I’m in the home stretch.  Tomorrow night, I’ll be boarding a flight back to Vancouver and the departure will be bittersweet.  While I’ll be glad to set aside the fine dining for the foreseeable future (I am so looking forward to a simple bowl of Steelcut Irish Oatmeal), there are many, many things I’ll miss:  the culture, the energy, and, of course, the many people I met while I was here – a little over twenty-five terrific new friends in all and I feel like I was just getting started.

Yesterday, I went to lunch with yet a new friend – actually a friend of a friend now a friend – the lovely Tomomi.  She got herself volunteered to spend time with me compliments of a mutual acquaintance, Theresa, but I made a point of making the experience as painless as possible by keeping the conversation clean and chewing with my mouth closed.  I think I made a good impression because she agreed to accompany to Yamada Chikara for my last Tokyo dinner.

For lunch, we went to an Italian restaurant recommended by The Peninsula – Il Ghiottone…

Apparently, this is the sister restaurant of the original located in Kyoto.

The lovely Tomomi. She went to school in North America and speaks flawless English.

A sweet uni soup.

Salmon and tuna with foam clouds, root vegetable islands, and caviar.

In addition to being a foodie herself, Tomomi is also incredibly well-traveled.

Foie and chestnut pairing #3: Foie Gras Mont Blanc.

Excellent wagyu but, for the first time on my culinary odyssey, I had to tap out - and after only two bites.

A very good restaurant but be warned: the menu is entirely in Japanese.  When Tomomi requested an English dessert meny on my behalf, the waiter proceeded to break down the selections for HER in Japanese.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time and, after lunch, we took the scenic route back to the hotel where she caught the subway to head home in preparation for yet another outing (popular – or, as the Japanese would say: ninki!).

On our short stroll back from the restaurant, Tomomi took me on a mini guided tour highlighted by a stroll through Big Camera.

Later that afternoon, I dropped my second home in Ginza: The Pierre Marcolini Cafe.

There, Moro-san gifted me some sweets and a jar of my favorite pepper.

Akemi dropped by the hotel to pick me up for dinner.  She patiently waited while I uploaded pictures for the blog…

Seriously. I do not remember spending this much time blogging on my last trip.

Akemi, in her midori shoes, is like a Japanese Dorothy.

For dinner, we went to another Peninsula recommendation, Sushi Tsubaki, where we enjoyed yet another splendid meal.  Some of the highlights…

"Hey,"you're probably thinking. "It's been days since Joe's eaten cod-sperm." Well fear not. In this dish, it's paired with a lovely piece of tuna.

Chef Yusanari Masanaga kept us entertained and engaged throughout.

I believe this was ebi (shrimp) sashimi served in a very shoppai (salty) sauce.

Melt-in-your-mouth chu-toro the likes of which you'll only find in Japan.

Don't recall what this was but it was utterly delicious.

Look at the size of this thing!

A wonderful miso soup, incredibly flavorful and redolent of the sea.

I headed back to the hotel to pack and ran into a couple from Los Angeles who have also been vacationing in Tokyo.  They told me about how they ran into an eccentric Westerner who has been living in Japan for some twenty years, the Sidney Greenstreet of Tokyo – a guy with a wife, a girlfriend, and more personal philosophy to dispense than a drunken Anthony Robbins.  While they were chatting with him, one of the guy’s friends arrived on the scene riding a bike.  Clearly, the guy was three sheets to the wind and it was a wonder he could walk, much less ride.  A few minutes of brief conversation and then he excused himself because he had to get back to work.  His job by the way?  Teaching English to third graders.  “By the way,”confided Sidney Greenstreet as they watched his buddy meander off on his bike.  “He’s also my dealer.”  I always wondered how difficult it would be to get a job teaching English in Japan.  Well, apparently not all that difficult at all.

26 thoughts on “December 8, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #14 – Il Ghiottone, Sushi Tsubaki, and the Sidney Greenstreet of Tokyo.

  1. Stargate Universe ratings sink to series low 1.34 million for fall finale..

    What’s up with that?

    Such a shame, cause the fall finale was a good ep.

    In my opinion it was filler episodes that killed Atlantis..and the same thing is starting to happen to SGU.

    I hate to sound like an “ass”…but if you folks are going to do a filler episode make it like the episode “Midway”..it was a filler but it was kick ass, cause it had alot of action..and when it comes action in stargate, that’s always golden..

