Eat local: Shanghai dumplings at Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

People_s Square (viewed from the top of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall), Shanghai, China

People’s Square (viewed from the top of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall), Shanghai, China

 

One of the very popular local foods in Shanghai that are well known around the world is the so-called “Shanghai dumplings.”  These steamed marvels are very difficult to make, as the dough, filled with minced pork, or a mixture of minced pork and crab meat, or pure crab meat, etc., is twisted around the filling and then a little broth is added before the dumpling is twisted close.  To eat them after they have been steamed, you place the dumpling onto a Chinese soup spoon that already has had a little burgundy-colored vinegar and picked slivers of ginger root added to the bottom.  Then, 1-2-3, it’s into the mouth all at once (be careful when they are served, as they are steaming hot); biting on the dumpling dough releases the soup and then you have a wonderful combination of the soup, filling, and steamed dough, with a touch of vinegar and ginger all coming together in you mouth.  Delicious when well made!

 

Each Shanghai dumpling is made by had by this hard working staff at Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

Each Shanghai dumpling is made by had by this hard working staff at Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

Thanks to Google Maps on my Google Pixel phone, we left the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall at People’s Square and had only an 8-minute walk to a total hole-in-the-wall, local Shanghai dumplings ONLY restaurant that was recommended by fellow travelers and where not a word of English was spoken by the staff — Jia Jia Tang Bao, on Huanghe Road.  Luckily one of the locals in line with me at the cash register (at the front when you enter the tiny space which has, perhaps, seating for about two dozen diners — they also sell a lot of take out!) was able to explain that the hanging red banners with Chinese characters on the wall were the “menu” of what was still available for purchase.  With our friends we got a couple of steamed baskets of pork and crab Shanghai dumplings, one of all crab dumplings, and some seaweed soup, with the obligatory Tsingtao (local) beer.  For about US$32 the four of us feasted like kings and queens.  Our lunch was quite tasty and it was a great experience to be the only “big noses” in sight on the street and in the restaurant.  Of course, when a fight broke out at a nearby table at the restaurant (two couples were arguing over who could claim 2 seats at a community table – the last two seats in the restaurant) we were mesmerized and also a little scared, as we couldn’t tell if the extremely loud five minutes of arguing would culminate in a fist fight on the spot.  Luckily the hot-headed guy’s girl-friend pulled him away and back to the entrance to await some open seats.  Some friends on the ship who had lived in China subsequently told us that this arguing is rude, but not atypical.  We had not expected live entertainment during lunch…

 

The baskets of Shanghai dumplings are steamed to cook them, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

The baskets of Shanghai dumplings are steamed to cook them, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

What the fuss is all about – wonderful pork and crab Shanghai dumplings, one dozen per steam basket, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

What the fuss is all about – wonderful pork and crab Shanghai dumplings, one dozen per steam basket, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

To accompany our dumplings we also had seaweed soup, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

To accompany our dumplings we also had seaweed soup, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

Art Pilgrimage, Naoshima (near Takamatsu), Japan

The traditional Torii gate on one of the beaches of Naoshima, Japan, near the Benesse House Museum on the south shore is quite traditional – in stark contrast to the modern art and arc

The traditional Torii gate on one of the beaches of Naoshima, Japan, near the Benesse House Museum on the south shore is quite traditional – in stark contrast to the modern art and architecture that has followed the development of the area around it into a modern art center

 

On our last day in Takamatsu, Japan, we walked from our ship to the ferry pier and caught a high-speed ferry to the island of Naoshima.  Despite its diminutive size, this tranquil isle in the Seto Inland Sea draws nearly 800,000 art lovers each year.  Naoshima boasts several exceptional art museums (such as Chichu Art Museum and Lee Ufan Museum) and the Benesse House, a combination of hotel and museum designed by acclaimed architect Tadao Ando.  There is also the Ando Museum – a traditional Japanese country-style residence with a completely new (concrete) interior that holds the museum displays under the original wooden roof — that has excellent explanations and images of the various Ando projects on the island and a replica of his most famous project, the “Church of the Light”.  Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches and sunny weather, combined with a laid back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan’s large urban areas.  Unfortunately, photography was not permitted in any of the museums, so we just have images of some of the outdoor art works and vistas. The Benesse Foundation web site, however, does contain many excellent images of the museum and artwork: benesse-artsite.jp

 

Entrance to the Lee Ufan Museum, celebrating art works by the Korean artist in a stunning building by architect Tadao Ando, Naoshima, Japan

Entrance to the Lee Ufan Museum, celebrating art works by the Korean artist in a stunning building by architect Tadao Ando, Naoshima, Japan

 

The view from the hill between the Lee Ufan Museum and the Benesse House Museum with the sculpture “Time Exposed Norwegian Sea”, 1990 [black and yellow boats] by Hiroshi Sugimoto and

The view from the hill between the Lee Ufan Museum and the Benesse House Museum with the sculpture “Time Exposed Norwegian Sea”, 1990 [black and yellow boats] by Hiroshi Sugimoto and a rock sculpture garden visible, Naoshima, Japan

A sculpture on one of the terraces of the Benesse House Museum, exterior to the museum_s restaurant where we had a delicious traditional Japanese lunch, Naoshima, Japan

A sculpture on one of the terraces of the Benesse House Museum, exterior to the museum’s restaurant where we had a delicious traditional Japanese lunch, Naoshima, Japan

 

A Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

A Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

 

A close up of some of the dishes in the Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

A close up of some of the dishes in the Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

 

“Three Squares Vertical Diagonal”, 1972-1982, by George Rickey on the shoreline below the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

“Three Squares Vertical Diagonal”, 1972-1982, by George Rickey on the shoreline below the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

 

“Cat”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

“Cat”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

 

“La Conversation”, 1991, with “Camel”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

“La Conversation”, 1991, with “Camel”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

 

The most famous of all of the sculptures on Naoshima, Japan, is “Pumpkin”, 1994, by Yayoi Kusama – it is to the island what the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Francisco: the locale’s icon

 

We found this description of a day on the island to be very apropos:

“A remote island with stunning underground architecture.

A massive crypt lined with copper bars, a colossal sphere at its center.

Mazes made of stone that lead from one underground chamber to another, each differing in shape and size.

I didn’t expect my visit to the Japanese “art island” of Naoshima to remind me of the world of Myst, the computer game I played as a child.

It’s been more than a decade since I played the game, but that strange, beautifully desolate island and the eerie feeling of wandering around it alone have stayed with me.

Exploring Naoshima’s underground galleries, I was reminded again and again of Myst’s mysterious mechanical structures, right down to the discovery of ‘puzzles’ that visitors are meant to figure out on their own.

Magnificent architecture

Some 3,000 islands dot the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, which separates Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, three of the four main islands of Japan.

While many of those islands remain quiet and uninhabited, Naoshima has been turned into one of the most remarkable art and architecture destinations in the world.

Visitors often refer to it as “Ando Island,” since most of the structures on the island were designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando.

A museum designed by and dedicated to the renowned architect is also located on the island.

Naoshima’s transformation into a unique art project began in 1987, when Soichiro Fukutake, the chairman of Fukutake Publishing, now known as the Benesse Holdings, Inc., purchased the south side of the island.

Enlisted by Fukutake to supervise development on the southern portion of the island, Ando went to work over the next two decades designing a hotel complex and museums.

Adhering to his guiding principle of designing buildings that follow the natural forms of landscapes, Ando’s buildings on the island blend into or are built into the earth, some of them opening up to the sky.

‘Perfect balance of light, sound, space, color’

Some of Ando’s buildings became part of the Benesse Art Site Naoshima (BASN), which showcases major artworks acquired by the company over the past decades.

Since 1995, many of those pieces have been created specifically for the island.

That same year, the company established the Benesse Prize at the Venice Biennale, commissioning winners to create works specifically for BASN, which includes Naoshima and the nearby islands of Teshima and Inujima.

Just as the art has been designed for the island, the buildings that house the works have been designed to maximize the impact of the art.

