Tokyo {Part III}

The trouble with visiting a place with so much to see and do is that you return with hundreds of pictures to edit and too many details to share.  This combined with a hectic summer at the day job amounted to a long absence from this blog.  Now a few trips and more than a few posts behind, I will endeavor to catch up.  But before leaving the subject of Tokyo, a few more scenes to share of the ever bustling Shibuya at night, dining at Yokota {a one Michelin star tempura restaurant}, wandering in search of Harajuku girls, eating the best tonkatsu at Maisen, and of course, finishing off our culinary tour with a delicious bowl of ramen from a favorite chain Ippudo {not having to wait in line made Andy a happy man}.

Nighttime in Tokyo, JapanShibuya, Tokyo, JapanMaisen, Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan

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Visiting Kyoto, Japan {Day 1}

Over the weekend, we hopped on the shinkansen (bullet train) over to Kyoto, but before we did so, we grabbed a bowl of the most delicious dipping ramen at Tokyo Station’s ramen street.  I highly recommend Rokurinsha, but do allow extra time for the line can be long.  Wandering the Gion district of Kyoto, we marveled at the city’s high regard for tradition and on certain streets it seemed as if time stood still, and the quaint wooden homes and shops had remained untouched by time.  A crane perched along the creekside gazing at its own reflection while a newlywed couple swathed in beautiful traditional silk hurried by, trailed by an entourage of family and friends.

Gion district, Kyoto, JapanWedding, Gion district, Kyoto, JapanGion district, Kyoto, Japan

We spotted a gathering of students and tourists waiting for a glimpse of the geishas, who were expected to appear soon, all dressed for an evening out.  We waited with them, of course, and when the ladies finally appeared, they quickly walked – no glided – ever so gracefully and ducked into a waiting car.

Gion district, Kyoto, Japan, geishaGeisha, Kyoto, Japan

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Tokyo {Part II}

When we arrive in an unfamiliar city, we usually take a Hop-on Hop-off bus ride to get our bearings, but since Tokyo is so vast and the audio guide seriously lacking, we ditched the bus and made our way to Ueno Park.  Although the cherry blossoms have long fallen {missed them by two weeks}, we spotted a late blooming tree with its pale pink blossoms barely clinging on as well as a manhole in sakura motif.

Ueno Park, TokyoUeno Park, TokyoUeno Park, Tokyo, cherry blossom, sakuraUeno Park, Tokyo, JapanUeno Park, Tokyo, Japan, man hole

We had an early dinner that evening at Sukiyabashi Jiro in the Roppongi Hills area {Jiro’s son Takashi’s restaurant}.  Roppongi is a lovely upscale area where all the buildings, shops, and residences looked newly constructed and pristine.  Having watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, we were expecting a rather stern and serious meal, but Takashi-san was friendly, relaxed, and quite chatty, even complimenting Andy on his chopsticks skills and noting our politeness.  The sushi was as fresh as can be and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Sukiyabashi Jiro, Tokyo

Tokyo {Part I}

The lingering effects of jetlag have worn off and I finally had a chance to sift through the many photos of our time in Japan.  Upon checking in to Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel {conveniently located near Shibuya station, right in the thick of things}, we were upgraded to a spacious room with a breathtaking view of Tokyo’s awe-inspiring cityscape … dense urban sprawl as far as the eye can see.

We knew about the sheer vastness of Tokyo and its maze-like layout, but the message hit home when our seasoned taxi driver had to enter Kadowaki restaurant’s address into his navigation system as we headed out for what would be the first of many memorable meals. Look for Kadowaki’s discreet little entrance {pictured} located off a narrow sidestreet. Kadowaki’s chef Toshiya Kadowaki famously turned down a Michelin star listing when Michelin rankings first came to Japan.  Judging by the furtive glances and nervous looks from the apprentice on duty, Andy and I were on our best behavior.  With chef Kadowaki at the helm presiding over dinner, out of respect {and feeling a little intimidated} I did not take pictures, but the meticulous preparation and precision with which the chef prepared our meal was a sight to behold … a study in ultimate efficiency on a small counter space against a backdrop of hundreds of neatly stacked dishes, plates, and bowls, everything with its own singular purpose.  Though there were many, outstanding dishes for me were the truffle rice and crab egg custard {hot} served with squid ink and shrimp sorbet {cold}. Dessert was truffle honey over strawberries and ricotta cheese sauce.  Simply heavenly.

The next day, we took the subway over to Ginza and wandered around Mitsukoshi department store where we worked up an appetite before our reservations at Alain Ducasse’s Beige restaurant atop the Chanel boutique.  I recall working on clearing the BEIGE trademark years ago and reading about its opening in WWD, so it was a treat to experience the place in person.  The dishes were delightfully presented as well as delicious, and the decor was predictably chic.

Beige, Alain Ducasse, Tokyo, Japan, Ginza

Ginza, Mikimoto, Tokyo, Japan

After lunch, we made our way toward Tokyo station, which in and of itself would take days to explore, and then somehow managed to locate the bus to Tokyo Tower, a smaller orange version of the Eiffel Tower.

Tokyo train station, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Dinner that night was at Narisawa, perhaps the most innovative cuisine I have ever experienced to date, engaging all senses along with the imagination.  No wonder it is haled as the best restaurant in Asia.  The theme of the night was inspired by the forest in springtime and dish after dish was a wholly new and magical take on the natural wonders of the forest.  The first dish quite literally resembled the ground covering and dirt, but tasted like airy morsels of tempura-ed vegetables.  Captivated, we watched as the dough for our bread rose slowly in a glass sitting in heated water.  Then it was transferred into a sizzling hot stone bowl and seared-baked right in front of us.  The result was a bread like no other with a perfectly crunchy shell and soft doughy goodness inside.  Another wondrous dish of Spanish mackerel and onion essence arrived under a glass dome containing smoke from cherry blossoms, its delicate scent quickly evaporated as the dome was lifted.  Everything was exquisite … an unforgettable evening, indeed.

Les Creations de Narisawa restaurant, Tokyo, Japan

Streets of Tokyo

Tokyo shrine

Scenes from our wanderings … a small shrine tucked between modern buildings amid a bustling mid-day market.  Much more to come.

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