First, the Jelly update.  She’s on her way home today!

So last night, I paid a return visit to one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Tokyo: Sawada.  I figured that since this was Ivon’s first visit to the city, he should be treated to a true sushi feast.  And Sawada did not disappoint…

It's a tiny sushi-ya with counter only seating. Master Koji Sawada, with the help of his lovely assistant, works his magic on the other side.
After starting with some salted gingko nuts, we moved onto steamed abalone and abalone liver.
Then some sweet tako (octopus).
Sawada-san's more labor-intensive aburi method...
Yields delightfully delicious results. Here, the saba (mackerel).
The bonito was possessed of a sweet smokiness that lingered long after it had melted in your mouth.
Sawada-san at work on our maki.
Baby snapper maki with shiso and Japanese chives.
A first for me: cooked sea cucumber eggs. Texturally very close to crispy tofu skin but with a wonderful savory flavor all its own.
What looks like well-marbled beef is actually an expertly carved slab of toro (fatty tuna).
The toro was roasted over an open flame. And, yes, it tasted as good as it looks. Unbelievably good.

Then, we moved on to the nigiri.  We had ika (squid), what I believe was saury, two different kinds of horse mackerel, clam, ark shell, various tunas, hirame…

We were presented with a couple of the biggest prawn I've ever seen. Note the rainbow coloring of the tails.
And served.
Gorgeous gizzard shad.
Chu-toro. The wagyu of the sea!
And Otoro.

We were served up several more nigiri, then capped our meal with a terrific tamago.  The verdict?  Ivon said it was the best meal he’s ever had.  Mission accomplished.  Since it was my return visit to the restaurant, I gifted Sawada-san a bottle of ice wine and then we were on our way. 

We were feeling pretty good, partly due to the incredible meal we’d enjoyed, partly due to the three carafes of premium sake we knocked back.  And so, following a late night stroll through Ginza…

…we found ourselves back at what is fast-becoming our favorite watering hole, Star Bar, where we sampled a few more of Master Kishi-san’s creations…

My new drink of choice: the Moscow Mule. Served in a copper cup!
The Star Bar version of the Dark and Stormy made with dark rum and fresh pomegranate juice.
On Ivon's insistence, we tried Abstinthe. Kishi-san had to open the bottle for us. We likened it to the flavor of Pernod with a turpentine kick.
Hair of the dog

It was admittedly a rough night after that and I ended up sleeping in to 9:00 a.m. the following morning.  Ivon was up at 8:00 a.m. and took a stroll in nearby Hibiya Park where he claims he saw a family of feral cats living in the park.  We walked through later that day but there was no sign of feral cats.  I wonder what color these feral cats were.  I’m guessing pink maybe?

We headed out at about 11:00 for lunch.

As the stores set to open, people line up outside the entrances in anticipation. In anticipation for what, exactly, I'm not sure. I guess they simply love their shopping.
Speaking of line-ups, there's always a line-up at this waffle place so, on our way to lunch, Ivon decided to find out way. Well, it turns out it's because their chocolate waffles are awesome. We breached strict etiquette by actually eating them on the go.

After looking for an appropriate lunch spot, we settled on a yakiniku/barbecue grill join on the seventh floor of some building.  We were seated in a tiny two-seat table and presented with a menu that broke down the entire cow by cut.  We ultimately setttled for something called the “premium” cut.  To Ivon’s horror, we later realized that, apparently, “premium” is synonymous with “fat”.

That is some major marbling!

Following lunch, Ivon was feeling a little on the queasy side, so he decided to head back to the hotel for an hour or so to recuperate.  For my part, I decided to counter the fat I’d just consumed with my go-to cure-all: sugar!

It looks like a sandwich but the meatballs and baguette are actually cream-filled choux pastry.
Feeling much better later, I stopped by the Pierre Marcolini Cafe and dropped off some doughnuts for the gals, then took a stroll through Hibiya Park. Didn't spot any feral cats.
Wonder if Ivon meant these guys.

