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