Toyko- Day One

This morning we approach Tokyo. It is around 6:00am and we can always tell when we are getting close to port. The ship slows down and the whole thing stops the incessant rattling that goes with a speed of 18 knots or faster. This is also usually the sign that the pilot is coming aboard. Looking out we can see Mt. Fuji glowing orange in the early morning sunlight. Perfect cone shape and snow covered flanks. This is a very good sign as very often the mountain is shrouded in clouds. Tomorrow is our day to visit the mountain. Maybe it will be clear then too.
Soon the ship comes under the “Rainbow Bridge” which spans the entrance to Tokyo. Later we learn how few cruise ships can enter under this bridge and use Tokyo’s terminal. We dock just behind the Japanese Coast Guard’s tall mast ship which is used for training Japanese Naval Cadets. Its pretty,but looks very complicated with its web of lines going everywhere. Today we have another exciting bus tour. We have so little to complain about, but being crammed in these tiny bus seats with 36 others who are busy visiting with their friends while the guide is talking is annoying. After the guides presentation, they are just full of questions which would have been answered if they had paid attention to his presentation. Yuk!
Our first stop is the Imperial Palace where the 125th Emperor currently resides. This is the site of the former Edo Castle built by the first Shogun. As the longest reining dynasty in the world, he can trace his lineage back to the 1100′s when his forebearer was considered to be a direct descendant of the sun god. We all tumble off our bus following Taka Mi our guide. She has a stuffed Hello Kitty which is dressed like a geshia on a long stick which she holds up in the air so her charges can follow and find her. Its like herding cats so Hello Kitty is an appropriate mascot. We get some 200 yards from a building and take a few photos and head back to the bus. Excitement abounds!
The next stop is the Meiji Shrine. I like the park around it as it is forested and coming to life in the early spring. We walk to the buildings about 1/4 mile or so and then back to the bus with not much explanation. Some of our group stop at the inviting souvenir shop. We have no time for it as Japanese bar-be-que lunch is next. We arrive at the restaurant with 3 bus loads of folks. We amble two blocks down the street to the small establishment. We are given some small slices of meat and some metal tongs. We are to cook our meat on the grill in the center of the table to our liking and then transfer it to our plate where we fumble to eat it with chop sticks. A man and his wife from California are seated across from us and some Germans beside us. The California lady cannot figure out how the cooking system works and her husband cannot stop talking about all the places he has been. James is drinking beer as no Sake is available. Back on the bus we head to Asakusa Kannon, the oldest temple in Japan or it used to be before we bombed it to nothing in the war. The rebuilding was completed in 1974. Hello Kitty tells us that we have 2 hours to spend here. She then disappears into the crowds. No great loss. We find the restrooms and a low wall to sit on in the sun and out of the cold wind. A guard comes by and tell us in Japanese to move on. It must have been a sacred wall. It certainly is the only thing sacred in this mad house of people shooting selfies, yelling and running around. The other side of the Temple has some benches and a sidewalk vendor with a trained monkey. Why not? Shouldn’t every temple have a monkey show. This is folowed by a Kabuki show. Where is Hello Kitty??
Back on ship one more dilemma faces us. We need to get a taxi to take us to our dinner reservation. The information desk in the terminal can’t help us. The ships registration desk can’t help us either. The clock is ticking and we still have no transportation. We call the Narasawa restaurant where we have our reservation. They speak english but cannot identify where we are docked since so few cruise ships can dock where we are. The restaurant calls our private tour company and gets them to call us . The lady at the tour company calls us back and tells us she will handle it and we will have a taxi waiting. Whew! We do not want to be late at the number 3 restaurant in the world.
Narisawa is a spectacular treat and more than a little bizarre. We arrive to a quiet understated small restaurant which seats no more than 40 people. We are ushered to our table with a view of a sparkling clean kitchen behind a plate glass wall. The chef and the sous chef are in a well choreographed dance preparing intricate dishes all micro managed by a person at the head of the preparation table outfitted with a head set and directing the whole show. He calmly passes the perfectly prepared dishes to the serving staff on the other side of the door. This meal is hard to describe. The menu sounds awful. Dishes that I am not sure I would try but the restaurant didn’t win all those prestigious awards by serving inedible food so away we go. We had the fixed menu with 13 courses and wine flights accompanying each.
First a hot stone oven was rolled to the table and a bread dough was added to bake for ten minutes at our table. The place setting is a slab of crystal. The wine pairings begin with a local whiskey that is so smoky that it lingers on the palate for minutes after sipping. A baby sweet fish course arrives. It is two tiny fried fish on a dish of blue glass with dots of wasabi mayo. The fish are to be eaten whole,heads and all. Next comes a soup of sea snake. The waiter asks if we would like to see the whole snake. No!!! The soup was actually good. Things then become more normal. We are served some of the best shrimp that I have ever had followed by oyster steamed whole in its shell. The oyster was the size of a fist. The pork and later the duck were excellant presentations. Then dessert. First was a dish using camellia and no sugar. The next dessert features Magnolia in a hollow glass bowl. The opening in the bottom of the bowl has allowed cherry blossoms to be arranged artfully inside the bowl. As if we haven’t been totally blown away, the pastry cart is presented looking much like a minature garden. Tonight ends at 10:30pm. It has been a very long day.