  2. I haven’t been able to keep up with your adventures as much as I’d like lately, but it looks like you’ve had an absolutely fabulous vacation. The food photos are amazing. The food looks like works of art, and it’s great to hear that you have yet to be disappointed. Family, friends and food is what life is all about. Happy to see you relaxed and indulging.

    I’ve been frantically scrambling to get all my work, Christmas shopping and life in general settled since I’m having knee surgery on Wednesday. Evidently 30 plus years of clutching a shift can do a number on one’s left knee. Who knew.

    Since I’ll be laid up for three weeks, I’m looking forward to leisurely re-watching SGU (in-between bouts of agonizing pain) and hopefully getting a new perspective on the show.

    And although I’ve never been able to join the book club, I did buy two used volumes of “The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time”. I figure they will be a good way to ease into the genre and get a feel for the various authors. I also hope to finally read “Old Man’s War”, which I bought in Vancouver last year.

    Have a safe trip home. And hope you quickly recover from your love mauling by the pups.

  3. You’re bringing beautiful young women back to your hotel room now Joe? You better have lots of wonderful presents for Fondy. Did you get anything for us? 😀 It is Christmas coming up you know…and yes I do know that I owe you a birthday present…it’s coming.

    Cheers, Chev

  4. Joe, what a fantastic trip you’ve had.

    Have really enjoyed reading about your travels, your meals, and the friends you’ve made along the way. Thanks so much for taking the time to post and upload all the pics. I don’t remember you saying last year, how time consuming the uploading of all the photos was, that said, is it me, or have you taken more pics this time? I think that you must have 🙂

    Reading about Tokyo has really reminded me of the time that I spent in Japan (although never in Tokyo) in the mid ’90’s with work. Mainly in Narita, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka. The obscure little alleyways with the most extraordinary little restaurants and bars, the busy neon lit streets, the fashion, the weird and wonderful…..Will you get a chance to check out the Narita village on the way back to the airport? Its quite beautiful and the temple area at the bottom of town is quite stunning and peaceful, a real change of pace from downtown Tokyo.

    Have a great flight back, I bet everyone at home is missing you to bits 🙂

    Have you caught up on your reading? And, did you ever find that missing script, notes, or something or rather????

    Perhaps for your first meal at home, you might feel like eating something really plain, like, cheese on toast?? Please let us know!!

    Hope that you bounce back from the jet lag!!

  5. It has been a full 2 weeks but it will seem strange not to have more travelogue from Tokyo.

    Safe and uneventful travel and we will watch for you on the other side of the known universe.

  6. Thanks for all the hard work you put in on the blog in the middle of your vacation. Have a safe trip home. And I’ll admit to hoping you have some minor adventure with a fellow passenger that will entertain us, without causing you too much frustration or discomfort.

  7. My great uncle Kenneth was an English teacher in Japan. He was gay, and always had a Japanese ‘houseboy’ at his side – and grandma (his sister) just couldn’t understand why he didn’t find a nice girl and settle down. 🙄 That was family joke – grandma’s cluelessness, that is – since everyone else in the family knew why. I guess that was back in the 60s. In the 70s he was teaching in Greece, where he used to help smuggle people into the country from Turkey. He probably had great stories to tell, but I wouldn’t know since he refused to socialize with my immediate family because – as he told my grandmother – we were ‘troglodytes’ (‘we’, being mom, dad (his nephew), my brother, sister and me). I never had much respect for a guy who would insult me without meeting me, ever, no matter how smart or well-traveled he was.

    Anyhoo – I guess you know where the saying, ‘three sheets to the wind’ comes from…but just in case you don’t… (the sailor in me just has to share! 😀 ):

    Sheets are the lines (ropes) used to manage a ship’s sails. If those sheets come loose and are cast to the wind, then the sails will flail wildly and the ship will be unmanageable.

    I always found that interesting. So many of our sayings and idioms are related to the age of sail, such as ‘flogging a dead horse’, ‘cut of his jib’, ‘scuttlebutt’, ‘taken aback’, ‘show one’s true colors’, ‘know the ropes’, ‘go by the board’, ‘in the offing’, ‘son of a gun’, ‘toe the line’, ‘hard and fast’, and ‘by and large’.

    Whew…and that’s just a fraction of old nautical terms or sayings that have become part of our everyday language. Well…my everyday language…maybe not yours. 😛

    das

  8. @ Shadow Step: Yes. Life is too short to spend any time pining away at something that you do not enjoy.

    @ Tammy, Morticae & Narelle: Interesting. I guess that’s the ploy then. No more DVD’s for me either.

    @ Quade1: Thanks for that thinkgeek link! I’ve tried growing the “Miracle Bush”, and it’s a no go in NJ. Just doesn’t get hot or humid enough for a long enough period. The plants did well over the summer, but failed by September, when the weather here typically gets cooler.

    Joe, there appears to be chestnut in just about every meal on this trip! Are they in vogue this year, or simply in season?

  9. “Look at the size of this thing!”

    That’s no moon buddy.

    Stepping aside

    @DP: If you look under the shrimp you can see the rice, the rice should be the usual size for rice for nigiri. I can tell you the shrimp is probably about as long as5 to 6 inches, discounting the head.

    Well Joe, this was an adventure, I have to say. Its a shame that waiter could not just say he does not have an English dessert menu and disregarded you as the customer.

  10. @ Joel – I think the week break in between the 9th and 10th episode had a bearing – there is so much going on this time of year, people just forget. Some may have even thought the series was over for the season with #9.

    Or…people have just stopped watching. Maybe now it’s time for me to start sharing all my feelings about the first half of the season – my ‘overview’.

    @ Joe – First of all, I think it was very foolish to shove sex down everyone’s throat in such a shocking way back in the first episode. It was a stupid, arrogant ‘in yer face’ move, with no real purpose whatsoever (the scene could have been more tastefully done, and we all know it). That put many people off right away – people who were Stargate fans and wanted to like the new show, but just couldn’t get past the whole ‘this isn’t your mother’s Stargate, and we’re gonna prove it’ thing. A lot of viewers were lost because of that, with few gained. I stuck it out until the season break because I promised to, and I’m glad I did…however, if there are more ‘soapy’ episodes than ‘sci fi’ eps in the back half of the season, not sure I’ll stick around for season 2.

    For a sci fi show, that was probably ‘out with the old, in with the new’ too soon. Much better would have been to ease viewers into the new way of doing things – but instead we’ve had at least 4 sex scenes (some brief, two graphic), a lesbian kiss, and all sorts of ‘relationship drama’…much of which has felt forced and frivolous to me. My off-line friends who were Atlantis fans couldn’t even get past the first couple of episodes, and my niece is barely hanging in there (my sister didn’t even bother tuning into the new show).

    But I am loving the non-romantic relationships, or – perhaps – it’s better to say ‘interactions’. Young and Greer, Young and Rush, Wray and Chloe, Eli and…well, just about everyone! The tense, life-and-death moments between characters, the conflict between the military and the civilians, the lies and cover-ups and overall intrigue, the inner turmoils (Scott and Greer have both had good moments), coupled with the non-human elements such as the bad food, the lack of resources, the ship’s failures (and surprises), and the unknown dangers on planets – those are the elements that are working for me – NOT whether or not Chloe will end up with Scott, or Eli. 🙄

    There is a LOT this show has to offer, but I think the romantic drama and the ‘sap’ factor of those visits to earth are just too much. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be a factor, but that it felt like we were given both barrels from the get-go, just to prove a point more than to advance the story. Now – from the creator’s POV it may not feel that way, but that doesn’t matter, since it’s not the creators who matter when it comes to how many are actually watching the show. From where I sat in front of my tv it was too much…too soon…and it felt forced to me. Instead of ‘treating’ viewers to a nice surprise maybe 15 episodes in, they were taken aback by a ‘shock’ only a few minutes into the new show. You guy have to learn to TEASE the viewer…entice them, draw them in…make them WANT more, beg for more. That’s the secret – forget the shock value which can turn people off, and focus on the ‘teases’, and ‘rewards’.

    For instance, I’ll use my favorite – Common Ground – as a good example of an episode that teases, then rewards. First it gets our attention with a little jolt (more than a ‘shock’) – a Wraith actually feeds on the star. But that’s okay, because Sheppard is the star, and you can’t kill the star…or…can you? Now we have to know the answer…and with each feeding, we’re more curious than ever as to how things will unfold. Well, we learn the answer, and are then given the reward. Not Sheppard having his life restored…no, not that. The real reward is when Sheppard lets Todd go free – it was both a reward for him, and for the audience because it was out-of-character for Sheppard to do such a thing, we saw a new side of him, and we felt ‘relieved’ that this Wraith wasn’t killed. It also raised more questions, questions that – thankfully – the show decided to address by bringing Todd back.

