November 3, 2007

Live from Japan!

I’ve traveled to Japan many times and each time I leave that country, I immediately look forward to when I can return again. I find so much inspiration there from the people and ancient culture to the food, art, and architecture. So, I’m off again to explore potential business opportunities and to absorb as much as I possibly can. I hope you enjoy my reports from the journey.

Kevin Sharkey and I just arrived safely in Japan after flying for many hours in the comfort of an American Airlines jumbo jet from Kennedy to Narita.  We flew first class having used collected miles from many past trips and years of credit card spending (go to if you want to get a frequent flyer credit card or These seats were hefty at 250,000 miles...each!

The seats were self-contained pods, which fully reclined.  However, they were very hard and very uncomfortable, kind of like sitting on a rock.  Since reclining was better than sitting, I spent most of the trip lying down, getting up often to walk and stretch, which is important to avoid blot clots and achiness.  I was so glad that I brought delicious short rib sandwiches along, made with Pierre's short ribs, horseradish, garden lettuce, and Dijon mustard on wonderful Baltahazar pain de seigle.  The movie machines, which used small format tapes were not working well and the selection was abysmal - Hot Rod, Gracie, etc.  So we read every newspaper, cover to cover, drank loads of hot lemon water, and looked at every magazine in Kevin’s store of the best and latest.  I was so pleased to see so many beautiful Macy's ads for all the Martha Stewart collections in these recent publications. 

We were met at Narita by my dear friend and colleague, Momoko Sano, who has been with me every time I visit Japan.  She and her husband are from Tokyo and Momoko has worked for MSLO for nine years but consulted for years before that for my book tours and speaking engagements.  We had a two-hour wait for our plane to Osaka so we talked, ate some cold soba noodles and finally boarded the commuter plane.  An hour flight to Osaka and here we are waiting for our baggage.  We have a car to take us on the final leg of this 24-hour journey to Kyoto.

Kevin in his pod on American Airlines.  We used 500,000 miles to get 2 round trip first class seats.


Here I am sans makeup.  I used a rich hydrant from Yonka as a masque for the entire trip.  It moisturizes and revitalizes one's skin and it keeps skin glowing.  I rinsed it off with cold bottled water minutes before arrival and then, with Yonka serum and a quick application of makeup, I looked much better than I felt.  Hey, that’s what it’s all about! I really love Yonka products, made with plant and fruit extracts , 1-800-533-6276.


Momoko is a perennially youthful Japanese lady whom I have known for almost 25 years.  She is tri –lingual (French, Japanese, English) and very knowledgeable about Japan and also very well connected.  She met us at Narita airport, where we had a 2-hour holdover.


We each had a snack in one of the many diverse and very clean restaurants in the immaculate and busy airport.  Momoko chose a sweet that looked odd but was actually very delicious - a jelly made from the essence of autumn fern with a dark green tea syrup and a dusting of a powdery sweet substance.


I chose edamame (boiled soy beans) and a plate of cold soba noodles with wasabi and mirin.  It was very good and refreshing.  Plus, lots of green tea, full of antioxidants, was consumed.


In the airport, there are many concessions selling all kinds of snacks and sweets and magazines and books.  This was a stand devoted to mochicream (rice flour covered frozen ice cream.)  They were selling many flavors.  Yum!


There is always a new toy or cuddly craze in Japan.  For young children, the latest are these soft pillows in amazing shapes and sizes.  These winter white seals were very endearing and I had to restrain myself from buying dozens for baby presents.  Maybe I’ll get them on the way back.


This is Momoko's elegant husband, Tad Sano.  He met us when we arrived at our inn in Kyoto.  He and Momoko joined us for a late snack and cold sake before departing for their hotel.


The Hiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto is one of the oldest and most venerable places to stay.  Rooms are in the Japanese tatami style with wooden soaking tubs, tatami mat floors and futon beds with down coverlets.  The food snack was presented in a new glass room that was just completed.  It is beautiful, elegant, and functional.  This bento box, shaped like a half moon, (the moon outside was half in shape, as well) was filled with autumnal delicacies.  River eel, toasted chestnuts, ginko nuts, chojuro pear, persimmon, and impeccable fresh fish sashimi.  Then the piping hot miso soup was served in a lacquered Covered bowl decorated with the ryokan's logo -the holly leaf.  More on Monday…



Just for fun, here’s a little information about various Asian noodles

Dried noodles have been a staple in Asian kitchens for more than 2,000 years. Although you can substitute Italian pasta in many Asian recipes, once you experience the flavors and textures of Asian noodles, they might just become basics in your kitchen too. You can find them in Asian food stores or in the Asian-food section of many supermarkets. Of the numerous types available, wheat-flour and rice-flour noodles are the most common. The noodles range from fine and thin, to coarse and thick. Although specific kinds are preferred for certain dishes, the noodles can often be used interchangeably. Just be sure to check the package instructions for any presoaking requirements.

Somen are thin, wheat-flour noodles that are wonderfully delicate in soups and salads. The thicker and wider variety are called udon; these chewy wheat noodles are good in robust soups, stews, and stir-fries. Japanese soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour, have a nutty taste and a slightly chewy texture, and can be served either hot or cold. Rice-stick noodles come in various widths and are used in many Asian soups, stir-fries, and cold salads. And thin rice vermicelli puffs up into a nest when fried, making a perfect bed for any stir-fry.