Cakes, Travel

Michelin Meal in Japan II

Michelin Star Restaurants

Most of us are familiar with ‘Michelin stars – the rating system for high-class restaurants the world over. Those highly sought after Michelin stars are indicative of excellence in consistency, presentation of food and mastery of technique.

What would you do if you were presented with a Michelin meal you couldn’t eat? Read the first part of a Michelin Meal in Japan.

Eleven Course Meal

My stay at a traditional Ryokan, or ‘Old World’ Inn, complete with Tatami mats and sliding paper walls in Kyoto, Japan, included an evening meal, which was served to us in our very own private dining room that comprised part of the sleeping quarters. A fantastic arrangement! Yes, well not necessarily.

japan

It meant not eating the meal was never going to be an option, as we couldn’t leave the restaurant and go home. This was in our home, albeit our room, even if it was only for a short time.

Unfortunately, my daughter a.k.a. Miss Teen now ‘Adult,’ refused to eat any of Michelin Courses #1,#2 and #3 out of 11 courses. And this entire menu was all about seafood.

From Crab to Squid, Sea Urchin to Tilefish, (whatever that is), the menu lurched from one sea creature to another form of oceanic life. [With one token course that constituted a beef dish].

Me? I love seafood of all kinds. If it came from the sea, and is edible, I will eat it.

Miss Teen now an ‘Adult,’ on the other hand, would have none of it. She cannot eat seafood, or rather will not eat seafood. There was no forewarning of the menu contents, when we booked in at this Ryokan, so this was all a complete surprise.

On reading the menu, Daughter dear declared,

“Oh! I will just eat the rice!”

I dutifully opted for eating her untouched courses #1-3, but on re-examining the menu, I quickly realized I couldn’t possibly consume each and every part of the full eleven courses, for both of us.

I had to think. Which of the following options could I take for the rest of the meal?

  1. Send her meal portions back uneaten
  2. Tell the staff my teen is ill and can’t eat it
  3. Apologise profusely and possibly insult the chef
  4. Leave the Ryokan for other accommodation

None of those options sounded palatable, (no pun intended), and there were so many courses! To insult the chef would be rude, culturally insensitive and ungrateful. I also had to bear in mind, the Chef was to serve the rest of MY meal, which I was looking forward to eating.

What was I to do?

Michelin Food Disposal

I looked at the small bin provided in our room.

It would only handle paper and dry contents. I could not leave uneaten seafood portions there.

We were to catch an airport taxi and a 10-hour flight home to Australia the next day, so hiding it in my luggage would result in me smelling like a fish tank! Not the sweetest perfume de toilet!

I devised a plan. After the gentile kimono-clad room attendant/waitress, served up the next culinary marine delight and had left the room, I found a zip lock bag in my luggage.

It was similar to the ones they give you at the airport for storing toiletries, but that was all I had. Surreptitiously, I emptied the uneaten portions of daughter’s courses, within. It wasn’t easy. Those bags are meant for lip gloss and small hand creams. Not five courses from a traditional Japanese degustation style menu!

My subterfuge was very nearly discovered when the Japanese waiter returned, shortly after serving through the seventh course. Thank goodness she knocked on the door first. I would have had to fez up to ditching the food and how would that have looked?

Japanese Rice

Meanwhile Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult’ was by now, really hungry and looking forward to eating the course of rice. She suggested she might eat both our serves, as she was hungry. “Of course you can,” I reassured her.

Just before the rice was served, we were to be served tea. Green tea. At the mere mention of Green tea by the waiter, Miss Teen Now an Adult, shook her head vigorously to indicate ‘no,’ and eagerly awaited her bowl of rice.

The course of rice was then served – but to her dismay, one bowl not two, arrived, and was served to me only!

Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult,’ was completely forlorn. First all these serves of seafood and now no rice! The poor room attendant clearly had not understood. As soon as our door was closed again, I pushed the rice bowl towards her explaining I had more than enough to eat with all the sea urchins etc. and that she should have the rice.

If the truth be told, I’d have liked to try the rice as the Japanese are very particular about its quality. They do not like imported rice, and prefer the home-grown variety. Miss Teen Now an Adult, inhaled the whole bowl, before I had the chance to request even a small tasting portion. But that is okay.

Soup and Dessert

Strangely, a small bowl of miso soup course followed the rice – perhaps it aids digestion, or could it be that they think a person has consumed too much seafood, at that point? Remember there was now two bowls for me to drink, not one!

