On our final night in Osaka, I was invited to join Akemi’s family for a grand kaiseki dinner at Honkogetsu.  It was a magnificent meal, due in large part to the food and company, but also in some small part because I made it through the meal without fumbling anything with my chopsticks or unwittingly saying something inappropriately hilarious.

The Aota clan

We were also joined by Akemi’s aunt and uncle, bringing our total number to eight. It was quite the dining party.

Harukhiko – Akemi’s younger brother works the phones.
Hiromi – Akemi’s big sister.  She took assiduous notes of every dish as we were presented so I’ll link to her blog at the end of this entry for all the details.  Hope you’ve been brushing up on your Japanese.
Akemi’s father is a lot of fun.
Akemi. Flashing gang signs?
Akemi’s mother is a tea ceremony teacher

A special thanks to Akemi’s sister, Hiromi, for sending me photos and accompanying explanations of the various dishes we enjoyed.  Most of the pictures I’ve posted compliments of her.

Special mention should be made of the serving dishes.  This one resembles a gift box.  Apparently it’s called ogento-musubi.  Gento is boar in Japanese and a symbol of happiness.

Inside: persimmon, daikon, carrots, nori, shredded lobster and ebi-miso jelly.

Mochi-wrapped karasumi (aka bottarga, aka salted mullet roe).  The roe is preserved in salt and sun-dried, then wrapped in the glutinous rice cake.

My favorite dish of the evening (matsuba-gani no wan mono): crab (with a texture akin to pudding), sea urchin and kani miso (guts) topped with yuzu in a seasonal broth.  The yuzu is sliced to resemble a matuba (pine needle).

Plate: Kounyu(弘入), 12th Raku Kichizaemon(樂 吉左衛門), 1857-1932.

An elegant sashimi duo of snapper and toro.

Plate: Rosanjin, Japanese artist, 1883-1959.  Painter, ceramic art, calligrapher, cook, etc.

Nobody was able to offer up the name of this fish in English but it was delicious, grilled and topped with shaved white leek.  It was reminiscent of a firmer, meatier seabass.  According to Hiromi, it’s called kue in Japanese.  The white leek is called shiraga negi.  Shiragi is white hair and symbolic of long life.

Kue no nikogori – a jellied reduction of the aforementioned kue fish.

Persimmon leaves give the dish a Fall feel.

Smoked scallop and oysters, deep fried gingko nuts, fresh ikura (salmon roe) with egg yolk and daikon, mushroom, tofu, mukago no natto, and sweet shrimp (ama-ebi) with “koji mold”.

Daikon served atop goma-dofu (sesame tofu) stuffed with fresh sea urchin.

Soba topped with mountain potato.

Thought we were done?  Not so fast.  Simmered Japanese root vegetable (shade-grown zuiki) and quail meatballs with sansho.

Snapper rice.

For dessert: fresh persimmon, pear and kiwi, calpico sorbet, and delightfully fizzy Mitsuya soda jelly.

Marron and millet in azuki soup.

I’m a big fan of matcha (green tea) so when Mr. Aota slid his bowl across the table, I couldn’t believe my good fortunate.  “You’re not going to drink it?”I asked.  As it turns out, he just wanted me to take a photo.  I came THAT close to helping myself to his matcha.

An amazing meal.

For further details and more on Hiromi, head on over here to check out her blog: http://ameblo.jp/chado-kyutotsuan/.  How’s your Japanese?

We woke up early to pack, check out, leave our bags with the concierge, and then meet up with Akemi’s father for a final lunch before boarding the shinkansen back to Tokyo.  I had expressed an interest in ramen so Akemi’s suggested, Ippudo, a place near his office.  I was feeling daring so I decided to go with the spicy tonkotsu soup. I had a choice between 3, 5, and super spicy (3 or 5 what?) and selected the latter. After all, how hot could it be?  As it turned out, pretty damn hot.  The endorphin rush hit me so hard I feared I would pass out.  I wound up transferring my noodles to Mr. Aota’s unfinished soup base – and still could only manage to finish half of it. In retrospect, it was the wrong choice given the fact that we’d already checked out of the hotel and I had another two hours to kill before boarding a train for the two and a half hour trip back to Tokyo.  As it turned out, however, I felt great and experienced no ill effects of the molten ramen.

Until about 2:00 a.m.

Akemi and her dad.
Me and my beer.
The ramen that nearly killed me.

Thankfully, the return trip to Tokyo was uneventful.  We checked back into The Imperial Hotel, relaxed, then went out for some casual Korean at –

THIS place: Hatejiya.  Great!

Whew.  All caught up.  I leave you with a final few images of my trip to Osaka…

Recycle-Bear. Your plastic bottle caps go in his belly and suitcase.
Gimme a pitcher of dessert.

18 thoughts on “November 8, 2012: The Osaka wrap-up! Back in Tokyo! Family dinner! Honkogetsu! Killer ramen!

  1. Joe, that family meal looked not just delicious, but actually beautiful – even a visual treat. All that along with what I’m sure was excellent company with Akemi’s family. Did you get much chance to practice your Japanese?

    Too bad about your 2:00am wake up call. It expect it was fairly unpleasant.

    I love the idea of the recycling bear – anything to improve recycling rates!

  2. still knocking me over with all the photos. glad you are having a good time, and that the ramen did not do you in. Akemi’s family look lovely. And thanks to her sis for the link, even if I can’t understand it.

  3. Really enjoying the pictures… It’s amazing that for such a “minimalist” society, they seem to make up for it in just about everything else… and they are so good at it. I love the food presentations.

  4. Akemi, your family are wonderful. It looks like a special and memorable meal with Joe and your parents, siblings, and aunt and uncle.

    Joe, the food is beautiful, and the photos & stories are a real treat. Domo arigato!

    To translate Akemi’s sister’s web site — This may not work for everybody, but it did here. If not, try switching Internet browsers. Very cool site. I haven’t read it all yet.

    1. Copy the blog address.

    2. Go to Google. At the black bar at the top, on the far right, click the “More” menu, and pull down to “Translate.”

    3. Paste the blog address into the “From:” box on the left. Hit “Enter.”

    4. The translated blog page should open. Nice work, Hiromi! And also thank you for the pictures. 🙂

  5. Joe,
    I think that had to one of the most beautiful meals presentation-wise that I have ever seen. I think for next year’s visit to Japan that you need to lead a tour so we can all go along.

  6. The dishes the food is being served in/on are beautiful, and Akemi has a lovely family. Glad you did not fumble with the chopsticks, I would need a lot of practice. I appreciate you sharing your adventure with us.

  7. Hey, Akemi does have brothers and sisters! So nice to see all her family.

    Joe did you get a new camera? The pictures are stunning!

  8. 1. That is a beautiful meal!!

    2. Kue, it seems, is a type of grouper…not to be confused with a groper (the unfortunate name I used to call that particular sea creature 😛 ).

    3. Akemi’s dad is very handsome. I can imagine in his youth he looked very much like Two Katana-san. 😉

    4. Akemi’s sister is lovely! But her youthful appearance once again has me suspecting that her younger sister is still a teenager. 😉

    5. I would love to learn how to do the tea ceremony. I wonder if Akemi’s mom would consider a visit to New Jersey…

    6. The serving dishes are just breathtaking! Thanks for including some of Hiromi’s notes.

    7. And, again, that meal is simply beautiful. I probably wouldn’t eat half of it, but I sure have enjoyed looking at it! 🙂


    PS: It wasn’t the ramen that caught up to you, Joey, it was that raw egg. 😉

  9. I’m so not a Foodie, but I did love the Crockery! ;-D

    So. You survived the “In-Laws”… Bonus! And, a lovely looking Bunch too.

  10. Nice to hear you had a good day Joe.

    Speaking of which, Akemis sister is quite the blogger isn’t she? Almost as active as what you are in that regard Joe lol

  11. Akemi’s family is great. What a lovely traditional outfit mom is wearing; I know the real name, but I forget it. I liked the picture of you and Akemi’s brother with your phones out. May I adopt Akemi’s dad? Thank you Joe and Hiromi!

  12. That meal looks amazing! And I’m pleased you didn’t experience any social faux pas.

    I have a “way too hot” story to share. I have about 3lbs of Ghost Chilies in my freezer, given to me by a friend at work. My plan is to make sauce, once I get around to it. But in the meantime, I’ve been using them sparingly in other dishes.

    Last week, another friend from work gave me a few fresh Coho salmon filets from his yearly trip to Vermont. I decided to make appetizers with two filets, marinated (in Ghost chilies), seasoned, breaded and fried as cubes. And I served it with a Ghost chili/caper tartar sauce. (!)

    Holy mother of mothers that sh*t was hot! Not immediately mind you. But after the 5th or so piece, I lost control of my sinuses, tear ducts and breathing. It was AWESOME!

    The “spicy coho bites” as I called them, lasted for two days, as I was the only one who would eat them.

  13. I loved reading your blog this morning! You have such a gift for words, it was almost like I was living the trip with you. Akemi’s family seemed very nice and it must have been great having people know the area. I completely understand your desire to live there now.

    Have a safe trip!

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