    There have been a couple SGU episodes like that – and Time is an excellent example. Tease after tease…we just had to know what was happening and how things would unfold. Justice ended with a great ‘tease’ – unless, of course, that was Rush’s last ep, then it would be a ‘shocker’…and not quite sure an effective one. But as a tease it certainly entices the audience to tune in to episode 11, just to find out Rush’s fate. We were also ‘teased’ by seeing Young’s darker side…raising questions, drawing us in. That stuff works for me far better than trying to figure out who wants to bed whom…who…ah, whatever!

    That’s it for now. Just had those thoughts on my mind, and figured it was as good a time as any to share them…ya know…just to prepare you for ‘real life’ when you get back to Vancouver and the Stargate fandom. 😉

    das

  11. So Mr. M, no bath houses? If you do go to a bath house, please no pictures 😉 .

    chevron7 is correct. Better bring home awesome presents for your wife!

    Das: how did your ent appointment go?

    Have a safe trip!

    T

  12. Great trip! I am so happy you took so many photos. What is the story of the green shoes?

    🙂

  13. I always enjoy your culinary tours but only felt compelled to comment until now. After all the exquisite cusine. Don’t you miss a more simple meal?

  14. Coucou 🙂

    Désolé pour le retard mais ce midi j’ai eu une heure de conduite…et je n’ai toujours pas eu d’accidents^^!

    Ahhhhh, Trop beau sur la photo! C’est ma mére qui le dit en tout cas ,mais je suis tout à fais d’accord avec elle, si cela continu comme ça, je n’aurai plus de place dans mon ordinateur pour garder toutes ces photos de vous^^!

    A demain, gros bisou!

  15. You’re right Joe, well about the english teaching Jobs, if I understand right the more qualifications you have in the english language the more you can expect to get paid. It’s the only real job english speaking foreigners can get in Japan without knowing Japanese.

    Naturally because English in Japan isn’t as common as it is in say Canada or American or the rest of the world, without knowing Japanese a non Japanese person virtually has no chance of finding employment outside of schools.

  16. You left wagyu beef? Arrrghhh. Well, I guess I’ll still watch SGU.

    Incidentally, I’m a new fan of the series, and have never really been much interested in the previous SG series (though I enjoyed the movie). The character development is quite enjoyable. Great, great series finale.

  17. ah– @das, how about cuss like a sailor? some of them could probably melt the barnacles off a ship.
    -Joe, thanks ever so much for sharing your adventure with us and have a safe trip back to your homeland. It is always fun to meet new people and try new things, not enough hours in the day sometimes. I could tell you have really enjoyed yourself.

  18. Can you believe how fast things change?

    Twittering during child birth – who’d a thunk?

    Just 2 1/2 years ago, someone thought it was a little tech-heavy of me to email 16 hours after. I’d just had a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Come on, I was over it.

    A couple generations ago, women were supposed to stay in bed for 10 days! I think they called it confinement or something scary like that. That’s enough time for muscle atrophy.

  19. English teachers in Japan… many good ones, but what a cliche! I tutored our house owner’s nieve and nephew, and eventually their cousins. Hubby helped. We charged Y1000 each lesson, less than half the going rate back then. I also had a class for the little neighborhood kids. The moms came too…we had a lot of fun with pictures and plastic foods. They were very small children, two and three years old… when they got into school almost every child was asked of they had lived in America. Anyway, it was always part time and casual; and in the long run the social interaction was more precious than any payment. We’d have weekly potluck dinners and always shared celebrations.

    I once made a Christmas tree cookie cake constructed of star-shape sugar cookies covered in green poured icing for Megumi’s Christmas party. It had tiny candles… which we lit. Oh my. Sugar burns brightly and fast! That was funny.

    He dad was the typical Japanese husband, never lifted a finger around the house. Larry made a pot roast for the potluck one week, Tak was amazed Larry had cooked something so tasty. “Well, all the great chefs are men.” Tak’s eyes lit up. Sure enough, the very next week he had prepared a green tea sponge cake. Very good, but his poor wife told me she’d rather he didn’t cook. “I have to clean after, he is very not tidy.”

    I almost had my own English school. One of the neighbors had plenty of family money and a piece of land. She wanted to build a school for me to run and teach in, she said she could sponsor the business and get me the right work visas. Too bad Larry was still in the Navy, I didn’t want to stay behind when he transferred back to the states. Had the timing been a little bit different, we would have taken her up on her offer, and I’d still be in Yokosuka. Not a Stargate fan, and wheezing from asthma which does poorly there. And maybe not even a cancer survivor, but a cancer statistic? Ah, life takes such a wandering path.

  20. Where you on vacation with a huge group – or do you just know a ton of people in Japan already? *g*

    @JimFromJersey
    That presupposes there is something you enjoy.

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