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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

September 20, 2016: Tokyo Day #6!

Well, I spent most of the day thinking and worrying about my french bulldog Lulu and how best to proceed with her soft palate surgery, then the other most of the day thinking and worrying about the show’s third season.  In the case of the latter – I mean, sure, I know where I want to go, have worked out all of the character and story progressions, but actually getting there is always the challenge as, invariably, you get these inevitable curveballs thrown your way.  It’s alway so unnecessarily complicated.  It shouldn’t be but, really, welcome to show business.

But I’ll save that little rant for another time.

Tokyo!  Day #5!  Another 22k_ steps!  We covered a lot of ground today!

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Apparently, outside of Tsukiji Market, there’s not all that much to do in Tokyo early morning.  Rather than hang around our hotel room, Akemi and I decided to take a walk through Hibiya Park – a little oasis in the heart of the urban mayhem.

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We’ve been missing our dogs so much that we’ve resorted to pestering local dog owners for some time with their pooches.  Pictured above – Akemi and her now pal.

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We arrived early in Naka-Meguro, about an hour and a half before lunch, so we took a stroll through the neighborhood and came across this little dessert(ish) shop.  Akemi had apparently heard about it.  The shop’s owner incorporates vegetables into all her desserts in an effort to get kids to eat their veggies.  A few of the menu items on display…

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Not so strawberry shortcake, in which the strawberries are replaced with Japanese tomatoes and greens.

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Avocado cheesecake!

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And the intriguing but daunting asparagus tiramisu.

I know, I know.  Perfect Weird Food Purchase of the Day potential.  But I didn’t want to ruin my lunch.

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We ended up at my favorite pizza join in Tokyo – Pizza Seirinkan.  Your choices here are simple.  You can have the Margherita.  Or you can have the Marinara.

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One of the cheapest meals of this trip and one of the best.

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Akemi agrees.

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For dessert, a stopover at Jean-Paul Hevin.  Despite the triple chocolate order, our waitress professed her faith in our ability to polish them off.  Her confidence in us proved well-founded.

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I picked up this terrific Crayon Shin-Chan t-shirt at the T.V. Asahi store.  This way, there will no longer be any confusion when I visit set.

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With the entire afternoon in front of us, we decided to broaden our artistic horizons by checking out some of the local exhibits.  First up: The Dali exhibition and a Venetian Renaissance Paintings exhibit at the National Art Center.

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Then, we walked over to The Mori Art Museum for The Universe and Art, part of the TeamLab exhibitions Akemi was very eager to check out.  This one was more her speed.  Some of my highlights…

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Part of artist Laurent Grasso’s Studies into the Past.

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Artist Jia Aili’s “Hermit from Planet Dust”.

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Jules de Balincourt: “Cosmic Chaos” and “Space Investors”.

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Sorayama Hajime’s “Sexy Robot”.

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Artist Neri Oxman’s “Saturn’s Wanderer”: “Saturn’s Wanderer is created to adapt to the vortex storms on Saturn. It has a large surface area that would contain bacteria that converts the planet’s hydrocarbons into edible matter.”  Love it!

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A little something to add to Melissa O’Neil’s wardrobe in season 3?

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SEArch/Clouds AO: “Mars Ice House” – 3D printed resin model with wood base, internal light.

And then there was an amazing, full room video experience from TeamLab.  A small excerpt:

With that done, we headed to Roppongi Hills for a little more walking.  And I happened to come across these DC comics-themed characters –

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Hey, check it out!  It’s Jason Momoa!

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Finally, for dinner, we went to L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

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The sea urchin in lobster jelly with cauliflower cream to start.

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And a chartreuse souffle with pistachio ice cream.

Today, we head to Akihabara – Electric Town – Anime Central – Geek Heaven.

Perhaps another Periscope coming your way?

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Tonight, following the season premiere of Z Nation, it’s the season 2 finale of Dark Matter.

