Face immaculately white, hair tied in traditional Japanese fashion and garbed in beautifully colored kimonos; the geishas gracefully entered Sakura Jaya’s Kasuga room. A sweet smile formed on her shockingly red lips and dimples punctuated her doll-like face. It was my first day in Japan and I’m actually meeting a real geisha; my plain sun-kissed face across her porcelain-white one.
There were no snow, there were no rain, but it was freezingly cold outside Japan. Giant neon signs mix with traditional shops and torii gates. We just came from Tokyo’s confusing maze of train stations and walked the colorfully Japanese streets of Asakusa for our dinner in Mukojima.
Pink cherry blossoms whispered their moshi-moshis as we passed through the restaurant’s wooden portal. Shoes removed, we were ushered into Sakura Jaya’s interiors. Our host, Sony Philippines, probably ensured that before we go rushing to a Japanese McDonald’s, we have our authentic Japanese dinner first. A very expensive dinner that cost ¥20,000.00 per person at that.
The building itself looks quite modern with its simple glass exterior, but once you get past its courtyard, it transforms into the Japanese settings most people are familiar with. Once in a while, you’ll get jarred by modern appurtenances like, for example, an elevator, but I guess that’s just how it is. We’re in Japan after all.
Padding softly on uwabaki footwear, we emerged into the waiting area of the upper floors where we were once again requested to remove our shoes. If you think Filipinos are stickler for removing sandals before entering houses, wait till you meet the Japanese; it’s part and parcel of their customs to remove footwear used outdoors when entering places where the floors are made of polished wood, carpeted in rugs and especially those laid with tatami mats.
And indeed our dining room is laid with the traditional Japanese rice straw mat or tatami. Named after a city in Fukuoka, Sakura Jaya’s Kasuga room can easily seat 10 to 35 persons. The table is traditionally laid low but worry not, guests won’t have to kneel seiza-style for hours on end; there’s ample legroom cut below the table for normal sitting posture. Thank goodness for that, I thought I’ll be battling cramped legs while eating.
Camera shutters exhausted from the two geishas, everyone readied for dinner. I’m not particularly familiar with Japanese cuisines and the art of using chopsticks. My education goes only so far as Manila’s Japanese fast food joint, Tokyo Tokyo, but I’m game and ready for anything they’d be serving on the table.
We’d be having a multi-course dinner, commonly referred to in Japan as Kaiseki. According to Sakura Jaya’s site, it’s a seven-course Mizugashi meal comprising of “fried, vinegared dishes, boiled, grilled, medium bowl, appetizer, sashimi, with destination”. Destination? I’ll show you what destination is later. :D
Okay, as I previously said, I’m no expert when it comes to Japanese food. My taste buds are limited to tonkatsus, katsudons, tempuras and sushis. I have absolutely no idea what the geishas were serving except for a few of the dishes. And the unlimited Asahi beer, I recognize quite well, of course.
So without further ado, I present to you our very Japanese dinner. And please don’t ask me their names. :D
I wish I was a real food critic so I can share with you all the intricate nuances of each course. But alas, I’m totally not. All I can say is that I like most of the dishes; the remaining few, I really can’t say that I didn’t. I guess they’re just…different; an alien dish on my very native tongue.
It was a generous meal but I still reserved some space for the final destination. And that destination? Sake!
I guess Google Translate has still got a long way to go eh? But no matter, it was my first time to try out Japan’s alcoholic beverage of choice; and it is quite excellent, if I may say so myself.
Our tummy full, our spirits high; we again slipped our shoes on, donned our jackets and stepped out into the cold Japanese night. Today, it’s all about geishas and kaisekis. Tomorrow we’ll have our sakuras and Japanese castles.
Address: Sumida-ku, Tokyo Mukojima 5-24-10
Contact Number: (03) 3622-2800
Fax: (03) 3625-7116
GPS Coordinates: 35.717156,139.809678
View location on Google Maps: Click Here