Opened in 2004, the island’s Chichu Art Museum showcases its collection in spectacular and unexpected ways.

In the museum’s Claude Monet Space, a vast, pure white underground chamber is made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny stone tiles.

The dazzling while tiles perfectly show off the enormous blue and violet paintings on each wall. Visitors remove their shoes at the entrance and are given soft slippers.

When I visited, I was the only person in the room (not counting an attendant who stood in a corner as still as a sculpture).

The space gleams white from the natural light peering through a white stone ceiling.

It was the same everywhere I went on the island — quiet, stupefying displays of beauty and art with breathtaking sea or landscapes in the background. Visitor numbers are restricted throughout the exhibitions.

‘They’ve managed to create a perfect balance of light, sound, space, color and proportion, which makes the experience transcendent and unforgettable,’ says Rhea Karam, a New York-based fine arts photographer at work on a project inspired by Naoshima.

The same as I did, Karam found the Claude Monet Space a shock.

‘Growing up in Paris, I was very familiar with Monet’s work and accustomed to seeing it everywhere to the point that I wasn’t particularly interested when I heard he was displayed in the Chichu Art Museum’, says Karam.

‘The unbelievable, almost holistic presentation of Monet’s Water Lily paintings made me see them in a light I had never before experienced.'” – by Francis Cha, for CNN; www.cnn.com

 

As we approached the port of Takamatsu on the return ferry ride from Naoshima, we could see our ship docked along the city_s skyline

As we approached the port of Takamatsu on the return ferry ride from Naoshima, we could see our ship docked along the city’s skyline

 

Eat local: Japanese-style breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

While there is no lobby, no restaurant, no fitness center, Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, offers the few guests accommodated each night tranquility in both the guest_s room with a vi

While there is no lobby, no restaurant, no fitness center, Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, offers the few guests accommodated each night tranquility in both the guest’s room with a view of a private Japanese garden and access to a few public rooms, such as this library with its own garden view

 

During our three-day visit to Kyoto, Japan, we stayed in a traditional ryokan – Tawaraya, regarded as a beautiful example of a small, traditional Japanese inn.  “A ryokan (旅館) is a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways.  They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.  Ryokan are difficult to find in Tokyo and other large cities because many are expensive compared to hotels, and Japanese people increasingly use hotels for urban tourism….  However, ryokan are more typically located in scenic areas, such as in the mountains or by the sea…  Most ryokan offer dinner and breakfast, which are often included in the price of the room.  Most visitors take their meals at the ryokan, which usually promote themselves on the quality of their food.  Meals consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki, which features seasonal and regional specialties. (Kaiseki originally referred to light meals served during a tea ceremony, and today refers to a meal consisting of a number of small, varied dishes.)  In order for each dish to be enjoyed at the proper temperature, ryokan stress that guests should be punctual for their meals.” – Wikipedia

 

Visiting during the heart of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the center of Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan, contains an outdoor cherry tree that was in full bloom, providing a calming

Visiting during the heart of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the center of Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan, contains an outdoor cherry tree that was in full bloom, providing a calming vista to all guests who walked back to the front entrance from their guest rooms

 

Adjacent to the small library was a reception room where guests are met and served hot tea upon arrival, Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

Adjacent to the small library was a reception room where guests are met and served hot tea upon arrival, Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Tawaraya is the finest ryokan in Kyoto and, arguably, the finest in all Japan.  Private gardens and incredible attention to detail make it a very special Kyoto experience…  But this isn’t why celebrities and political leaders from all over the world have stayed there.  Rather, it’s because Tawaraya is one of the few accommodations anywhere that manages to get everything right.  The rooms are impeccably decorated, in keeping with the wabi-sabi aesthetic of spare simplicity, with each item carefully chosen.  All guest rooms look out over their own private gardens and invite hours of contemplative gazing.  And the staff possess the uncanny ability to know what you want before you do.  All in all, it’s a magical little world that you won’t want to leave.  Only that would be a shame in a city with as many wonders as Kyoto.” – www.insidekyoto.com

 

