Kimie had a day off in the middle of the week, so we went to Mito City for a little year end shopping. We got there after noon, so parked at Keisei department store for lunch. The top (9th) floor features several restaurants, and our favorite* one specializes in tofu and yuba.
In addition to western style and Japanese style dining areas, they have a long table - perhaps 20 or more feet - facing the outer glass wall of the building. It is made of one solid wood plank, about three inches thick. The view is to the north and on a clear day, one is treated to the mountains of north Ibaraki and of Tochigi - one being Mt. Nantai in Nikko National Park, some 40 km distant. Closer in, at just two blocks away, is the "ATM" - Art Tower Mito with its 100 meter (328 ft) tall geometric spiral tower made of titanium.
Art Tower Mito has an exhibition hall for contemporary art, a music theater for classical performances, such as those by the Mito Chamber Orchestra (Seiji Ozawa, musical advisor), and a drama theater in which Acting Company Mito and other groups perform. The lobby connecting all three has a German designed pipe organ made with American oak that has 3,283 full stop pipes. It was built by two Japanese craftsmen who studied in Germany and achieved the designation of master organ builder.
The tower itself is, as I mentioned, 100 meters tall. This was done to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mito becoming an official city in 1889. Inside, there is a circular glass elevator which takes visitors to an observation room at the 86 meter level.
The restaurant has a wonderful buffet, but we opted for a teishoku (set lunch), which starts off with a basket of fresh tofu to which one can add sea salt and or shoyu, and a bowl of yuba. Yuba is a favorite of mine, in all its many forms. It is the film skimmed off the top of the vat when tofu is being made. Delicate flavor and silky smooth texture lend it to several uses in Japanese cuisine, especially the dishes of the Buddhist "Shojin Ryori" vegetarian tradition. Shojin means "to pursue enlightenment" and ryori simply means "cooking". So Shojin Ryori is not just vegetarian food, it is a Zen Buddhist practice, and it dates back to the 13th century. But I digress a long way, as we were not eating an entirely vegetarian lunch.
The teishoku tray we ate offered mackerel, tempura, steamed veggies, sashimi, miso soup, rice, pickled veggies and a desert.
After shopping at Keisei, we went down to the Mito train station and picked up a few more items in the shops there. There is a new coffee house at the station - Saza Coffee. The company grows its own beans in the Americas and Africa. They've been around for over forty years (starting out in Hitachinaka, northern Ibaraki. We have been served the company's iced coffee at the yacht harbor, but the Mito shop is new. Anyway, Kimie had wanted to try it last time we were up there, but on that trip, it was getting late in the day and I declined. So I owed her. This trip I just had iced tea (I can't drink coffee in the afternoon or I stay awake at night), while Kimie had her coffee and a slice of cheesecake.
Saza!It was a nice way to end the day before heading home.
* (Actually, I've never eaten at any of the other restaurants up there, as their focus is on foods I'm not interested in - Chinese, Korean, beef, pork, oysters, etc. ).