Monday, May 23, 2005

It's a Point of View

Musing on weekend activity in the neighborhood it struck me that, to a realtor, a tree is never a view. Or perhaps it might be a "territorial view", which suggests a need for very tall sight excluding fences to screen your barbe from the gas works next door. To realtors "views" are free value added enhancements to the usual jerry built cottage. Put it next to a mountain and add half again to the price. Since, as a culture, we Americans all take our opinions from experts, this indicates that what you can see beyond your yard is more important than what you can see in your yard.
Contrast this with the Japanese who, when they can afford such luxuries -- space being at a distinct premium -- carefully construct their yard as a garden with near, middle and distant views that do not include the neighbors. If the site lacks a suitable distant view, then a large tree at the fence is used. When needful a completely different view is suggested inside the garden then is available outside the garden. For the Japanese what is in their yard is of concern, while what is beyond is less so. Involvement with the neighbors is nothing but trouble.
Goemon is an incredibly fine restaurant in the Bunkyo-ku section of Tokyo. It is located between the multi-story buildings that line a major downtown arterial and a rock out-cropping as tall as the buildings. On the street all is noise and light and hustle with traffic, pachinko parlors and shoppers. Turn in to the narrow alley that leads to Goemon's and all that diminishes. At the entrance is a large iron ufuro, or bath tub. This is significant of the historical Goemon, a heart of gold bandit who ended his career being boiled to death in one. The tub took its name from the outlaw. The restaurant took its name from the tub. Think of it as "Robin's 'Hood" for a more occidental turn. Past this the brick gives way to the traditional wood materials of a traditional Japanese Inn. This envelops a garden -- complete with carp pond -- on three sides. Diners sit in small rooms, one per party, looking at the garden during the inclement bits of the year. In the al fresco season, they move into the garden. Seated, one may look toward and up the rock out-cropping. The eyes come to rest on a very -- very tall evergreen jutting from the summit which points alertly into the night sky as though guarding a mountain pass. All the noise of the city is absent from this courtyard. The diners have no sight in any direction of city buildings. The night sky reveals stars -- not the city glow that obliterates them elsewhere in the Kanto. It is a superb design which achieves its goals with a minium of apparent effort. The food exceeds the setting. What is it? Your choice of seasonal compilations of tofu or of the same with the addition of thinly sliced raw chicken breast. Superb is too drab a word.

1 comment:

  1. If you could compartmentalize your enormous mind (which would of course leave out to parts labeled "self-respect" and "philosophy") you would be a famous restaurant critic.