.kan-nichi-kan.com/index.htm in Azabu Juban)

Whenever there's a fight there's always a foreigner involved... sigh... Glad to learn it wasn't you! Perhaps it was a Pimp of Roppongi Crossing quarreling over turf.

- which reminds me, on my first visit to Tokyo (2002) I spoke at length to a bar owner. He'd moved to Roppongi from another part of Tokyo and was delighted to have done so - much less extortion rackets going on in this area than in others. Those Pimps of Roppongi Crossing might be gentlemen after all.

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I found your restaurant here: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a354301/

There's a run down on the chef here: http://recipe.gnavi.co.jp/chef/1261.html

He trained in France, there are numerous French wine bottles, you got served sweetbreads, yet you fixated on the 'Korean-ness' of a restaurant that didn't even serve you garlic until asked!  :raz:  :biggrin:

Didn't the kimchi have enough garlic to sate your craving?

MoGa, if you don't mind, could you put up a translation of more of the details in English? I'm curious about this place. I've found some bits on the old place - Horumon Dojo - on the web, but nothing on this. Why'd he open here? What're his views on offal? What's his shoe size? That sort of thing.

I think "fixating" is the right word. There were so many tangential threads that you start wanting to believe.

Makkoli for Heaven's sake! It's hard enough to find it in Korea. I'd usually have to have people go out of their own restaurant and go buy me some.

Whenever there's a fight there's always a foreigner involved... sigh...  Glad to learn it wasn't you!  Perhaps it was a Pimp of Roppongi Crossing quarreling over turf.

No, this was much more of a UK thing. At least he didn't put the boots to him once he was down.

I remember drinking at the Sunrise on Main in Vancouver once. It was Boxing Day and we were all on a wander. Suddenly one strapping young fellow in the bar pulled one of the tables out, bolts and all, and heaved it at another gentleman with whom he was engaged in debate. We all looked around at our half finished pints, and, in unison, affirmed that we were done.

It's good to know when to leave.

- which reminds me, on my first visit to Tokyo (2002) I spoke at length to a bar owner.  He'd moved to Roppongi from another part of Tokyo and was delighted to have done so - much less extortion rackets going on in this area than in others.  Those Pimps of Roppongi Crossing might be gentlemen after all.

Tokyo Underworld by Robert Whiting is a great read on the post-war yakuza, and the introduction of pizza to Japan. My copy's with a friend who's recovering from knee surgery right now. I'll have to get it back and give it a reread.

One more day to go........

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