Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Saturday, the 9th.  We have a full day ahead, including lunch at Iwa.  But we are still awaiting our Takyubin-ed piece of luggage (mainly snorkel gear) from Miyako.  It was sent Thursday the 7th, early in the AM.  But not here in Tokyo yet.  Usually Yamato (aka Kuro Neko, as you can see on their emblem on the routing slip below on the far left) is ultra reliable, but this time, it turns out that it arrived in Tokyo airport the prior day, then was sent out in error up north to Tohoku somewhere. Won't be back in Tokyo until mid morning Sunday.  We'll be long gone to Kyoto by then.  C'est la vie.  Or rather, Shoganai. Too bad since Connie wanted a few items for Kyoto.  But I made sure not to send our really important stuff. It also makes our airport to hotel transport really easy on the commuter trains.

I still wonder if this mess up was due to the Miyakojima hotel and the way they filled out the routing slip.  I recall the day, about three years ago, that I took a big suitcase to the Yamato place in Yaesu and they had three guys scratching their heads trying to fill it out for me.  I stressed about this for a long while until I actually got my hands on the luggae.

Anyway, this is a proper routing slip from the Four Seasons to Haneda.  I insisted on making our trip from the Four Seasons to the airport on Monday easier so we sent three pieces of luggage to be picked just meters away from check in.  These were two 23 kg suitcases (the Four Seasons has scales in the rooms) as well as a smaller soft sided bag that was empty when we went to Japan.  23 kg is the limit for economy class.

I also used a bunch of bubble wrap coming to Japan, because we come back with seemingly double the stuff we go with. The bubble wrap helps with the crushable delicates. I used only half the bubble wrap that we came with, so it did its job!

You might ask why we just didn't take a taxi.  Yeah, we could have, but it would have been a little bit more of a hassle from the curb to the check in.  Plus, we all like using our Suica cards with public transport!

It required all AM to figure plans.  Sam and Em were to go eat at Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant with fine reviews in an area close to Meiji Uni, between Jimbocho and Ochanomizu.  I've asked them for some pictures, but so far, none have appeared.

I'll add now that I am writing this in the US.  Yes we're back.  But I wrote about 50 pages of notes on these humid days, because I would have forgotten details.  I wrote in a cheap Target notebook, soon to be replaced by nice ones sourced from Loft, a large home wares chain in Japan, which has extensive stationery goods.  Em's all time favorite store is the Shibuya Seibu store.  And I always try to use Frixion pens, even though I never make mistakes.

So, we plan on maybe, if there's time, to go to the Aoyama Farmer's market after lunch.  But time isn't there as it turns out, and I promise Em that we will go on the following Saturday. This turned out to be a really nice find as you'll read about in the future.

Anyway, Iwa.  We arrive about 30 minutes early.  I couldn't easily find the place several years ago, and I always want to be on time. For some reason, Shimbashi station is always hard for me to figure out. We walked around Ginza, but on this mid Saturday day, it was a ghost town.  Later in the day, the main street of Ginza closes to motor vehicle traffic (a usual weekend occurence). There is more of a street festival atmosphere on weekend afternoons.

Finally, we get to go in to Iwa.  The Japanese are very prompt, precise people.  They won't let people in early, but they aren't late.  And right at noon, we go in.  We are the only ones there, aside from a chap from Sausalito, of all places.  He got his place due to a cancellation the day before.  There are four seats between us, which go empty, and they later get filled right about when we are almost finished.  These four are loud Americans (I think), who speak Cantonese, with two younger girls in their early twenties, speaking perfect English.  So, I suspect they're from the USA too.  Ugh. This is what happens. Worse yet is that they have really specific desires. One won't eat skin; one hates clams; it went on and on. I could tell that our previously really friendly chef was getting a bit ruffled.  But he remained extremely polite and accommodating. Oh well, shoganai.

Anyway, Tsunoda-san, who you obviously remember from our prior adventures at Iwa, is gone.  He went to Sushi Sho in Waikiki, apparently, according to a guy on Chowhound who knows these things.   He goes by Ninistix, and he is in-the-know.  The replacement is a Japanese guy who had worked in Korea, but is very good and quite affable, but with a slight less command of English than Tsunoda-san.  Iwa, the master, stands behind and to the right of me, nearly the whole lunch.  Kind of intimidating, like he is observing the chef.  Or observing me!  Actually made my lunch less enjoyable.

We both get cold green tea.  I ask for a slightly Amai Sake to go with our meal.

Fine sake, as it always is there.  Served from a oddly shaped decanter made of metal, and appearing gold plated, seen above and to the right of the sake.

