To Tokyo Marathon 2013 and Bust

There is only 6 weeks to go before I stand at the start line at the Tokyo Marathon 2013 on February 24! Saying that I am nervous is only an understatement since I am seriously undertrained. My stress fracture is stil healing, and I’ve not spent much time on my foot. Bursting my lungs out in the pool deep water running while GR8T, doesn’t cut it especially since that one runs on dry land for a marathon.

Although I have been to Tokyo a few times already and they were all business trips, where I got chauffeured around from hotels, offices and restaurants -so I only have an inkling of an impression of Tokyo. And the last time I was in Tokyo was back in 2010 for a whirlwind museums studies trip. This time, I want to pig-out at Michelin restaurants, be a little more adventurous and take best of all, take a trip out of Tokyo!

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Newton, my guide books and I preparing for our assault on TM2013

To make my trip to Japan an exciting destination race, I have been browsing through blogs, websites and guides for über chic place to shop, see and eat. So, I am lucky to learn months beforehand that in order to score a table at the Michelin restaurants in Tokyo, one needs an advanced reservation of 2-3 months. One also have to do a bit of research, for example read lots of blogs and peruse all the pictures posted until the dishes become second-nature, in the process, losing some mystique. Still, I hope I can manage to squeeze out some element of surprise when I finally get to sample those exquisite dishes!

Also, most restaurants only accept bookings from the hotel concierge for overseas visitors and require a credit card to secure the booking, neverteless, one still need to reconfirm 1 week ahead. So, that’s why I chose to stay 5-stars – not only for the rooms, but for the services of efficient Concierge services.

The resources that I looked up to besides Google, included:
Chowhound – seems to be a busy forum with lots on ongoing discussion
Bento.com
• TripAdvisor
Andy Hayler – a Brit with serious eating cred
• For some inspiration off the beaten travel path, a good dose of daily pictures of Japan by a lady photographer, Muza-Chan

MY MICHELIN PIG-OUT ITINERARY
Feb 22 (Friday): TOKYO
7pm Dinner @Takazawa
JPY 30,000 (Chef’s Special Tasting Menu of the Day)
Self-booking – emailing the wife of the owner/chef Akiko
Much read and very highly regarded restaurant. Came out TOPS in all reviews. The chef refused the Michelin rating one time a many!

Feb 23 (Saturday): TOKYO
12pm Lunch @Ginza Okuda
JPY16,800 +13% (same menu as the premium dinner course)
This is the 2nd restaurant by the award-wining Chef Okuda. His main restaurant is ‘Ginza Kojyu’. There is much debate online about the qualities and differences of the 2 restaurants, but I read from reviews that he personally come to cook Saturday lunch in this ‘Ginza Okuda’, so thus, a booking made!

Dinner: Not sure what to have on the eve of the Marathon, but perhaps carb-loading via a French- styled soba place at Fumotoya Keio Plaza Hotel?

Feb 24 (Sunday): TOKYO MARATHON DAY
4pm 60min Deep Tissue Massage at hotel (Run fast slow-coach!!)

6pm Dinner @Tapas Molecular Bar, Mandarin Oriental
JPY14000 per person + 13% service charge
Self-booking thru online reservation form, but need a copy of credit card to secure reservation
There are only 8 seats per seating. 2 seatings per night : 6pm or 8:30pm – let’s see if it floats my boat!

Feb 25 (Monday): TOKYO
12pm Lunch @Le Creations de Narisawa
JPY 12,600 + 10%
Self-booking thru online reservation form
Ranked 27th in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Feb 26 (Tuesday) : TOKYO – Outing to KAMAKURA
6:30pm Dinner @RyuGin
JPY 23,100 for the rudimentary Tasting Menu
Wow! Another hard table to get! The table is only available for booking exactly 2 months in advance! Ranked 28th in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Feb 27 (Wednesday): TOBA
Overnight @Oyado the Earth, Toba (Breakfast and dinner included)
I couldn’t find any reviews on TripAdvisor, however the write-ups in glossy mags were really good.

Feb 28 (Thursday) : TAKAYAMA
Overnight @a traditional Japanese Ryoken, with shared bathrooms – YIKES!!

Eat @Ebihachi (A cheap tempura joint highly recommended by TripAdvisor.)

March 1 (Friday): TAKAYAMA – Daytrip to SHIRAKAWA-GO
I am going to join this tour provided by Nouhi Bus (includes an English speaking guide and a lunch), reservation only starts 1 month prior

Overnight @same Ryoken, but am thinking of going direct to Kanazawa after the day trip.
Taking a bus (around 1 hour) is faster than the JR (nearly 3 hours!)

