Japan #7, last stop, Tokyo | 東京
Tokyo / Eastern Capital, officially Tokyo Metropolis, is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family. Tokyo is in the Kantō region. Tokyo is often referred to and thought of as a city, but is officially known and governed as a ‘metropolitan prefecture’, which differs from and combines elements of both a city and a prefecture; a characteristic unique to Tokyo.
♦ My son joined us for our 10-day stay in Tokyo. We stayed at the Hotel New Otani, near the Imperial Palace in Akasaka, perfectly located to get around. I picked the hotel for the nostalgia I had staying there in 1971. The hotel’s 400 year old garden is breathtaking. During 10 fully scheduled days, we wanted to do all the fun, hip, happening things. Following are the highlights of our activities while in Tokyo.
♦ 20 minutes by train from the hotel, we went to Asakusa, quite a tourist favorite. Lines of souvenir shops lead visitors to the Asakusa Shrine. [Nicely prepared video by an Canadian → here]
♦ My most anticipated spot (my third time going) was Edo Wonderland. This park resurrects and showcases life and culture during the Edo period. Stepping back in time, every employee is dressed in contemporary costumes. There are even costume rentals for the enthusiast to become part of the theme. The park has all kinds of indoor and outdoor theatrical presentations. A 4-hour, round-trip Tokyo/Nikko, in a luxury, fast bullet train is worth every second. For new visitors, allocating extra time to also visit the UNESCO World Herritage Site, Futarasan Shrine and Tōshō-gū in Nikko, is highly recommended.
♦ A jazz club in Tokyo! One of my dearest Japanese friends has a new hobby, singing in jazz clubs, once a month. She made it a point to perform, close to our hotel, on an evening when we were in town. The musicians brought the house down (band leader was a female piano player). In addition to being a physician, my son is quite an accomplished musician on piano, guitar and drums. He was in heaven.
♦ Ore no Restaurants!!! [You must watch this 1:50 video ] The food was GREAT!!! Filet mignon topped with foie gras in truffle sauce for $15, whereas, one would easily pay $60 for just a steak at any other restaurant in Japan. There are Ore no Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Sushi, Soba (noodles), Oden , Kappou ( the most traditional Japanese dishes), Yakiniku (grilled meats) and Yakitori (grilled chicken). The Ore no French & Italian Branch we ate at had a few seats available, for which they charged $3/person for 90 minutes. It was well worth it. New Yorkers….get ready. A branch is soon opening in the “Big Apple”!
♦ Kappou Yoshiba Restaurant! Wow! An old sumo practice stable has been turned into a restaurant, serving chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋), the food of sumo wrestlers. It was one of the top-five most delicious foods I’ve had in my life. We were treated to this most satisfying experience by my former Japanese colleagues of 20 years ago, who are great friends for life now, one of whom planned it and traveled all the way from Kyoto (2.5 hours by bullet train) to be with us in Tokyo.
[Excellent video on Sumo → here]
♦ Ninja Restaurant, Akasaka! Another Wow! I don’t even know how to explain this restaurant. The interior is all black and dark (as you’ll see on the video). Ninjas pop-up left-an-right and ninjas serve you ninja food and perform ninja tricks. Experience galore! Food was so much fun and very delicious. You must see it for yourself. This video is in both Japanese and English. I’m sure you’ll get the jist of it.
After the cruise, the night we arrived in Tokyo, we took a stroll in Akasaka (hotel’s neighborhood) looking for a nice meal. We dined at a yakitori shop, whose food we enjoyed tremendously and for which we paid dearly! Yakitori / grilled chicken is made with several, bite-sized pieces of chicken meat, or chicken internals, skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled, usually over binchōtan charcoal. At the yakitori specialty stores/kiosks, diners have a choice of having it cooked with salt / shio, or with sauce / tare, which is generally made of soy-sauce, sugar and mirin.
Yakitori • やきとり
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
— Dark or light meat, liver, heart, gizzard, vegetables, such as leek, onion, mushrooms, shishito, cherry tomatoes,
As seen in the photos, I used:
• 10 bamboo skewers, 25cm/10″ must be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes. Then cut off the end to make them 19cm/ 7½”
• 250 gr / ½ lb boneless, skinless thigh meat, cut into 5 cm x 2.5 cm (2″ x 1″)
• liver, heart and gizzard of 3 large chickens
• 10 stems, thicker green onion, cut only the white part into 2.5 cm/1″ length
For the tare / sauce (ratio is 2:2:1)
• 3 Tbsp soy-sauce
• 3 Tbsp mirin (or, Mizkan honteri non-alcoholic mirin)
• 1½ Tbsp sugar
◊ In a small saucepan, add soy-sauce, mirin, sugar, and bring to boil. Lower heat to medium and let the sauce simmer until it evaporates to half. This happens very quickly, so pay close attention, stir if needed to avoid coagulation. Pour half of the sauce into a small bowl and set aside.
◊ Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place a screen over it and spray the screen with non-stick spray. I used a round screen, therefore, I used foil on a pizza pan.
◊ Skewer the meat by folding it. Skewer a piece of green onion in between. Place the skewers on the screen.
◊ Remove sinew from the liver and cut them into 5cm pieces. Cut gizzards into bite-size. Leave the hearts as they are. Skewer them by kind with green onion in between. Place the skewers on the screen.
◊ Position a rack on the top shelf of the oven, and turn to ‘Broil’.
◊ Using the tare/sauce in the saucepan, brush over the top of the meat skewers. I opted to lightly sprinkle livers/hearts/gizzards only with salt.
◊ When the elements are red, place the tray with the skewered meat in the oven. Let it broil for 5 minutes. Take out of the oven, carefully (be careful, not to burn your hands) flip the skewers, brush the other side of the meats and also lightly sprinkle salt on the other side of the skewers, salted previously. Put tray back in the over for another 4 ~ 5 minutes.
◊ Place the skewers on a serving dish, and with a new/clean brush, using the tare/sauce set aside in a small bowl earlier, and brush the meats again. Place the salted skewers on a separate serving dish. No more salt needed to be added.
◊ Goes well with grilled vegetables, salad, and piping-hot Japanese rice.
~ どうぞめしあがれ • Douzo Meshiagare ~
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?