Shibuya-san, genki-desuka? Watashi wa Kiich-desu
It’s rare that the first night i hit the sack after a 6-20 hour travel day that i wake up at a decent hour. The gods of Japanese ancient-lore must have been in my favor when i awoke to a sunrise (and not pitch black 2:57am). My partner in crime, Mr. Corey King Beaulieu-san and i had a plan to hit the hotels’ upstairs restaurant A'bientot early in the a.m. before the press madness began.
(back story, Tarantino chronology to follow:)
I picked up yoga about a year ago thanks to the encouragement of my wife, Ashley. It took a lot of convincing on her part… i had this feeling deep down that i would be the only dude there, to which Ash said “No way! There are always a couple other guys in class,” so i figured, what the hell - i’ll give it a shot.
There i was sweating, inflexible, and pathetically panting in a simple downward dog in a class full of toned, smiling yoga-women. After my first initial attempt - i put it away for a year… then picked it up again the year mentioned earlier. After my first few classes, i started to take classes from some truly wonderful teachers (Christine, Lewis, Rob, Daniella, Marilyn, (and now) Steve - all at Full Circle Yoga in Winter Park); then i was hooked.
I think a few of the main moments that converted me to Yogi-ism was my first time meeting my teacher Rob. Here was a dude in great shape, doing handstands with the delicate grace of a swan and the volume of ninja footsteps… covered in Japanese tattoos and rocking dreads. That’s when i felt at home.
The next few monumental success was when i realized that all the gym-weight-testosterone-constipational-lifting was just damaging my body; that acupuncture and therapy weren’t curing my demons; and that my brief love affair with playing basketball (quite horribly) seriously affected my fingers due to numerous finger stuffs from rain-soaked (and heat-soaked) games of street ball. When i started to see quickly, that mentally and physically i was feeling better than ever: Yoga was the answer. Sure. I still have some of my major issues (admittance is the first step to recovery right??), i still have some belly-pudge to go (probably from eating so much fantastic food) - but. I definitely see an ab or two poking out, and i can see myself getting over my borderline-ocd and some of my old depressive moments (that we all, as functional human beings, seem to have.)
But yes… a year after that fateful day of giving yoga another shot… i really try to make it a point to practice 3-6 times a week. During our year hiatus before “In Waves” recording, i spent al most every day at Full Circle, alternating between all my favorite teachers. The beauty of the style that Lewis and Rob started me into (Ashtanga Yoga), and that Steve got me really hooked into is that as Steve told me once before “Ashtanga really happens in self practice.” So when i can’t get into Full Circle… i make sure i go through the Ashtanga Primary series at home - usually playing classical music (ala American Psycho anyone?) in the background. Paganini and Pantanjali go together like Uni and Rice; like Suntory and Karage; like cilantro, onion, lime, and carnitas. Perfection.
I’m no David Swenson yet… but that’s another beauty of Yoga: it’s non-competitive. It’s not about what you can or can’t do… it’s just that you’re doing it. As my teacher Rob says “Taking the shape of the form; YOUR expression of the pose."
I do miss the community of FCY. There are some truly beautiful human beings there; who (along with Ashley getting me into it) have changed my life for the better.
So Ashtanga in a Japanese hotel can be a tricky thing, but damn worth it. Ashtanga to me is like: getting a massage, chiropractic adjustment, and shrink counseling all in one. It makes you feel good mentally and physically; it makes you look good physically and mentally… i’m not a religious man (or an anti-religious man), but Yoga is a religion to me. (Another truly meaningful quote from Rob that i’ve heard) "I don’t know how it works, all i knows is that it works.” (Please excuse me if my quotes aren’t verbatim… i’m on hour 11.5 of my flight to Manhattan.)
It’s funny… i have pretty much the same window view picture of Shibuya from the Excel from every tour we’ve ever done in Japan. (6 tours to date now… I want you, Budokan. Headlining style baby.)
So. A'bientot. Honestly… i was bummed. it looked like everything i know of Japanese breakfast; but the truth of the matter is that hotel food is never as good as what it’s attempting to look like a polished version of, just a 5-15 minute walk out the front door. This was honestly one of the very few hotel dishes i’ve eaten in years since i’ve gotten pretty serious into food.
(sidenote. heafy digression.)
When i say “pretty serious” into food…
I love food. My mom raised me on traditional Japanese food. My mom also however, can make all sorts of fantastic American, Italian, and old-French inspired foods.