Ivon was also feeling much better later, so we decided to check out the Ginza area – specifically Ginza Dori which is open to foot traffic on the weekend.  As we were walking along, we were stopped by a Japanese television crew and interviewed about the differences between Christmas in Japan and Christmas in North America. 

My impression was that, while North American Christmas was a time for family, Japanese Christmas was a holiday for kids and couples.  Still, for what it was worth, Tokyo out-Christmases any North American city I’ve ever visited.

Our interviewer

They asked us if we were familiar with Christmas cake.  Apparently, it’s tradition for the Japanese to eat strawberry shortcake this time of year (which I’d choose over fruit cake any day).  They also asked us if we were familiar with the tradition of the Christmas boot, a small plastic boot that is filled with traditional Christmas treats (ie. seasame crackers) and gifted to kids.  I pointed out that we hang stockings instead of boots but it’s a testament to the spirit of Christmas that we can come together in communal footwear-stuffing.

We walked around some more and saw this.
And this.
And this lovely pantsuit.

And then it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. 

Next up: Pachon!  My toy store haul!  Out and about with Keiko!

32 thoughts on “December 12, 2010: Tokyo Travel Day #6! Sawada! More Star Bar! We eat a half pound of fat for lunch! Strolling down Ginza Dori!

  1. Oh ye gods, you have me actually drooling at pictures. And chocolate waffles? I tend to be a strict traditionalist, but that sounds just too lovely…glad Jelly is better and that you are dutifully walking off the calories. Now, if you could only find out where that interview might air, or if someone in japan would you-tube it….thanks for taking the time to share, and keep up the fun and good work.

  2. 1. Yay, Jelly!!!

    2. Yay, Jelly!!!

    3. That camera guy is seriously cute. 🙂 The interviewer ain’t bad, either. 😀

    4. At first glance I thought Sawada-san was Brian Michael Bendis. 😛

    5. Lucky you – I have yet to try absinthe. Hmmm…now THERE’S something you can send me! 😀

    6. The prawn are too pretty to eat.

    7. Isn’t there something toxic in copper, and that’s why you shouldn’t cook or eat directly from it unless it’s lined?? Was that cup lined, Joe???


    Busy day – raked leaves all afternoon with Mr. Das. We have to bring them to the curb (well, street) for the township to suck up in their giant leaf sucker truck next time it comes around. We do this every year (once we bagged them all and took them directly to the municiple dump, but that was a pain in the arse, considering we have 9 deciduous trees and several bushes, not to mention the neighbors’ leaves that blow into our yard).

    Anyhoo – second load of leaves that we carted to the curb, our neighbor across the street came out and started yelling at us, cursing like he was straight out of a Quentin Tarantino flick, upset that we were putting the leaves in the street LIKE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO, because they might blow into his yard. Ugh. We just shrugged – no use getting into an argument. This isn’t the first time our invisible neighbor has suddenly materialized out of nowhere to yell at us for nothing. Anyway, Mr. Das drove his truck over the leaves to pack them down, and now it’s raining, so those suckers aren’t going anywhere. Still, I hate to have bad blood between neighbors, and I have no idea how to even go about talking to this guy since he seems to avoid contact with anyone in the neighborhood. I’m just afraid he’ll be one of those guys that comes out and shoots us because he doesn’t like how we park our cars, or something. 😛

    Now I can hardly move – not sure why the work (which I’m used to) has my muscles and joints so stiff. Maybe it’s the weather. Or maybe I need a drink. 🙂

    Continue to enjoy your vacation, Butch and Sundance! 😀


  3. Yes, seriously weird foods! Umm, I’m guessing you won’t lose weight on this trip…..

    Yea for Jelly! Does she have one of those doggie heating pads?

    Have a good one!

