Asia Food Travel

Tokyo – Sumo and Takazawa

Hello and welcome to the second installment of our Japan trip – Tokyo part two! For other parts of this series, please see below.

Japan – Conrad Tokyo and Ginza
Japan – Sumo and Takazawa
Japan- Shiraume Ryokan
Japan – Arashiyama and Kinana Ice Cream
Japan – Park Hyatt Tokyo 

While we were in Japan, my husband began to become very interested in sumo. There are only six sumo tournaments each year (three of which are in Tokyo), and we happened to be in Tokyo right when the spring tournament was happening. The national TV station was airing all the tournaments real time, and my husband couldn’t stop watching. “I want to go see sumo!” he said.

Even though it was already the week of the tournament, we were able to get tickets to see a tournament from the concierge for the very next day. We were excited because our seats had a great view even though we didn’t get very expensive ones – the most expensive are those tatami mats right by the ring, which were long sold out. I’d love to sit there one day, though you run the risk of a sumo wrestler crashing into you if he falls (it happens quite often!).

These were lower division wrestlers above which you can tell from their mawashi (belt) which aren’t colorful or fancy, unlike higher division wrestlers. There also weren’t many people watching at this point – all sumo tickets are for the full day and the higher division/more exciting matches are later on, in order of importance.

These were relatively higher division wrestlers in that they got to throw salt before their match – the lower division wrestlers had short matches with no salt throwing.

Finally around 4 PM the wrestlers from the top ranked Makuuchi division came out, and gathered in a circle for a ceremony – you can see how elaborate their belts and garments are! The crowds were going wild, with people randomly shouting out the names of their favorite sumo wrestlers.

The sumo matches were all very exciting, and I am so glad that my husband made us go! I left with two souvenirs – these tea cups – one which was all the various sumo (banners), and the other was this wrestler who I had never heard of but the three grandmas in front of me all bought this dude and were giggling away. So I decided that I was a fan of Kotosyougiku too.

All right, that was it for sumo! Now moving onto later in the day…a few hours after we left sumo, Mr. Feather and I took the train to the Akasaka district for dinner at the restaurant Takazawa – one of the best meals of my life.

A sign by the train on our way to Takazawa. I thought it was quite charming and funny – “If you drop your hat little girl, call for help and we’ll come fetch it for you with a giant claw.”

It’s easy to miss Takazawa’s entrance – the restaurant is off on a side street and there’s almost no sign of the restaurant, just this very sleek lighted entrance.

Walking up the stairs, you are greeted with poetry that lines the handrails. I wish I remember the whole poem! It was about a tree. Well since I know nothing about poetry, it probably really wasn’t about a tree but you know what I mean.

Aronia only seats 8-10 people per night, and when we entered there was only one couple there. We were immediately greeted by the lovely Akiko (Chef Takazawa’s wife) and seated. We chose sparkling water and a sake/wine pairing, and the meal got underway.

The first amuse bouche which these little vegetables in “dirt” – I don’t remember what the dirt was, some kind of sauce mix but we were instructed to put the whole things in our mouth. Very charming.

The second amuse bouche which was presented in this beautiful glass jar – you used the tweezers to pick up a fresh baby squid (which I normally don’t like but this was yummy) which had been filled, in a garlic immersion.

The first course of the night was the all vegetable “Ratatouille” which has been served since the restaurant opened in 2005. The printed menu had the name of each dish as well as the year that it was first served, which I thought was a nice touch. It is pieced together by hand and consists of ~20 different vegetables. You are asked to put the whole thing in your mouth at once – Ratatouille is pretty big but it’s definitely doable.

Next we were offered some corn bread. This was one of our favorite dishes of the night, and it wasn’t even an official course! Each piece of bread is offered with a jar of pork rillette which is absolutely AMAZING. I scraped mine clean while my husband eyed me jealously (having finished his within the first minute). Akiko said that the pork used was from Okinawa and very special – I could seriously eat this every day.