Our traditional Japanese breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan featured seafood, tofu and vegetables, Kyoto, Japan

Our traditional Japanese breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan featured seafood, tofu and vegetables, Kyoto, Japan

 

This service box contained tofu and vegetables with a separate copper carafe of hot soup heated by the charcoal brazier, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

This service box contained tofu and vegetables with a separate copper carafe of hot soup heated by the charcoal brazier, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

 

Accompaniments for the tofu and soup, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

Accompaniments for the tofu and soup, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

 

Hakone Art and Landscapes, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

The Round Plaza, at the entrance to the rolling hills and grounds making up The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan, contains several sculptures

The Round Plaza, at the entrance to the rolling hills and grounds making up The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan, contains several sculptures

 

Early on our last morning in Tokyo we left the pier and drove south about 90 minutes through Kanagawa Prefecture to The Hakone Open-Air Museum.  As its name implies, works by 19th- and 20th-century Japanese and Western artists are displayed outdoors. Sculptures by Picasso, Rodin, Miro and Henry Moore are artfully arranged on the grass-covered grounds, while another 300 or so paintings, glass art and tapestries are housed in several pavilions.  The area is well-known for its natural onsen (hot springs) and guests may rest their feet in the warm, fragrant foot bath just outside the museum.

 

Outdoor sculpture (#1), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Outdoor sculpture (#1), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

“The museum began operations in 1969 as the first open-air art museum in Japan.  Constantly changing with the seasons, the spectacular grounds of the museum are the permanent home for approximately 120 works by well-known modern and contemporary sculptors.  There are also five exhibition halls, including the Picasso Pavilion, as well as art pieces that children can play with, and a variety of other facilities where visitors can relax and enjoy the splendor of art in nature.” — The Hakone Open-AirMuseum

 

A ceramic sculpture by Pablo Picasso in front of The Picasso Collection exhibition building, The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

A ceramic sculpture by Pablo Picasso in front of The Picasso Collection exhibition building, The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

“The Picasso Collection is an art gallery devoted to one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso.  Built in 1984, the gallery presents a wide range of works, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, golden objects, silver compotes, genmail, and tapestries, as well as photographs of the artist’s studio, revealing his vast imagination and giving us a look into his personal life.” — The Hakone Open-Air Museum

 

A genmail reproduction of a painting by Pablo Picasso, The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

A genmail reproduction of a painting by Pablo Picasso, The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

“Genmail is a technique used to reproduce works in glass by adjusting the depth of color through overlaid glass fragments.  The artist places glass fragments on a light table while looking at the original work.  Finally, the glass fragments are fired in a kiln.  The works are back  lit when displayed, and the brilliance of the light shining through the glass and melting into the color produces a unique clarity and depth.” — The Hakone Open-Air Museum

 

Outdoor sculpture (#2), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Outdoor sculpture (#2), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

Outdoor sculpture (#3), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Outdoor sculpture (#3), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

Outdoor sculpture (#4), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Outdoor sculpture (#4), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

Outdoor sculpture (#5), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Outdoor sculpture (#5), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

Outdoor sculpture (#6), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Outdoor sculpture (#6), The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

 

For some of the best traditional Houtou noodles (in soup) in the Fuji Lakes region, we ate lunch at Houtou Fudou (located inside a modern architectural “marvel” of a building, near L

For some of the best traditional Houtou noodles (in soup) in the Fuji Lakes region, we ate lunch at Houtou Fudou (located inside a modern architectural “marvel” of a building, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

 

A close up of the traditional Houtou noodles (in soup) for lunch at Houtou Fudou, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

A close up of the traditional Houtou noodles (in soup) for lunch at Houtou Fudou, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

 

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum Garden (entry), near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum Garden (entry), near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

 

“In 1994, a dyeing artist, Itchiku Kubota (1917–2003), built the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Yamanashi, Japan, in a perfect location with a majestic view of Mt. Fuji and the serene Lake Kawaguchi.  The museum permanently exhibits Itchiku Tsujigahana-dyed works with the two main themes of ‘trinity of humans, nature and art’ and ‘the center of new culture and art.’  The whole museum, including the garden, buildings and furnishings represents ‘the world of Itchiku Kubota.’

