Returned from my trip on the 20th. Just havn't felt like posting. Spending time in Tokyo and Shanghai, especially, was really emotionally draining. The family is going through a tough time.
The highlight of my trip was the food. In Tokyo, we had a lot of kobe beef, sashimi and sushi. As well as wine. The selection in some wine shops is impressive. Especially the store in Ginza I visited. A lot of top first and second growth Bordeaux.
The beef was exquisite. Marbled fat, tender, flavourful...you'd think that something so fatty would taste greasy but it wasn't. The fat melts in your mouth, giving you flavour but also at the same time being light and delicate. The meat was so tender, I literally cut it with a butter knife. Seared both sides for 2 minutes each, just add pepper. The Japanese eat it with soy sauce and wasabi, which is how I did it. Delicious.
The fish here, was of course amazing. Incredibly fresh, the tuna especially was stunning. Rich and tender. The most memorable fish we had was also the scariest. Nagasaki Fuku, or puffer fish. The blood and organs were incredibly poisonous, so the restaurant needed a license to prepare it. We had the fish several different ways - as sashimi, as hotpot, and in a porridge. Interesting how the fish retains its character in all the methods.
My cousin Kazu, is a big wine drinker. When I'm around. We had a lot of Spanish wines, Southwest France...the best for me was an Italian, something that I've never had before either. It was a Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio. I read somewhere a long time ago about what the name means. Loosely translated, it means "The Tears of Christ". Look up the story behind it. It was a wonderful wine - earthy, dusty, hot, spicy - the kind of wine that was so true to where it was from.
I did buy a bottle of Japanese red wine back with me. Yes, they do make red wine. Don't know how it's going to be, but it's made out of a blend of indigenous grapes. Should be interesting.
Unfortunately, Mount Fuji remains elusive to me. We went to Hakone the day after I returned from Shanghai, and it was so foggy we were literally driving in a cloud. Drove up to the highest road, about 2000 or so metres, and could see nothing. It was amazing though - only 5 degrees, snow and ice everywhere. I picked up some volcanic rock. Red and porous, really interesting.
I tried to pick up my Japanese again. It's tough - the subtleties of the language make even saying thank you seem ambiguous. It all depends on context.
I came away very impressed with the people, and the culture. But to me, there's too much emphasis on outside appearance. Everyone is well-mannered, perfectly groomed, well dressed. It's too tiring to be Japanese.