Next was “Vegetables Parfait”. Akiko explained that in Japan it was very popular to have young ladies (and men) to enjoy sweet parfaits which we certainly saw all over Tokyo (parfaits and macarons). This dish was a play on it – instead of a sweet snack it was a savory vegetable dish, very cool and refreshing.

image via

I wanted to show you all the interior of the restaurant – Takazawa cooks and prepares food (he has assistants in the back as well) right in front of you behind that metal counter. Everybody at the restaurant was very happy to be there and was looking at all the busy yet calm cooking happening up front. At one point the people at the table next to us told us that Takazawa declined being listed in the Michelin guide. I don’t know if it’s true or not though.

All right, moving on. This was a salad called “Powdery Dressing” which came with a dressing that was basically drizzled on top like dry ice – and it looked just like dry ice too, it quickly “dissolved” into powder. It had a lot of fish as well as these vegetables called “sea grapes” – those green “grape” bunches that you see up there – which were really good.

This was a few fried crabs which we ate whole – and some fresh barnacles. I tried one barnacle but I have to admit that my husband finished the rest off. I’ve read too many pirate stories starring various scoundrels named “Barnacle” something or another.

This dish was called “White”. It was all “white” items – I don’t remember them all but there was a foam, white truffles, “white” foie gras, white celery, and more. Very good but by this time I was getting full.

When this came out I was getting REALLY full, but I still couldn’t resist polishing off this dish above, called “Candleholder”. The dish comes to you looking like a wax candle, then the lid of the “candle” is lifted, revealing a foie gras creme brulee! So good. The “candle” portion was a mango jam which you combined with the foie gras and the bread/crackers.

This was called “Bitter Flavor” and was a fish dish with a slight “bitter” flavor to it. When the dish was first described I was a little wary because I’m not a huge fan of bitter melon which this had – but it was actually quite good.

I forget what this dish was called (our menu had a misprint) but it was wagyu beef with mushrooms and daikon and all sorts of other things. Akiko had seen me  rubbing my belly voraciously while looking very full and kindly asked Takazawa to make a smaller portion for me by this point.

Finally, dessert. This was called “Takazawa’s Special Blue Cheese” – it looked like blue cheese but it’s was actually a cheese cake, served with refreshing blueberry ice. Not too heavy and a perfect dessert after being stuffed.

It happened to be my husband’s birthday while were were in Tokyo, and so I had requested beforehand that a message be included with the dessert. As you can see I am very juvenile. I love buying my husband 100th birthday cards, by this time he has gotten over the joke probably but still laughs for my benefit. Nice of him huh? Anyway Akiko included a few of these when the dessert came out!

We ended the night with some petit fours – an adorable pig cookie, dark chocolate, a cake, and marshmallow.

Wow this was a wonderful meal! I would recommend Takazawa to anyone looking for a special dining experience in Tokyo. It was expensive of course but worth the cost, especially because Takazawa himself is someone I would consider a real artist, and  is closely involved with each and every dish that is served. It was amazing seeing him prepare each dish with such care, only to see it being rushed to our table seconds after it was done. I don’t know how long this kind of artistry is sustainable but I hope it will be for some time to come.

Thank you again for reading and check back for my next Japan post – which will be about Kyoto!

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  • anna
    June 1, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I could barely read this. All the food is so beautifully prepared. Sounds like a perfect night.

  • Michelle
    June 1, 2012 at 9:14 am

    What a fun time and I am absolutely envious of what you had at that restaurant!

    Michelle
    http://www.michelleesque.com

  • alamode
    June 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

    What amazing pictures! I always imagine Tokyo as overwhelming with the bright lights, technology, and massive crowds. These images provide a much more relaxed impression and were very surprising to me. Your posts always give me travel envy.

    Also, the poem is by Joyce Kilmer – it’s a very simple poem, but a beautiful sentiment about the efforts of man being humble when compared with the beauty of nature. It famously starts “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

    • Katherine
      June 1, 2012 at 11:06 am

      alamode, THANK YOU – you are amazing! That is the exact poem, I remember reading it and thinking that it was lovely!

  • Caise
    June 1, 2012 at 9:29 am

    oh it looks very interesting 🙂
    and yummy food

  • Julide
    June 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Amazing pics from Japan!! The food looks amazing!! I will have to put the restaurant on my list for the next time I am in Tokyo!!!

  • Tabitha
    June 1, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Wow, it really must be an experience to see Japan.
    I love the birthday note, I’m silly like that too!