This episode changes everything.  Trust me.  Fans are going to be feeling passionate after this one.

And, while you’re all watching Dark Matter, I’ll be continuing my Tokyo travels.

Yesterday, we took the shinkansen from Osaka (arriving in a lightning 2.5 hours).  Check out the view outside the window…

Zippy, no?

We did a lot more walking, this time through Roppongi, before finally ending up at our very favorite sushi restaurant in the world: Sushisho Masa.  Now, the thing that differentiates Sushisho Masa from every other high end omakase sushi restaurant is the sheer inventiveness and variety of sushi.  All other places will serve a set number of pieces of nigiri, between 12 to 18, all usually top quality and fantastic. Masa, on the other hand, serves roughly 40 sushi bites, ranging from the grilled octopus shirako to melt-in-your-mouth tuna nigiri.  Last time we visited, Akemi could barely walk after her meal.  This time, she asked for the “josei portion” and, while she did leave the restaurant feeling full, she only insisted on an hour long post-meal walk.

Some of the highlights:

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Masa-san does something I’m never seen any other sushi chef do.  Before serving o-toro, the prized, highly marbled top end tuna belly, he carefully trims the paper thing individual fat layers.  He claims this results in a much more pleasurable taste and textural experience.  I’d have to agree.

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Masa-san and part of his team.  ’til next year!

Well, I’m off to the Tsukiji Market.  If I have time, be prepared for a live Periscope!

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I always found it interesting that, despite the crazy amount of food I would eat every time I visited Japan, I would return home actually lighter than when I left.  At first, I assumed it was because I’d lost heavier muscle mass and gained comparatively lighter body fat BUT when I started measuring said body fat after subsequent trips, I discovered that I was actually getting leaner.  How to explain it?  Well, it could be the quality of the food I’m eating.  Or a possible change in my metabolism triggered by the time zone change.  But, more than likely, it’s the walking.  Lots and lots of walking.  Consulting my handy iPhone health monitor, I noted that, back in Vancouver, my sedentary lifestyle had me walking about, oh, 2000 steps a day.  Since arriving in Japan, my average daily step count is closer to 17 000.  Poor Akemi, with her tiny little feet, has probably hit 100k since our arrival!

I’d like to say that all this exercise makes me feel great, but the truth is I feel really, really, REALLY sore. Fortunately, while in L.A. recently, I invested in an incredibly comfortable pair of Ermenegildo Zegna’s to replace the pair of mail order Stacy Adams that, literally, fell apart on me while walking down Beverly Blvd.  It could have been much, much worse.

So, for our last day in Osaka, Akemi and I met up for lunch with her mother, father, and brother.  This time, it was soba and udon…

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I went with the cold soba set and tempura.  It’s accompanied by a dipping broth you season yourself with the daikon, wasabi and/or green onion.  By the way, can I just say how out of this world better tempura is in Japan compared to the heavy, greasy versions we’re usually served in North America?

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Akemi’s dad, mom, and brother kindly treated us to lunch.  At one point, Mrs. Aota noted I was holding my chopsticks incorrectly.   I adjusted my hold and had my skills totally evaporate – to the point where Mr. Aota, clearly feeling sorry for me, suggested I go back to my original hand position and not worry about it.

After lunch, I did an impromptu Periscope (I think I may do a few more before trip’s end) and then, we walked.  And walked.  And walked.

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Hey!  We discover a statue of what Akemi declared my “favorite god” because he’s surrounded by food.  Only, it turns out, he maybe isn’t a god at all but a street mascot.

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We pass this clinic, it’s windows adorned with photos of hot young women.  When I asked Akemi about it, she informed me one visited this doctor “give more energy to your cincin”.  Ah.  That explained the photos.

Other assorted store and restaurant front mascots.  Osaka was full of them:

This guy looks like one angry S.O.B. Better eat his kushiage if you know what's good for you.

This guy looks like one angry S.O.B. Better eat his kushiage if you know what’s good for you.

