Just before I go into the ins and outs of today’s free day, have a butcher’s at Nobuyuki Tsujii, Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performing Rachmaninov Concerto no. 3 in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall a couple of months ago, prior to the tour. This is in our newly refurbished Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
This morning I managed to have a modest lie in and then I went down to the marvellous breakfast in the ANA Intercontinental Hotel. I was thinking that I’ve been away for six days now so I decided to make use of the hotel laundry service. I had to get my bag collected from the room before ten in the morning and it would be ready by six early this evening.
Well, you can’t say much fairer than that!
So, off I went. The first thing to do would be to negotiate the underground railway system with the travel pass supplied by my wife. I had three stops to go to get to Ginza to meet my wife and father- in – law at the tube station at midday.
Phew! Well, that was easy.
Ginza is Tokyo’s leading upmarket shopping and eating district. It is a centuries old part of the city and apart from the usual branded shops many stores and businesses have been here for a very long time. We met successfully and my father-in-law, Professor Tanigawa-san, announced that we would start with lunch.
A very popular dish in Japan, indeed also in my own household in Liverpool, is Gyoza. Inhabitants of Tokyo know to head for Ginza Tenryu, whose Gyoza are twice as big as other restaurants and who sell 5000 of these delicious dumplings every day!
Gyoza are pan fried dumplings. The filling is basically pork mince, cabbage, spring onion, miso paste, garlic, chilli, sugar, salt and sesame oil. The dipping sauce is soy, rice vinegar and chilli oil.
The next stop was the Tokyo Ginza Kimuraya Bakery, so famous for its Sakadane ANPAN. This bakery has been there since 1874 and from the pictures you can see why.
Thepresentation and quality of the products here are just a thing of beauty. The shop is so popular that it is difficult to move with people buying bean paste buns of such quality that they are given as gifts for important occasions. The traditional Japanese Sweet Buns use the bakery’s own unique bean paste recipes and are beautifully presented in wonderful packaging.
Just delicious too!
The initial reason for this particular direction on my free day, lest I forget, was back in England Mrs. Ball and I had decided that it was about time I dipped my hand in my pocket and bought a shiny new trumpet. I had arranged an appointment that when I came to Japan, Yamaha Ginza would have a good selection of trumpets pitched in D & E flat to try out.
Ginza is the flagship store for Yamaha worldwide. It covers fourteen floors! We had booked an appointment in our own room to blast away for a couple of hours, My wife is also a decent trumpeter and my father-in-law is a well known musician too. Their help in choosing a new trumpet was very much appreciated.
Yamaha were expecting me. There was plenty of choice and nothing was too much trouble for the staff. Just as well, because they had to get out and unwrap tons of stuff just to please a trumpeter who is difficult to please! Time elapsed and sore chops later I had narrowed it down to three.
That’s me above, trying out a good selection of Yamaha 9610 D & E flat trumpets! – that reminds me to do something about that sizeable ‘tour belly’ on my return to Liverpool!
A decision was finally made. This was based on democracy (between the three of us) at first! We had a vote and then I just went for the one which felt right. Of course, it was unanimous!
We paid for the equipment and the staff wished us luck with the rest of the tour. There was certainly plenty of choice here in Yamaha Ginza. A new, quality trumpet for just about everyone here. Once again, the customer service really is worth writing home about…
I was curious enough to pop into the second floor which deals in a vast amount of classical music audio recordings and DVDs etc. I was amazed to find fistfuls of Royal Liverpool Philharmonic CDs on offer.
Quite humbling really!
A pharmacy was just by Yamaha Ginza and peeping into the window I saw something which did make me laugh. The most popular Japanese diarrhoea tablets have a picture of a trumpet on them! My wife tells me that the whole nation knows the television theme tune which has a trumpet noise playing some sort of ‘Toot toot’ tune!
The next port of call was to high tail it right across the city to Shibuya. This area really reminded me of Soho in London somehow. One of my best mates, the great trumpeter Aneel Soomary in Vienna, loves coming to Japan. Aneel won’t mind me calling him a trumpet nut and an absolute geek. I’m not far behind him either!
On Aneel’s recommendation the three of us traipsed over to Tokyo’s legendary pro trumpet facility, the Trumpet Station. This little shop, tucked away in Shibuya has everything! It also doubles up as a meeting place for not only Japanese but trumpeters the world over as they pass through Tokyo.
I didn’t buy much, only a couple of polishing cloths, as I was already skint after our visit to Yamaha Ginza but it was still a pleasure to stick my head in the hallowed ground that is this little atelier. They really do have just about everything a trumpeter could ever need!
My father-in-law was keen to take me to an unagi restaurant whilst in Shibuya. This place was tucked away down a darkened alley way. I felt a little bit squeamish about eating eel. Eel is one of the most popular dishes in Japan so I thought I would just knuckle down and join in.
When in ‘Rome’…
This little place is well known to locals but not discovered by tourists as yet.
The restaurant was quietly busy but we were informed that the place was fully booked at 8pm. This meant we had a good two hours anyway. Eel, by the way, is the only thing on the menu here so I couldn’t wheedle out by ordering something else!
Before any food arrives there is a ritual to be performed. The restaurant (apparently famous) has an extensive list of saki all listed by degrees of dryness, not strength. I was informed that they are all just about a uniform strength of about 15.5% anyway. We started with a moderately dry one and progressed from there. All nicely weighted with some terrific Japanese beer. Anyway, Back to the ritual. The saki box is place in an ornate little red box. The waiter/waitress then brings a large bottle of saki to the table and carefully pours the saki (cold by the way!) into the glass. The glass then overflows into the box until both box and glass have a meniscus on them. The drinker then sips a little off the top of the glass, then takes the glass out of the box. Once the glass is empty, the drinker pours, with a steady hand, the saki from the box into the glass and ‘sups’ that too!
The first plate of eel arrive for us to share. It was presented so nicely that it looked rather appetising. This platter had the liver, meat, head and skin/fins all separately placed on the platter.
It was absolutely delicious!
There was no stopping me now! The second course arrived – no head this time. I must admit that was my least favourite bit. The eel had all the same components otherwise but all cooked entirely differently.
Don’t spill any! I think I was more nervous than appearing on stage.
The unagi restaurant was beginning to get very busy now so we went to a well known Thai Restaurant nearby. Also tucked well away and also very well known amongst Japanese. We had to go through
The staff were all Thai, no Japanese and seemed to speak perfect English as well as Japanese.
Even more delicious food was brought for us to share. I was starting to think I had woken up in Heaven.
Well, it finally became time to set off back to the hotel. What an amazing day! A couple of further treats still lay ahead. As we approached Shibuya station to return home my Father-In-Law pointed out a statue of a dog. The famous dog in question is called Hatchiko, a Japanese Akita. I the 1920s Hatchiko used to await the return from work of his university Professor owner by leaving the house and waiting for him at one particular entrance of Shibuya station.
One day Hatchiko’s owner didn’t return. He had died before returning home. Each day for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Profeesor Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station, until his own death.
Everyone who visits my blog knows how ‘soft’ I am about dogs. I have an English Springer Spaniel myself. What a moving story though! They have named the particular entrance of Shibuya station Hatchiko’s entrance and he has become a symbol for loyalty throughout Japan. Incidentally, there were only thirty purebred Akitas left in Japan at the time Hatchiko died. Hatchiko’s story is entirely responsible for the breed being so popular today…
Just by Hatchiko’s statue I noticed the most extraordinary set of zebra/road crossings. My wife said, “… Oh yes, that is the famous Shibuya Crossings, one of the busiest road crossings in the world.”
I thought that it all looked a bit unremarkable to me and then the lights turned green. My goodness I have never seen anything like it! Thousands of people all crossing in entirely different directions. Well, it seems to work…
It was time to go back to the hotel. I caught the Ginza line back to the ANA Intercontinental tired but very satisfied I had wrung every bit of ‘living’ I could out of having a rare spot of free time. What a great day! I must admit to being absolutely shattered and ready for bed.
My laundry was ready and beautifully presented on the bed in my hotel room. Just look at the picture above!
It’s great here!
One last thing, I was tinkering about on my computer before going to sleep and I noticed an email informing me that trumpeter Joan Hinde had passed away back in the UK. How sad. I first met Joan only a few years back at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall as she accompanied Liverpool comedian Ken Dodd. Joan had been a trail blazer for women trumpeters many years before everyone else.
A fantastic player and very nice lady. She will be sadly missed…
Virtuoso musician Joan Hinde died yesterday, January 22, aged 81, at a nursing home in the city.
She and her husband lived in Felpham for decades. Mrs Hinde delighted many groups in the area over the years with her trumpet playing.
She also entertained the audiences with tales of working with some of the biggest names in showbusiness. Comedian Ken Dodd, with whom she appeared many times, was among them. Max Bygraves and Sir Harry Secombe were others.
She was thought to be the UK’s oldest working female trumpeter until her retirement from the stage because of ill health in 2012.
Born in Derbyshire, her showbusiness career began when she was a young child in the early 1940s on the BBC radio programme, Children’s Hour.
Joan soon progressed to regular appearances on BBC Variety Bandboxand forged a top reputation on the stage at a time when television was becoming dominant.
Her entire career was spent as a radio, theatre and cabaret artiste.
A full tribute to Joan Hinde will appear in the Bognor Regis Observer on January 29.
TOMORROW – DAY SEVEN CONCERT SIX – SUNTORY HALL – TOKYO