“At the age of 20, Itchiku Kubota encountered a ‘Tsujigahana-dyeing’ slip made in the Muromachi period [approximately 1336 to 1573, marking the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate] at the Tokyo National Museum.  He was fascinated by its beauty and devoted himself to reproduce the technique in the modern world.  After returning from imprisonment in Siberia [he was captured by the Russians in World War II], Itchiku started to create his own ‘Tsujigahana’ at the age of 40.  After twenty years of perseverance, he produced a piece and named it ‘Itchiku Tsujigahana’ when he was 60.  Since his first exhibition in 1977, many exhibitions have been held all over the world.  He was awarded the ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Letters’ in 1990, and the ‘Cultural Merit Award’ from the Agency for Cultural Affairs in 1993.  His achievement is acclaimed worldwide.  Itchiku Kubota passed away on April 26, 2003 at the age of 85.

“Tsujigahana-Dyeing is a pattern dyeing style that flourished in the Muromachi period.  It started with the kimono of commoners, and later became popular among the aristocrats, but disappeared early in the Edo period.  There are some theories for is disappearance, but the dominant one is the appearance of Yuzen, which allowed for more free expression.

“The ‘Symphony of Light’ is the lifework of Itchiku and our final goal is to integrate 80 works representing nature’s ‘four seasons’ and his own ‘universe.’  Currently 46 works, including fall, winter, and several works of the universe, have been completed.” — Itchiku Kubota Art Museum Brochure

 

Several of the Tsujigahana-Dyed kimonos making up part of the "Symphony of Light" by Itchiku Kubota, Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan; source www.japan-gu

Several of the Tsujigahana-dyed kimonos making up part of the “Symphony of Light” by Itchiku Kubota, Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan; photo courtesy of http://www.japan-guide.com

 

The artist Itchiku Kubota_s studo_s garden view at the rear of the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

The artist Itchiku Kubota’s studo’s garden view at the rear of the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, near Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi, Japan

 

Eat local: Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

The lead role in the drama of grilling our dinner at the robatayaki (a country-style grill) was one of the yakikata (“grill-persons”) who manned our grill and the counter piled with

The lead role in the drama of grilling our dinner at the robatayaki (a country-style grill) was one of the yakikata (“grill-persons”) who manned our grill and the counter piled with fresh ingredients, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

We met some friends from San Francisco who frequently travel to Tokyo at their favorite casual restaurant in the capital city – Inakaya (Roppongi East).  “Putting an upmarket spin on the robatayaki (open-hearth) cooking beloved by Japanese fishermen, Inakaya serves succulent grilled seafood, meat and vegetables in a vibrant setting.  Much of the fun is in the presentation:  diners sit at a counter facing directly onto the open kitchen, and receive their food and drinks on wooden paddles that the staff pass directly over the grills.” – www.timeout.com

 

Grilled asparagus, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Grilled asparagus, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

Altogether there were nine of us seated around two sides of the robata grill.  We picked out the various vegetables and proteins that we were interested in having grilled.  All of the ingredients were ultra fresh and extremely high quality – the grilling just brought out their natural flavors and heated them.  A superb dinner enhanced by sake and local beers.  As the evening wore on, the restaurant became noisier as the crowd shouted “hai” (yes) as the servers gave orders to the grill chefs (there are two sets of grills and surrounding seats) who resonded “hai” which was then repeated loudly by all of the patrons.  Good fun and great food.