March 2 (Saturday): KANAZAWA
12:30pm Lunch @Miyoshian, Kenrokuen Park (telephone number:076-221-0127)
No website.
Requested a table by the window so I can watch the carps as suggested by Guide Book
(Update: My review here)

6:30pm Dinner@Zeniya (Japanese)
I’ve never heard of this chap Chef Shin Takagi, but he is all over the epicurean blogging world! He’s even been to Sydney for an ‘ international’ cooking event, so naturally, I must check him out! (…his cooking)
Other choice cheap eats for future reference:
Either: Ippudo (Ramen), Tel:076-263-3331
Or: Curiente Kanazawa Higashiyama (Creative French),Tel:078-251-0403

March 3 (Sunday): NARA
7pm@ Wa Yamamura (Japanese) , 2-11-15 Shibatsuhi-Cho, Nara, Tel: 81 742 33 0102
3 Michelin stars
No website found

March 4 (Monday): NARA
6:30pm @Le Benkei (French)
JPY23,100 for Tasting Course

March 5 (Tuesday): HIROSHIMA
Seriously, can it be that HARD to find a luxe eats in Hiroshima, the only place that kept popping up is Kanawa. I read mixed reviews on it, but personally, why would I want to pay top $$$ to dine on an old shabby house boat?

Here is a webpage for travelers by the locals
http://www.nileguide.com/destination/hiroshima/best/five-star-restaurants

Some dinner options:
Kazumaru – oysters, conger eels

Suishin Shinkansenten– tag line ‘Serving Hiroshima for last 60 years’

HITOARIKI KURA – got some serious list of producers , seems very organic

Kakiden – oysters (looks good, but all in Japanese)

March 6 (Wednesday): HIROSHIMA – Day Trip to IWAKUNI AND MIYAJIMA
12pm Lunch: Hope to sample ‘Iwakuni sushi’

Might try a 7pm Dinner @Okonomi – Mura (‘Okonomiyaki Village’)
(tel 082/241-2210) 5-13 Shintenchi, Hiroshima. Open: 11am-9pm, but some stalls stay open later.  NY Times suggested stall is Chii-Chan.

March 7 (THURSDAY ): OKAYAMA
No meals reserved yet. Possible choices for Dinner:
Option A) Perhaps try a Fugu banquet @Suigyokuen, ING building 3F, 6-29, Saiwaicho, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama, 700-0903

Option B) Try a soba dinner @ToriSoba

March 8 (FRIDAY ): NAOSHIMA
Stay @Hotel Benesse House,Check in hotel at 3pm
This is an Art Island, akin to Cockatoo Island here in Sydney.
Exciting Arty Day includes:
Kinza Art House @ 11:15am – 12pm (Viewing times must be pre-booked)
Night program ‘James Turrell’s “Open Sky” Night Programio’ 17:50 – 18:55 (Only for the guests staying at Hotel Benesse House) @ChiChu Museum designed by Tadao Ando!

8pm Dinner @Museum House (Shabu-shabu)

March 9 (Saturday): OSAKA
7:30am -9am Breakfast @Museum House,Check out hotel at 11am
Catch 4pm JR from Uno to Osaka – Arrive Osaka 18:16 (the latest)

@7:30pm Dinner @Hajime, OSAKA (French contemporary)
JPY 25,000 Tasting Menu
3 Michelin stars
This only is another toughie! Booked online through their website, but got a confirmation that they have received my request, but the confirmation will only come through 72 hours prior to my requested date! So, I have to seek my hotel’s concierge for assistance. I managed to secure it after paying up-front via PayPal.

March 10 (Sunday): OSAKA – Daytrip to MIHO MUSEUM, NARA
Miho Museum will only be re-opened on March 9 2013, and this building is designed by I.M.Pei. I’ve visited his works I Paris, Beijing and Hongkong. He was the subject of my undergraduate thesis, BTW

Evening: Visit Umeda area perhaps and find time to squeeze in a meal @La Baie (French), 3 Michelins within the next 2 days

March 11 (Monday): Osaka
12 pm Lunch @Fujiya 1935 (Fusion)
6,500 JPY Tasting Course (tax and service charge not included).
3 Michelin stars

March 12 (Tuesday): HOMEWARD BOUND!
Still deciding on the 9am flight or 6:20pm flight…. Lose some serious weight and Start training for Paris Marathon 2013 pronto!

REVIEW: Alexander The Great Exhibition @ Australian Museum

My broadband connection is currently slowed down to a bleep. My brother was here for Christmas and New Year, so between the 2 of us , we really made Telstra run for the money.

I think this is a good time for me to try my hand on writing a review on the exhibition ‘Alexander The Great: 2000 Years of Treasures’ currently running at the Australian Museum. Picture taking was prohibited in the exhibition, so I shall try my best to scout some pictures on the internet for graphical appeal. Surfing the net for information and uploading the pictures will be a pain in the arse, but I shall try my best.

(Nevertheless, our speed will pick up in the next billing cycle in a few days time.)
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Date of Visit: 10:30am Saturday, January 5, 2013
Entrance ticket: A$24
Time I took: 1 and 1/2 hours (but could be longer, if I wasn’t hungry or the crowd starting to build up)
Verdict: 5 stars

VISITOR’S EXPERIENCE
Invitation and Welcome: A huge colourful tapestry depicting Alexander The Great and the family of Darius was on the entrance wall. The visitor is invited to meander around the statues of Greek Gods Heracles, Eros , Meleager who had significant influence on Alexander.

Tapestry of Alexander The Great the the family of Darius

Tapestry of Alexander The Great the the family of Darius

Space 1 : An Introduction of Alexander.
Who is Alexander? Well, he was the son of Phillip and Olympias – a pair of bickering parents – sounding familiar?

I was especially intrigued in this piece. It shows an effeminate and cleanly-shaven Alexander. This was not the norm of his time because men were supposed to be manly and have beards. So, is he homosexual? Highly likely since many talented ancient men eg Leonardo Da Vinci, Hadrian, Michelangelo were…

Head of Alexander the Great

Head of Alexander the Great

Space 2 (THE BIGGIE!): Alexander‘s Empire

Here are artifacts galore from India, Persia, Egypt and countries that I have never heard of before like Sacae and Bactria (where?) Needless to say, I am very taken by the gold jewelry and silverware – very detailed and intricate handiwork the Ancients! Wow! This is some serious ear-rings!  (The photo came out small, so check it out in the museum)

Nike gold ear rings

Nike gold ear rings

I only gave the pots and architectural pieces a cursory look. The famous black Statue of Cleopatra from Egypt is there too. My favourite is this piece of Gonzaga Cameo potrait of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe – and it’s big!

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Gonzaga Cameo

The large coin collection is part of Alexander’s self-promotional propaganda – clever, since every person in the Empire needs money. Since the coins were small, so there was an interactive touch screen TV which flips the coin, so one can see the reverse of the coin. I think this is very cool, and the children loves it!

The use of time-line on the wall to trace his campaign and conquests is a good idea; both to gel the various exhibits and to guide the visitor. The time-line is accompanied with a snapshot/ background info of the war.

The walk-about in Space 2 came to an end in the central rotunda with a video animation showing that sportsmanship was a big part in the Hellenic era , which was rather entertaining and still applicable to this day: The Greek-style earthen pot comes to life showing a man throwing a javelin, running, boxing and chariot racing. Well, nothing has changed much, except chariot racing is now replaced by Formula 1 racing?

Still, how did Alexander The Great died? Nobody knew for certain, but it is definitely MURDER!

Space 3: Alexander’s cultural legacy and influence.
Down the ramp to Space 3. This is an even bigger room in my opinion -perhaps due to larger spacing and brighter lights – more artifacts follow, but now the bits and pieces of his influence in art, culture, engravings, tapestries are starting to get tedious. I have used up my concentration and can’t help feeling overwhelmed. But do check out the armor made from ivory with details of lions at the weaponry section. The Ancients were really tiny, a Size 0, in modern couture sizing.  And, Yes, I got the idea that Alexander the Great had successfully spread Hellenistic ideas around the world.

Space 4: A huge shout-out to Catherine The Great for theBESTEST Alexander the Great collection in the world
In Biblical studies et al, women are subservient to men, but here Catherine The Great outshone all the men and showed that women can be as good as men or even greater!
Anyway, the reason why The Hermitage Museum in Russia had amassed such a big Alex collection is because the Russians believed themselves to be to be the Byzantine descents of Alexander The Great. Catherine used Alex as a role model and believed herself to be a direct descendent of Alex and thus added ‘The Great’ to her name.

More example of the Baroque end of Greco art showing the heroic romanticism of Alex

Space 5: A modern take on Alexander’s influences.
A display of books, movie posters. Not very interesting

Will Tilden Approve?
If I were to write a proper report, it will say: “The curatorial interpretation is very successful in the wholistic interpretation of Alexander The Great. The curator has provided information and exhausted resources to express, interpret and review the legacy of Alexander the Great itself. Thoroughly engaging. Used 400 objects from classical antiquity through to the modern age from both Western and non-Western origins. It not only concentrates on Alexander the Great in the particular time of 323 BC, it’s encompasses the whole story, the legend and influence of this Conqueror. The exhibit tells the story behind the Man; who he really was; who influenced him; the people that taught him; and the heroes he looked up to, particularly Achilles and Heracles. It’s about understanding the man.”

So HELL YEAH!! Ticked all of Tilden’s Principles

PS: Don’t forget to scan the QR reader for handy on the hand info!

Behind the scene look of Alexander The Great Exhibition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwnX0HaMcvM
Pictures if u can’t make it to Australian Museum: http://www.alexandersydney.com.au/the-exhibition/photo-gallery/
Proper write-up: http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/the-legacy-of-alexander-the-great