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Sunday, April 3, 2011

*A CHILLY, BUT ENJOYABLE DAY IN TOKYO

I went to the Japan Railway office at Tokyo Station to see if I could find my way to Fukushima today, as I have a rail pass and can JR anywhere for free.  It turned out that using five trains taking eight hours, I could get to that city.  Then another five trains and eight hours to return.  As I am signed up for five trains and 16 hours to go from Tokyo to Sapporo tomorrow, I decided maybe I should rest today, especially as the microsievert per hour for Fukushima is 6.53, and Tokyo is only 0.096.  Sapporo is less than a third that.  Thus, 8 hours in Fukushima would amount to the radiation one would get from one chest X-ray.

As my final train returning from Sapporo on Wednesday arrives at around 11PM, I thought I'd stay at the Four Seasons, which is connected to Tokyo Station via the underground tunnel.  While I was there making the reservation, I asked, what was the best fusion Japanese restaurant in Tokyo.  I was sent to Yonemura, a Japanese-French gem.

On the way over I stopped by to view the cherry blossoms at Ueno Park.  The trees are just blooming and should be at peak later in the week:


I saw a 100 Yen store, so bought a couple of socks and sundry other stuff.  I found some humor in my walking into Yonemura wearing my University of Hawaii jacket and jogging pants carrying this obviously 100 Yen store bag, when others were in their Sunday best.  Anyway...

...I had a seat right next to where five chefs were cooking.  They not only prepare the food, but deliver them themselves.  While the pace was frenetic, it was fascinating watching what was happening.

I started with a Kir Royale and added a French bordeau (see left, 13.5%).  Both were served in Riedel glasses.  The First course was deep fried ice fish (above) accompanied by sea urchin, and a small sandwich of something, with spring vegetable pickles.  At this point I though, why not, and added a glass of 2009 William Fevre Chablis (12.5%).  This was followed (right photo) by the tiniest red bell pepper and tomato soup I've ever seen.  Very tasty.

The third serving was grilled clam with bourguignon butter, scallions and white asparagus.  It would have been terrific if small pieces of shell were not accidentally in the mix.

The fourth was flatfish in a spring vegetable salad:

Nice dish.  #5 was fried foie gras accompanied by a consomme soup, plus a grilled safron musubi, which I was told to place in the soup:

#6 was chilled spaghetti with fatty squid and baby octopus.  He boiled the water, cooked the pasta using a timer and deftly scooped it up to place in a container filled with water and ice cubes.  The spaghetti was perfectly al dente:
This was in the direction of soba, but with a lot toppings.

#7 was grilled Kobe beef with an essence of wasabi and crispy garlic:

Again, I noticed many were drinking beer, and my red wine was nearing the end, so I ordered a glass of Ebesu draft.  Next came curry over Niigata rice with assorted condiments:

With #9, with the blue cheese, sherbert and mini-pastries, I had a Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne:

It would be redundant for me to say that this was the best Japanese-French fusion lunch I've had in my life.  Not cheap, but not that expensive, either.  Thank you Kaye from the Four Seasons.

The main road in Ginza is closed on Sunday, so throngs of people are all over the place, even if it felt like it would snow at any moment:

A few days ago I mentioned that those students seeking funds for the Tohoku disaster were scaring people by yelling so loudly.  They were here too, and still screaming.  However, somebody was thinking, as two dogs got all the attention and kept getting a lot of donations;

There were even a few protesters.  Not sure what they were complaining about.

I then saw this clothing store, Uniqlo.  Never heard of it until Yayoi Kondo mentioned that I would love it because she noticed that I wore "comfortable" clothes.  They have found a way to make the thinnest and softest cotton I've ever felt.  I bought six items, and the most surprising thing of all is that the total bill was about equal to what one piece of this type of clothing cost me in Beijing and Seoul.  This particular location in Tokyo is about the most expensive retail block in the world.  I can't imagine how they can survive by virtually giving away their products.  In addition to being the ultimate in comfort, you can wash it in your room and it dries within the hour, if not in ten minutes.

Hard to now talk about Day 24 of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, the latest version of what this cataclysm will be called.  The death toll has pushed past 12,000, with 15,000 still missing.  The bodies of two Tokyo Electric Power Company workers were found today.  Attempts to plug the leak failed, and speculation is that this could take months.  In the meanwhile, the Oyashio and Kuroshio Currents will be taking this radioactive iodine and cesium in the direction of an important Japan fishery, so...

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