No Reservations ~ Tokyo

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Anthony Bourdain is off to Tokyo to examine the similarities and contrasts between the perfect knife and the perfect sushi, martial arts and flower arrangements.  But he's also there to better understand the Japanese ability to look at one thing and only one thing—a rock, a pond, a single piece of fish, a grain of rice, a single gesture or seriers of gestures—because only then can you ever really know that thing and fully appreciate it.



The Japanese name for Japan is Nippon, which is used for most official purposes, including on Japanese yen, postage stamps, and for many international sporting events.  Nippon means "sun-origin" and are often translated as "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan is an island nation in East Asia.  Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the People's Republic of China, North Korea, South Koreaand Russia, stretching to Taiwan in the south.

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands.  The four largest islands are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of Japan's land area.  Japan has the world's tenth-largest population, with over 127 million people.  The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.

Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period.  The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD.  Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan's history.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism.  The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II, which brought to an end in 1945 by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected parliament called the Diet.

Economy and Geopolitics:

The economy of Japan is the third largest in the world, by nominal GDP and by purchasing power parity, after the United States and the People's Republic of China, and ahead of Germany at 4th.  It is also the world's fourth largest exporter and fourth largest importer.  Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military force in self-defense and peacekeeping roles.


According to both UN and WHO estimates, Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world.  According to the UN, it has the third lowest infant mortality rate.  However, Japan suffers from a high suicide rate.  In 2009, the number of suicides exceeded 30,000 for the twelfth straight year.  Suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 30.  After Singapore, Japan has the lowest homicide (including attempted homicide) rate in the world.

Japanese culture has evolved greatly from its origins.  Contemporary culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America.  Traditional Japanese arts include crafts such as ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, swords and dolls; performances of bunraku, kabuki, noh, dance, and rakugo; and other practices, the tea ceremony, ikebana, martial arts, calligraphy, origami, onsen, Geisha and games.  Japan has a developed system for the protection and promotion of both tangible and intangible Cultural Properties and National TreasuresSixteen sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present but also provides a link to the past.  Japanese cinema, cuisine, television programs, manga, and music all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms.  Contemporary forms of popular culture, much like the traditional forms, provide not only entertainment but also an escape for the contemporary Japanese from the problems of an industrial world.


Tokyo, officially known as the Tokyo Metropolis, is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan.  It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family.

The history of Tokyo goes back to nearly 400 years.  Prior to 1868, Tokyo was originally a small fishing village named Edo.  A small castle town in the 16th century, Edo became Japan's political center in 1603 when Tokugawa Leyasu established his feudal government there.  A few decades later, Edo had grown into one of the world's most populous cities.

With the Meiji restoration of 1868, Emperor Meiji took over the city, renamed it Tokyo, and and made Edo Castle the Imperial Palace.  It became the permanent home of the imperial dynasty of Japan.  In 1871, the emperor abolished the feudal han system and set up the prefectural system in Tokyo.  It was in 1889 that Tokyo City was established with 15 wards.

Large parts of Tokyo were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and in the air raids of 1945 by the United States Army Air Forces during the Pacific campaigns of World War II.  Tokyo was subsequently military occupation and governed by the Allied forces.  The American presence in Tokyo made it an important command and logistics center during the Korean War.  Tokyo still hosts Yokota Air Base and a large number of minor U.S. military installations.

Between 1950 to 1960, the city experienced extensive economical development.  Industries grew and infrastructure was developed.  From 1970 onwards, the city grew at an alarming rate and by late 1980, it became one of the most developed cities of the world.  The modern history of Tokyo is filled with tales of growth and development.


Tokyo also has the world's largest metropolitan economy.  Tokyo was described by Saskia Sassen as one of the three "command centers" for the world economy, along with New York Cityand London.  Tokyo is a major international finance center, houses the headquarters of several of the world's largest investment banks and insurance companies, and serves as a hub for Japan's transportation, publishing, and broadcasting industries.  Tokyo is considered an alpha+ world city and ranked third among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2010 Global Cities Index.  In 2010, Tokyo was named the second most expensive city for expatriate employees, according to the Mercer and Economist Intelligence Unit cost-of-living surveys, and named the fourth Most Liveable City and the World’s Most Livable Megalopolis by the magazine Monocle.


Today, the population of Tokyo's 23 wards is over 8 million people, with the total population of the prefecture (Tokyo Metropolis or "Tokyo") exceeding 13 million.  The most common foreign nationalities found in Tokyo are Chinese (123,661), Korean (106,697), Filipino (31,077), American (18,848), British (7,696), Brazilian (5,300) and French (3,000).  With a population of 35.7 million in the Greater Tokyo Area, it the world's most populous metropolitan area by far.  Tokyo is the second largest single metropolitan area in the world in terms of built-up or urban function landmass.  Only the New York metropolitan area is larger.