 

Grilled shitake mushrooms, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Grilled shitake mushrooms, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

The iridescent kuruma-ebi (tiger prawn) was skewered while it was still alive, then grilled at Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

The iridescent kuruma-ebi (tiger prawn) was skewered while it was still alive, then grilled at Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

Melt-in-your-mouth fresh grilled Japanese eggplant, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Melt-in-your-mouth fresh grilled Japanese eggplant, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

Wonderful wagyu, succulent cubes of marbled Omi beef from Shiga, skewered, grilled and served with a dip of shoyu, garlic and fresh-grated wasabi root, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Ja

Wonderful wagyu, succulent cubes of marbled Omi beef from Shiga, skewered, grilled and served with a dip of shoyu, garlic and fresh-grated wasabi root, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan; our group had several orders, it was so delicious

 

Very simple in presentation, but the onion was almost sweet after grilling, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Very simple in presentation, but the onion was almost sweet after grilling, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

Grilled crab legs, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Grilled crab legs, Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

Only available for about a month in the spring as new bamboo shoots sprout up, these grilled bamboo shoots were a special seasonal treat at Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Only available for about a month in the spring as new bamboo shoots sprout up, these grilled bamboo shoots were a special seasonal treat at Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

Simplicity itself, but dessert was sweet and refreshing – orange slices -- at Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

Simplicity itself, but dessert was sweet and refreshing – orange slices — at Inakaya (Roppongi East), Tokyo, Japan

 

 

Kanazawa shrines, Honshu Island, Japan

Visitors coming in (uphill) from the Kenroku-en garden or Kanazawa Castle first see this pond and its alluring wooden walkways and footbridge, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island

Visitors coming in (uphill) from the Kenroku-en garden or Kanazawa Castle first see this pond and its alluring wooden walkways and footbridge, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

As one of the most well-preserved Edo-period cities in the country, Kanazawa is a destination rich in history and culture. Because its culture, architecture, food and ambience are very similar to Kyoto, it is also known as “little Kyoto” to the Japanese.

 

The main gate, constructed in 1875, is a peculiar mix of traditional Japanese, Chinese and European religious architectural elements, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The main gate, constructed in 1875, is a peculiar mix of traditional Japanese, Chinese and European religious architectural elements, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The main shrine building, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The main shrine building, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Oyama Shrine (尾山神社 Oyama-jinja) is a Shinto Shrine in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan. The shrine was established in 1599 in Utatsuyama (卯辰山), east of Kanazawa. It was moved to its present location in 1873 and renamed to Oyama-jinja. The main gate was constructed in 1875. This gate is a peculiar mix of traditional Japanese, Chinese and European religious architectural elements. The gate is 25 metres (82 feet) high including the lightning rod. The third floor is particular famous for its Dutch stained-glass windows. It is said that the third floor was also used as a lighthouse. The gate was designated an Important Cultural Asset on August 29, 1950.” — Wikipedia

 

One of a pair of Japanese temple guard “lions” by the main gate, with cherry blossoms beginning to bloom, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

One of a pair of Japanese temple guard “lions” by the main gate, with cherry blossoms beginning to bloom, Oyama Jinja Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A Torii Gate (which separates the sacred from the secular grounds) seen from the outside of the Ozaki Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A Torii Gate (which separates the sacred from the secular grounds) seen from the outside of the Ozaki Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Ozaki Shrine (尾崎神社) is one of the beautiful shrines that has many old buildings. It is located in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture. It was built in Kitanomaru, a part of Kanazawa castle. Most of the buildings are constructed in 1643 and registered as the cultural important assets.” – http://www.mustlovejapan.com

 

The Torii Gate at the entrance to Ozaki Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The Torii Gate at the entrance to Ozaki Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The main shrine building, Ozaki Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The main shrine building, Ozaki Shrine, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Third generation sushi chef and owner, Kazuhisa Yoshida, at Sentori-Sushi (restaurant) with his father, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; we had a truly outstanding sushi lunch at the coun

Third generation sushi chef and owner, Kazuhisa Yoshida, at Sentori-Sushi (restaurant) with his father, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; we had a truly outstanding sushi lunch at the counter (there is no table service) with some fish new to us, such as trumpetfish (yes, the same fish that I had photographed underwater in Vanuatu only a month before)

 

Contemporary building and reflection, downtown Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Contemporary building and reflection, downtown Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Local dancers and flag bearers gave us a rousing sendoff performance for the last half-hour at the pier – great enthusiasm and exciting music, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; the warm