Below is the chef's workspace, with the Shari in the foreground, in the wooden round container. They bring the Shari out in small batches, only good for a couple of courses, then replenish.  I also noted that they are using different Shari's this trip.  Some were darker, using red vinegar, to match the fish.  This is a style that is gaining momentum in Tokyo.  Iwa just has to keep pace.

We get Kombu Somen, which we've had here at Iwa.

We start with Kinmedai.  We nearly alway start with this at Iwa. then Kampachi (yellow tail), which we also get.  See prior posts of Iwa for pictures.

Chu Toro, very buttery.  Not so fatty, like Otoro, which we've rarely had at Iwa.

Akami, also quite rich, but not fatty. No pic

Maguro, below.

Ika, not sliced finely like at our prior visits.  This time, whole, with some crosshatching, to "soften" it.  The flavor is good, and it doesn't have the typical astringency of raw squid.  Maybe slightly blanched?

Akagai, which is not alive, per the assurances of the chef, but when he pour on his shoyu mixture, the "tail" part lifts up off the Shari. This is crunchy, but not enough to detract.

Medai, a type of sea bass.  It was at this point that Iwa himself scolded me.  I was writing my notes on a piece of paper on the table.  He said, "no write!"  I had thought that maybe he was worried I was a spy from some other sushi-ya, disguised as a Gaijin no-nothing.  But, no, he was just worried that I would damage his table top, made of a soft wood.  While still shaking, I was given a small clipboard (the type that you sign your credit card slip on), so that I could continue to write my notes!  I could continue to spy!  shhhh.


Baby Scallop

Shiro Ebi

Anago, salt water eel.  They never serve Unagi here. I don't really care for Unagi or Anago, like the Japanese. But this one was good.  It was not grilled.

Toro Temaki, a hand roll of coarsely chopped toro with negi.

We finish off with Miso Soup.  A fine lunch, and a bargain at ¥8000 in Tokyo for a Michelin starred Sushi-ya.  Sushi in Tokyo is crazy.  The finer places are very difficult to make reservations at.  Iwa is probably the easiest to make them at, just be sure to call on the first of the month prior to your desired date.  Or ask your concierge.  I called them once, when we slummed it at the Super Lohas in Tokyo, and they don't have concierge services.  I was able to communicate with Tsunoda-san on the phone a month in advance.

One note, no Uni in this meal.  A bit sad. Because of this, I decide to load up on Uni the next day.  Mistake to do so?

But, yes, Sushi is crazy.  There is so much more cuisine in Japan than Sushi, yet many foodies just load up on Sushi after Sushi after Sushi on their tours of Japan. Saito, arguably the most desirable place is Tokyo, is impossible to book.  You need to know someone.  Yet, not a month goes by on Chowhound where some schmuck asks how to book Saito, and that they would do anything to get in. 

Later that day, at Tokyu Plaza, a more down-to-earth shopping mall in Ginza, with not-so-exorbitant pricing, Connie sees this Sake decanter! Wow!

Speaking of Sushi, we are really close to Jiro's place, so I decide I want to at least see the famous place.  20 pieces, in 20 minutes, no pics, and about ¥30000.  And I think that the master isn't there often. But at age 92, that's understandable. I understand that this place is not hard to book.  Not bad for a Michelin three star place, but not really up to what I want.  I like to enjoy the time, as well as have good food.  This is why I may not go back to Iwa, except that there is value there.

We kind of get lost there, but there it is, though it was closed this Saturday evening (strange?)

This is the same place Obama dined with Abe in 2014.  I bet Jiro smiled at Obama.

We get out of Iwa, and then spy a little statue of Hachiko on the street.  I snap a pic.

But I realize that she isn't looking at me, so I ask her to face me, and she obediently does.

Connie is looking inside a shoe store, when this 3D picture lady comes up to see what Connie is looking at.

It is late and we know that we will not be able to get to Farmers Market this day.  We edge back to Tokyo Station and the Four Seasons so we can rest.  There is a small stand with cheese tarts.  No line now, but when we pass this stand later in our trip, we see a long line.  Too full now.

Upon meeting back up with Em and Sam, we venture out for our next adventure.  Kitte, the postal shopping center, described in prior years' posts.

Here is the Tokyu Plaza in Ginza.  Beautiful new place to shop.  And more down to earth than Ginza 6.

I even see an LL Bean.

We cannot really decide what to eat, and we're really still too full anyway (at least I am), so we go to the station to figure out our plans. We divide and conquer.  Em and Connie go to En in the Shin Maru Biru, and Sam and I go to Mihashi in the Station. Connie just loves Ochazuke, and En is IT.  At Mihashi, I get my ¥810 Sofuto Cureemu Kakigori.  Sam gets the same, but without the soft cream, since it is vegan.   Much cheaper than Saryo Tsujiri.

Enough adventure today.  Gotta head back to the hotel to prepare for early AM train to Kyoto.

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