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burdock
Last lunch in Japan was pickled plum riceballs, takoyaki octopus batter balls (see a post waaaay down), and burdock root edamame salad. Keeping it old school.

So I’m finally home. I landed in San Francisco yesterday at around 9:30 pm and then caught the 10:45 plane to San Diego. The plane ride from Tokyo to SF was ridiculously short- only 8 hours. The trip home has never been that short.
I’m still jet lagged and exhausted. I’m pretty bummed to be back, and keep thinking about all the things that I will miss. I had a truly wonderful experience and I am so glad that I was able to share it with everyone who kept updated.
I’d like to thank all of my readers, especially all of my Japanese friends and family who struggled through my colloquial English to keep up with my posts. どうもありがとうございました。日本にいた間、大変お世話になりました。

I would like to ask a favor of you- if you read my blog, please leave a comment saying what you liked about it, any favorite posts, and last impressions that you might have. I just want to be able to know who my readers are and thank you all personally :)

THANK YOU FOR READING!
I will probably occasionally post an update, but for now, MARI@SOUP STOCK TOKYO is finished.

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BEST MEAL EVER

I have a favorite restaurant.
It’s called Porto Venere and is the most amazing Italian restaurant EVER. Located in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, it has not only the most phenomenal, clean, well-executed, perfect food but the best ambiance. Made to look like a mystical underwater grotto, everything from the light fixtures to the table settings are incredibly chic (and one of the waiters is really cute, hahaha). It manages to be totally high class and GORGEOUS but really down to earth as well.
SO
GOOD.

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My aunt, uncle, petits cousins, brother, mother, and I all went there as our last dinner in Japan, and nothing could have been better.

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First off was a wagyu (Japanese Beef) carpaccio, which was succulent and subtle and topped with a really well-seasoned salad.
Next, I was tortured by watching other family members get their food before mine….
mmmm
This was my uncle’s dish, a Spaghetti Pescadora….I didn’t try it but it looked great.
THEN CAME MY FOOD.
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“Don’t take my picture, I want to eat!”
2 times out of the three I have been here, I ordered the same dish- the first time I made the mistake of not ordering it and upon tasting my mom’s, I knew that I had found a soulmate. It is a completely perfect crab linguine. So amazing, I can’t even describe it. It’s absolutely awesome. I don’t even like crab, and it’s still probably my favorite savory dish of all time.
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MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!
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(and hiding in the presentation is a crab shell…………)

And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, we ordered dessert.
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Here, you see milk sorbet (sounds weird but is scrumptious), chocolate mousse, and flan-style pudding……
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
My favorite plate. All totally delicious. Espresso pannacotta, tiramisu, and crema catalana. The crema catalana was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good. For those of you who don’t know what crema catalana is (I didn’t either), it had a frozen creme brulee-style creamy bottom with a crunchy caramelized sugar top, and the flavors were just outstanding. The consistency of the catalana was like unsoft ice cream, had the creamy amazingness of a cheesecake, and tasted like a brown sugar flan. Oh my god. Soooo good.

ANYWAYS sorry to tantalize you but it was hands down the best meal I will have in a loooong time.
It was a perfect way to remind myself that Japanese food is amazing and can’t be beat, and that I will miss it terribly back home. But hey, if you’ve got to go, it’s best to go with a bang……..what a perfect last impression of Japan.
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I leave tomorrow…..

….I come back to the states.
The last couple days have been spent packing and on my part, buying all the stuff I felt like I couldn’t live without and aggravating everyone with my spending.

Christmas was a quiet, happy affair. We didn’t do anything particularly christmassy, in fact, apart from festive stocking-opening I don’t think that anyone would have guessed that it was Christmas….
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Dinner was Kenchin Jiru, a soup made with carrots, burdock root, yam root (connyaku), daikon radish, and tofu.
After dinner we went to Shinjuku and me and my brother took some purikura photobooth pictures. It was really funny and he was a pro at posing.

mmm
Two days ago I went with my mom to the Mita campus of Keio University (her alma mater), and it was really really cold but lunch was a really good Korean-style donburi. It was raw salmon, hamachi, maguro tuna, over rice with pickled vegetables and sesame oil, topped with an “onsen tamago”. Onsen Tamago is a specially made style of egg where the yolk is firm but the whites are still gooey. Not runny, but still really soft….so good.

And yesterday was my last full day in the Shinjuku area (today we are going to my aunt and uncle’s house, which is in Chiba prefecture- closer to Narita airport), so I crammed in some last minute time with one of my really good girl friends. We went to this amazing department store that I can only compare to an American ghetto mall- so trashy and sooooo goood.
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They were having a nail fair of crazy Japanese fakes- and the nails were so crazy that I knew I just had to have a pair.
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CLOSE UP! :D

I feel like I should be really sad to leave but mostly I am too burnt out and tired to be distressing. I’m sure that once I hit the states I will be bummed big time.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve Eve

0tera
On Christmas Eve Eve, we went first to a shrine near Ichigaya train station, and then to my aunt and uncle’s house for a little holiday party!
At the shrine, people of all ages were helping to make mochi, or sticky rice cakes. In Japan, New Years=MOCHI (among other things), so it was very lucky of our family to have been able to eat some freshly pounded mochi!
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Some kid laboring over a pot of mochi…
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I look like I just rolled out of bed. The mochi was delicious though!
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After stuffing our bellies with traditional Ozoni soup and sweet soybean-powder-covered mochi, we went down the ridiculously steep stairs to the station. Most shrines and temples in Japan are on hills so that they are as close to the heavens as possible…..

Then, the Christmas party!
It was a family affair, and it was really special to be able to be with relatives that I don’t usually get to see during the year : )
5bbys
5haha
Haha everybody loves little kids!

And the feast…..
MMmmmmmmm
5kyuri
Cucumber Salmon rolls
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Japanese people love to eat fried chicken on Christmas. Someone asked me if people ate fried chicken on Christmas in America, and I said “well I guess some do but I don’t think that most people do….” and they were totally shocked.
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Mashed potatoes

DESSERT!
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My aunt made a delicious and gorgeous Bouche de Noel cake, topped with adorable strawberries santas!
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After eating, we drank some delicious Lupicia White Christmas Tea (tea so good that it was like a dessert in itself), and exchanged presents and stories!
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Babygirl got a play vacuum, which was really cute, hahaha

All in all, it was a really sweet, fun family party that was full of holiday cheer!

And the next day, Christmas Eve, was my little brother’s birthday, which called for more presents and cake!
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6theo

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some purikura photobooth pictures

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LAFORET 30th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT

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Me pre-show in front of the Harajuku Chanel store….all the jokes about me being one of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku girls come full circle.

On Sunday a couple of friends and I went to the “Beat and Experiment” live event of the at the famous Laforet department store. The concert? show? was part of Laforet’s 30th anniversary live series, and it was totally mindblowingly innovative and eccentric and weird. And really really extremely good.

The first artist was 宇治野宗輝 & The Rotators (sorry to those who can’t read Chinese characters on their computers). It was really bizzare. The set was pretty much the artist controlling this huge noisy contraption (pictured) with a console….one switch made a blender whir, another made a fat brush hit the strings of a bass guitar. At first he wasn’t even on stage so we were just all staring at this really loud cacophonous…thing that made no sense. As soon as he took stage and started manipulating the contraption, however, a beat became decipherable….it was pretty janky, comprised of drills and violin bows and broken records, but it was a beat, all right. The best part, however, was that he wheeled out a cart with a carton of milk, strawberries, a banana, and a can of Dole fruit on it, and started throwing them into the blender in rhythm to the beat. At first he didn’t put the top on the blender and the poor videographer in the front got splashed a little. At the very end, he put the top on and handed out cups of smoothie to the audience. I was at the very front so I got a strawberry :D
I was ecstatic, but one of my friend’s comments afterwards was, “Uh, doesn’t that kind of thing just not make sense?”

Next was Copy Smiles, which was just as weird as 宇治野宗輝 & The Rotators. It was pretty much just two guys with wires attached to their faces, and they would twitch their faces which would move the wires which would in turn make electronic noises….and they would do this in a beat as well. It was sensational, hilarious and mindboggling. They were so expressive, and the beat wasn’t bad as well…
Here’s a video if you’re too confused. Start from the middle.

Next was Shing02, a dj and mc who did a little bit of both during his set. He was introduced by a guy in a chef’s outfit who announced the set list as a menu, which was pretty novel! The set started with salad of “Lift the fog up”, something tuna “栞”, and I forgot how he mentioned the rest. Something about caramel. But anyways after Shing02 was done with the set, he said, “デザート欲しい人!” “Who wants dessert?” Which of course to us audience members who would have been rabid and screaming if we were not Japanese (the show was very quiet, polite, and well-mannered) was a resounding “YES!”, and dessert was his famous “Luv Sic part 2″. He was amazing and really connected with the audience. His performance was bilingual which was cool because it meant that I could understand all of his songs.


Then came Optrum, which was also really experimental. Optrum is a two-piece group that is comprised of an air guitarist/pedal manipulator and a drummer. The set was all about aesthetics. The drum kit would emit green lights when hit, and the other guy held a bundle of fluorescent lights that would flare up when he would hit these pedals, which would emit brash electric guitar sounds in unison with the flares. It was trippy and visually really exciting.
Video explanation for where my words do not go…….

FINALLY WAS DJ KENTARO. God, was he amazing. Dj Kentaro is world famous because he won the 2002 DMC technics competition, which is a technical skills competition for turntabling. He is famous for being able to really quickly switch between records, scratch, drop the needle at certain key places for effect, and manufacture really danceable, scream-worthy beats. He was so good it was almost godly. He was probably the best part of the evening. He was totally shredding on the turntables, it was absolutely ridiculous, he was like a complete computer program (albiet a really adorable computer program packed full of soul) and he had all of us proper Japanese kids dancing around and screaming out hearts out. He was absolutely crazy out of my mind nuts. Best of all he had a great sense of humor, any moment not spent swiftly attacking console dancing around and smiling and being really cute accepting compliments on this red cap with tassles he was wearing!
The video below is of him in 2002, but seeing him live was no comparison….start from 2:46 ish.

After him me and my friends were blown out of the water with his incandescent awesomeness and headed out into an empty Harajuku to the train station. It was so weird how empty it was……normally Takeshita street is suffocatingly packed with people.
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The homies….both total hip hop fiends. The one on the left had a shirt on that said “compton”. I don’t know where he got it, but I just thought it was funny….
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Empty empty empty. Almost as bizarre as the performance.

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Guests

When my mother was in her early 20′s, she went on this expedition called Operation Raleigh. She sailed to England for the inauguration of the Operation (she always tells me, “I SHOOK HANDS WITH PRINCE CHARLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”), New York, North Carolina, Miami, and then to the Bahamas to conduct some scientific projects. Some of her friends from the O.R. organization who went on subsequent expeditions to various places came to our apartment for dinner!
It was great company, and everyone had stories to tell.
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We ate curry nabe (stew-style dish), and delicious dessert….. ^________^
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Mont blanc (chestnut) cream on Gateau Chocolat….
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Berry drizzled cheesecake and Crepe-wrapped fruit/cream/shortcake…
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A mont blanc roll cake….

mmm.

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