TOKYO – Day 1: Of flames and fish

I am on vacation, so I am not paying huge attention to the papal visit.  That’s what vacation is for, right?


Since my hosts and traveling companions are foodies, we are exploring traditional foods along with the wonders of the “food halls” in the famous departments stores.  In one place on the Ginza, we had a pre-lunch snack of fresh figs and iberico ham.  If you can think of it, you can probably find it in these food halls.


If you haven’t been in one of these food halls, you simply can’t grasp the range of items and the beauty of the displays.  Among the various things we saw were $30K single bottles of French wine and Wagyu steaks for some $300/lbs.  However, fantastic box lunches and other prepared foods might run as little $5.  It would be interesting to have an apartment here for a month and simply eat from the food halls, getting both fresh produce (unreal) and wonderful prepared foods.

Tearing ourselves away, we headed to lunch.

We started with a chilled tomato salad.

Eggplant with a bean sauce, almost like mole.


Sauces for what we were about to cook.

A4 wagyu beef.

Shabu shabu.

The circular basin has boiling water in which we cook veg, tofu and beef.  Later, noodles are added for soup from the broth that is created in the process.

Pickles to pick at while working.

In the evening we heading via a couple subways to Nakamegura to go to an izakaya, lots of locals.  We sat at the counter near the grill on which everything is prepared.  You order small dishes, rather like tapas.

Scallops on their shells placed on the grill.


Long eggplant

With shaved dried fish.

Whole onion from the grill.

Sweet squash.


Each evening, large pieces of bonito are ritually charred over rice straw.  Everyone gets into the action.





That was a small sample.

I am enjoying coming up with my own interpretations of the PSAs in the subway.


I think this one says: “When you are really drunk and need to throw up, lean far out over the track and try to hit the train’s windshield.”

Just a guess.  Can you do better?

Shop names are amusing, too.  My favorite so far is a little trinket place in the subway called “Three Coins Ooops”.  I am reminded of Ingrish.

Evening view.


We have a mere few days here.  I’d like to see Kabuki theatre at the Kabukiza and, if possible, look at a couple ham radio stores.  I hear they are amazing.  Our my window I can see a shrine where the Tokugawa rulers are interred.  I believe we also have a sumo match on the schedule.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. wanda says:

    Wow, Fr. Z. You weren’t kidding when you said you are on vacation! The pictures are cool, I know you are loving the food excursions. The last picture is beautiful. Have a fantastic time, be safe. Share pictures, please. Prayers for your safe travels, your hosts, too.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:


    And according to the mini anime Wakakozake, the correct pairing for any food in any restaurant with bar seating is beer or sake. Hee!

    [There was indeed sake available!]

  3. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Among the various things we saw were $30K single bottles of French wine …” Sorry, Pater, but if you ever pay more than $ 10,000 for a bottle of wine, you are over-paying. Over-paying.

    Luv the pix!

  4. NBW says:

    Wonderful photos Fr. Z. They sure seem to eat healthier than we do! Enjoy your vacation!

  5. MWindsor says:

    What is this “vacation” thing of which you speak? I’ve heard of it, but just can’t recall….

    (These days, we joke around that being on “vacation” just means working from home on a much smaller screen (iPhone).)

  6. ghp95134 says:

    Sapporo Nama biiru — Sapporo draft beer in a can (eith a black star) is my recommendation. Not unlike a weitzen beer.

    I’m currently in Hakkone-Yumoto hot springs for a few days.

    Father, If you can convince your friends to take you to a hot springs you may never leave Japan. There is a nice one near the Sagamo station (a day trip public bath type using hot springs water) in Tokyo.



  7. ghp95134 says:

    Oops–Sugamo. My wife says the best one in Tokyo is Oedo onsen.

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    I don’t get to go on vacation either, but I get to go to Mass and that is even better. Spending the kind of money to go on some kind of fancy trip is hard to relate to at this point in my life, even if I had that kind of money.

    I made Thai squash curry tonight with 2 different winter squashes butternut and buttercup (@2/$1) and zucchini (3 big zucchinis for $1 only one of which was used in this recipe), from the farmer’s market. The coconut milk was a can someone was discarding when they moved out of their apartment. I made it with tempeh this time instead of the tofu I have used in the past. the other expensive thing is the Thai curry paste at $4.50 or so and the recipe uses half the jar. It has some Tamari in it too. This makes quite a bit of food. It is served over Basmati rice that I got from the food pantry. This is a seasonal recipe for me since I make it during the time when both summer and winter squash seasons overlap at the farmer’s market.

  9. jameeka says:

    Tempura for Quatuor Tempora—good timing!

