Ioan dreams sushi (Japan #4)

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A romanian, a french, a chinese, two americans and 3 japanese walk into a shushi bar…

No, this is not the beginning of a joke; this is a story of a dream. It is the story of more fishy business. This is… Sushi Mizutani.

First things first. This is (as far as I know) the only sushi restaurant with 3 Michelin starts. Yes, you heard it, I have finally eaten at a restaurant that is worth s whole trip. And truth be told it is quite the adventure in trying to find e place. I had made a reservation for lunch about 2 weeks beforehand.

The restaurant is located in Ginza, yet the closest station is Shimbashi. Then you need to find e back alley where the entrance to the 9 floor building is (the restaurant moved from the basement to the 9th floor). The address is 8-7-7 Ginza, but I couldnt for the life of me find the place. So i asked someone around where it is (in Japanese, off course). The lady had heard of the place, but wasnt sure where it was. So she goes into the shop to ask her colleague where it is. The other woman comes out, and, after asking for the address, starts going down the street to find me the place (which was really nice). Yet it seemed more like a quest for her than simply helping me out. It was a mystery that needed to be solved.

I added a picture of the entrance for future use. Then off to the 9th floor. Once there, you have to make your way past the door that you are gonna slide (I wasnt sure whether there was a button there or I had to wait in the lobby). Someone will take your jacket and seat you in the tiny restaurant. I dont think it seats more than 10 (maybe 12).

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Now, I read on many a blog that the atmosphere tends to be somber and people moaning and complaining about the chef being slightly unfriendly. Sure, mostly no one except one of the apprentice speaks English (and I think he is a rather new addition), so it makes it difficult to communicate with Mizutani. Yet he is far from unfriendly: even when I got seated he was laughing together with one of the Japanese person.

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The following picture will be the only one from the restaurant, as Mizutani doesn’t allow for pictures being taken during the meal (which, in a way, is quite nice as he forces you to fully concentrate on your meal).

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You are asked if you want sushi and sashimi or just sushi. Knowing I shouldn’t go all wild and spend my entire fortune here (albeit a delicious fortune), so I opted for the sushi on,y and the unlimited supply of free green tea.

The great thing with this place, as opposite to many other great restaurants, is that because it is so small you always get the actual chef who made a name for the restaurant (sure, his one assistant that was allowed in the kitchen space made one of the sushi I think). If you go to Gordon’s for example, you don’t know who made your meal (and you pay just the same if Gordon made it or if he didn’t).

Supposedly Mizutani personally shops for the ingredients every morning at Tsukiji Market. Everything was indeed very fresh – you could feel it in the taste as well as in the texture. Because you sit at the bar, you can see everything: how he makes the rice ball, how he cuts the fish, the care in storing the ingredients (he puts a wet cloth over the fish). Also, note that the soy sauce is apparently there only for the sashimi. The sushi comes ready to eat (he puts a sort of soy sauce paste over it).

At first I was a bit shy, but soon I decided to start asking what I was eating. At one point he said something I couldn’t understand and I told him “wakaranai” (I dont understand) at which he started laughing. But I knew me talking would prompt him into conversing more with me. Which he did. After asking me where I’m from, and hearing I’m from Romania, an entire discussion about gymnastics started. Next to me was the french woman and her japanese friend, and at one point there was this complex Japanese-English-French discussion (the french woman didn’t know much Japanese/English so her Japanese friend had to translate) about where I’m from. Certainly, OK had become an international word. It was rather amusing, and the chef was having a blast. Also, they seemed to very much enjoy when I told them that Romania was Dracula’s country.

Because of the small space and everyone being seated at the “bar”, it created the perfect opportunity for us to try and bridge the cultural and linguistic divide.

The sushi was amazing (I know, I’ve only been talking about non-food issues), the rice soft and tasty, the products very fresh and just the right amount. There isnt much more to say than the fact that this was the best sushi I’ve had (sure, I havent been to any other prestigious sushi places). I even had a lot of oysters and shell fish – which is strange because i thought I didnt like them. At the end we received a piece of tamago (yaki I think), which was also amazing. I generally dont like it, but I would have eaten a whole sack of this.

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Ginza

After the sushi I decided to float around Ginza for a while. This is quite an expensive area (if not the most expensive one; look at me, talking like an expert and all), so if you feel the need (and have the wallet) to splurge money on expensive things, this is definitely the neighbourhood for you.

You are asked if you want sushi and sashimi or just sushi. Knowing I shouldn’t go all wild and spend my entire fortune here (albeit a delicious fortune), so I opted for the sushi on,y and the unlimited supply of free green tea.

