January 16, 2018
"No spicy tuna roll on the menu?"
I was still under the weather this morning with chills and a cough, but I went down to breakfast just to take in some tea, juice, water, fruit, yogurt. I remembered my 6:00 PM dinner reservation to Sushi Yasuda, so I decided to spend the day resting, as much as I disliked the idea of not doing any sightseeing.
Thankfully, the fever was gone come dinnertime, though I was still fighting an annoying cough. Dinner tonight was some of the best sushi I've ever had, not that my experience in it is so vast or anything. When I got there at 6:00 sharp, three other diners were already there at the 10-seat sushi bar.
Besides the first-rate sushi, what made the evening so special was that Chef Yasuda was answering any questions thrown at him. I mean, he went into specifics about what he pays per pound for certain fish and how half the literature discussing sushi is wrong regarding the nomenclature. He said he doesn't eat sushi regularly which sounded odd at first, but made perfect sense because he feels avoiding consuming it is what's kept presenting and preparing it so challenging and novel. He also mentioned that he doesn't have an assistant because he feels it's too difficult to teach style.
It was so refreshing to see the chef conversing with so much honest enthusiasm. It looked like doesn't use a particularly fancy sushi knife. Everything just seemed to add up to a gentleman doing what he enjoys for a living with a positive attitude that doesn't try to impress his patrons. One specific issue he pointed out that resonated loudly was that he's convinced almost all eel sushi we consume isn't eel at all; it's some other fish transformed and processed in Chinese factories. Something tells me he's not wrong.
Tokyo has dozens of top-notch sushi restaurants, but this place felt special and is easily worth a visit when you're here.
January 17, 2018
"How about for lunch today...sushi?"
Still riding high this morning from last night's sushi dinner, I decided to ask the concierge for their sushi recommendations. They selected Ginza Kyubey Sushi, and this place didn't disappoint, at all! It was the perfect way to finish up my sushi fix here on my last full day in Japan.
The other highlight of my day was...laundry! Too bad it was overcast out; I didn't wanna chance being under the weather and walking 20 minutes in the rain each way to the nearest laundromat, so I sprang for a cab there and back. It was annoying that there were several people there taking up all four dryers and that sort of thing, but it all worked out. This place was proof that not all coin-op laundromats in Tokyo have change machines and a television for you to enjoy while doing a wash.
I didn't have any luck picking up a souvenir t-shirt for a friend's son, but I did locate these little stuffed animals one of my nieces asked me to pick up. It was annoying that it rained from mid-afternoon until about 9:00, but hitting a couple of stores was a fine way for me to be out and about my last night here.
January 15, 2018
On His Majesty's Secret Service
The train ride back to Tokyo went smoothly, as expected. It was a clear day, so I got some decent shots of Mount Fuji. After checking in at my new hotel, I relaxed for a bit before making my way to Suntory Hall for a concert by the Warsaw Philharmonic. I grabbed ramen at one of the places at nearby Shimbashi Station before jumping on the Ginza line to go a quick three stops to the concert venue.
The program started at 7:00 and featured Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in the first half and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, his "New World" Symphony, in the second half. The show started out with a Paderewski overture. Anyhow, the program was easily popular enough for this casual fan to attend. I guess because I sat much further back this time compared to last week's show, there was noticeably more echo. But the decay was fast and even. And while the main theme of the fourth movement was played with great verve and is as popular as it gets in the repertory, what sent a chill up my spine was the English horn solo early in the slow movement; to my untrained ears, it was perfection!
Yeah, the orchestra sounded a little muddled when playing at high volume, but I could've just been imagining that. The piano concerto in the first half was beautifully played by the soloist, though I'd only heard the work in performance once before. He played an encore with the requisite pyrotechnics you'd expect. And the orchestra also played an encore after the Dvorak...probably one of his Slavonic Dances, I'm not sure.
A wonderful surprise at this show was the attendance of Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. They received tremendous applause while walking in just before the start of the concert and sat in the mezzanine in the center of the first row. I was 10 or 11 rows behind them way towards the rear of the theater. It's nice that Suntory Hall's layout is such that not even my seat was very far from the stage. Anyway, after the pianist's encore, the Emperor and Empress received another long ovation as they slowly exited the theater making friendly waves to the audience along the way. I was as close as maybe 15' away from them as they got to the walkway, and I regret not taking a photo of them, though it technically wouldn't have been allowed. It's unfortunate they didn't stick around for the second half of the show as the Dvorak was by far the most popular piece on the program.
Suntory Hall is terrific, and I highly recommend seeing a concert there. Ticket prices are similar to what they cost in the US.
Mount Fuji on the way back from Kyoto to Tokyo. It looks like you're riding on the back of a giant bald eagle.
View from inside Shinkansen Nozomi bullet train. Very clean and very fast, but not luxurious.
View of Tokyo Bay from new hotel room.
January 18, 2018
"Can I get two pounds of the tuna filet, please?"
I lucked out with what I think was a perfect way to end my stay in Japan: a tour of the Tsukiji Fish Market! The tuna auction was really pretty exciting. And you really do have to walk through the area very carefully with the other tourists because of workers zooming by you in cars, trucks, bikes, electric carts with zero turning radius, dollies, you name it. And it's also dark out that early for much of the year.
I saw some buyers taking away their purchases immediately, while others were getting their fish cut by band saw right then and there. I find it amazing here on the other side of the world that some of this tuna is being purchased and flown to NYC regularly. Similarly, if you're a tuna fan living in Tokyo, I guess it's quite a nice advantage you've got knowing much of the sushi you're consuming at high-end restaurants in the area comes from here, almost steps away.
The market will be moving in the near future to a bigger location in the Toyosu area; it's a little more inconvenient than the current location, so I definitely recommend visiting Tsukiji Market if you're in town before it moves.
I rode the monorail to Toyosu because it was a sunny morning out and wanted to see the area. Tokyo is so large, it's got two huge Ferris wheels just in this area. Hey, maybe kids love them.
And now I have to head to Narita International for my early afternoon flight. Auf wiedersehen, Tokyo! Thanks for the great times, and maybe I'll be back during the Summer Olympics in 2020!
Waiting room at the Tsukiji Fish Market at 4:30 AM.
Tuna for auction, I guess the cross-sections of the tails indicate the quality of meat in the rest of the body.
Map of the joint.
Auctioneers and sellers of the prized tuna.
Their rules and regulations.
Some of the finished product at one of the nearby markets.