news and views from michael rollins in tokyo

Category: Life in Japan (page 2 of 8)

Japan Scores High in Country Brand Rankings

Japan got the top spot in FutureBrand‘s recently-released Country Brand Rankings for 2008. Japan was rated 9th overall in the world and earned 1st place in the following rating categories:

  • Nightlife
  • New Country for Business
  • Conferences
  • Quality Products
  • Advanced Technology

Chances are good that most of us who live here aren’t surprised at all by these high marks. While Japan may not get anywhere near the top ten in categories like Rest & Relaxation and Natural Beauty, when it comes to doing business and competing with the world in the areas of quality and technology, well, Japan just does a whole lot right. And of course the nightlife is pretty good, too.

So, fellow expats, while we’re waiting to feel the effects of the global financial crisis here let’s enjoy a little optimism. Like the FutureBrand report says, we could be doing a lot worse…

Guide to Japan’s Online Wine Shops

Just added this Online Wine Buyer’s Guide today and will be updating it periodically. I’ve included the well-known English/Bilingual sites for now and will follow up with Japanese sites later. Enjoy!

Beaujolais Nouveau and Cassoulet

It’s November and that means Beaujolais Nouveau for the wine world here in Japan. While in many other countries (especially France, perhaps) the entire spectacle has become passe, in Japan we love our annual rituals and comfortably familiar events, and so dutifully exult in the 解禁 or “lifting of the ban” on Beaujolais Nouveau wine each third Thursday in November.

In keeping with the spirit of things I picked up a bottle on the way home on the 20th to share with R and my visiting Mother-in-Law. As is typically the case we ended up with a 35 dollar bottle of mediocre, light red wine. While the wine is touted as being light, fresh and fruity, the reality is more often than not a simple, bland and immature wine that leaves one wondering what all the fuss is about.

No surprise, then, that the thrill is starting to wear off even here in Japan, which imported a whopping 47 percent of the harvest this year. Expecting depressed sales, Suntory, a large distribtor, this year cut imports 18% to just 1.7 million liters, or the same amount consumed in all of France.

The following day we enjoyed a biodynamically created Beaujolais Nouveau with lunch at the Kunashita location of Le Petit Tonneau (great restaurants, these) which was also a bit underwhelming. Even M.C., the fellow who imports and sells the wine here, made a face after taking the first sip, and immediately had the waiter bring another wine from the same producer, Michel Guignier.

While the Nouveau was purplish and bland, the Morgon Cuvee Bio Vitis that followed it was deep, rich and complex. It turns our the two are made with grapes from the very same vineyard. The difference was the 18 months in cask and bottle for the latter. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are drunk 6-8 weeks afrer the harvest, and have been “whole berry fermented” using carbonic maceration and the pasteurized. I suppose it’s hard to imagine much complexity coming from that. The Morgon, however, was excellent.

At the restaurant we also had the great pleasure of enjoying Cassoulet, a wonderful rustic French stew of white beans and assorted meats, such as pork, pork sausage, duck, mutton and goose. The portion seemed small but was surprisingly filling and oh-so good! Lack of ingredients (particularly the sausage) will make this one hard to make at home, but I’m keen to try something based on the basic recipe.

What’s the opposite of “appetizing”, again?

Uoki sushi in Ark Hills (Akasaka) has long been one of my favorite kaiten sushi restaurants. Consistantly fresh, the portions are large and the quality exceptional. Not too expensive, either, when you consider the building it’s in. (You can’t swing a stick in the place without hitting a French investment banker…) I have a client nearby, and whenever I visit them I make it a point to stop by Uoki for lunch or an afternoon snack.

I noticed on a recent visit that they redid their counter-top menu, apparently going to great pains to make it accessible to the local foreign population as well. Too bad they did so without the involvement of a native English speaker. So, who’s hungry?

Andy’s in Yuraku-cho

Met up with old friends Donald and Jason and a couple of other folks last night at Andy’s fantastic izakaya under the Yamanote Line tracks in Yuraku-cho (有楽町). British ex-footballer Andy has run Shin Hinomoto (新日の基) for as long as I’ve lived here in Tokyo (much longer, actually) and serves up some of the best home style izakaya fare around. The portions are massive and the prices cheap. What could be finer? I hadn’t been in maybe a year or more this time, and it was great to see that the food and raucous atmosphere are still as enjoyable as I remember. We samples some of out standard dishes–sauteed enringi mushrooms, grilled asparagus spears, sashimi moriawase–and also ventured into new ground, enjoying lightly-battered John Dory (マトウダイ) and steamed black cod (ギンダラ). Everything was great, and we washed it all down with chilled mugs of beer and imojochu (芋焼酎). Gotta remember to get over there more often!

andy_izakaya_sashimi.jpg andy_izakaya_john_dory.jpg andy_izakaya.jpg

Commuting in Comfort

Denentoshi Line, 12:11 AM. You can’t tell from the photo, but the train was otherwise crowded. People give catatonic folks like this a wide berth for fear of getting puked on. I was thinking I might try this move next time I don’t feel like standing.

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