    Please, when you can, keeping posting pictures–fascinating, my kids learned Japanese, and one daughter was able to live there for a bit. That video looks like what happens when I try to grill, and I cannot believe how large is that squid!

  10. Wiktor says:

    From my very basic Japanese I guess the sign means it is OK to rest against the barrier, but they kindly ask you not to lean over it.

  11. ghp95134 says:

    Regarding the PSA, it shows a man keaning on the suicide-prevention barrier that you see in many of the subway stations. The text asks you not to lean objects on the barrier vicinity.

    There have been two suicides on the subways since i’ve been here (5 weeks) causing my train to be delayed and rerouted.


  12. ghp95134 says:

    leaning, not keaning.

  13. JabbaPapa says:

    Japanese fast-food is the best in the world, though I’m happy to see you were treated to its more up-market variety.

    (still think you should manage yourself at least the lunch at the Polidor in Paris next to the Luxembourg Gardens and near the Sorbonne next time you’re over there …)

  14. benedetta says:

    I must be indulging in a little too much Tolkien lately because when I saw the heading of this post I originally thought “TookYo”. Enjoy your adventure, Father!

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    The large restaurants in Tokyo can be quite expensive. When I was there with a performing group, many of us frequently went off book to smaller mom-n-pop diners, which often had large portions (including meat – which is not cheap in Japan) at very reasonable prices. Downtown Tokyo is an electronics Mecca, so it would not be surprising to find a few good ham radio stores.

    The Chicken

  16. Art says:

    Since you are looking for ham radio equipment in Tokyo, I’m guessing you’ll be heading to Akihabara. I can’t wait to hear your take on the place! There’s also a similar district in Osaka called Denden Town if you happen to have a chance to go there this trip. [My life isn’t entirely my own, but I’d like to get there.]

  17. tramtrist says:

    Fr Z. My (Japanese) wife and I are currently living in Nagoya. If you happen to make your way out here or are in need of anything please send me a message. We’d be happy to help you in whatever way we can.

  18. After consuming a dirty water frank from the pushcart on the street here in NYC in Battery Park…all I can say is that your photos of the delights of Tokyo cuisine make me wish I had not done so.

    Safe travels and healthy relaxation, Father. Your work and prayers for us have certainly earned you the right to enjoy yourself.

    (and, like you, are paying little attention to the goings on with Papa’s trip through the western hemisphere…though travel is a bit challenging…especially for those of us who have to work…)

  19. Markus says:

    We learned of Shabu Shabu from our favorite Japanese restaurant while living in Houston some 25 years ago. Good stuff. They used fish broth. We do our own at home now with chicken broth. We use beef, cubed chicken breast or pork, mushroom, scallions, Brussel sprouts or cabbage, rice noodles, and anything left from the fridge. It’s all about the dipping sauces.
    Have a great trip.

  20. That beef looks crazy awesome. They pet and massage the cattle to get that marbling I guess you know. Animal fats are crucial for every function in the body, and our brain consists of fat. Eat up! Get strong!

    Those food images are nuts – wish I could try it all. With Japanese restaurants everywhere and sushi [which I call ‘bait’, it is raw after all] you’d think we could find actual Japanese food somewhere around here – but no, everything is perverted into something plain and unadventurous that appeals to the common American palate. sigh. Kinda like “chow mein” [gak] in the common Chinese restaurant. So yeah, I’m a bit jealous to see real food.

    Thanks for sharing. Hoping you get true relaxation. Have a great time. Forget your ramen noodle fare for awhile.

  21. gracie says:

    We used to live in Tokyo and what struck me about their Masses was that you turned and SILENTLY bowed ONLY to your immediate neighbors – the one on the left, the one on the right – at the Sign of Peace – not to the 8 or 10 people within reaching distance, nor to the people you could see a few pews away. It was so beautiful, so reverent, so in keeping with the solemnity of the Mass. It’s a custom I wish we would bring to our own Masses.

  22. RobW says:

    You reeeeally like taking pics of your food. Dont let it get cold.

  23. If any of you haven’t read it, this is an interesting article of the relationship of the rubrics of the Extraordinary Form and Asian peoples, specifically the Japanese

  24. JohnE says:

    My wife and I visited Japan many years ago. One night we stayed at a ryokan near Mt. Fuji and had a delicious steamboat dinner. Thanks for the pictures, it brings back good memories. Hope to see some more. Every now and then we would see someone wearing a t-shirt or hat with some English words that didn’t seem to make any sense. I can’t laugh too much though. I’ve seen people over here wear clothing that says “Guess” or “Pink” or “Bum Equipment”.

  25. excalibur says:

    Shame to cook what appear to be thin slices of that Wagyu. Did anyone eat any of it carpaccio style? Say someone did!

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