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Japan Photo Journal

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I had the opportunity to go to Japan last fall with Chef Tyson and a few others from the Hai team. The travel show Esprit Japon invited Chef Tyson out for a taping. While we were there, we got to explore lots of what Japan had to offer. I wanted to share these photos with you to help illustrate this great experience.
The one place, as a chef, that you have to go to in Japan is the Tsukiji market, which was the first place we went when we landed.  Outside the market is a variety of street vendors and small, alleyway markets that range from fake display food to small sushi bars.  One of the first things we saw were these beautiful, foraged matsutake mushrooms.  The smell hit you from around the corner, which was pretty amazing.  It felt like a scene from Spirited Away.
I always find it interesting to run across something that is so familiar but presented in a way that is so foreign.  So walking up to this booth outside of Tsukiji, and seeing these bunched stalks of edamame blew our minds!  Something so simple and natural, yet so different than what we are used to.
As we walked all over Tokyo, we realized very quickly that there are whole blocks dedicated to particular items.  One block we came upon was packed in every corner and crevice with Katsuobushi.  From whole blocks to grades of bonito flakes, you could pretty much find anything you wanted.
One thing I loved about Japan was the street food, and around the Tsukiji market, everything was as fresh as you would expect.  This one vendor was selling grilled tuna, cutting it straight from the side as he went.  He had the head out in front so you could inspect to ensure it was the freshest, and best quality.
Walking through Tsukiji Market was surreal, to say the least.  It was like stepping back in time… the cobblestone walkways, the almost barbaric chopping blocks, and the knives covered in fresh blood from that day’s catch…we were all speechless, wondering from booth to booth, mouths open and eyes wide.  We’d never seen anything like it!  And we were very lucky because they are moving this landmark to a new location in the next couple of years.
On our Journey, we were taken to a Buddhist Temple where we had the honor to stay the night.  We slept on the floor with pillows filled with rice in one of the most spiritual places I have ever been.  In the morning, when we woke, we were ushered into a small dark room where we sat in a circle around one of the Buddhist monks.  We wrote our prayers on a stick, gave them to the monk, whom at that point started building the fire you see.  He started the ceremony, chanting while a powerful drum beat deeply behind us shaking every aspect of our beings.  This experience alone was worth the trip.
Towards the end of our trip, we were taken to the largest zen garden in the world.  This image represents only a small section of the garden that took us over an hour to walk through.  The setting, the bridge between nature, man, and the spiritual realm, was powerful, to say the least.
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