On Saturday night, in Manila living a Travelife, I had a kare-kare dinner with a group of good friends I've traveled with before. We had a very nice time about two years ago, trying lots of good restaurants in Tokyo.
Then I brought them to Mount Fuji for some fun by the lake and in the snow.
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MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT
In Japan, the lake area of Mount Fuji is like my second home, after Tokyo. It's often been compared to Northern Italy and Switzerland, because of the spectacular scenery of mountains and lakes.
We'd had an excellent time here, and I'd taken everyone to my favorite restaurant, which is run by a young chef out of his own home, with only word of mouth passed around as advertising.
IT'S IN THE MIDDLE OF WHERE
It's such a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere; and for a very long time, it didn't even have a sign so you really had to know your way to get there.
Interestingly, the who's who of Japan -- many of whom have weekend houses in Mount Fuji because of its proximity to Tokyo -- all make their way to this unobtrusive little restaurant when they are in the area.
PERHAPS THE MOST INTERESTING COUNTER IN JAPAN
At the eight-seater counter, I've met everyone from Japan's top sumo wrestler to a famous old man who was once the richest man in Japan -- at least he was, for a very long time, until the tech billionaires started crowding the rich list.
This is the counter for the restaurant regulars -- the equivalent of the chef's table.
JAPAN'S MOST FAMOUS SUMO WRESTLER
By the way, I have an interesting anecdote about Japan's most famous sumo wrestler.
I was at a sushi bar in Fukuoka some years back, as this was the pre-wedding dinner place for a friend getting married in a lavish ceremony the following day.
It was supposed to be the best sushi restaurant in Fukuoka, and my friend had rented the place out save for one private room.
That evening was also the last day of the sumo tournament in Fukuoka, and the grand champion had just been announced.
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THE PLACE TO BE THAT NIGHT
After the sumo tournament, the grand champion headed for this same sushi restaurant, and he occupied this private room.
Of course, when it became known that the grand champion of the sumo tournaments was in the same restaurant, right after winning the crucial bout and having his face splashed all over the evening news, we ladies were encouraged to visit him in the private room and offer our congratulations.
So that was exactly what we did.
A SNAKE IN THE MIDST
The famous sumo wrestler was sitting on a tatami mat surrounded by his retainers and basking in the glory of the win.
After we had offered our congratulations, he took one look at all of us and then said to me: "You're wearing a snake on your waist."
Yes, it was a snake.
It was one of these handcrafted, one-of-a-kind leather belts with a giant brass snake as a buckle.
I'd bought it at an art gallery in Venice just a few months back.
This was when he gave a shudder.
Then he said: "Snakes are supposed to be bad luck for me. Encountering a snake on the night I win the grand championship...hmmm. I hope this won't be a bad omen for my future tournaments."
MEN OF FEW WORDS
I didn't know whether he was serious or he was trying to be funny. If you've ever met a sumo wrestler, you'll know they don't talk much or in a very loud voice, for some reason.
So it was impossible to decipher whether this was a joke or an ice breaker, or a something serious.
I never checked the sumo results of the next season as well, to see if the snake was a bad luck omen after all.
Anyway, it was this same sumo wrestler who frequented my favorite restaurant in Mount Fuji.
DINNER ON A TOKYO ROOFTOP
And today, we all reminisced about that trip, and someone had the bright idea to plan another trip like this for all of us.
And then someone said: "We can even have a private reunion dinner for about 18 people, catered on your rooftop in Tokyo. That'll be something different, instead of just eating in a fancy restaurant."
We could, indeed.
It's one of the best private rooftops in central Tokyo, with a pretty spectacular view. And I don't use it much because I hate the cold.
But I quickly said yes to this proposal, not needing much convincing to host a nice party somewhere in the world.
Now my rooftop is finally going to be put to better use, in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.