Reality Check: Japan in Orbit

Busy, busy, busy yesterday in Tokyo, walking the whole day and getting a better sense of the texture of my favorite modern city in the world.  The irony of the new and even evolving architecture isn’t lost on me, it isn’t lost on many who live here, and the contrast between the inner courts or hidden spaces of old serenity and the sharp, clear, stark lines of the new buildings is spectacular.

Lots of suggestiveness: In lines and between lines, and an ongoing struggle to be part of nature.

Meanwhile, more in tune with what’s immediate: Unagi in Kanda district, drinks overlooking the imperial grounds from The Palace Hotel, a true Neapolitan pizza in a restaurant that resembled a military submarine, yakitori in Ebisu, and late night beer at Martha, a retro bar with a wall of vinyl records.

Today it’s back to Boston, and plans afoot for a return to Japan in February for stories on the seasonality of the cuisine.  Snow in the country, like Tanizaki noted, has its effect.

Culture Day in Japan

Back in the day, 文化の日 (Bunka no Hi) was a holiday to celebrate Emperor Meiji’s birthday.  Then it was known as 天長節.  After a hiatus, it started up again in 1948, and now it marks the announcement of the Japanese constitution.

So nowadays it means arts celebrations, weddings, and lots of families out and about.

Wandering around yesterday, and on the subways, it seemed as if it was a baby convention here in Tokyo.  Did everyone decide at the same time when to give birth?

Lunch was a quiet, delicious meal of soba near a Takeshimaya outside the city center.

In between was a performance by the remarkable Kenny Garrett before an audience of the most attentive jazz listeners I’ve ever seen.  People listened.

Did I mention buying two kilo of this years’s rice harvest from Niigata and Hokkaido?  You buy it brown, they polish it then and there.  Try this later on with homemade miso broth and fresh matsutake.

To cap it off?  Dinner with friends at a hidden kaiseki style place in Ginza: Matsutake broth with steamed anago, fresh tofu, and small portions of broiled chicken and grilled pork belly.  Three types of sake.

文化の日comes but once a year.

Forty-Seven Floors Above Tokyo

Overcast, so impossible to see Mount Fuji from my window this morning, but the sprawl of my favorite modern city on earth is evident.  This magical view sticks with me for months and adds to a vocabulary of architecture.

Released yesterday from the guidance of well-intentioned others, it was one meeting after another in the city center.  Early on, the views from balconies at The Palace Hotel of the imperial compound, as well as the earth toned and blank interiors of its Japanese restaurant, captivated.

From there, in Ginza, it was a swift soba lunch of cold noodles dipped in delicious, crushed yams and then back to Park Hyatt before a whisky tasting and then yakitori.

All in all, it was seven meetings, which included two good interviews.

Today it all starts with a 5K run on the 47th Floor, followed by orange eggs and a day of far fewer meetings.

Later on: Rakugo.  Japanese comedic storytelling, and an interview with an English speaking performer.  Followed by interviews with the manager of a bar for women traveling on business.

Then maybe I’ll sleep.