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September 22, 2005
The Garden and Lunch at Happo-En
Filed in: Current Affairs, Good eats, Japan, Photography

Well, my first day in Japan this trip brought an unexpected surprise.

As I've continued to work with my venture partner over here, it seems that they attempt to outdo themselves each time they take me out to lunch. Today was no exception.

Today, we went from Ginza to the garden (and restaurant) at Happo-En.

As recently as 1951 (after having been known as a garden area since the Edo period), this garden measured 44 square miles! It's now just only a few acres - but it is spectacular. Most people go there these days for the exquisite food.

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Many people know that there is a certain Japanese aesthetic focused on order and beauty. This place embodies that - and I could sense it from the moment that the cab drove through the entrance...

(Warning: I think it's 17 more pictures will load if you expand the post...)

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The day was overcast - but I thought that brought out the lushness of the greens. The lanterns in this garden range from a few hundred to over 800 years old.

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What is is about a place like this, that you can look at a picture and immediately know that it is from Japan?

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Certainly ancient lanterns and a pond full of koi provide clues.

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The koi think that it is lunch time.

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This guy even said "Give us some lunch will ya luv?" ...

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Everything is placed 'just so' ...

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This is the entrance to the old teahouse on the property. (You can enjoy formal Japanese tea service in the afternoons by reservation and about twenty bucks.)

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As is always the case in Tokyo - you need only look up to see the city. But what a view!

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A few remaining blooms from summer.

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Our host said this tree was over three thousand years old.

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The bonzai display at this garden was the largest and most spectacular I have ever seen.

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All of these bonzai were 'hundreds' of years old - some 200, some 300 ...

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this one is 500 years old. Can you imagine the multi-generational committment to care for a tree for 500 years? Weren't there a few typhoons? Earthquakes? Wars?

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Here's a line of them - each of these trees has been cared for for centuries by people who are trained to take care of them - each one going through an apprenticeship that's more than two decades long.

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We arrive back at the same pagoda that we saw when we started the the loop walk.

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From here, we get to go inside and eat lunch - looking out on this beautiful garden.

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Here's the first course - top left is a tofu custard with a local 'bean' inside - I'm not much of a tofu fan, but this was some amazing stuff - very fresh tasting and very creamy and smooth. Top right is a cucumber and eggplant mixture, held together by a gluey paste made from I have no idea what. In the center is some yellowfin tuna that has been 'cooked' in some kind of vinegar brine (sort of like ceviche). Everything here was excellent.

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Here's the second course - after everything has been opened. You can see the rice on the left. In the center front are some pickled vegetables - cucumber, a radish like tuber, and a shredded seaweed that I thought tasted rather like prune. On the near far right is miso soup, the far upper right an egg custard made with local beans and mushrooms. At the top left is a basked of tempura - fish, shrimp, peppers, and other vegetables. At the very front of that basket is a little pile of 'daikon' - a radish like vegetable that is shredded. One takes the daikon and stirs it into the tempura sauce - at medium center. All of this was most excellent as well - though I'm sure the view through the window influences the enjoyment of the meal.

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A rarity in Japan - a sweet dessert. This looks very much like flan - but it isn't. This is a soy based custard, covered with a suggary topping. It  didn't taste like flan - but it was very good and fresh.

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Cab fare from Ginza to Happo-En: $30. Lunch at Happo-En: About $45 per person. Getting to see and take pictures of one of the oldest gardens in Japan: Priceless!



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People Pulling

Great pics! I love Japanese gardens. Those bonzai are amazing - I wish I had that kind of patience. I keep meaning to go shoot the one at the Arboretum, but still haven't managed it. Maybe once the fall colors get going good I'll head over there.
>^..^<

EMCEE: Hi Jan. Arboretum sounds fun. I've done a few shoots there - mostly high school senior pics. I've never taken pics of the Japanese garden there. This Happo En place is really interesting. Thanks for liking the pics.

Posted by: JLB at Sep 22, 2005 5:22:24 PM

MC, you've done it again! Lunch looked awesome, too. I gotta get back there one of these days.

EMCEE: Hi Scott! I know you've featured some sushi items before - might be fun for you to do a bento box or tempura or something - well, now I'm hungry - going to go find some sushi or something. Cheers! Thanks for the nice words Scott.

Posted by: Scott P at Sep 22, 2005 5:29:21 PM

When I have chance I will visit this japanese garden,because of your pics.Thank you very much:))

Posted by: steven davies at Jul 6, 2007 2:33:19 AM

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