Tako-yaki restaurant.

Tako-yaki restaurant.

Fugu restaurant!

Fugu restaurant!

Deadly...but delicious! Or so they say. I find it kind of bland.

Deadly…but delicious! Or so they say. I find it kind of bland.

Here. Have some sushi.

Here. Have some sushi.

Did I not tell you to try his kushiage?

Did I not tell you to try his kushiage?

According to Akemi, this giant crab is actually more famous than the restaurant it represents.

According to Akemi, this giant crab is actually more famous than the restaurant it represents.

I know it's nowhere near as elaborate as the other ones but, damn, I have a soft spot in my heart for this porcine waitress.

I know it’s nowhere near as elaborate as the other ones but, damn, I have a soft spot in my heart for this porcine waitress.

I love me some scallops.

I love me some scallops.

Found this one a little weird. I dunno.

Found this one a little weird. I dunno.

More tako-yaki.

More tako-yaki.

Awwww.

Awwww.

It was all fun and games until the steer vomited on her.

It was all fun and games until the steer vomited on her.

Alas, no, this place does NOT serve dragon.

Alas, no, this place does NOT serve dragon.

More Osaka sights:

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The famed canal that runs through Osaka.  When the city’s beloved Hanshin Tigers won Japan’s version of The World Series, locals celebrated by jumping off the bridge and into the water.  Not recommended.

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Osaka is known for many things – chiefest among them is takoyaki, battered octopus balls served molten hot.  Here, locals and tourists alike line up for the hometown delicacy.

They even do a dessert version, minus the octopus and plus the chocolate.

They even do a dessert version, minus the octopus and plus the chocolate.

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Oooh, that’s sharp!

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Purple Deadpool says: “Let’s party!”

For our farewell dinner, it was another Osaka speciality: okinomiyaki (seafood pancake…sort of).

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And that’s a wrap on Osaka.  Sayanora!  Until next year!

The view outside our room.  I could get used to this…

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Hey, here’s another EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK CLIP from Friday night’s Dark Matter season finale.

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Good morning!

The hotel (Intercontinental) upgraded us to a suite complete with kitchen so we took advantage by picking up some items at the local farmers’ market and shops and making breakfast.

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Giant figs, two types of dried mushrooms, Okinawa sea salt, garlic & thyme olive oil, three types of dried pepper, local honey, local tomato juice, local orange jelly, local thread peppers, and local yuzu-kosho paste.

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Akemi looking and feeling quite at home.

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The peppers were very tasty – and not particularly hot.  EXCEPT for the one Akemi got.  :)

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They were selling three types of eggs that differed by what the chickens ate.  The ones we picked up were pretty rich and delicious.

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Last night, it was unagi dinner with Akemi’s family: her brother, father, and mother.  We went to their favorite local eel restaurants (and mine!) Uoi.  We actually visited for lunch last time we were in town – and got a little TOUR as well.

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Appetizer: tempura shrimp paste wrapped in shiso and lotus root.

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Shirayaki.  Light, crisp, and possessed of a sweet, subtle flavor.

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Kabayaki dinner – This sauced version is darker, richer – and equally delicious.

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On the way back to our hotel, I couldn’t resist stopping for my favorite Japanese dessert.  Not macarons at chocolatier Jean-Paul Hevin.  Not the airy light seasonal maron cakes at revered patissier Hidemo Sugino’s shop.  Not the hand-crafted chocolates at La Maison du Chocolat.  I”m talking about the $1.50 Hattendon cream buns available in many fine Japanese subway stations.   I got the matcha (green tea) and the custard.  As amazing as I remembered them!

Hey, check it out!  It’s a sneak peek scene from this Friday night’s Dark Matter season finale:

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We got into Osaka a little after 6:30 p.m. last night, checked into our hotel, then headed out in time to watch the stores close.  We were so chocolated out that we skipped dinner.  I know, I know.  A rarity for me.

