Sunday, March 3, 2013

Japan: Akasaka District, the Emperor's Palace, Sushi and Kaiseki

I left Phuket to travel to Tokyo to speak at a joint Japanese/American Symposium on Health Care Law.  Our delegation stayed in the Akasaka District of Tokyo at the New Otani Hotel, known for its beautiful garden. 

Back to Work

                                                A temple pathway in the Akasaka District

                                                                    Akasaka at night

The New Otani garden

We strolled the tranquil complex of the Emperor and visited the ruins of Edo Castle, all but the mammoth stone foundation lost to earthquakes and fire. 

                                                                  Emperor's Palace


A swan in the moat

                                                                 Edo Castle ruins

I had some terrific dining experiences in Tokyo and, subsequently, in Osaka.  In Tokyo, I dined at the restaurant of Jiro, the famed octogenarian sushi chef and subject of the documentary, "I Dream of Sushi."  The tiny restaurant, wedged into the basement of an office building and near the entrance to the subway, takes some work to find.  The sushi, prepared by Jiro and two assistants, is superb.  I question the value of the entire experience, however.  Twenty succulent pieces of sushi are served rapid-fire and the meal is over in approximately half an hour, with a tab in excess of $300.00 for one person.  Jiro is very gracious, signing my menu and speaking with me briefly through an interpreter, but I'll file this away as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Our hosts treated us to a traditional kaiseki multi-course meal at a spectacular restaurant, Nadaman, where we dined in the Sazanaka house, a Japanese style cottage which served as a dinner setting for a 1986 G-6 (now 7) conference attended by several luminaries including Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  Kaiseki is the finest of dining and the meal was terrific, with each course presented beautifully and the texture and flavors of the food combining in memorable ways.  We enjoyed eight courses in all; a few examples follow:

Hors D'Oeuvre (Zensai):
Boiled Japanese greens with thick sauce
Mixed kidney beans and tofu
Inari-sushi (fried tofu stuffed with sushi rice)
Salmon roe
Grilled prawn, fried angelica
Deep fried Japanese ice fish

Raw Fish (Tsukuri)
Blowfish and skin
Prime tuna and yellow tail

Grilled Dish (Yakimono)
Grilled red tile fish
Griled beef, saikyo-miso taste
Mixed rape blossum and grated radish with angler liver

We were also invited to a traditional sukiyaki house in Osaka, where waitresses prepared the meal--thin strips of meat sauteed in a light soy sauce with a variety of vegetables--atop our table.  The food is traditionally dipped in raw egg, which I enjoy.

Our send-off party ended with one of our hosts inviting us to a club he frequents where, upon entry, the staff wheeled out three carts laden with our host's private collection of scotches and cognacs.  I sampled more than I should have, and ended the evening by joining my host in a glass of Hennessy Timeless cognac.  A fitting end to a great trip. 

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