We started the day by checking out the surroundings – and it don’t get any closer than the Imperial Hotel itself.  We strolled through the shops on the basement level where we happened across a place called Shokendo, a shop that sells and displays antique Japanese swords.  Mrs. Aota struck up a conversation with the sales associate and, before I knew it, we were getting a fascinating history lesson on the evolution of the Japanese sword.  It was like taking an informative museum tour without ever leaving your hotel.  I asked our affable host if it was okay to take a picture of the samurai armor on display.  Well, not only was it okay, but he insisted I actually get in the picture…samurai-style!

"Last Samurai!"he said as I posed for a snap.
I not only got to pose with the sword but, immediately after this photo was taken, also got to chase off some Yuan aggressors. In retrospect, they may have been a couple of other hotel guests.

Anyway, if you’d like to order your own Japanese sword (they deliver!), check out their website here: company:sokendo

For lunch, I paid a return visit to one of my favorite restaurants from my last trip: Nodaiwa, a 160 year old establishment known for its eel.  For the record, I don’t think it was always located at the bottom of an office building.

Nodaiwa shares its basement digs with two other culinary heavy-hitters: Birdland (a yakitori place specializing in chicken that I also visited the last time I was in town) and the legendary Sukiyabashi Jiro (which I visited on my very first trip to Tokyo some six years ago).

So many times you make a return visit to a place you loved and it never lives up to the memories.  Well, my lunch at Nodaiwa was just as wonderful as the first time I went.  I suppose it helped to go in the company of two first-time diners (Akemi and her mother) who were expecting it to be good, but still had the meal surpass those already lofty expectations.

Check it out! Unagi chopstick rests!

All three of us went with the set menu as it allowed us to sample a variety of preparations accompanied with soup, pickles, rice, and various toppings (I’m a huge fan of the sansho (Japanese pepper) and slivered yuzu peel).  I also ordered a couple of appetizers to start…

Jellied eel up front and sansho (again, Japanese pepper) eel in back. Both were excellent.
Best eel ever!

After lunch, we strolled the streets of Ginza –

What the - ?!

I stopped at the ever-busy Manneken for what I call a “wafflu” but Akemi insists is pronounced “waffle”.  Of course, she also claims that Sta-buckoo is actually pronounced “Starbucks”.

Then, it was off to Shinjuku were Akemi and her mother stocked up on kitchen essentials at the local Isetan and Takashimaya: nori, spices, miso, and assorted other items I didn’t recognize.  I lasted an incredible two hours before running out of steam and heading back to the hotel.  Akemi and her mother were worried about me taking the metro alone (seriously).  I assured them I’d be okay, asking them to point me in the right direction and then confirming I should remove my shoes before boarding the car.

On the way up to my hotel room, I stopped by the Gargantua shop in the lobby and picked up a little snack.

I'm a big fan of the Savarin but I found this one overly moist and sweet.

A wind-down, some photo uploading, and I was ready for dinner.  It was a return to another old Ginza favorite – Faro, on the tenth floor of the Shiseido Building…

Sea Urchin Royal Soup. Wow! Lots going on in this dish: from the uni foam topping the light, creamy soup to the flan nestled at the bottom of the bowl containing generous pieces of uni.
Spaghetti with king crab. Loved the crab but found the pasta a tad overcooked.
Fettuccine with porcini mushrooms. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the accompanying mushrooms, plump and tasty.
Black truffle risotto. If you like truffles, like I do, it's hard to do much better than this.

For dessert, we chose from the dozen selections on the rolling dessert cart.  I went with the chocolate-orange mousse cake.  And the house Mont Blanc.  Uh, and the Savarin (that was far superior to the one I’d eaten two hours earlier).  And, once we were done with dessert, we were served…dessert.

Double dessert!
Akemi modifies her cappuccino.

So, last night, more weird dreams.  I think it has less to do with the fact that I have more strange dreams while I’m here than it does with the fact that this bed in the Imperial Hotel is so uncomfortable, I keep waking up in the middle of the night – and remembering them.  For instance, last night I dreamt I was in a plane that went down over a busy expressway.  I could see the cars getting closer and closer and I was thinking “Okay, he’s going to pull up.  He’s going to pull up.  Okay.  He’ll pull up.  No.  He’s not going to pull up…” And then, waking up with a start.  So dream experts, need any reference material to figure that one out?

37 thoughts on “February 2, 2012: Tokyo Day #6! Samurai Joe, Nodaiwa, Faro!