  4. Yaaaaay!!! Jelly’s coming home! 😀 Good news! Wish I could give her huggies and kissies! 😀

    Mmmmmm…..sushi! Looooove sushi! That sushi looks amazing! Those are biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen! Yummm! 🙂

    Chocolat waffles?? Oh…my! I soooooo wanna try one! 😀 My mouth is watering looking at it. Can you sneak me one…Joe? 😉

    You and Ivon…on Japanese TV? Cool beans! I wish we could see your interview. How awesome was that. 😀

    Love the baby doggie in the reindeer outfit! Such a cutie! 🙂

  5. Oh man! I wish I could do a gourmet tour of Japan! I love Japanese food, but your photos look so much more Japanese-y than the Japanese food here in Australia!

  6. THAT’S IT!!! I can’t stand it anymore! I’m going to Tokyo!

    (Good for Jelly!!)

  7. Words are too, uh, not good, to express how good (most of) that food looks.

    In other news, Joe has the BEEFCAKE! of gall bladders to be able to eat pure fat, then go out for more food.

  8. Must have a Homer Simpson moment…


    Is it decent to be hungry after 11 p.m.? Because now I am. Joe-san, you can take pictures at Sawada anytime! Before today only remembered it as the sushi-at-the-diner-counter place. Can almost taste the roasted tuna by looking at it. Did Kawada Sensei remember you from last year?

    Now about that “sake-to-me” night… Was the Absinthe safer because it wasn’t anti-freeze green? (Although I think Das is right,) I love that copper mug. (It’s my favorite color of metal.)

    Puppies! Cute Shiba Inu, sporting a coat and antlers! And the warm pantsuit on the Italian whippet (?). How does it go wee while all dressed up?

    Warm blog hugs to the Queen of the blog, Miss Jelly, for coming home. Get well, soon, sweetheart!

  9. Thanks for the wonderful news about Jelly, the pups will be glad she is back with them, as you are. Go Jelly, go Jelly!!
    Hope Ivon is not overloaded with all the foodie stuff, one word,pepto. and rest, What the stomach must be saying, whoa!
    but seriously, thanks for the update and great pictures. ENJOY, have fun!
    Loved the doggy dress-ups,people are crazy with their pets there like here. Maybe we will see you all on tv soon with your interview.

  10. Hey Joe,

    Wow..your blog knows who I am again. hmmm I think it is fickle.

    Ewwwww, I thought I liked sushi. Your pictures have changed my mind. I like AMERICAN sushi. Ewwwww, those poor prawns…I don’t want to eat ANYTHING that remotely looks like it has a face…or a tail for that matter. Ewwww

    Okay…you were redeemed by the chocolate waffles. Those not only sounded wonderful…they looked YUMMY… I also ♥ஜ☆loved♥ஜ☆ the street pictures. I think those “by chance” meetings tend to linger a little longer. Your pictures will make them last. *smiles*

    So happy to hear you are having a wonderful time. I guess since Ivon’s luggage is tucked safely in his room…he isn’t losing anything…oh…wait…that pass thing. Okay..hehehe

    Best to you Joe,
    Cheryl 🙂

  11. News from Twitterland: Jamil W. Smith has jumped into the pool! Twitter: @limajamil.

  12. I’m so glad to hear that Jelly girl is going home. I bet you cannot wait to see her.

    Meanwhile, your vacation sounds great. Ivon has brought you a little less structure and you are adapting well to it. You’ve brought Ivon good vacation mojo. You guys need to go away together often. You make a good traveling match.

    Did you get to see your interviews on the news later?

    Continue having a blast. Love hearing about it.

    Oh, guess what Patrick did last night, Joe? He sat down on the bed next to me. Looked at me, tapped me on the chest and said, “Mom.” The earth stopped on its axis for a full second while I took that all in and promptly broke up into happy tears. He has said,”Maaaaa” and leaned into me, but to “label” me “Mom” with all those sounds, not just Maaaa. PRICELESS. A wonderful, early Christmas present.

  13. its also a korean tradition to eat cake…of any kind on xmas. And that was some pretty welll marbled beef.

