Miho Museum and Wappado Restaurant

I’m not much of a map person, and for me one of the joys of traveling is not knowing what to expect or how to get there. So yesterday was a rather magical day from this perspective. After a short walk, a longer bus ride, four stops on the subway, and another 50 minute bus ride, we had our first venture ascending into the mountains of Japan. Following a bubbling brook, we climbed the mountain on a narrow road where erosion was evident with road construction around nearly every corner. Flowers were abundant with colors of pink I’ve never before seen, and reds, violets and blues. We finally reached our destination, The Miho Museum, where above the fog we arrived in Shangri-La. In Osaka, we had missed the Cherry blossoms by about 5 days but here in the mountains we followed a natural tunnel of Cherry Trees in full bloom. The petals were blowing and the trees were raining blossoms.photo 4photo 3photo 5photo 1 photo 2 Words really can’t describe the experience of the approach through the blossoms to renowned Architect I.M. Pei’s exquisite Miho Museum. The geometric-designed museum was built 80% below the ground, to bring the building into harmony with the environment and the surrounding view. I have visited many museums throughout the world and this experience offered a spiritual moment in life. The collection contains over 2,000 works from Japanese Tea Ceremonial art, Buddhist art and ceramics to art from Asian and Western cultures. Yet the true experience of the Miho is how I.M. Pei and the founders integrated and celebrated nature as the primary exhibit. With Cherry blossoms in full bloom as it was designed to display, we were blessed beyond words to be there. AND, this was merely our day time activity.photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5As evening approached, we loaded into two taxis for a long drive in the opposite direction. Once again we climbed hills and dales. We were convinced that our driver was trained in Tokyo, as he maneuvered his cell phone while making hairpin turns. It was a bit tricky finding Wappado Restaurant, www.wappado.jp – but well worth the drive and adventure.

With a light rain beginning and mist and dusk setting in, we got out of the cab on to a very narrow, rocky road surrounded by a patchwork quilt of farm land. Small plots of family farms dotted the landscape and went as far as the eye could see.photo 1  Wappado is one of the few farm-to-table restaurants in Kyoto, i.e. Japan, as Kyoto is the gastronomic capital of this country. The owners are husband and wife, he the chef, she the sous chef and mother of their 7 and 3 year old children. The restaurant is their charming farmhouse and we were the only diners that night. They are open Friday – Sunday only, as the rest of the time their garden and family obligations command their attention. Let it suffice to say that our eight-course, exquisitely prepared and presented meal was freshly picked from their garden. The subtle flavors were unimaginable as John and Mei tried to identify what we were tasting. The mother-in-law is a weaver, so after dinner many of us wanted to further support this young family by purchasing the beautifully crafted hand woven scarves, mats, etc.photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 5photo 3photo 4photo 1photo 2 photo 3 photo 4Ahhhhh, thank you Mei for this once in a lifetime farm to table experience in Kyoto! Mei

 

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On the Road Again – to Japan!

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On the Road Again, this time in the Land of the Rising Sun, on a Japanese culinary tour organized by my chef friends Mei Ibach and John Ash. There are nine of us from Healdsburg and Santa Rosa and we arrived last night for a 13-day adventure in Osaka and Kyoto.

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Awakened in Osaka to a bright, sunny day and Wendy and I took our traditional morning walk, albeit not on the Healdsburg Ridge. We set out at 6:45 am in search of coffee and what was our surprise to discover absolutely no coffee that early and very few other people out, yet a sake shop with three eager patrons.

Never too early for sake!

Never too early for sake!

Our day as a group began at the Osaka Municipal Central Wholesale Markets, where we experienced global food in all its glory. We were surrounded by boxes upon boxes of fruit and a sea of local fresh, gorgeous fish. Auctions were taking place throughout the market where commercial buyers were setting their prices for quantities of food for their retail shops and restaurants. This market, which was established when Osaka Castle was built (and I’ll tell you when that was tomorrow, after our visit to the Castle), and provides Osaka consumers produce from various producers throughout the world, in a venue where fair prices are set and stable distribution is a given. We sampled food through the market and our first taste of sashimi melted in our mouths… IMG_4385IMG_4391IMG_4412

By 10:30 am we were more than ready for brunch, which turned out to be by far the best sushi I’ve ever tasted. I promise to take better notes about the specifics of what we eat, especially since Mei and John are experts. For our first day, let it suffice to say that eating sushi while walking it off as we strolled through a park filled with the fragrance and beauty of cherry blossoms in full regalia couldn’t have been more perfect. This park is the only place in Osaka where the trees are still in full bloom as a result of being covered each night, at the government’s expense, to extend the weeks of blossoming. IMG_4420IMG_4415IMG_4448IMG_4457