  1. The busy highway in your dream represents a “shitstorm” or some crappy, anxiety-laden situation that you want no part of. The plane crashing into it represents your feeling that somebody is thrusting you into said shitstorm, and the whole thing (you being forced to be part of the shitstorm) is entirely out of your control.

    Ok, I’ll stop typing shitstorm now.

  2. Hmmmm, Lou may be on to something.

    Anyway, stumbled over a comic book store reasonably close, I did not know existed until today. Even though I have my digital and hard copies of Dark Matter, I thought I’d go check. Not on the shelves – and they did not have any. I asked – in my best DAS voice – and why not? He said he only skimmed Dark Matter and because he did not have any pre-orders, did not order to have it on stock. Wellllll, I said I wanted one and he said he could order – and I said I wanted books 2, 3, and 4. He looked a little surprised, and I said, hey, this is gooood stuff. He was even more surprised when I said I would prepay – so I said, this is important, I do not want to miss them. Now, if he takes the hint to order to have available.

    SO….I did my good deed for the day. Now may I have a macaron please?
    Looks like a caramel or vanilla or ??? one on the plate. yumm
    Now I have to find something to eat. Guess it is good to see your blog nearand before a meal time instead of way after only to make me hungry again.

    Akemi again shows her artistry!

  3. If you are waking up from a dream with a start, I would say that the dream scared you and your heart rate rose, which woke you up. we are in charge of what we dream and when that dream goes wrong, or something we don’t like, we wake ourselves up to stop the dream. Think of dreams as a way for our brains to entertain itself, like telling yourself a story. When the story goes well, we wake up in a good mood. We use dreams as a way to work out feelings and situations that we either don’t have time for or don’t want to deal with during the day. It’s like opening the door and letting it all out. sometimes we comfort ourselves when we dream….like your dad shopping for food for you. someone who loves you is there for you when you are hurting. For me, I find it unproductive to “analyze” the dream itself, but rather to just find the theme, or how the dream made me feel. If I wake up feeling good, it was a good dream. If I feel bad, then I have some unresolved feelings I am working through. It’s a good thing in the long run.

  4. I thought there was an old Samurai was that once a sword is unsheathed blood must be drawn?
    Maybe the dream has to do with control. Was your subconscious waiting for someone like Superman to come and save the day?

  5. Your dreams are getting awesomer. That’s what.

    One time I didn’t wake up when the pyramid fell on me. That was the worst dream ever. And I was dreaming I was immortal so it was even worse. But they were right to drop a pyramid on me. Something had to be done.


    So, here’re my culinary adventures for today.

    — canned refried beans with cheese and hot sauce in a flour tortilla
    — 2 ice cream novelties. I only wanted one and they were terrible, but if I only ate one, my kids would fight over the last one so it was better this way.
    — oatmeal with brown sugar (we’re out of flax meal and raisins 🙁 )
    — cheerios with lactose-free milk
    — dry roasted peanuts
    — apple
    — sour oranges

    Not necessarily in that order.

    For dinner, I was going to make navy bean soup from a mix and mix in sausage. I try not to use mixes, but my husband raided this from his mom’s pantry so it was free. But it had signs of pantry moth contamination so no go. I’ll spare you the pics.

    The tortilla soup mix was moth sign-free and pretty tasty, especially with added black beans, yellow corn, and chicken. Unfortunately, I realized too late we’re out of corn tortillas to make the tortilla strips. So is it really tortilla soup?

    And some Spanish rice from the same pantry raid. It’s some kind of pouch you just heat up. No one’s touched that yet.

    The culinary low of the day wasn’t the canned pears I served as a side dish. The culinary low was that I cut up the rest of the sour oranges to soak it in the syrup from the canned pears to try to sweeten them.

  6. Those samurai pictures reminded me of when we took the kids to a battlefield when they were younger. Always love those visible history lessons. They seemed to stick more.

    And I am continuing to love those food pictures. Have to live vicariously somewhere. My favorites were the dessert pictures.

    Have a great night and hope you don’t have anymore bad dreams!!

  7. @ sylvia – You tell ’em!! 😀

    @ Joey – You have very nice hands. Also, the dream? Along the lines of what Lou said, I think it’s stress-related. I’ve had similar dreams when stressed. I tend to think they’re related to a fear of failure, that you’re afraid to ‘crash and burn’. Either that, or you watched some kind of disaster movie just before bed. That does it to me, too. 😛


  8. Hey Joe – I’m loving all the food updates from your trip. Some of it looks absolutely delicious and some of it looks at least quite… interesting. All the desserts look fantastic, for sure.

