Thursday, August 05, 2010

12/04/10: Going Home

To work off the calories from the night before, I took a walk to Ueno Park. With luggage. And, by "work off the calories," I mean, to catch the Skyliner to Narita Airport.

At the airport, I had my last meal in Japan. Walking around the food court, I chose Italian restaurant, as I haven't had Italian in about 12 hours. There, I ordered Japanese-style pasta with spicy Mentaiko fish roe sauce.

Up in the air...

It's a good thing Japanese airport isn't too picky on bringing in food, as I was able to bring in juicy pork cutlet sandwich.

Of course, I had to have saké. Little on the brawny side, but a saké nontheless.

Not surprisingly, my time in Japan went by far too quickly. With tons of new memories made, 13 hours are not enough to relive them all.

12/03/09: Day 13 in Japan (Last Full Day)

As noted on the title, today was my last full day in Japan. What to do? Start with a hearty lunch, of course. This is Japanese-style hamburgers with demi-glace sauce. (The burger is hidden underneath the fried egg.)

Afterwards, I asked my friend to take me to a driving range for some exercise, to work off some calories I am about to consume.

After the range, we went to Isetan department store and their saké section to pick up souvenirs. Wise choice, as they had rare sakés including Jokigen Yamahai Junmai Ginjo and Yuki No Bosha "Hiden" Yamahai Junmai Ginjo.

The main point of today is to enjoy as much food in Japan as possible. First stop was made at an izakaya "Nonbei", at 6:00 pm.

Our poison of choice included Shimé Hari Tsuru, Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai, and Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo...

...with orders of bottarga and...

...chicken kara-agé.

It's not uncommon for the Japanese to go to izakaya for a happy hour, followed by dinner. Thus, next stop was Italian restaurant "Corsica."

Small but authentic, we started with beef carpaccio...

...sauteed spinach...

...veal marsala...


...and spaghetti Bolognese. Yes, we ordered a lot, but portions are smaller than they appear, and there were three of us. At least, that's what I kept telling myself.

It is also not unusual for the Japanese to go to "Niji-Kai" afterparty after dinner. We went to a different izakaya, not too far from Nonbei.

As my friend knows the manager, we were able to bring in our own bottle. The choice was the spectacular Shichida Junmai Ginjo that I received on my visit to Tenzan Brewery.

To accomodate, we ordered some pasta...

...and dumplings as we apparently didn't fulfil our carbohydrates intake for the day.

My partners in crime!

Monday, February 15, 2010

12/02/09: Day 13 in Japan, Part II - The Autumn Leaves

After Mampukuji, we headed to Kamakura to visit Kayagiya, where they serve the best unagi (grilled eel).

Made in the traditional eastern Japan style, Kayagiya's eel is steamed prior to grilling, resulting in a fluffy texture.

We spent the afternoon walking around the temples of Kamakura and Kita-Kamakura ("North Kamakura") to view autumn foliage. This is a gingko tree at Hachimangu, a temple established by Yoritomo of the Minamoto Clan, whom you may recall from my last post.

Japanese maple back lit by sun in Hachimangu.

More Japanese maple at Hachimangu.

Red Japanese maple providing contrast to the blue sky at Engakuji in Kita-Kamakura.

Japanese maple trees surrounding the pond in Engakuji.

From the other side, looking towards the pond. Lighting creates a much different ambiance.

Simply amazing...

12/02/09: Day 13 in Japan, Part I - Koshigoé

I started the day by retracing the route from few days ago, except that my destination was not Enoshima but the town next door, Koshigoé. That fact did not prevent me from taking a glance of Enoshima, however.

The road along Shonan Beach is picturesque, reminds me of a driving course one might see in video games.

The stretch between Enoshima and Koshigoé is where the Enoden runs steet-level, amidst cars.

In Koshigoé, I visited Mampukuji, a temple where tragic hero Yoshitsuné of Minamoto Clan held fort while trying to reconcile with his older brother and Shogun, Yoritomo.