  • Mrs C
    June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Great pictures of the food! Make my mouth watery 😛 One thing about the Jap, they really know how to make their food look pretty on top of tasty!Sumo must be interesting.. never seen anything like that before, though..

    http://mrsjackofalltradesdaily.blogspot.com/2012/06/3-in-1-maxi-skirt-part-2.html?showComment=1338578360170#c1379914992132526012

  • New Petite
    June 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    thoe food pics made hungry!! probably the best part of any vacation is the food 🙂

  • Katherine
    June 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Wow what a dining experience! All the food dishes looked very unique and tasty 🙂 I miss Tokyo!

  • Sarah
    June 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    That dinner sounds amazing! The more I hear about Tokyo, the more I want to go. 🙂

    Keep calm and carry lipstick.

  • susie
    June 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Food looks amazing! Love to see the Sumos! I think you and I were about 1 week apart in Tokyo. We just came back and still haven’t even fully unpacked yet.

  • kiwifashionblog
    June 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Hehe, how funny, I was obsessed with sumo with my dad! We’d watch it (over the summer back in Taiwan) on NHK all the time!! We even went and got a PS sumo game so we could play on it, it was insanity hahaha 🙂

    • Katherine
      June 1, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      That is the funniest story and so cute! Thanks for sharing.

  • SS
    June 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Takazawa looks really good. I’m not sure my friend could be full from small dishes, but definitely worth a try.

    Kotoshogiku is famous now. He is Japanese and now one of the strongest Japanese sumo wrestler (now other strongest sumo wrestlers are non-Japanese).

    • Katherine
      June 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      Ah thank you for clarifying that for me! Yes I noticed that many of the biggest stars were actually from Romania!

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    June 2, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Oh my husband would have loved to see a live sumo match and have a wonderful meal! I was in Japan as a budget traveler years ago and can’t wait to go back and splurge a little (though food can be quite reasonable and delicious!)

    xoxo,
    Chic ‘n Cheap Living

  • Annabelle
    June 2, 2012 at 6:11 am

    I continue to be insanely jealous of your travel and the things you’re eating, and I love that shot of the circle of sumo wrestlers — very cool.

  • Pjlatte
    June 2, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Takazawa look absolutely amazing! Your blog post definitely made my mouth watered :D. I love Japan and Japanese food… cannot wait until your next Kyoto post! Have a good weekend.

  • Helen
    June 2, 2012 at 7:59 am

    All your photos made me drool! Totally amazing experience.

    Japan is a place I would love to visit in the future. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t like to travel outside of the states. After 8 years of marriage, I still don’t understand his hesitation.

    • Katherine
      June 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      I hope you can convince him Helen – you must go! 🙂

  • Glee
    June 3, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I´ve never seen sumo wrestling in real, i think is a great experience. Loving all the yummy food. 🙂

  • Jane Squared
    June 3, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Oh my goodness! The food looks so incredible; I really enjoyed this post.

  • chocolatecookiesandcandies
    June 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I’m just entranced by your description of the sumo wrestling and the incredible meal. I felt like I was sitting right there next to you. I promise myself that I’ll visit more Asian countries when Lil L is older. Japan is definitely a country that I’ll have to re-visit.

  • Tina
    June 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I want to go to Japan right away.

  • Bonnie
    June 3, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Mmm … Food. I see the words, but all I can focus on is the amazing food. Jealous!

    http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  • Elle
    June 4, 2012 at 6:48 am

    This looks so much fun!

  • begirama
    June 7, 2012 at 12:52 am

    (◎▲◎;)日本人でも、入店することが難しい、
    高級なレストランだと聞きました。
    良い経験をしましたね。

  • Andrea
    June 8, 2012 at 1:02 am

    The food looks amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this experience – there is so much care and passion put into making the food, you can really see it through each dish. Bookmarking this so I can go try things out when I visit Japan!

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  • pink horrorshow
    June 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Wow, the presentation of these little dishes is AMAZING. The little flower pot! The ratatouille! I can’t imagine having that much patience to meticulously put that together. Seriously..wow..

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  • Jess L
    July 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Lol… 100 again? Beautiful presentation and lovely pictures of an enviable meal. 🙂