    Years ago, in university, I had a whole series of transportation related dreams in a short period of time – everything from plane crashes to train derailments to subway accidents. I always seemed to come away unscathed every time, despite the disaster around me, but I couldn’t get anyone to help me take care of the injured. Not sure what that said, or what was going on in my life at the time that would have provoked them, but they seemed to stop just as suddenly as they started. It was weird.

    Hi, Akemi’s mom!!

  9. Now I want a wafflu please… and dreams, considering all the combinations of foodstuffs on your menu, it might possibly make for wacko dreams,a lot! and maybe the plane dream was related to an aftershock or a tremor during your sleeptime. Can’t rule out anything. Sending positive mojo your way..Have fun!
    oh yes and maybe the last thing you need is a sword?!? Just try and get that thru customs.

  10. a reminder:
    if you’re looking for stuff for the weird food purchase of the day i had my brother ask about possibilities on an anime bboard he goes to;
    someone recommended ramune that comes in different flavors, like curry or wasabi. it’s usually available at village/vanguard (that’s the name, it’s not 2 places) and there’s the chance to find a strange soft drink or 2 at 7-11 or family mart type places.
    brief research on ramune brings up more odd flavors;
    kimchi, octopus, chocolate, flaming, sour, sweet & mystery. the wasabi flavor is available at tokyu hands. there’s a store in the ginza area (marronnier gate), shibuya, shinjuku, ikebukuro, lalaport toyosu, ktasenju and machida. not sure where you are in tokyo this time.

  11. Cool samurai!! Albeit for yourself, your rabbit ears appear to be missing 🙂

    Well its good to see that after eating all of that lovely, delicious, rich food, that you have not ballooned to the size of a bus like most of the rest of us would have. Or is the trick that you take pictures of everything and talk about eating it to make us all assume that you eat the whole thing yourself, when in fact you are sharing a plate between several people and just take a few bites to try it? 🙂 In either case, I am enjoying the tour of all the great food in Tokyo.

    And finally some food I can relate too! You may be adventurous when eating exotic foods, but myself, not so much. Well at least when ordering a complete dish of something I’ve never had before just in case I don’t like it. I’m more a try a bit first before taking the leap type of person. The eel, chocolate covered waffle, spaghetti with king crab and mushroom fettuccine look absolutely delicious!

    As for your dreams and not sleeping well, it may have something to do with all the rich food you are eating. For me, if I have enough alcohol that I start to feel it in my head, I will toss and turn all night rather than the usual out cold as soon as my head hits the pillow.

    As for the bed being uncomfortable, ask for an extra blanket to put underneath you for some extra padding. I did that at university and it made a world of difference 🙂 But of course that won’t help if the bed is already too soft.

    PS: For those who didn’t get my rabbit reference look up Usagi Yojimbo 🙂

  12. A foodie by day and Samurai by night, avenging the dishes that dis-satisfied you.

    Am curious, due to the custom of removing your shoes, do you purposely wear shoes that are easy to take off? or does the custom allow for the amount of time it takes one to remove/ put on your shoes?

  13. Your dream means you are eating too much rich food too close to bedtime. You are lucky. I usually dream about spiders and snakes in my bed when I eat like that too late.

    Akemi is at it again. I bet she is getting lots of good ideas from all the creative desserts she is seeing. Love your samurai pictures.

  14. A variation of Lou’s theme: Your dream, IMHO, expresses the helpless feeling you had about Max’s final months.

    Take all the time you need to grieve at your own pace. My mother taught me decades ago that one generally needs a year to process emotions after the loss of a loved one.

  15. Mmmm, double dessert. I feel stuffed looking at it.
    This makes me a bit sad, I am back on the doctor ordered DASH diet, consuming a nutritionist approved 1500 calories each day. I track it on sparkpeople to be sure my sodium, fats, carbs and proteins are balanced properly. And I have to go in for more extensive blood sugar tests, my fasting level was a tad high.
    Crap, I’m depressed. I want to go back to Hawaii and be blissfully ignorant.

    Swords are nifty. In Kamakura, there was a tiny sword shop, with one sword displayed in the small window on the street. The family had owned the place for generations, of course. The old man and his sons still made knives and assorted blades, the speary axey things were impressive. The sword in the window had a pedigree, was older than the US, and cost more than a modest house. Yowza. No samurai pictures with that one.

