Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hokkaido for dinner in a Tokyo minute

Afternoon tea at Cape Grace in Cape Town
just a few months ago.
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Yes, we're living a never-endingly eventful Travelife and our daily schedule looks like a pilot's flight plan -- especially this 2014.

Nevertheless, our sudden 12-hour trip to Hokkaido yesterday, unplanned and unexpected, is certainly one for the books.

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LUNCH INTERRUPTED

There we were having a very nice lunch at Mikawa Zezankyo, widely considered Tokyo's best tempura restaurant. 

The master himself -- Japan's National Treasure, as he is dubbed -- was frying the most delectable tempura this side of the universe for us.



Then my mobile phone rang.

It was one of my friends, ringing from his beautiful villa in Hokkaido, which is so large and so tastefully done that many people thought the Aman Resorts was setting up shop in the area, when his house was being built.

But, no, it wasn't the Aman Resorts. It was just my friend, building a vacation home in Hokkaido because he's crazy about skiing and that part of Japan has some of the best snow in Asia.

NO TIME TO KEEP UP WITH A TRAVELIFE



My friend said: "I've been so busy I haven't had time to keep up with your travels. But just now I read your blog, and I realized you're in Tokyo."

He continued: "I'm not going to take it personally that you didn't contact me -- but why the XXX didn't you do so, anyway?"

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ALL MY REASONS

I sighed. Long story.

I'd flown to Japan to join a dinner of a lifetime, and then I'd ended up staying a bit longer than expected just because the weather in Tokyo in May is so perfect.

Meanwhile Manila is terribly hot. It was that simple, really.


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I'm also terrible at keeping in touch with people I don't see often enough, perhaps because I'm writing a thousand words a day and traveling a thousand kilometers a week.

Between all this and a never-ending Travelife, it's just hard to be good at texting or emailing friends, even if I think about the people I care about constantly.

EXHAUSTED BUT EXHILARATED
AND INCREDIBLY HAPPY

Finally, there was the fatigue issue.

That's me at the City of Dreams in Macau about four weeks ago.
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In the last four weeks alone, I've done Macau, the Czech Republic, France, and Tokyo -- with stopover visits to Frankfurt, Istanbul and Hong Kong. And then there's South Africa coming up next week, with three safaris and a spa holiday.

This is followed by a driving trip all over Morocco, staying in some of the most fabulous places on the planet and touring around in the fanciest sedan anyone can get in that country.

I'm so looking forward to this.

Morocco, see you soon for a Travelife

Don't even ask me about July, but it's an incredibly fun, slightly hectic, and definitely Michelin-starred holiday -- and full of stays in some of the most beautiful chateaux in France.

OTHER THINGS I NEED TO TRY AND FIT IN

Somewhere between South Africa and Morocco as well, another trip to Tokyo and a trip to Hua Hin are waiting to be scheduled, along with a visit to New York that was supposed to happen in March.

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HECTIC TOKYO IS MY DOWNTIME

So Tokyo, in spite of all its fun activities and entertaining, is my downtime compared to the rest of my life. 

I even had time to get my shiatsu sensei to come over late tonight, for instance -- and, boy, did he have a lot to say about my overtraveled everything showing up in so many physical ways.

In a nutshell, this was why I didn't contact too many people in Tokyo this time around.


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A FAMOUS CHEF 
FOR A PRIVATE DINNER IN HOKKAIDO

Anyway, my friend said: "If I knew you were here, I would have asked you to fly to Hokkaido. XXX (a famous Japanese chef and a household name in Japan, actually) is cooking dinner here tonight, and I've got some friends here as well."

What's with all my Tokyo friends and how they've been hiring Michelin-starred chefs to cook private dinners for them?

Has the Nikkei been that good recently?

LAST-MINUTE INVITATION



When he found out that YYY and I were having lunch at Mikawa Zezankyo, Tokyo's best tempura restaurant, as we talked on the phone, between Tokyo and Hokkaido, my friend continued: "Won't you and YYY come over for a night at least?"

I'm quite busy on my last few days in Japan before heading out on another adventure in my never-ending Travelife, but YYY's schedule is about 100x worse.

HOKKAIDO ON A WHIM
AND AN INVITE



Anyway, to make a long story very short, we decided to join this landmark dinner in Hokkaido that same evening. Call it a crazy spur-of-the-moment decision because we'd had such delicious tempura for lunch.

However, to make it in time for the first course of this famous chef, we needed to proceed straight to Haneda Airport from the restaurant and try our luck with flights.

We had no tickets, no extra clothes, and I didn't even have my camera. And my iPod was seriously running out of battery after I'd taken so many photos at the tempura restaurant. Of course, I'd left the iPod charger at home.

THE "BUS RIDE" TO HOKKAIDO



Fortunately, the domestic airline schedules operate like buses in Japan, so there's a plane leaving every 20 minutes or so, even for Hokkaido.

We drove straight to Haneda Airport from Mikawa Zezankyo with only the clothes on our backs -- and we just had enough time to buy tickets and buy clothes at the Uniqlo store for one night of dinner and sleeping, plus a decent change of clothes the next day.

Fortunately, I found a simple black dress at Uniqlo that could pass for attire for a fancy dinner, in a pinch.

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JUST IN TIME FOR DINNER

And then, my friend had his caretaker/driver and his Range Rover waiting to pick us up at the airport in Hokkaido.

We literally slid into our seats at the dinner table minutes before the first of 10 courses was served, after a quick shower and a change into this black Uniqlo outfit that surprisingly suited me well enough.

More on this in my next blog entry, about a 12-hour trip to Hokkaido that was so amazingly spontaneous, even for a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.



1 comment:

  1. I am addicted to your blog...please write everyday

    ReplyDelete