Tourism in Tokyo is a major industry.  In 2006, 4.8 million foreigners and 420 million Japanese visited Tokyo.  Many tourists visit the various downtowns, stores, and entertainment districts throughout the neighborhoods of the special wards of Tokyo.  Cultural offerings include both the omnipresent Japanese pop culture and associated districts (Shibuya and Harajuku), subcultural attractions such as Studio Ghibli anime center, as well as museums like the Tokyo National Museum, which houses 37% of the country's artwork national treasures.  

Though no buildings in Tokyo are World Heritage sites and only the Jizo Hall of Shofuku-ji, a suburban temple, is a National treasure, other popular attractions include the Imperial Palace, Meiji Shrine, and Sensō-ji, a popular temple.  Many tourists, particularly foreigners, visit Tsukiji Fish Market.

Japanese cuisine in Tokyo is internationally acclaimed.  In November 2007, the Michelin Guide for fine dining in Tokyo, awarded Tokyo 191 stars in total, or about twice as many as Tokyo's nearest competitor, Paris.  Eight establishments were awarded the maximum of three stars (Paris has 10), 25 received two stars, and 117 earned one star.  Of the eight top-rated restaurants, three offer traditional Japanese fine dining, two are sushi houses and three serve French cuisine.

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Episode Recap:

Freely admitting it inability to fully understand Japanese culture, or the Japanese' preoccupations, Anthony Bourdain decides he'll illicit the help of celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto, best-known as the third Iron Chef on the TV cooking show Iron Chef, and an Iron Chef on its spinoff, Iron Chef America.

Sarashina Horii:   Morimoto takes Anthony to Sarashina Horii to experience some of Tokyo's best soba noodles.  Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat.  Good soba noodles are 80% buckwheat and 20% flour.  Sarashina Horii has been making soba noodles since 1789.  Every aspect of soba making is incredibly precise right down to the cutting of the noodles; the preferred width being 1.6 millimeters.

In Japan, soba noodles are served in a variety of settings they are a popular inexpensive fast food at train stations throughout Japan, but are also served by exclusive and expensive specialty restaurants.  Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soupSoba is typically eaten with chopsticks, and in Japan, it is traditionally considered acceptable to slurp the noodles noisily.  This is especially common with hot noodles, as drawing up the noodles quickly into the mouth helps cool them down.  Toppings are chosen to reflect the seasons and to balance with other ingredients.

Bar Ishinohana:   Anthony heads to Shibuya, with his friend Hiroshi, for some drinks at Bar Ishinohana, a popular Tokyo late-night haunt.  Shibuya is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area.  Shinobu Ishigaki, the bartender at Bar Ishinohana, has won several awards in international cocktail competitions.  Ishigaki is known for his elaborate garnishes and offbeat but effective flavor combinations, such as passion-fruit vodka with espresso.  

Hiroshi orders Anthony a Claudia, named for Italian actress Claudia Cardinale and inspired by her role in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, 1963.  The cocktail is a mix of rum, vermouth, pineapple juice, and caramel syrup, and comes with a maraschino cherry, a pineapple leaf, a star-shaped radish slice, and a piece of lime peel twirling around the stem like a ponytail, topped off with a sprinkle of black pepper and pink peppercorns.  For himself, Hiroshi orders a Polar Star, another Ishigaki original; think Sidecar with aquavit instead of brandy, and apple syrup instead of triple sec.  Anthony marvels at the intricate nature of making the drinks.

Nippon Budokan Hall:   Anthony visits the Nippon Budokan Hall where he is treated to a demonstration of Kendo, a Japanese fighting art taught by masters.  Originally built for the judo competition in the 1964 Summer Olympics, the Nippon Budokan Hall is an arena in Central Tokyo.  It's also where The Beatles made their Japanese debut.  Anthony watches in awe as Kendo master Tadao Toda demonstrates some strikes to his students.  Then he personally works with Anthony teaching him some fundamentals.

Kendo, meaning "Way of the Sword", is a modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional samurai swordsmanship, or kenjutsu.  Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sport-like physical elements.  The shinai is meant to represent a Japanese sword and is made up of four bamboo slats, which are held together by leather fittings.  Practitioners also use hard wooden swords (bokutō) to practice kata.  Kendo employs strikes involving both one edge and the tip of the shinai or bokutō.  Protective armour is worn to protect specified target areas on the head, arms and body.

Morimoto XEX:   Anthony joins Morimoto at his restaurant, Morimoto XEX, which recently received a Michelin star in the Tokyo Michelin Guide.  The restaurant features a teppanyaki and a sushi floor.  Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food, including steak, shrimp, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and monjayaki.  Chef Morimoto prepares a delicious meal for Anthony, including unagi (fresh water Japanese eel) and several different preparations of monkfish.  Morimoto uses every part of the Monkfish, but the best part is the liver, which is used to make foie gras.  First some tomatoes, leeks, and quickly-boiled monkfish skin and guts get a dressing of monkfish liver with ponzu sauce and sizzling hot vegetable oil.  Next, "Kentucky-fried" monkfish with okami seaweed and bamboo shoot.  Then a nabe comprised of bok choy (Chinese cabbage), leeks and other vegetables, and partically every part of the monkfish—liver, meat, skin and cartilage.

Rokkakudō Temple:   Anthony hops a train to Kyoto to visit the Rokkakudō Temple, a Buddhist temple said to have been established by Prince Shotoku in the early Heian period.  Anthony has a lesson in ikebana with master teacher Prof.  Manabu Noda.  Ikebana is the ancient art of Japanese flower arranging.  Ikebana evolved from the Buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead.  Ikenobō is the oldest school of ikebana, and dates its beginnings from a priest of the Rokkakudō Temple.  As time passed, other schools emerged, styles changed, and ikebana became a custom among the Japanese society.

Contrary to the idea of floral arrangement as a collection of particolored or multicolored arrangement of blooms, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape, line, and form.  Another aspect present in ikebana is its employment of minimalism.  That is, an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves.  The spiritual aspect of ikebana is considered very important to its practitioners.  Silence is a must during practices of ikebana.  It is a time to appreciate things in nature that people often overlook because of their busy lives.  This is also the time when one feels closeness to nature which provides relaxation for the mind, body, and soul.

Tariki Restaurant:   Anthony joins his heads his good friend Hiroshi for some great yakitori at Tariki restaurant in Shinagawa CityYakitori is made from several bite-sized pieces of chicken meat, or chicken offal, skewered on a bamboo skewer and grilled, usually over charcoal, although Tariki prefers to use an electric grill for a more consistent and evenly distributed source of heat.  Diners ordering yakitori usually have a choice of having it cooked with salt (shio) or with tare sauce, which is generally made up of mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar.  The sauce is applied to the skewered meat and is grilled until delicately cooked.  Anthony has the grilled breast chicken with leeks, and the grilled spleen, gizzard, liver, intestine, heart and skin, as well as the chicken sashimi.

Piano Bar:   Hiroshi takes Anthony to Piano Bar in the swanky Shibuya district.  This nomiya, like most others, is particularly popular among overworked, businessman who need a place to enjoy a drink and unwind after a long day at work before going home to their families.  Hiroshi discusses the pressures of Japanese society with their preoccupation to details in almost every aspect of their life, and how this can drive successful businessmen to escape to the retreat of a nomiya away from the prying eyes of their bosses, colleagues, peers and wives.

Pocket-sized dive bars called nomiya are typically no more than a 10'x8' sized space fitting, at most, maybe 8 or 10 people.  These bars are notoriously hard to find, stashed away in a patchwork of alleys with its winding mazelike streets.  Many of these hidden bars are as exclusive as a limited-edition sneaker, and addresses are guarded by their patrons like PIN numbers.

Inotada Knife Productions:   Anthony accompanies Morimoto to Sakai, an industrial city with one of the largest and most important seaports of Japan since the Medieval era.  Sakai is now known for its knives, and Anthony visits master Yoshi Kazuakada, a knife maker at Inotada Knife Productions, known for making exquisite knives including those used by chef Morimoto.  The skills that once provided the lethal edge of samurai authority have made the transition to the culinary needs of the modern world with only a hint of change.  In contrast with the age of mass production, every Sakai knife is made individually by a master craftsman's hand and its sharpness is above all others in the world.

Hiiragiya Ryokan:   Anthony and Miromoto visit Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto. At Hiiragiya Ryokan, the kaiseki seeks to elevate the Japanese dining experience to its highest level.  Each dish aspires to a perfect balance of taste, texture, appearance, and color.  Anthony and Miromoto dine on King Eel tail; a sashimi dish of flatfish, tuna and whelk; a meticulously grilled Japanese butterfish with miso; and shirako (cod fish sperm sacs).

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn similiar to what to those during the Japan's feudal era.  Ryokan can be found all over Japan, but the best are in Kyoto, and what distinguishes a ryokan, in part, is the quality of its food.  Meals consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki, which features seasonal and regional specialties.  Most ryokan are typically located in scenic areas, such as in the mountains or by the sea.  They typically feature tami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.  The primary role of the geisha is to provide witty conversation as companions during the meal and to play drinking games with the guests.  Aside from their conversational skills, all geisha have mastered a number of traditional singing, dancing, and instrumental abilities.

Sukiyabashi Jiro:   Decked out in a black suite and tie, Anthony dines at Sukiyabashi Jiro, which has been awarded three Michelin stars and is considered by many to the best sushi in the world.  The master chef and owner, Jiro Ono, has been preparing sushi for almost 75 years.  He prepares a 15-course, 3-star sushi meal for Anthony, which not only requires that it be eaten within 20 minutes, but that it be eaten with nothing but his fingers and as Jiro Ono has prepared it, without any additional soy sauce or wasabi.

The meal featured the following delicacies: Hirame (flounder), Sumi-ika (squid), Maguro (yellowtail tuna), three slices of tunaAkami, Chu-toro, and Oo-toro—increasing from lean, to medium fatty, to extremely fatty cuts, each marinated in soy sauce for several minutes before service, Kuruma-ebi (giant tiger prawn), Kohada (Japanese gizzard shad), Hamaguri (a type of Japanese clam), Tako (octopus tentacle), Akagai (red ark shell clam), Uni (sea urchin roe), Kobashira (round clam abductor muscles wrapped in seaweed), Ikura (salmon roe), and Anago (saltwater eel).

Anthony concludes that the very things that disturb him about Japan—the tight fetishistic focus, the easy compartmentalization, the love of ritual and precision—are also the things he loves, especially when at the center of the frame, or in ikebana style, slightly to the left or right of it, there's something extraordinary.



ARGENTINA:  From the Tango to paragliding to cattle rustling to trekking along icy glaciers, Anthony experiences it all.

AUSTRALIA:  Melbourne has been described as San Francisco without the fog.  Anthony is off to discover what makes it so special.

BERLIN:  Anthony finds himself in Berlin, a city that is for him both good and evil, Eastern and Western, repulsive and appealing.

BRAZIL:  Some say São Paulo feels like LA threw up on NYC.  But Anthony's back for the great food and its welcoming people.

Anthony revisits his love for India's vibrant culture, cuisine & communities with a trip to Kolkata & Mumbai.

COLOMBIA:  A bright and beautiful country that has gone from drug capital to food capital.  Anthony explores its unique cuisine.

EGYPT:  Anthony skips the long lines and tour buses, and visits with Egyptian locals to get a taste for what it means to be Egyptian.

GHANA:  Anthony heads to Ghana, West Africa, a land of old forts and slave castles, and a culture filled with great food and music.

GREEK ISLES:  Anthony is on a culinary odyssey to discover if Greece really does have the world's healthiest diet. 

HONG KONG:  A wonder-land of colors, lights and speed, a perfect marriage of modern and traditional, and home to great Asian cuisine.

IRELAND:  Ireland's steeped in history and traditions, both oral & written.  Anthony dispels the myths that it has the worst food on the planet.

JAMAICA:  Jamaica is a vibrant, colorful land full of resorts and reggae music.  Anthony is there to uncover the lesser-known Jamaica.

KOREA:  Anthony gives in to his employee's pressure to visit Korea and, next thing you know, they're in Seoul and the adventure begins.

MEXICO:  Carlos, a head chef in NYC and good friend, gives Anthony a culinary tour of his hometown Puebla and nearby Mexico City.

OSAKA (Japan):  Anthony learns all about kuidaore, which means to bankrupt oneself with extravagance in food and drink!

PARIS: In this very first episode of the series, Anthony heads to the "City of Light" to show, at least the Americans, why the French don't suck.

PERU:  Anthony is on a mission to obtain personal enlightenment in a land of ancient culture, rich cuisine, and vibrant people.

QUEBEC (Canada):  Anthony is off to Québec to indulge in one of his most hedonistic pleasures–foie gras (fatty duck liver).

RAJASTHAN (India):  From gorgeous sights to enticing smells, Anthony explores the magical and delicious offerings of Rajasthan.

ROME:  Anthony adopts the mindset of the Roman people–living a simple life and eating fresh, seasonal ingredients.

RUSSIA:  Anthony explores Russia, where the food is hearty.  Along the way he meets a former Cold War spy and Miss Russia.

SHANGHAI (China):  Anthony is back in China.  From Shanghai to Tibet, he searches for the mythical Shangri-La.

SICILY:  Anthony starts his gastronomic tour through Sicily in style by sharing a spleen sandwich with Sicily's president.

SINGAPORE:  Singapore is serious about food and offers up a cuisine like no other.  Anthony dives in head-first.

SPAIN:  According to Anthony, outside of Asia, Spain is the single greatest place for culinary achievement in the world.

TUSCANY:  Anthony travels to the beautiful Tuscan countryside to visit with friends and enjoy some homemade pasta that's out of this world.

URUGUAY:  Anthony and his brother are on a mission to connect with their roots in Uruguay after learning that Bourdains once settled here.

Anthony visits Vancouver, home to a thriving film industry, gorgeous scenery, and an evolving food scene.


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