As a writer, I don’t like to think that pictures are worth more than words. But yesterday’s tour of Tokyo, via retail outlets, probably works better if I show you, rather than tell you.
Before I begin with the meat show, let me try to explain the serene moment I had after stepping off a busy street into a temple in the heart of Tokyo. Breathe deeply and come in with me for a moment.
Calm and peace immediately surround you as you step through the gate of this temple. Temples are Buddhist, shrines are Shinto, and the two spiritual traditions flow together beautifully in this city. The gardens, simple and elegant, beckon you.
Art surrounds you as birds sing your name. Frankly, all I wanted to do was sink down in lotus and meditate for an hour. But that was not to be. Because instead, I needed to eat (again).
Speaking of art:
This was a stone condiment dish that accompanied one of the eight courses for lunch at the traditional restaurant right beside this temple, each course served slowly and independently by hostesses, on their knees, in traditional garb. Each course featured seasonal spring foods (like young bamboo shoots). The chefs work hard to give customers fresh, seasonal foods and make the presentation absolutely perfect. One more look at my food (OK, it won’t be the last look you get at food on this blog!):
This dish, topped by a stem of rice that had been partially popped by hand over low heat, was photo ready. I hated to eat it, but it was a great test of my developing skills to slowly pick each popped rice kernel from the stem with the tip of my chopsticks.
On to today’s beef gallery:
Heavily marbled Waygu beef, sold in a pristine clean meat case. Look carefully and you’ll notice that it’s marked with the name of the prefecture (region) from which it comes–Shimane.
A map of the prefectures in Japan, mounted on top of the meat case, so customers can pinpoint exactly where the Waygu they’re buying comes from. Many Japanese consumers prefer meat from the region they grew up in–highlighting their love of place (and a great opportunity for U.S. states to market locally produced beef?).
U.S. beef shares the meat case with Aussie beef. A chef I met at supper last night shared that the Aussie beef steak he cooked for me was long-fed (180 d) on grain. IMO, it didn’t hold a candle to U.S. beef, even with the grain feeding.
Where does your meat come from? This poster hangs in a market that caters to ex-pats, showing global protein offerings.
There’s the U.S. map! Props to the Beef Checkoff Program and our contractor USMEF! Made me feel downright homesick (but not as homesick as when I had to saw through the Aussie steak I tried for supper–apologies to my friends at MLA.)
An upscale market catering to well-heeled consumers (think Whole Foods, pronounce the name “Media” roughly). Presented beautifully, and boasting a cherry-red color (my host, a food professor, told me it’s the case lighting), the meat here made my mouth water. A visit with the butcher behind the counter revealed that they get a shipment of U.S. beef twice a month and it flies off the shelves due to good quality coupled with a price point lower than the Waygu. “Give us more, and we will sell it,” he promised.
Come one, come all! That’s what I’m talking about!!
Tokyo rush hour in a department store. Food sells on the basement and first level of these massive stores, where each “department” is independently owned and operated. You basically can get anything you want on the upper levels. Talk about encouraging small business!
Look at the marbling in these babies! I took this photo right before I noticed the large sign in English saying “NO PICTURES PLEASE!” Oops.
This sign on top of the meat case brags about the store’s relationship with a specific prefecture that supplies them with meat. Or that’s what they told me, at least. It actually probably says “NO PHOTOS, PLEASE!”
TTFN dear reader…