  14. Hello !
    ça va bien? moi oui 🙂

    Merci pour ces photos, c’est dommage car je ne supporte pas la nourriture japonaise ça me rend malade =S…de toute façon la meilleur cuisine du monde c’est celle du Sud Ouest de la France (foie gras, magret, huitre, cannelé, truffe, caviare)…et oui toutes ces spécialités regroupées dans une seul région…ça fait rêvé!!

    Lol cool l’interview vous êtes un vrai star ^^!! ♥

    Bonne semaine!
    Gros bisou!

  15. @PBMom Yay, Patrick! Hope you didn’t scare him off with the tears, LOL! I cried yesterday because my son got his first pimple, and he’s now embarrassed about the no-singing-at-the-table song he made up when he was 4. He’s turning 12 in a month.

  16. @PBMom: Go Patrick! I can only imagine your happiness 🙂

    Hi Joe, so glad Jelly’s home! Not too long before you get to see her, hey? I’d be chomping at the bit to get home 🙂

  17. First – great news about Jelly!

    I hope to get back to Japan in another year or two and, although I had considered skipping Tokyo and going straight to Kanazawa and points west, but I have now reconsidered. I’ve got to go back at least for a day or two so I can eat at Sawada! Do you pick your sushi or does Sawada-san keep making recommendations until you cry for mercy?

    And Joe: you finish your sushi meals just like I do – with tamago! (sweet omelet for you non-sushi folks) Of course, you then go out and eat two or three desserts after that whereas I head home and collapse in a sushi-induced coma.

    I enjoyed the East/West Christmas Culture Comparison. I’ll bet you’re going to be on Japanese TV!

    So, is the Imperial Hotel living up to expectations?
    Do you find the location convenient, especially for strolling the Ginza?
    Are you and Ivon going to make it to a Noh or Kabuki performance?

    @das: Loved your Pendergast dream! The dogs may have been a result of the search dogs in Still Life with Crows. And, for the record, I think Paul Bettany would make an excellent Pendergast. And thanks for sharing the Demon Piper! We’ll chat more offline about Brimstone when circumstances permit you to start it.

  18. Hi Joe,

    If you get a chance, try a variety of usucha and koicha while you’re across seas and let me know if you have any particular preferences. 🙂

    Sean D.

  19. @noelm You just have to teach them perspective. Once after GeekBoy complained that I was embarassing him in WalMart (the clerk and I were admiring the pretty blue color of the Boone’s Farm wine product), I jumped on the back of the shopping cart and rode it down the parking lot to our car. He’s never complained about my behavior since.

    AND, at this moment GeekBoy and Mr Crazymom are on their way to “meet” Cheetah, a Basenji mix who will most likely be joining our family. Since they went to this meeting with a leash, collar, and doggy seatbelt, I’m pretty sure Cheetah will be coming home with them.

  20. Hello Joe !

    I’m very happy for Jelly !!!! yiha !
    And Nice pics lol 🙂

    I have any question on SGU :

    Today, how much are still on the destiny ?

    thank you Joe

  21. @noelm No, didn’t scare him with the tears. First moments huh–first pimple with many more to come. Rough times for a teenage boy (getting embarrassed, moms wanting to embarrass, etc.) Hugs.

  22. Those Prawns look lovely. Wish I could find a place in/near pittsburgh with such yummies

  23. Yay for Jelly! So glad Jelly is home with her buddies.

    That blonde nurse looks like the Candy White anime, when she was attending nursing school. Don’t remember white gloves in the cartoon, or the ghostie makeup.

    The sushi looks so tasty; I have allergies to some seafood but I toss caution to the wind for sushi; that’s what Benadryl is for. That pretty snapper with the chives is well worth the painful hives.

    Absinthe: The Danger Drink, aka the Magic Shrooms of the Liquor Cabinet, aka Crazy Juice. May I suggest avoiding the absinthe in favor of the very yummy looking Dark and Stormy?

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