    Adorable chopstick rest! Of course, I have a cool assortment, they’re easy to collect and I keep them in the many drawers of our tall Korean medicine cabinet.

  16. The food pictures are awesome! Good picture of you with the sword too. I love the little insights of Japanese life you include. Such as taking off your shoes before you board the subway car. What happens to an ignorant foreigner that doesn’t know or can’t read the signs? Hubby asks “Does anyone ever steal the shoes?”

    As for the dream, Lou’s explanation was the best! Seriously though, I read once that dreaming of death means you are reacting to big chances.

  17. Mmmm…love eel! Looks so yunny! 🙂 I sooo wanna try see urchin soup. It looks so good.

    That chopstick rest looks like a sperm. LOL! 😀 😉

  18. Hi Joe,

    I’m glad to see your Sushi pictures…it looks delicious!

    On one of my trips to Tokyo, my work colleagues put me at an “American” hotel thinking that I wouldn’t like Japanese Cuisine. After a day or so, I got tired of badly done hamburgers and left the hotel in search of a Sushi restaurant.

    I found one where I was the only gaijin in the place and none of the wait-staff spoke English or Spanish (no english menus either). I thought, “No problem, since I know what Nigri I like, I’ll just order by pointing to pictures on the menu.” Then the menu came…nothing but Kanji, yen-signs and numbers. Opps.

    Luckily, they sat me at the Sushi-bar and I just pointed at things that looked interesting. Best Sushi meal ever! I still don’t know about half of what I ate, but it was all very good.

    So, your pictures are bringing back fond memories for me…I think I need to go out for Sushi soon! 😉

  19. I LOVE unagi. I purchased a case of canned and broiled unagi from a fresh seafood web vendor. Mostly because it’s hard to find fresh in New Jersey. 😛 But I’ve had to cut back recently because it’s sooo high in cholesterol. Doctor’s orders!

    The black truffle risotto looks fantastic. Mostly because it’s got about $200.00 of truffle shaved and piled high. Man that made me hungry. Is it wrong to want risotto for breakfast?

  20. Joe,

    Your dreams and their content are more than likely a combination of:

    1. jetlag
    2. stress
    3. indigestion!

  21. Hope you’re finding Japan enjoyable as well as inspirational; how’s your dog max doing back home ? his sitter keeping him eating and drinking and lots of attention to help him over pining in your absence, I hope. I don’t believe in euthanasia … they hang onto life with every last bit of strength they have and so they deserve to have that life… he may hang on waiting for you to get home if in fact he is imminently terminal…give him that, give him lots of love and attention the moment you walk in the door back home, you don’t know how much longer he might be able to hang on past your arrival if in fact he is terminal. A dog life is so very special and unique… Aside from that, I just watched season 10 JM commentary on deleted scenes at the end of the disc/ new release of SG-1 seasons 1-10…and heard your ending comment “WRITE AND PERHPAPS THERE WILL BE A SEASON 11….” Well, what hope might there be for a “season 11” 12 … ? have you got the ideas for more episodes ? the movies arc and continuum sort of redirected fan attention … and SG:Universe kinda floundered for sci fi fan support … I cannot but wonder why the network tv channels don’t air more sci fi series/episodes in lieu of the vapid and empty ‘reality’- type shows and game shows which have proliferated like the stomach flu and leave me nauseous and turning to the internet for news and show episodes or dvd’s for releases/re-leases of scifi favorites/classics…
    NBC used to air ST:TNG and other sci fi …but don’t anymore…instead, we have jerry springer episodes and re-re-re-relases of CSI; I always wonder who watches such junk that NBC would waste the air time and then there are the plethera of night talk shows, which aside from charlierose and tavis smiley are ever so much more ‘tripe’…why NBC makes no effort to grab viewers quality scifi … ? !! Even PBS doesn’t air the Dr Who episodes nowadays…Is SciFi losing viewership/fans ?? again, re Max, if you have good vet support, you can feed max soft hi-value nutrition food and supplements to add to the water bowl…and even a gel to boost appetite and/or provide vitamins/minerals, as a flavored paste/gel in a tube for max to lick off your finger….kidney and/or heart failure are the tough problems to manage/extend life… what did quality vet say ? USC/UCLA has recently been on the news for doing research with dogs by replacing organs which is very successful with extending life for beloved dog when organ failure is at issue …and it is helping research for replacing human organs at the same time as saving dog’s life…

  22. Another day of fabulous food, I’m so jealous! That first Samuri pic with the mischievious smirk is the best; perfect for IMDB. I love the chopstick rest, very cute.

