Lessons learned

I stopped at the supermarket on the way home last night to get cream cheese for my breakfast bagel.

Whenever I’m in a supermarket or convenience store, I’m going to get snacks. Last night it was a packaged cheese assortment and box of sesame crackers, among other things.

Got home and Nana informed me there was, in fact, a whole unopened package of cream cheese in the fridge.

Had dinner, etc.

After Nana went to bed, I opened up the cheese assortment. Ate the whole thing, as well as the entire box of crackers. Libations to match.

Woke up at 4 a.m. in my chair, moved to the bed. Got up on the very last snooze alarm and raced to get ready to work. Did get a bagel and coffee in.

Stomach is lousy as a result of the cheese assortment.

Lesson learned:
Make sure we have enough ice.

Jazz Tempura

Sweet potato tempura with Remy Martin VSOP

I woke up yesterday prepared to bike to work, seeing as it was pretty much the only sunny day of the week and we’re expecting a typhoon on the weekend. But then Nana reminded me we had a reservation for a tempura restaurant in the evening.

We got to the restaurant in plenty of time, despite my having missed an express train at the first transfer. While it was just a few steps from Roppongi crossing, it was a small, old building, a bit run-down, and we were the only guests. The waiter showed us our seats at the counter and invited us to leave our bags in the washitsu「和室」, a sign they weren’t expecting many guests.

We ordered draft beer and the waiter brought us three different starters (one is the custom). We had some time to wait before our first tempura dish, enough time to look around and notice the master and the waiter and other chefs were all well past retirement age, and that the alcohol selection was a bit limited.

Tempura master frying a dish
The master at work

At last the tempura started arriving at our plates, and it was nothing short of amazing. Really top-notch tempura: hot, lightly battered and not oily in the least. We had eggplant, prawn, two varieties of whitefish, ginnan, squid, onion, anago. Uni was one neither of us had had before, not as tempura.

At some point in the midst of this feast, I had a double-take at the master’s bowl of batter — specifically his stirring implements:

Drumsticks used to stir tempura batter
Stirred with a pair of … ?

Of course I asked, and the master — taciturn until that moment — opened up about his hobby as a jazz drummer. We talked about our favorite genres and performers, and compared CD collections. They had a rather good collection behind the register at the restaurant, but as Nana confirmed, it wasn’t a patch on the one I’ve got at home.

Sweet potato tempura with Remy Martin VSOP
Sweet potato tempura with Remy Martin VSOP

By the time we’d finished, a woman from a nearby establishment had dropped in to pick up two large platters of tempura, and another couple had arrived and been seated at the counter. The master’s finishing touch for us (apart from ochazuke rice and sliced pear for dessert) was sweet potato garnished with a few drops of Remy Martin VSOP. (I think this was part of the set and not just a gesture in response for our shared love of jazz.)

Tempura Mikaku house shochu
Tempura Mikaku house shochu

A million stories

Night view of Shinjuku, Tokyo

There are a million stories in the city. This is one of them.

Nana had an interview today, while I slaved away at the day job. She had previously arranged for us to meet for dinner at オサカナバル (Fish bleu) in Shinjuku. As it happened, she arrived in Shinjuku two hours before our reservation.

While she was passing the time waiting for me, I was quietly blowing a gasket at the office because a departing colleague had gone over my head to request a favor of the CEO, without even bothering to ask me first. Granted, I’d have said no, but that was out of company policy and accounting rules rather than my own mandate. When the CEO agreed to the request, he didn’t take those things into account, which left my own boss scrambling.

In that mood, I arrived for the feedbag. How did it go?

Glass of IPA craft beer
Osakana Bleu Fisherman's Plate
Osakana Bleu Fisherman’s Plate

Shrimp salad
Shrimp salad
Tako and mushroom
Tako and mushroom

While Nana had been waiting for me, she did some shopping. This is what I found when we got home.

Souvenir bag
Souvenirs from my trip
Fujisan whiseky
Fujisan whiskey
Fujisan whisky
Fujisan whisky
CD of Ornette Coleman jazz
Ornette Coleman

Not bad, but lacking in maturity. As you can see, I have the situation well in hand …

How not to eat delicious sushi

Obon is the season when we are visited by the spirits of departed ancestors. Nana arranged with her mother and brother to visit her father’s grave on Saturday. She also made a reservation at a nearby Chinese restaurant, all you can eat and drink for two hours.

After the big feast, we got home about 3:30 and I fell asleep shortly after that. I woke up at 5:30, still totally full. I was like:


… will not fit.

Then Nana’s friend called from our favorite neighborhood sushi bar. She was there with her brother and his family, and they all wanted us to join them.

I said, “OK, but I can’t eat anything! I’m not even sure I can drink.” Nana agreed.

We got to the sushi bar and Nana was so busy greeting all her friend’s relatives that she didn’t tell the master that we were still full from lunch, and so he prepared us a plate.

Akagai, Saba, Tako, Ika
Akagai, Saba, Tako, Ika

So I told Nana, “You have to tell the master we are still full from lunch!”

And she said, “Don’t worry about it.”

So when the master followed up with a couple of plates and put gari on them, I told him myself.

Still, we finished most of that plate, and got an ungodly amount of booze in.

Nana lasted about an hour before the booze hit her, and I brought her home and put her to bed.

Nakaminato Fish Market

Nakaminato Fish Market


The Nakaminato Fish Market, just a stone’s throw from the famous Oarai Isosaki Shrine on the edge of a natural harbor, offers a fantastic variety of the freshest seafood possible. Make your choice early for great seafood in one of the restaurants arrayed in the abbreviated mall or even fresher offerings from the food stalls lined up near the waterfront.

Fresh oysters at Nakaminato
Fresh oysters the size of two hands clasped together

The crowds form up early for both the restaurants and the food stalls, mingling with the hawkers, the purchasers and the forklifts carrying loads of ice to preserve the catch.

Do yourself a favor: pass up the comforts of seating dining and savour the delicacies of the food stalls (屋台): fresh oysters the size of both your hands clasped together, crabs stewed in their shells and flatfish that are so fresh they’re still trying to leap out of the bucket. You can check the calendar to see what’s fresh at any given time. (Japanese only.)


A 10-minute walk from Nakaminato Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Minato Line.

Nakaminato Fish Market