Memorial for Yoshitsuné. Highly talented strategist, Yoshitsuné had a tense relationship with his older brother Yoritomo. It has been said that rather than different bloodlines, Yoshitsune's seemingly aloofness towards politics led to this friction.

This is "Benkei's Juggling Stone." Benkei was a fiercely royal follower of Yoshitsuné, legendary for his last stand. More on that later.

On his way to Kamakura to deliver captured enemy general, Munemori of Taira Clan, Yoshitsuné and his charges were ordered to wait at Koshigoé, essentially forbidden from entering the capital. During his stay at Mampukuji, Yoshitsuné wrote "Koshigoé-jo," an emotionally charged letter to Yoritomo that was meant to reconcile their differences.

This picture on the shoji sliding door shows Yoshitsuné waiting longingly at the temple, hoping that the letter will thaw the relationship. However, Yoritomo saw the emotional appeal as further sign that Yoshitsuné didn't understand that the new government needed reason and logic to rule, further widening the gap between the two.

Eventually, Yoshitsuné was seen as expendable figure in the new government, and his persecution was seen as a necessary step to unite the Kamakura Shogunate. Along the way, he bid tearful farewell to his wife Shizuka.

Eventually, Yoshitsuné escaped to northern prefecture of Iwaté, but his allies eventually turned on him. Badly outnumbered with nowhere left to go, Yoshitsuné decided to do the honorable thing. As his last duty, his loyal follower Benkei gave his life holding off the enemy while Yoshitsuné took his own life. The legend has it that Benkei died on his feet, determined not to let his master down.

Inside the temple was the armor. Was not sure if it was the actual armor of Yoshitsuné, but the crest on the chest is of the Minamoto Clan.

Last fascinating item were decorations on the shoji sliding doors. These designs were carved out in wood and laquered in a traditional method called "Kamakura-bori" (literally, "Kamakura carvings.")

Visiting shops in Kamakura, one can find many examples of Kamakura-bori souvenirs including chopsticks, rice bowls, plates, trays, sandals, hand mirrors, and saké servers, among others.

12/01/09: Day 12 in Japan - Visiting the Headquarters

The day started off as usual...

I spent the morning going for a walk. As my hotel for the night was in Ueno, I headed to there to drop off my luggage. Near the train station is Ueno Park, where there is a statue of none other than Saigo Takamori.

After Ueno, I went to check out the day time scene of the famed night spot of Ginza. With lot of brand name brand stores and absence of neon lights, Ginza resembled Fifth Avenue rather than Times Square during the day.

After walking from Ginza back to Shimbashi, it was time for lunch. I came across this small shop specializing in hand-made Sanuki udon.

I ordered lunch set that also included small plate of curry rice. The noodles were thick, chewy, firm, and excellent.

I had an afternoon appointment to visit the headquarters of my employer. To get there, I took Yurikamomé train that meandered between city buildings before heading out to the harbor.

Here it is, the Fuji TV Headquarters. It's slightly larger than the NY office. Just slightly...

Fuji TV is located on a man-made island located in the Tokyo Harbor. Looking towards the mainland, there is a familar sight of the Statue of Liberty for the reasons unknown to me to this day...

Before going inside, I wanted to see the tourist areas. To do so, I took the encased escalator up to the welcome area.

Inside the escalator.

The symbol of the building, main observatory, can be seen through the glass enclosure.

At the welcome area, I met Fuji TV mascot. Yes, it does look like a blue relative of Snoopy.

Looking up inside the welcome area.

Due to the private nature of the business, I was unable to take pictures in most areas of the tour. One place I could take picture was inside the observatory, which is open to public. This is what the ceiling looks like. The observatory is occasionally used for on-air purpose, so you can see the lighting track in place.

View of the Tokyo Harbor from the observatory.

Following my visit, I had dinner with the members of the International Department at an izakaya back on the main land. Due to the nature of the dinner, I refrained from taking pictures...