Friday, November 14, 2008

10/31/08: Day 1 in Japan - Touchdown!

The day technically started on 10/30/08, but with the travel time and jet lag, I dated today's entry as 10/31/08.

The flight began with the usual ritual of playing sitting in my seat and praying, "no one sit next to me!" My players were answered.

The seat I secured for the trip was 62A on a Northwest flight, which happened to be the last seats before rows of 3 became 2. In a short flight, I opt for aisle seat, while I choose window on a long flight as I can rest my head.

Because row 62 was the last row of 3, I suspected that the middle seat (62B) would likely be the last seat taken, which turned out to be the case.

The flight against the Jet Stream was long, but it offered spectacular view of our planet. Living in New York, we sometime forget how much of this vast planet is yet touched by the mankind.

Air travel went smoothly, and I checked in the hotel around 6:00 pm the day after. Here's the rest of the day, in pictures:

Here is my room. Very compact and clean.

In the corner of the lobby - yes, they really do sell beer in vending machines in Japan!

For dinner, I had to do the Japanese thing and have ramen. To meet this demand, I went to Ryumon (竜門, "Dragon's Gate") that I saw on the way to the restaurant.

There is something different about ramen in Japan. The soup feels fuller and richer, yet it's not heavy nor intense in flavor. The noodle is firm, yet seems softer at the same time. Perfect meal after a flight... or just about any time.

Although I wasn't starving by any means, I saw the hand-made fried dumplings being served, and I had to have them. They were large compared to the US standards (each piece was as wide as my knuckles), and they were great. The skin was very thin, yet crispy on one side, and the flavor of the pork reminded me of the stuffing inside steamed pork buns you'd find in Chinatown.

While people have impression that food is expensive in Japan, and it is true for high-end places, you can find incredible value:

Dinner Tab
Asahi Super Dry 500 ml: ¥480
Ramen: ¥480
Extra Noodles: ¥100
Gyoza (5 pcs): ¥300
Total: ¥1360 ($13)

On the way home, I was searching for saké bar, or as we call it, izakaya (居酒屋). I found a nice looking one with a flag indicating direct sales from a brewery, so I went right in. The bar was called Tachinomi Bar (立呑屋), and represents Yokobué Brewery (横笛) of Nagano.

Yokobué "Tachinomi"(立呑) limited release SMV: +6, flavor very much up front, short flavor, long umami.

Yokobué Junmai (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Miyamanishiki, Yoneshiro, Seimaibuai: 59%, Yeast: #901). Slight hue of straw, with fuller, softer body. Has more flavors of koji than Tachinomi.

Yokobué "Kejime" (〆) Tokubetsu Honjozo (SMV: +11, Rice: Miyamanishiki, Yoneshiro, Seimaibuai: 65%, Yeast: #701) Clean, dry. Shorter finish with less umami.

As I was studying the bottles and asking questions, the waitress commented that "I must really like Nihonshu."

While I was flattered in one sense, I was not doing anything unusual(or so I thougt.) In a way, I was sadden to see that interest in saké is considered unusual...

Bar Tab
Tachinomi: ¥300
Junmai: ¥300
Kejime: ¥400
Total: ¥1000 ($9.70)

No comments: