Now I have been cooking French/ American cuisine for ten years, only the later four were really serious. But this is a new ball game. The food is different here, literally. In the last week I have eaten more fish heads and eyes and eggs than I have or probably ever will throughout the remainder of my life. Cooks here are serious, actually it seems everyone here is serious. More things are served cold than hot, ingredients are combined expertly at the last moment instead of slowly combining flavors in sauces over the course of hours, and the aromas are subtle and deep.
So just to back up a bit I should tell you all my first and probably most tragic story. I flew into Tokyo Narita airport at about 6:30pm after a long and thoughtful ride on an air plane. Though it was a nice introduction as the service on the plane was amazing. I have never taken economy class and been given so much respect and attention, not to mention all the girls were dressed like chinese influenced 1950's stewardesses. Classic! It was a dreary 11 hour ride without interruption and upon getting off my nerves really set in. My head is spinning thinking "now what am I supposed to say to customs?","Am I supposed to have that yellow paper, because that nice asian lady never came by to give me that, or was I asleep?" So then comes the longest walk I have ever had in an airport. I even passed a heavy set lady panting heavily incapable of making taking another step before getting on an escalator about half way to customs. Bonus though, all the signs had english! Yes, one for the home team! Then after about an hour in customs, and filling out that little yellow sheet I did not get on the airplane, I was officially in Japan! Then came the next part, money, bus, e-mail, and to try and actually believe regular people read this language. Got on the bus at 9:10 sharp without a hitch. Now this was interesting, they basically give you slippers on the bus and a blanket, and close the curtains to basically put you to bed for the night on your mobile "cot." And I get to Kyoto, worried as hell that I will miss my stop because they only speak japanese. I was excited, and I had to use a real restroom for the first time in 22 hours. They turn the lights on and I bolt, completely forgetting that I have luggage! Luckily I had only traversed around the corner before I remembered, only about one minute away. Unfortunately Japanese people are on time to a fault and were out of sight before I even started getting feeling back in my toes. So now I try to find a lost and found...nope. A ticket counter...Yes, but it is not open. So I call this kind man, Michael Baxter, at 6:30 in the morning in a panic trying to figure out what to do. Well after, talking to a concierge, waiting for the counter to open up, wandering in a world where 1 out of 10 people are at a jogging pace getting somewhere so that they are not 10 minutes early. I finally get contact. No english, and my japanese that I had been practicing so diligently had tucked itself somewhere in the depths of my brain. Luckily I struck gold, she knew what to do after one phone call, that took nearly 20 minutes. And come to find out I just had to come back that night as the bus passed at 10 o'clock and pick up my bags. Easy pleasy!
Up next my introduction to Yoshimi Tanigawa and his kitchen, Kichisen!