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This morning, however, we were out bright and early.  As were many eager shoppers.  We passed a group of people congregated outside a department store.  “What are they waiting for?”I asked.  “They’re waiting for the department store to open,”Akemi informed me.  Waiting for the department store to open?  It was 9:30 a.m.!  What kind of crazed die-hard shoppers spend 30 minutes anxiously awaiting the opening of a department store?!

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We decided on Japanese curry for lunch.  We were very early but elected to walk by the place, just to confirm its location and, whaddya know – it was already open! So we popped in.  I had the katsu-kari – golden fried pork on rice surrounded by the sweet and spicy version of curry served here in Japan.

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Then, we walked off lunch by perusing some of the local offerings, strolling through this miles-long corridor of shops.

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Artwork adorning the entranceways.

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Akemi can’t resist a good cut-out.

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We wandered by this temple.  Outside the entrance to the grounds was a statue of a portly fellow that Akemi proclaimed: “Your favorite god.”  “Why’s he my favorite,”I asked?  “Because he’s always eating and surrounded by food.”  Oh.

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Artwork adoring the ceiling above the entranceway.  Chinese astrological signs.  I’m a snake.  Surprised?

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We stop for a snack – ice cream sandwiched between two wafer-thin mochiko powder shells.  Akemi liked the shells.  I preferred the ice cream.  This is why we’ve been together for almost seven years.

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One of the department stores was hosting a special Hokkaido-themed event, featuring products and specialities from Japan’s northernmost island – and, uh, this unique claw game.  Win your date a potato!

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On our way back to the hotel, I pick up some of the biggest figs I’ve ever laid eyes on.  An oasis of healthy snacking in the eye of a crispy, crunchy, creamy culinary storm.

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It rained this afternoon, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to check out the modest little farmer’s market that set up shop close to our hotel.  A sample plate of spicy “thread” peppers caught my eye and, after trying one, I ended up purchasing a bag.  “You know what goes great with peppers?”said the pepper farmer.  “Mushrooms!”  And he motioned me over to the adjoining booth where I was presented with samples of two different mushrooms, one black and one white.  Delicious.  As I bought one of each, the mushroom farmer informed me that “The black ones fight cancer while the white ones are good for your skin.”  “Honey is also good for your skin!”piped up the honey farmer at the neighboring stand.  And he had samples too.  Good thing our hotel room has a kitchen.

Tonight, it’s unagi dinner with Akemi’s family!

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Mike A.  Condolences on your loss, Mike.

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The plan was to enjoy two weeks off – after riding the non-stop production carousel since summer of 2014, stepping away from prep and post and scripts and notes  to just, finally, get away from it all for a modest 14 days before jumping back into it. A simple 2 out of 150 weeks to relax, recharge, and refresh.  You know?  A hard-earned rest after two seasons, 12 scripts, 5 major rewrites, and the plotting of another 13?  But this would appear to be easier said than done as, even halfway across the world, I can’t escape the seemingly endless production-related concerns.

Oh, but I’ll try anyway.

Today was our last day in Tokyo – for now – as we’re catching the bullet train to Osaka to spend time with Akemi’s family.  I was, admittedly, a little leery about what Akemi had planned for the day – a four hour chocolate-making course in Japanese – but I made it work because, hey, I’m all about collaboration.  I’m a freakin’ team player, right?

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We arrive at a little before 10:30 a.m. for the start of production.  Chocolate production that is.  Our hosts are the Tokyo branch of San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate.

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I kill time by ordering one of my many chocolate-themed snacks of the day.  In this case, a spicy hot chocolate.  Akemi ate my cookie and marshmallow.

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The plan, not unlike a production prep schedule, complete with timings, structured progressions, and random chocolate tastings.

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My impeccable Japanese penmanship on display.  The name tag says simply “Joe”.  “Creator/Executive Producer/Showrunner” would have taken most of the afternoon.

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Your final product is only as good as your starting ingredients like, say, the best raw cacao beans or best written scripts.

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But before you use ’em, make sure to sort through them, removing problematic elements like feathers, nails, and ridiculous plot points.

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After that, it’s into the roaster where that amazing base ingredient acquires another level of characters – aroma, flavor, and special guest star casting.

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Once that’s done, it’s on to the winnowing where the heavier nib is separated from lighter, inedible skin.  The nibs are like really great script moments like the Android speaking in varied accents or THREE reducing FIVE to tears when he tells her he doesn’t care for her, not because she thinks he DOESN’T care for her but because, in so doing, it make her realizes how much he truly DOES.  The skin is like those suspect creative intrusions that get cast off in prep week.  Hey, how about making the corporate guard an oboe?

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Producing chocolate is not unlike producing television.  It’s the ingredients that make the final product.  In this case, we elect to go with a delightful Belize/Trinidad 75% blend, sort of like marrying phenomenal director Ron Murphy with a script written by the talented Paul Mullie.

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And into the processor it goes.  Day 1!  Scene 1!  Interior Raza Bridge!

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Blitz!  Melissa O’Neil wants to tweak a line of dialogue.  Anthony wants to ad-lib a little at the end.  You say yes and the end result surpasses what you’d originally envisioned because your cast is awesome and totally in sync with the material, their characters.

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From the food processor to the melanger, segueing from prep week to production. The nibs are ground, transformed from their humble script-like beginnings to something completely different and, hopefully, wonderful.

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Before getting right into it, whether it be chocolate-making, production oversight, or 11th hour issues, it’s always best to be prepared.  I imagine that this is how the cast and crew see me whenever I show up on set.  The reaction: “Oh, shit!”.

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Snack break #2 as the grinding process takes time.  20 minutes in the case of chocolate; about 8-10 days for an episode of Dark Matter.  A sweet and salty dulce de leche dessert accompanied by a bittersweet European hot chocolate that was pretty damn close to pudding.

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Next, Akemi adds the sugar – 25% of the total package leaving us with a 75% dark chocolate blend – or, in production terms: directed by Ron Murphy, written by Paul Mullie, guest starring sweet, sweet Marc Bendavid.

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Then, we have to step away and allow the sugar and cacao to melange, usually 2-4 days.  This is like delivering the dailies to the editor who then spends days assembling his/her edit.  While this is happening, we go out for ramen.  I order clam broth and pork with an egg, a side of cod roe on ice, and a request to really let those awesome VFX beats breathe.

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And snack #3: dessert smore with a dark chocolate center and a weird but uniquely tasty drink made from the fruit of the cacao plant.

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Oh yeah.  Almost there!  Check out the liquid gold director’s cut.  And send in those notes.

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Hopefully, it doesn’t get too messy.

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Alright.  Ready to head into battle once again.  Put on your battle armor.

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Temper your chocolate – and expectations – as you complete post-production. Lose the air.  Add sound effects and music.

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And color correct!  Akemi reminds us to color correct!

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And there you have it – roughly 30 bars of chocolate, or 13 episodes of television.

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Mariko-san and Masaaki-san, the chocolate-making equivalents of Executive Producer Vanessa Piazza and Supervising Producer Ivon Bartok.

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Ah, the satisfaction of a job well done.  But don’t get too comfortable!  Work begins immediately for the next (chocolate) season!

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September 12, 2016: Tokyo Day #1!

September 11th back west but the 12th here.  This blog entry comes to you from the future!

So, the fallout from Friday night’s Dark Matter double-header continues to resonate.  I’ll hold off talking about it until our international fans have had a chance to catch up but, suffice it to say, if you found the ending of episode 212 shocking, you’ll be downright devastated by our season finale.

Meanwhile, I’m in Japan.  After a typical sleepless pre-flight night and a relatively sleepless eight hour flight, I arrived in Tokyo at 4:00 p.m. local time, about midnight my time.  Once Akemi and I had caught caught the shuttle bus from Narita, checked into our hotel, enjoyed a late night of yakitori –

Thigh, breast, meatball and, of course, chicken butt!

Thigh, breast, meatball and, of course, chicken butt!

I forced myself to stay up until 9:30 p.m. (5:30 a.m. Vancouver time).  By 10 p.m. I was OUT.  Then, following a deep sleep, I roused awake in a panic, assuming I had slept in and wasted much of the afternoon.  I scrambled to check the time on my iPhone.  What was it?  8 a.m.?  9?!  10?!!!  Try 1:30 a.m.  I’d been asleep for all of three and a half hours.

I slept fitfully until 6 am when I woke up – much to Akemi’s relief as she had been up since 4 a.m. – then we got dressed and headed over to the Tsukiji Fish Market for our traditional Japanese breakfast –

Nikki-dofu (left) and "guts bowl" (right)

Nikki-dofu (left) and “guts bowl” (right)

We walked around Ginza.  We walked around Omotesando.  I humored Akemi by agreeing to a vegetarian lunch where I enjoyed was served about a dozen dish small dishes.  The overarching theme of the lunch was bitter-goopy.

My review: Bleeergh!

My review: Bleeergh!

Then, it was off to La Maison de Chocolat for second-lunch.

Iced chocolate, two chocolate macaroons, a chocolate eclair, a couple of chocolate almonds, and a chocolate square.  And an iced tea for Akemi.

Iced chocolate, two chocolate macaroons, a chocolate eclair, a couple of chocolate almonds, and a chocolate square. And an iced tea for Akemi.

Well, my Snow Monkeys are off to a horrendous start in fantasy football league play, putting up an abysmal 64.14 points.  It’s going to be a looong season!

Akemi is thrilled to be here.

Akemi is thrilled to be here.

Ah, Japanese toilets - how I've missed you!

Ah, Japanese toilets – how I’ve missed you!

Check out the window cleaner waaaay up on top.

Check out the window cleaner waaaay up on top.

A surprisingly uncrowded Ginza dori - at 7 a.m.

A surprisingly uncrowded Ginza dori – at 7 a.m.

Rule #1 of traveling with Akemi: Stop to take a picture with every street corner mascot.

Rule #1 of traveling with Akemi: Stop to take a picture with every street corner mascot.

Welcome to Tsukiji

Welcome to Tsukiji

Imagine the size of the plate!

Imagine the size of the plate!

Two types of sea urchin in charcoal bun.

Two types of sea urchin in charcoal bun.

7:00 a.m. lineup for sushi breakfast.

7:00 a.m. lineup for sushi breakfast.

Akemi - super bummed the Sanrio shop was closed.

Akemi – super bummed the Sanrio shop was closed.

Who needs menus?  Just pick and point.

Who needs menus? Just pick and point.

Okay, okay.  Akemi has been talking about this for years.  I promise to try it before I head back home.

Okay, okay. Akemi has been talking about this for years. I promise to try it before I head back home.

According to Akemi, it's a specially designed spoon attuned to the vibrations of your hand that makes the ice cream melt faster.   Hmmm.

According to Akemi, it’s a specially designed spoon attuned to the vibrations of your hand that makes the ice cream melt faster. Hmmm.

Sad robot.

Despondent robot.

A Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate macaron.

A Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate macaron.

Akemi misses the dogs so badly, she's taken to bonding with the animatronic ones.

Akemi misses the dogs so badly, she’s taken to bonding with the animatronic ones.

Uh oh.  Sad rabbit.  The memory card in Akemi's camera conks out.

Uh oh. Sad rabbit. The memory card in Akemi’s camera conks out.

Sushi tonight, then we’re off to a chocolate-making class tomorrow before catching the bullet train to Osaka.  Akemi had me call the shop last month to find out if the class was offered in English.  Sadly, the answer was no – but, undeterred, Akemi signed us up anyway.  “It’s only one class,”she said.  Right.  Only one FOUR HOUR class!

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