I meet a lot of American bands who always say things like “God! The food in Britain sucks!” or “Gross! Indian food???” or “Where is the nearest (insert american dinner chain name here) or the good ol’ King or golden arches."
You know what? People that are afraid to try different cuisines from around the world - to dare themselves to see something different outside of the same factory processed comfort of brand-familiarity, are missing out on life. You live ONCE. That’s it. We need food to live… so why not see how the rest of the world lives? That’s how i spend my life - experiencing other cultures through their food. I love everything from mystery street cart meat sticks and what-kind-of-euro-tourist-is-that-kebab-spit meat; all the way to artisan charcuterie and cheeses made and sold at local butchers… tropical fruit that looks like a popular video game character? I’ll take it. Can’t explain what it means from Indonesian to English? I’ll take it.
When you eat something made by a person… by a face… by a soul - you’re eating all the hard work of that culture; you’re inheriting what it means to be someone from somewhere (not just a meat-product-filler sent in frozen shipped boxes keeping the owners rich- while they eat something else other than their toxic-garbage.)
I love eating with people. My favorite is to eat the same thing as my fellow diners. Even if the table is a beer keg with egg carton tables, or a state of the art vineyard with some serious swank… I want to share the experience.
So yeah. I love food. I love eating. I don’t like food snobs… I don’t like music elitists… like i said earlier… you live once - let’s live it like happy Yogi’s (except let’s eat a ton of good food, drink some great local booze… and just live.)
(back to japan)
So yeah. A'bientot… sorry. I saw the chef chef on the heat-lamped food at one point - even he looked a little bummed. That was that. (I re-learned my lesson: EAT LOCAL. Some hotels have slamming food… most don’t.)
Japan has a Matcha Green Tea Frap at Starbucks. It is intensely delicious. No. The Green Tea ones outside of Japan are not the same… this is legit, (i’m assuming Kyoto Matcha? i could be wrong (Kyoto is known for Green tea) and it’s fantastic. I think i had… well… too many on this trip.
We got to Warner/runner/road/brothers/richrussianman-records; did a bunch of incredible press with some great people… then it was lunch time.
Mutsumi-ya (i really hope this was the name of this place… I realize what my strengths and weaknesse of blogging are. I will start taking EXACT notes of dish names, restaurant names, and locations soon.) But from memory? Mutsumi-ya in Ginza.
It was my mom, my wife and my great friend/manager Justin who got me into the next level of food enthusiasm (where i’m at now)…. but it was Zimmern that made me curious to try more… then Bourdain that made me want to take this stuff to the NEXT level. Bourdain’s books are really the only things outside of graphic novels that I read (I either can’t read… or just don’t have the attention span anymore - thanks video games and guitars) and his books are fantastically written. He can make "FUCK” sound eloquent. I laugh at loud when reading his books, I feel his pain when he reflects on what irks him - if Metallica got me into Metal very seriously… Bourdain got me into food very seriously (but like i said… i’ve always been a food nut) but he’s showing me how it’s done (hopefully our paths will cross… i want to bring him on tour with us - put him in a drinking competition with Corey. Bourdain will lose. hahaha.)
So! A recent Bourdain episode had him in Hokkaido, Japan. I saw something on that episode that made me flip (in a addition to the Chirashi (which you can get a great version of at Shin in Orlando, FL) but it was Hokkaido style Ramen.
Ramen in the USA… it’s cup of noodles… and other… well. salty college snacks.
Ramen in Japan is an art-form. If there was a legit Ramen place in Orlando… made by Japanese… I would be there every single day. I’ve had many versions of Ramen in my day: traditional, miso, mom’s, variations from across Japan. But Hokkaido style? It has American canned corn and butter in it. You hardly see dairy in Japanese food… corn either. So when I saw Tony digging on this stuff- i emailed Koji and told him how bad i wanted this Hokkaido Ramen.
Bam. Found it.
It was delectable. A miso base makes the broth (similar to miso soup’s ingredient, just used as the soup stock), there is a nice slab of Pork, some nori, the corn, a butter chunk, then those scallion type guys sitting on top. The broth was insane. The butter lent those whole new thickness to ramen noodle soup that i didn’t know existed. The traditional way to eat any sort of noodle in japan is to… well… slurp he heck out of it. You pick up a batch of noodles with the chopsticks in your right hand; left hand makes a bowl under with the soup spoon; pull up a small batch, and slurp it in. I think it’s more polite the more noise you make?
The gyoza was fantastic. Traditional and great. Anything in dumpling form makes me weak at the knees. And when they’re done wrong? It kills me a little bit… thankfully this wasn’t the case.