The great thing with this place, as opposite to many other great restaurants, is that because it is so small you always get the actual chef who made a name for the restaurant (sure, his one assistant that was allowed in the kitchen space made one of the sushi I think). If you go to Gordon’s for example, you don’t know who made your meal (and you pay just the same if Gordon made it or if he didn’t).

Supposedly Mizutani personally shops for the ingredients every morning at Tsukiji Market. Everything was indeed very fresh – you could feel it in the taste as well as in the texture. Because you sit at the bar, you can see everything: how he makes the rice ball, how he cuts the fish, the care in storing the ingredients (he puts a wet cloth over the fish). Also, note that the soy sauce is apparently there only for the sashimi. The sushi comes ready to eat (he puts a sort of soy sauce paste over it).

At first I was a bit shy, but soon I decided to start asking what I was eating. At one point he said something I couldn’t understand and I told him “wakaranai” (I dont understand) at which he started laughing. But I knew me talking would prompt him into conversing more with me. Which he did. After asking me where I’m from, and hearing I’m from Romania, an entire discussion about gymnastics started. Next to me was the french woman and her japanese friend, and at one point there was this complex Japanese-English-French discussion (the french woman didn’t know much Japanese/English so her Japanese friend had to translate) about where I’m from. Certainly, OK had become an international word. It was rather amusing, and the chef was having a blast. Also, they seemed to very much enjoy when I told them that Romania was Dracula’s country

From kimonos.

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To slutty bags.

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And why not a puppy?

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Now this thing looks good. But I personally dont like it. It’s called Mochi and its a sweet made out of rice paste. It’s a bit gooey and not really my taste. I could try it again, tho. Just to make sure.

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The katanas were a bit out of my price range (a few tens of thousands of yen), but I couldnt help myself to at least go in and sigh because of my poverty. Sigh.

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Shibakoen

There’s (another) big park in this area, and I took the opportunity to spy (again) on some baseball players (damn you Ioan, why cant you just leave these decent people alone?).

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And then spy on a man playing jazz in the park. It was funny because he was hidden behind a tree with his back to people passing by. It’s also surprising how quaint Tokyo can be. The parks are so quiet and relaxing, barely any people in them. Barely any tourist anywhere too! Very refreshing. I hate tourists.

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Aaand then i spied some cats.

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Now this is a temple inside Shiba park, but I cannot find the name of it anywhere. So pictures should be enough for y’all!

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Tokyo Tower is also in this area.

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As well as Zoujouji Temple! With all those little statues. Arent they just the cutes things ever? Please, see their cuteness before I tell you what they really are.

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Just awww, right? NOT! They are called Jizō statues, and they are for stillborn children or aborted children. Parent put clothes and toys near a statue for the god to take care of their little unborn souls. I bet all those people smiling and taking pictures of them had no idea.

Also, I notice how the Japanese have a thing for size. They really like their big temples. Don’t they?
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Nightime in Aoyama

And my day has yet to end! I ended up walking a bit nearby my own little temporary nest,mtaking one or two pictures before settling down for some dinner.

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I recently read a blog post where the writer explained how he likes to go down little streets rather than use main ones, and find the small secrets of the city. Whilst I do agree with this, I think one should not forget to see the forest because of the trees. What is impressive about Japan is also the big, main streets. The sheer number of people. Just because everyone sees the Mona Lisa doesn’t mean you should rather go to some unknown gallery in the suburbs of Paris.

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I eventually make my way to Harajuku (well, actually Jingumae), where I decide upon having some okonomiyaki (it’s a sort of food where you mix eggs, cabbage, meat n such and fry them right in front of you) at this place called Sakuratei (3-20-1 Jingu-mae).

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The place what obviously the meeting point of young, hipster Japanese people. Dumbstruck, I manage to say “hitori” and “tabemono” which basically mean “just one”, “food”. I’m not quite sure what happened to me since I can be more eloquent than that. But they seemed to get the idea.

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The place was quite authentic. Certainly not many white people making their way here. It was also rather lively, a bit noisy but the pleasant kind of noisy. The noisy kind of people being jolly and critters of the sea being roasted on hot plates.

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More Japan

This post is part of a (fantastic, amazing, life-changing) series:

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2 Comments

  1. I AM SO JEALOUS that you got to eat at the Sushi restaurant. I’m definitely going next time i’m in Japan. Also, I think it’s super awesome that you travelled around Japan on your own, I know how intimidating it can be if you don’t speak the language….so well done!

    p.s i think your formatting is a bit awry, seems like 3 paragraphs are repeated just so you know!

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