I received an email from my dog-sitter Christine who informs me Jelly, Bubba, and Lulu are doing well.  The latter two can apparently go on endless walks while Jelly can only manage the occasional half block – but only if she’s enticed with treats.  Anyway, Christine forwarded the following pics of the gang back on the home front…

Bubba and Lulu out and about.
Jelly wants to know what's in it for her?
This one makes me a little sad for the conspicuous space between Bubba and Lulu. Room for one more.
Lulu's post-walk ritual.

After attempting to watch the Super Bowl online at about 10:00 a.m. Tokyo time, I got fed up and decided to go for an early lunch instead.  To be honest, I didn’t really care about the game  but was happy the Giants won nevertheless (or, more to the point, the Patriots lost!).  So we bundled up and headed out, braving the rain to check out Kiji, an okonomiyaki restaurant near Tokyo Station.

Hey, check it out! It's the Hello Kitty Express!

What is okonomiyaki?  Well, according to wikipedia it’s “a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients”: a batter base (flour, dashi, grated yam, eggs, and cabbage) + whatever else you’d like to add.  We passed on the soba noodles and bean sprouts.  Akemi went for the beef tendon while I did the “everything else”.

We were seated at a counter in front of a big grill and given plastic bibs. Curiously, no one else wore them, however Akemi was insistent we wear ours.
The spatter guard is presumably there to keep molten hot globs of batter from sailing across the counter and onto the unwary diner's lap.
The batter is ladled out onto the hot grill and formed into a circular shape.
It is topped with...whatever you like: beef, bacon, squid, prawn...foie gras?
Then flipped and grilled until cooked through to a crispy finish.
Flipped again, then brushed with mayo and a rich, dark brown sauce.
Topped with a half raw egg then showered with seaweed powder, bonito and chopped green onions. Et voila. Bon appetit!

I liked it enough but actually thought the version Akemi makes much better.  She could use her own spatter guard though.

After lunch, we headed over to Akihabara expressly so I could visit Hattendo and pick up a variety pack of those delicious cream buns.  While there, we walked around and I snapped a pic of the following twosome.  Not sure where they were headed but I would have loved to know…

We did some late afternoon shopping and then took a break at the Gucci Cafe (apparently, all the major designer shops have cafes now) where I enjoyed a very good Zuppa Inglese with Pistachio Cream while Akemi had some signature cocktail that contained honey, salt, grapefruit, kiwi, mint, some herb, and pink peppercorn.  It was described as sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and spicy.  After sampling it, I would have also added “weird”.

Alas, that drink wasn’t the weirdest thing I consumed on the day.   I ended up being taken to a dinner that tested the limits of what even I, an adventurous eater, could stomach.  Already leery at the mere prospect, I prepared myself in advance by lining my stomach – with a whole other early dinner at the Sans Applause restaurant in the Imperial Hotel.

Dinner #1

It was a great meal and I should have called it a night, retreated back to my hotel room, and started on the half-dozen cream buns I’d picked up from Hattendo earlier in the day.  Instead, I ended up being taken to a baniku restaurant.  “What,”you may ask, “is baniku?”  Well…

I was informed that horse meat toughens when cooked so it’s customary to eat it raw, sashimi style.  A sample plate was, apparently, the way to go for a first-timer.  I wasn’t particularly hungry and figured I could get away with just a bite without offending.  Following a luridly purple yet surprisingly good potato salad, the sample plate arrived:

It was comprised of lean and fatty cuts, and some suspiciously white chunks topped with an egg that our waiter claimed was meat from neck (although I could detect no discernible meat, just a lot of what appeared to be chopped raw gristle).  The video of my sampling the latter is simply too horrific to screen – but nowhere near as horrific as what I went through trying to get it down.  I was later informed by the chef that it wasn’t meat per se but “like pork lard only horse”.  On this night, sake was my friend (well, an even better friend).  I would also like to add that, despite being told that everyone ate the meat raw, on my way out I couldn’t help but notice a group seated around a hot pot, cooking theirs!

Last full day in Tokyo.  While Akemi hangs around Ginza to get her nails done, I’m going to Shibuya to catch the first part of the Berserk trilogy.  Check out the trailer:

Jealous?  I know Carl is.

Today’s entry is dedicated to Debra.

37 thoughts on “February 7, 2012: Tokyo Day #11! The gang back home! Okonomiyaki! And my weirdest meal yet! Well, actually not so much a meal as a bite.

  1. Okonomiyaki rules!

    See what you get for eating horse? Try the unicorn meat next time.

  2. The dogs are looking good, and of course, the food and Akemi as well. Have a good last day of vacation!!

    Take care!!

  3. It is nice to discover that there is something that you won’t eat. I refuse to eat rabbit (cute little bunnies) or lamb (cute little bouncy animals) and horse is not really eaten (knowingly) in Scotland. Yuck !

    My favourite You Tube person/star lives in Tokyo – Maru the Scottish Fold Cat. He is drop dead gorgeous.

    I hope that Akemi and yourself enjoy the rest of your trip.

    Susan

  4. I threw up in my mouth at just reading “horse meat.” Being a vegetarian sounds utterly appealing.

    I think Maximus is there and that is why there is a discernible space between them. The dogs know he is; they had to make room.

    If you ever feel like you need it, there is a reputable dog psychic here that actually had a show on Animal Planet. I could hook you up.

  5. Well, I can see that Japanese cuisine, as well as most of your adventurous choices, Joe, would be difficult given my dietary restrictions. Egg intolerance was one of the first clues to my digestive issues. *sigh*

    That being said, I just had a normal-looking sandwich: yeast-free rice bread, cheese, dijon mustard, “Vegenaise” (no egg or corn syrup), and deli roast beef (tiny amounts of corn syrup and garlic). A little salt helps the bland rice bread go down.

  6. Cute dog pics as always, but yes, the “missing man” formation of the dogs definitely is sad.

    That okonomiyaki sounds kind of good, but the presentation isn’t that appealing. I also think you should post the horse gristle ingestion video. I have a high tolerance for horror. And comedy. It is interesting though that you finally found something that finally actually tests your gastronomic limits!

    Dinner #1 looked quite tasty!

    Have a good flight home, hope it goes smoothly.

  7. Did the pancake pulsate? I’ll never understand why you don’t get food poisoning. Keep having fun!

  8. @Joe:

    To be honest, I didn’t really care about the game but was happy the Giants won nevertheless (or, more to the point, the Patriots lost!).

    Being a Ravens fan, I was revenge-rooting for the Giants to win too…go Giants (although that was probably the first time I ever rooted for them). Back to being a Ravens fan next season.

    On the horse-meat sashimi; no thanks…but can you describe the texture and taste? I might have had some and didn’t know it…(I’ve traveled around Asia and for the sake of politeness, I have eaten things that I could not identify).

    Wishing you safe travels and congratulations to Akemi on the visa!

    @PBMom and Debra:

    Safe travels to you also, and sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and to Debra as well for her family’s loss.

  9. If you found a food too gross for you to eat, I’m kinda glad you didn’t show the video. Just watching would be way too much for me. Those cream buns, on the other hand . . . they looked good. Hope you got to enjoy them later.

  10. Joe and Akemi, safe journey home, the pups have missed you. The space between the dogs, maybe someday Max will give you a sign somehow who to fill it with. Thanks for sharing all your vacation photos and really thanks for not sharing the one with the horse eating, ick,ewww.

  11. Okay. I’m usually on board with your food choices. I’m very jealous of your opportunity to try adventurous meals, but wow. As a red blooded, suburban raised, American girl all I have ever wanted was a pony. A pony Joe? Why did you eat the pony? I have to vote against that video or at least a warning in the title so I can avoid that post. Though admittedly while watching War Horse I found it completely ridiculous and historically inaccurate that no one tried to eat it.

  12. Wait a minute. Did you say you had video of you eating horse meat? Well? Let’s see it! It’s not like you to chicken out.

  13. TY for the dedication.
    Many years ago we were in France and there was a restaurant that had pictures of capybaras and horses etc on the menu outside. We kept going. The next evening the au pair was with us and I told her about the restaurant serving horses and capybaras and other strange animals. As we walked by it she nearly died trying to not laugh or show ANY response as she calmly explained that the animals were purely decorations, that the place served ONLY salmon dishes. You’d have gone in to begin with I am sure. I have to say I’d come closer to eating a horse than a rat or capybara.

  14. Hey, Joe!

    There was something I wanted to ask you… while in Tokyo have you seen any interesting commercialization for obscure products by Hollywood actors (ie- like Bill Murray’s “Lost In Translation” character)?

    Also have you come across any products there that you thought would be perfect for various Stargate alums to endorse? (besides the obvious paring of Chris Judge & Hello Kitty that is)

  15. How cool! Looking at your okonomiyaki picture and even your other pictures makes me really miss Japan! Good to see that everyone is doing well ^^
    Don’t be too sad! There’s always a bit of Maximus in everyone!
    Question! Have you been to an onsen? If not then I highly recommend it. Lol it’s very relaxing and very enjoyable

  16. Today was my fourth outing with the metal detector. Went down to the neighbor’s yard again. Years back they used it as a summer rental, so I was really expecting to find a lot of lost coins and stuff, but nada. Few coins, no jewelry. What I am finding, however, is a glimpse back to the days of yore.

    Today I spent about an hour and a half, and found a penny, a .22 bullet, a machine screw, a few unidentifiable pieces of copper (one has a disintegrating red rubber gasket on the reverse side, one is a cap or lid with a hand-cut coin slot, the last is some sort of decorative trim – all will probably go in my copper scrap bucket), a twisted piece of lead? with brass? knob, and (what I believe to be) a chrome (nickel?)-plated copper truck horn bell (found about 6″ down in the driveway/parking area).

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v54/dasNdanger/metal6a.jpg

    Also put my terrarium together! It’s ready for the pill bugs! 🙂 As I put the plants in I realized that I want to make a Japanese garden themed one, and one that’s all different types of moss, and one…yeah. I just don’t have enough room for them all! If the plants don’t take (or get too big, too fast), I might tweak this one into a moss garden, or perhaps a native flora garden. We’ll see how it goes, meanwhile this is what I ended up with – sorry for the craptastic cell picture (one of these days I’ll charge my camera batteries…promise!):

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v54/dasNdanger/terrarium.jpg

    das

  17. @ PBMom and Debra: I’m late. Sorry for your losses, stay strong!

    @ Joe:
    Urgs… horse meat… since I’m a horse back rider I know why horses go to the butcher, but I feel no need eating them. Although I heard horse meat is especially good for dogs with digesting problems. Anyway I’m jealous for the berserk dvd’s 🙁 I really need some new stuff to watch, thu I’m more the manga type. I’m currently reading the following. Maybe there is something interesting you haven’t heard of, which you like to catch that even has an anime adaption:
    Übel Blatt
    Vinland Saga
    D Gray man
    Bakuman
    Pluto <– awesome scifi and it's a finished story
    Dead Man Wonderland

    :))

    Birdy

  18. Hi Joe

    I’m Harumi.

    Bubba,Lulu,Jelly are very lovely dogs♪

    I’m glad that I met you.
    I just wanted to thank you for a great time and nice food.
    And I’m so happy that Akemi seems so fine.
    I’m looking forward to seeing you again.
    Thank you a million.
    Let’s get together again!

  19. JeffW: I’m going to make the kale chips this next weekend. It can be difficult finding ingredients in Mississippi. However, while looking for Swiss Chard (still haven’t located), I found Kale! I’ll let you know how the recipe worked.
    Those cheesecakes looked delicious!

    What do you think about the proposed “Sugar Tax”? I thought it was ridiculous until I talked to people in my Mom’s home town. There are so many diabetics there and none of them watch what they eat. I was told a story of a couple who each weighed around 400lbs each. The husband had a suspected heart attack and was being transported to the hospital. The wife asked the ambulance driver to stop at the drive through for lunch. I found that extremely sad. Still, I imagine that they would find the extra money to pay the sugar tax. It could be compared to COPD sufferers that pay extra for cigarettes.

  20. Awwww…love your baby doggies! Bubba! Lulu! Jelly! 🙂

    Okonomiyaki looks yummy! Akemi is so sweet with her plastic bib.

  21. That okonomiyaki looks too pretty to eat. It also looks like a terrarium; my nephew would love to arrange his Lego Clone Wars robots on it and pretend it’s Endor.

    Some things ain’t worth eatin’. Then again you’ll be prepared to survive the enivtiable Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome apocalypse if you can eat just about anything.

    The pups are so cute. Lulu looks so comfy in her fancy girly bed. I’m waiting for Season 2 of Archer from Netflix and skipped ahead and watched part of Season 3 on amazon; I’m ashamed to say how much I love that foul mouthed rude little show.

  22. Yes, Joe. I am jealous of you getting to see Berserk. I’m looking forward to the trilogy, but I’m curious: are they just retelling the original story? Inquiring minds need to know.

    @das: Yep, Griffith is a dude. I don’t remember him being quite so pretty in the original. I like the character. Eminently tragic. A little warped. You should give the original a try. Dang. If you lived closer instead of half way across the country I could loan mine to you. Netflix does have it.

  23. I’m not bothered by eating horse, but I’d be bothered by eating horse while I’m being told things that make the chef sound shady. That line “like pork lard only horse”, oh, that’s gold, especially since that’s not what you were told before you ate it. That’s where the sound track that goes along with your reality show gets this abrupt record-scratching sound.

  24. This is late,,, I posted a comment this weekend, but it got eaten.

    For Debra and PBMom, am so sorry for the losses your families have suffered. Saying prayers…

    万歳!(hooray!) for Akemi & the permanent residency status. A friend married a girl from Mexico, and when she got her permanent residency, they celebrated with a big party. Every year they recognize the day as a family holiday.

    Joe,I had to break down and have sushi for lunch today. Still can’t decide which I like better, the sushi or the pickled sushi ginger. Are there different varieties of ginger? For what dishes are they used?

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