The Dessert course consisted of a Persimmon, times two, of course. I’d never eaten a persimmon before, so that was a novel experience and I confess to being quite partial to the sweet, delicate taste. I couldn’t get through the second one, so it also went into the baggie.

There was still my shady skulduggery of hiding food to address: about 5 courses of seafood and a half a persimmon sat in a zip lock baggie inside my handbag. It was 10 pm at night, I was in a Ryokan, in Japan and there was no rubbish bin in sight.

It was time to go out for a little walk.

Gion Bin Hunt and Geishas

Now in most countries, unless a G7 or Olympics were being held, it would not be too difficult to find a rubbish bin on the street, where I could discretely dispose of all aforementioned Michelin Chef scraps.

But this was Japan.

In Japan, each citizen is responsible for their own rubbish. Japanese people take home their used plastic drink bottles and empty food wrappers for recycling or dispose of them, to landfill. You must either pay for rubbish collections from your premises, or take it to the landfill, yourself. Thus, there are very few if any, public trash bins on the streets, in Japan.

It looked like we were in a long walk.

We walked the Gion with not a single bin, in sight. We passed several 7/11 stores along the way – no bins there either.

Around 10.30 pm we saw her.

A Geisha Girl in full attire.

Japanese Geishas

The genuine Geishas are notoriously secretive and seeing a working Geisha in real life, really did make the whole rubbish disposal expedition, totally worthwhile.

In my excitement of seeing her, I fumbled for my camera, its carry cord becoming tangled up in the zip of my handbag, where said seafood was hiding. For a minute, I was completely distracted by the thought of a full-to-bursting ‘zip lock bag,’ spilling its unwanted Michelin meal contents inside my handbag, which would no doubt lead to me smelling like a tile-fish or sea urchin, for the next 24 hours! Meanwhile the Geisha was getting further away Ah!

An American tourist shouted at me to ‘run’ after the geisha, in order to get the prized photo. You can see him in the foreground. The Geisha, by then, had got some distance away. It was amazing how fast she moved in those traditional wooden shoes and maintained her poise. I got the photo. It is grainy, but one grainy photo is better than none.

You are told not to stop or ask Geishas to pose for photographs as they are considered highly skilled working ladies, who entertain guests through performing the ancient traditions of art, dance and singing and are handsomely paid for their time. And she did seem to be in a dreadful hurry.

Suddenly the fact that we had to walk further to find a bin, didn’t bother us as much. We eventually found one at the large Yasaka-jinja Shrine at the Gion. And we could both sleep easier for the rest of the night.

Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult,’ was really keen for breakfast, the next morning, but understandably so, don’t you think?

I gave her all my serving.

53 thoughts on “Michelin Meal in Japan II”

  1. What a wonderful story! I’m sorry your daughter wasn’t the least bit interested in the seafood. I’ve learned while living here that it simply doesn’t pay to be a picky eater!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I live in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. And yes, seafood is life here, but a lot of families eat meats, too! Especially chicken.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I just checked where Hammatsu is and it is little wonder that seafood is popular there being so close to the coast. Have you lived there for long? I feel like I have heard that name before, somewhere.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s possible I may have mentioned it in another one of my rare comments! 😀 Eel is particularly popular in these parts. As for how long I’ve lived here, this past weekend is my 3rd year. 🙂

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            1. Eel – ? I have only ever had eel in Denmark! It is popular there too. I thoroughly enjoy Japan and Japanese culture and would like to visit again. I particularly liked visiting the older towns on the rural areas. Did you travel about within Japan often?

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              1. Lately, no. I either haven’t had the money to do what I wanted or had other engagements with work/people. Now with this whole COVID-19 thing, everyone is leery about traveling.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely story to enjoy whilst eating my breakfast. I’ve had flights booked since Christmas for an upcoming first visit to Japan but it seems likely that trip will have to be put on the back burners for now. Lovely sunny day here so we’re going to dust down the barbecue and sweep the leaves off the patio and light it later, deferring our traditional Sunday roast until tomorrow this weekend. Hope you’ve had a nice weekend too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Marion. Sounds like a lovely day in England. I cooke a vege quiche tonight, but a barbeque would have been delightful too. We certainly have the weather for it here at the moment too. Easter usually brings rain but for now, we shall enjoy the respite from the heat that the morning and late afternoon brings.
      I am happy to hear that you are heading to Japan, and hope that the flights and climate has subsided so that you can get there. Japan is well placed to cope with the pandemic, but do take a mask if you can get a hold of one. Everyone wears them if there is a health threat. You might feel like a pariah without one. The Japanese are also incredibly clean people so hopefully the virus curve will have flattened to let you travel. How long were you intending to stay?

