Saturday, September 11, 2010
Yuki's birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I had absolutely no idea what to give her as a present. You see, she doesn't really want anything.
So I started by taking her out for lunch. A really really nice lunch. We went to Pierre Gangaire, which opened earlier this year. Pierre Gangaire is a famous french-fusion chef with a total of 7 Michelin stars between his restaurants. He actually had a restaurant in Tokyo previously that had 2 Michelin stars before closing down in 2008 as a result of problems with its backers. The new restaurant opened this March and is on the 36th floor of the ANA InterContinental Hotel in Roppongi.
The restaurants website recommends jackets for gentlemen anyways, so we decided to go all out and dress to the nines . We were given a table near a window, which gave us a gorgeous view over the surrounding area. The service was excellent, both in English and Japanese. The food was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Delicious, complicated, original, it was unlike anything I've ever eaten before. Each bite had layers of flavors that slowly opened up as you chewed. To be honest, it's hard to find the right words to describe it, but it really illustrated to me just why world famous chefs are so highly rated. It also confirmed to me something I was once told: if you go to a top class restaurant and there is the seafood on the menu, get it. In the hands of someone who really knows what they are doing, seafood will blow away chicken, pork, and even beef. Yuki got the fish and I got the meat. Mine was excellent; hers was phenomenal.
Unfortunately for you, I didn't take any pictures. In fact, I didn't even bring my camera to the restaurant. I figured that, as much as I would love to capture such beautiful food, the meal was, first and foremost, about Yuki and it just wouldn't be right to be snapping away the whole time instead of paying attention to her, so I just left the camera at home. And, to be honest, it was absolutely the right choice and I'm glad I made it. Lunch was many times more special for it.
As fancy and fabulous as the lunch was, it was still just a lunch, which doesn't count as a present in my books, so I needed something else. Though there wasn't any particular thing that she wanted, one thing Yuki loves is to travel. A serious trip for two is still a good ways above my pay grade, I managed to come up with an idea for a quick escape the following weekend.
Anyone flying into Tokyo from the US passes over a stretch of the Japanese coastline that is covered in beaches. It's a 60km stretch of beach along Japan's Pacific coast called Kujukurihama and is only about an hour and a half out from Tokyo by train. Apparently the area is very popular with surfers, but the official "summer" season ends in August, so it was pretty empty. The weather was still in the 90s though, so we were more than happy to escape the humidity of the city and spend some time on the beach.
If you went straight out, the first piece of land you would reach is California. I think that's pretty awesome.
I booked us for a night at New Taiyo, a hotel a couple hundred yards from the beach. The area is so out in the middle of nowhere that they don't even have a ticket gate at the train station, just a little old man to check your ticket before you leave the platform. The hotel was gorgeous, with a clean modern take on classical Japanese design. The rooms were huge (you can sleep up to six in each) and had tatami mat floors, which I love walking on so much. There was a small balconies overlooking a neat courtyard where they hold barbecues in the summer.
It's very common in Japan for hotels outside of the major cities to come in a room-and-board set and New Taiyo's top choice was a "seafood gourmet course".
Yuki loves seafood, so she was pretty happy
The course included tons of different kinds of seafood, from sashimi to shellfish
All in all, there was more than a half dozen seafood related dishes and could easily have fed three or four people. It was probably about as much seafood as I usually eat in an entire year. We were stuffed.
Being right on the Eastern coast, we decided that we should catch the sunrise, so we woke up at 5am and headed out the beach. We'd timed things perfectly and didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes before the sun began to peek out.
And with the sun came the surfers, looking to catch the high waves on the low tide.
There were some low lying clouds that helped intensify the colors and made for a beautiful sunrise.
Both afternoons were perfect beach weather, low 90s and clear blue skies. The sand was soft but hot, the waves big and cold. Yuki would ride on my shoulders out to the sandbar, where the waves were bigger and we spent hours just getting tossed about, crashing around in the waves like little kids. It was a great time and left us totally exhausted.
At one point, we were bumming around on the beach, recovering from yet another session out in the waves, when we heard the roar of motors. Looking up, we saw a couple of people parasailing along the coastline. We followed them as they passed over head, only to see another couple riding horses towards us from the other direction! Definitely not a common thing to see at the beach, but it made for a cool picture.
Watching people surf, we decided it looked like a lot of fun. Though there wasn't enough time for us to have a go this time, we decided that it was definitely something we should try next summer. I've only ever tried surfing once before, but thought it was a blast and am really looking forward to doing it again.
Thoroughly exhausted and a little sunburned (or a lot in my case), we headed back to Tokyo. All in all, I think Yuki enjoyed everything, which was the main objective, and I know I certainly had a great time.
Posted by Peter at 1:52 PM