    Yesterday’s post had me craving pasta so I ended up making quick simple gnocchi with capers and lots of provolone. Todays posts are making me crave tasty eel and rice.

    Your dream is an easy one today; any time that you are dreaming that your in a vehicle and you’re not piloting/driving then the plane symbolizes a huge sitation that is looming and you being a passenger symbolizes the fear of not being in control or giving up control. You worry that without you the situation could go “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, AAAAAGggggghh…! But it also is a good reminder that sometimes you have to trust others and sit back and let them fly. Either that or you’ve watched that Batman Rises sneak peak too many times.

  23. Hey Joe,

    Is most of the food small servings? I at times am so amazed at the number of things you eat in one day. The food all looks so inviting. How fun to spend time with Akemi and her Mom. Do you know more Japanese now? Can you keep up with conversations? I find it all so entertaining. I have to admit…that I look forward to these trips. *smile*

    I truly love seeing all the pictures.

    Best to you Joe,
    Cheryl 🙂

  24. Hmmm….looking in my Yoda ball:

    There are a few times when all of our general control of things is taken away. Flying is one of them. The fact your perception was of crashing rather than landing…meant you can recognize it. It shows that you know you have no contol and you are helpless to stop it. Were they all strangers on the plane? Usually this would mean that you are alone in seeing this.

    Key words….recognition…no control…you alone see it. Does not mean death…

    That will be one cookie please. *smiles*

  25. Hi Joe,

    last year was a roller coaster of a year for you in many ways. I think the residuals from all the emotions you’ve felt – especially Max – have had a lot to do with your dreams. As for your last dream…that’s an easy one.

    You are considering making big changes in your life – moving being one of them. I think as the moment draws close to you making the final decision, deep down you are panicking. That isn’t unusual, and it sure doesn’t make you a wimp. When faced with leaving the familiar, not to mention friends and family it must feel like every emotion is in free fall – hence the plane. The bottom line Joe. You are still young enough to make those sort of changes – if you want do. Just make sure they are what you want. Or else leave a back door open so that if you do move, you can come home any time you want.

  26. Hey, Joe!

    Know what is weird, right about the same time I had this dream that I was in Tokyo at the Imperial Hotel but the bed was uncomfortable …then I woke up and the plane I was in was going down over this busy expressway and it got closer and closer… then it landed because we were at the Nashville Airport (the landing strip is right next to the Interstate Highway).

    Oh, that reminds me, the other day at a garage sale I found this smooth black stone…

  27. Glad to see you are enjoying your time in Japan. What is the most extraordinary you find in the country? Maybe something that you just find unusual?

  28. Hey, Joe!

    Just found out that Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth) is going to be taking over the ‘Justice League Dark’ title.

  29. Of all the different types of sushi I love, I love unagi, sea eel, the most. A lot of sushi places here have started using fresh water eel as an alternative, a cheaper one I guess, to the sea eel. I’ve noticed a certain lack of tenderness and less punch to the flavor so I make sure to ask which variety they serve before I order. But I can’t even imagine how good it must be to have a restaurant KNOWN for their eel! I’d be lying if I told you my mouth didn’t water a little bit when I read that.

    Have you ever thought that your weird dreams are caused only by the wide range of foods you’ve been having? I know that’s what happens to me all the time with certain foods and not having 3 hours between meal time and sleepy time.


  30. First thought about dream: Plane could symbolise plans for moving. Impending crash could symbolise fear of related conflict, as well as potential damage. Decision has not yet been taken, and either way, someone would need to give up something. This is symbolised by the possibility of you getting hurt in the crash, and also the fact that you (being on the plane) are set on a collision course towards cars (i.e. people/dogs?) which you would hit i.e. hurt (either because of moving, or due to not moving) – note that the ground where the plane would crash is populated not barren. Feelings of loss of control would naturally come along with a life decision that challenges your identity so far. Don’t worry, dreams tend to exaggerate. Overall, it shows you are a caring person who takes responsibility for himself but also worries for others.
    About “reference material”, not only the dream action/image matters, but it’s important what specific feelings you experience during the dream, which would be the amplified echo of a similar feeling in real life. When you look in your real life for the circumstances giving you the same feeling, it can give you a clue to the meaning of dream image.
    Could you move and keep the house?

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