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, all those jobs we put off for another day are now happening. Our house is big so it will take ages but I’m determined to complete one room at a time before moving onto the next as I get more satisfaction that way then they’ll just need redecorating at some later stage. It’s a pity that the charity shops and tip are closed as we’re accumulating lots of unwanted stuff which I’m storing in the garage for now.

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    1. The restaurant was part of the Ryokan itself, Sunnydays. It was located a few streets away from the temple. If you are interested in staying there, I can give you the details?

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      1. Twice a few years ago. Love the country so much sometimes I feel I only post about Japan and forget about my two other countries… 🙂

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          1. Not yet, and I’m not sure was Michelin rated meal, but it was for me. Also at a ryokan but in Kawaguchiko, with a view to Fuji-san. Our attendant was absolutely amazing, even wrote my name in Japanese 🙂

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      1. It was so long ago but i remember they are given up, sold at a fairly young age. They go to a Geisha place and are taught by a madame but they all live together. Obviously they can be quite nasty to you.. I presume she had it tough because maybe they could tell she would be good.. In the end she is highly sort after. Just reading about a world so foreign to us..It is not a true story, memoirs of a Geisha but he interviewed a real Geisha to get the story line.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love my children but sometimes …
    I had a similar experience when I took my then-teenage daughter to Tokyo. She was thrilled to be in the heartland of anime and was excited to visit all the places she’d read about. Unfortunately, she didn’t do any research and real-life doesn’t have English subtitles, so most of the time we wandered around aimlessly. This was before we’d discovered (or they existed) travel and translation apps. Nowadays, even with travel apps, I prefer wandering around aimlessly but back then … I was a lot less patient.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aimless wandering is for adults only, I think. Teens get bored so easily and my Miss felt it on occasion such as the Nakamise temple in Tokyo. Whilst I wandered around taking photos and taking in all the sights, smells and fun things to experience, little Miss felt unbelievably ‘tired’ and had to sit down on a bench for some time. I think once they turn 14 or so, and the hormones kick in, they are not the best holiday companions. Before that and after the teen years is a much better time to travel with one’s children. I was in Tokyo in 2004 and comparing that to my recent trip – I did notice lots more signs in English, but I didn’t have too much difficulty in 2004, but I did have high school Japanese which I used on odd occasions. Was it just the anime exhibits that weren’t in English? Or other places as well? I remember using pics to identify meals in McDonalds in Narita village in 2010. No English was there and I had my big boy as a teen then. He also did a lot of sleeping and looking at his laptop.

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  4. What a story! I enjoyed reading it, Amanda. I was in Japan when I was 13 so I didn’t enjoy the food as much – green tea was what I disliked the most. I am sure it’d be different if I went there now! I am sure that your daughter when she becomes an older adult will enjoy it more too hehe.

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    1. Hi Pooja. I am not so sure my daughter will change her food preferences radically with the passing of the years, but she does like Japan and wants to return. I am slowly getting used to green tea, now that I only drink tea and no longer drink coffee. Did you spend long there when you were 13? What stands out from your trip?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I spent 10 days there, Amanda. It was an official trip organized on the occasion of golden jubilee of Nepal-Japan friendship. For me, I think just the advancement of Japanese society and the infrastructures were what had me gobsmacked. Coming from Nepal, you can imagine what a huge difference there is! There was nothing that didn’t stand out actually – every single thing was a wonder, I was a child back then so it was even more fascinating.

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    1. I know, right? And it was just one ziplock! Hence the fear of it spilling in my bag. It was full of food. It was such a shame to waste such beautiful food. I did appreciate it, even if Miss Teen would have preferred a pizza. What was the strangest dish you have ever eaten, in your wide travels, Snow?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not an adventurous eater so it’s hard to say. Well, when I visited Daintree as a young backpacker in 2000, our tour guide made us lick green ants in the rainforest (living ones) to get a citrus kind of taste but now afterwards that seems really silly and touristy

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Hahah! I used to play with ants in my best friend’s Brissy backyard and our thumbs would always be swollen with ant bites. (But we deserved it for disturbing them, I now realise.) But yeah, so silly and tacky. They were trying to make it into an off the beaten track kind of experience. I’m so disenchanted with the whole travel scene – well even more so now after corona spreading from people traveling pointlessly here and there for their own pleasure, but even before this.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I am a bit sad to hear that you have become disenchanted with the travel scene, Snow. Although when I see tours of Nepal where you are encourage to take close up photos of villagers in very poor areas of the country, either tending their crops or in their village houses, it makes me feel nauseous. It is that goldfish bowl concept and focuses on the experience of the traveller and not those who are living their lives as best they can. This kind of vicarious travel bothers me and the villagers tolerate it as they are craving income from any source to get by. The cruise ship lifestyle is also particularly gross in many ways. Floating tubs of retired or wealthy folks, who love to eat, drink and dance is not my scene. Some folks have been living on cruise ships for over a year or more traveling from place to place. How bizarre! It is their right of course, but in light of the Covid crisis, it feels like they are floating time bombs of illness.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Floating time bombs, what a vivid image that puts in my mind of those cruise ships. As for travel… ah… I have a friend who is pregnant. It was hard for her to get pregnant and she’s over 40. A few weeks ago, she decided this was the perfect time to fly over to Laos, where she used to work 5 years earlier, just for some pre-baby nostalgia, solo. So she took a long-haul flight by herself, content that the plane was half empty so she had the whole seat row to herself, and just hung around Laos. Now at this time the virus was big in China, Italy and Iran, but Thailand had also had its share of cases. To travel to Laos, she went through Thailand, then took a long bus ride through bumpy roads and finally arrived. Laos is a 3rd world country with undeveloped infrastructure, poor hygiene and medical care. She spent a week there, enjoying it though being slightly disappointed at the fact that she had to spend time checking her flights back hadn’t been cancelled. Then she flew back to Europe, through multiple airports. That is exactly how the virus spreads. And who knows how it affects unborn children or pregnancies, we don’t have enough data yet. I really don’t know what went through her mind, she’s normally a smart person. I also read a blog post by someone who decided it was the perfect time to visit Venice when Italy was declared the world’s corona epicenter: finally the streets were empty of tourists!! 🤯But my disenchantment with travel started earlier than all this, I guess after having the boys I realised there is more to life than the selfish pleasure of crossing places off your list. And I finally understood the environmental impact of entirely unnecessary travel.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. You raise two good points, Snow.
                #1 The aimless wanderings of travellers for entertainment purposes alone.
                #2 the mentality of getting the best seat in the house despite the risks, implications and environmental impacts. – ie. taking advantage of travel when noone is travelling
                I can’t understand your pregnant friend risking such a trip – especially these days. Perhaps she will change her mind when she has the child, although such a long awaited baby entails risks that she may not be quite prepared for. Having children absolutely changes one’s priorities.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. Welcome to All Seasons! My, you are a story teller! Having lived in several countries, I understand the pressure you were under to eat the food:) Hope you are not so hard on yourself anymore! Many thanks for telling your interesting experience to All Seasons in a humorous way. Wishing you a very good week and inspiration, Jesh

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  6. Smiling… What a lovely and entertaining story!
    I loved your humorous tongue. My teenage daughter, too, dislikes seafood. We would have the same dilemma if we were to dine at a Japanese restaurant. The dishes looked gorgeous. It was great to have a glimpse of a geisha.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, see this is where I wonder if it is instinctual or learned behaviour? I tested out my daughter, who I mentioned was happily eating tuna pasta all her life, and substituted salmon one night instead of tuna. She had a history of vomiting after eating salmon twicew when a young child, and this is when the fish hating began. She talked of being allergic to fish which made some folks think she was anaphylactic, which she wasn’t. So this night, that I substituted the salmon for the tuna, she ate the salmon without incident. A couple of weeks later, I revealed my experiment to her, and now – guess what she won’t eat tuna pasta anymore. Because she is suspicious it is salmon. I can’t win…..

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Margy and many thanks for leaving a nice comment about my Michelin meal in Japan. It made for a great story! And it was excellent food, at least I thought so. Have you ventured to Japan at all?

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  7. I loved your telling of this story although it saddened me to think of all that seafood going to waste! Hubby and I lived in Japan for a year. We ate at home much of the time, of course, but we loved eating out as there were so many interesting and wonderful things to try. On one of our weekends away from home I remember walking for hours in search of a restaurant that served a western breakfast though because hubby couldn’t yet handle the idea of fish and rice first thing in the morning. Thankfully, he eventually overcame that aversion!

    Elaine @ Following Augustine

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