Local dancers and flag bearers gave us a rousing sendoff performance for the last half-hour at the pier – great enthusiasm and exciting music, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; the warm welcome by people all over the city was appreciated by all of us and we collectively look forward to our next visit

 

Eat local: Sushi dinner (Kaiseki), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Our group enjoyed an outstanding nine-course Kaiseki dinner with special pairings of sake made by the top sake producer in the Kanazawa region, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu I

Our group enjoyed an outstanding nine-course Kaiseki dinner with special pairings of sake made by the top sake producer in the Kanazawa region, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

One of the highlights of our visit to Kanazawa on the “mainland of Japan” (Honshu Island) was the opportunity for a group of about 30 of us from the ship to gather at a local restaurant near the city’s Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai) for an outstanding nine-course Kaiseki dinner with special pairings of sake made by the top sake producer in the Kanazawa region.  We were hosted by the owner of the restaurant and the sake master who explained (via our translator) each of the special sakes we had paired with courses of our dinner.

 

Each place setting was a lacquered tray with chopsticks, sake glasses and water; Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; each course was served on the tray with refills o

Each place setting was a lacquered tray with chopsticks, sake glasses and water; Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; each course was served on the tray with refills of sake

 

Kaiseki (懐石) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.  The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals, and is analogous to Western haute cuisine…  In the present day, kaiseki is a type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.  To this end, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor.  Local ingredients are often included as well.  Finished dishes are carefully presented on plates that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal.  Dishes are beautifully arranged and garnished, often with real leaves and flowers, as well as edible garnishes designed to resemble natural plants and animals…  Kaiseki consists of a sequence of dishes, each often small and artistically arranged…  Originally, kaiseki comprised a bowl of miso soup and three side dishes; this is now instead the standard form of Japanese-style cuisine generally, referred to as a セット (setto, “set”).  Kaiseki has since evolved to include an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, and a steamed course.” — Wikipedia

 

Your blogger_s first course, “Japanese citrus with several clams, Urchin, Salmon roe” was served without the Japanese citrus (grapefruit) shown in the first photograph, Kaiseki (su

Your blogger’s first course, “Japanese citrus with several clams, Urchin, Salmon roe” was served without the Japanese citrus (grapefruit) shown in the first photograph, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Steamed sea bass” wrapped in a leaf, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Steamed sea bass” wrapped in a leaf, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A close up of the “Steamed sea bass”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A close up of the “Steamed sea bass”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Clam soup”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Clam soup”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A complex course with a number of ingredients – “White meat fish, squid, tuna, Bottan shrimp pickled Chinese wine”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A complex course with a number of ingredients – “White meat fish, squid, tuna, Bottan shrimp pickled Chinese wine”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Conger Eel and fresh bamboo shoot”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Conger Eel and fresh bamboo shoot”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Globefish jerry, sesame seed tofu, Crab sushi, sillago with urchin; Fried wild vegetable”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Globefish jerry, sesame seed tofu, Crab sushi, sillago with urchin; Fried wild vegetable”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our fourth sake, paired with warm dishes, was Juku-Shu [Momotose] Gonenn – “As the name of JUKU-SHU, this type has deep rich aroma and flavor taste. This kind is mostly made like a

Our fourth sake, paired with warm dishes, was Juku-Shu [Momotose] Gonenn – “As the name of JUKU-SHU, this type has deep rich aroma and flavor taste. This kind is mostly made like a wine leave while after finish all the process. That makes the taste more deep.”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; the sake maker noted that the sake was aged for 5 years in French oak, very unusual for sake (it tasted akin to a sherry)

“Jibuni, Duck with lily bulb, Japanese parsley”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Jibuni, Duck with lily bulb, Japanese parsley”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A close up of “Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A close up of “Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Bracken starch with white strawberry [and red strawberries]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Bracken starch with white strawberry [and red strawberries]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The view of the walkway through the property as we headed back to the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai) to catch our van for our return to our ship, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kan

The view of the walkway through the property as we headed back to the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai) to catch our van for our return to our ship, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The view of Kanazawa from the property on the hill, as we left after dinner -- Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The view of Kanazawa from the property on the hill, as we left after dinner — Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan