Under the tutelage of Miss Sayoko Noma and Miss Naoka Eguchi, our goal was to fill each of the six sections of our bento box with a different tasty treat. We started off making a Japanese omelet in a square frying pan, and continued with a dish of pumpkin and okra boiled in dashi broth. This was followed by chicken tsekouneh: minced chicken, gently fried and glazed with sugar, soy sauce and cooking sake. Another dish consisted of deep-fried marinated chicken strips, and then a touch of colour was added to the meal with delicately-arranged green beans (edamame) and cherry tomatoes. We made Onigiri as an addition to the Bento meal, consisting of rice balls wrapped in Nori (seaweed); one with flaked salmon inside and one with kelp. And then finally for the last dish, we turned apple quarters into ‘rabbit-ear apples’ with the “ears” standing up on the rabbit’s head; a sure lunch winner for kids (and adults too!)
But in Tokyo, refined tastes come in all shapes and sizes as we discovered later in the afternoon when we took our seats in the Taiwanese Pineapple Cake Shop in the Omote Sando area to taste the delicate sweet dessert. We were not in the shop due to hunger, but because we were on an architectural discovery tour of the Omote Sando neighborhood with our City of Tokyo guide Miss Akiko Enoki.
The building in which the shop is located is referred to as “Sunny Hills” and was designed by Kenzo Kuma, one of Japan’s most celebrated architects. Sunny Hills stands out with its striking wooden construction amidst a fairly ordinary-looking residential neighbourhood. Kuma’s trademark is the melding of nature with
modern construction, and the nearby Nezu Museum, with its wall of bamboo trees is one example, while the new Stadium that Kuma is designing for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics and referred to as the “habitable forest” is another attempt to use architecture to showcase the harmony between man and nature.
A few streets over we saw another Olympic connection in the Prada Building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron who also designed Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium for the 2008 games. Our guide pointed out other important buildings in the area that showcased the work of architectural luminaries such as Jun Mitsui, Tadao Ando and Tyo Ito (the latter designed Tod’s Building on the main strip, to mimic the zelkova trees that line the streets of the Omote Sando district). And other architectural wonders are spread throughout the city including the Cocoon Building and Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku, the Audi Forum, known as the Blue Iceberg in Shibuya and the iconic Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida.