23 (Sun) July 2017
Mission to Japan, Day 1.
In Tokyo and beyond. Here to oversee various preparations in advance of the upcoming Third Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarian Forum on Global Health in August.
While the approval memo lists four terms of reference for this mission, the only one that really counts, the one around which the others are built is: to conduct ocular inspections of potential venues for a courtesy event to be hosted by the Regional Director. The term “ocular inspection” doesn’t adequately describe what I’m doing here, but “gustatory sampling” may have seemed too fluffy.
I don’t know if anyone has ever been deployed on an official eating mission.
The August meeting will conclude with a field visit to a long-term care community for the elderly in Kashiwa, a small satellite city about 50 km northeast of central Tokyo. Following the field visit, WHO will host a farewell dinner for the participants. Senior management, recognizing the importance of hospitality at such high-level events, and apparently recognizing my competency in hospitality matters, sent me to find a suitable location for the dinner. I was joined by TM, a Japanese colleague handling the local end of the arrangements.
We visited over 20 establishments throughout the day, though we only tried the food at 2 of them.
The trick was to find a place that satisfied the following critieria, in no specific order, as each is critical: capacity to comfortably seat and smoothly serve 80 persons at once; available on the date; clean; smoke-free – a major issue in Japan, still; classy enough for parliamentarians, yet not too fancy for a WHO-hosted event; reasonable prices; excellent food; healthy food.
We decided on Kisoji.
We decided on sukiyaki. With its soy sauce base, it seems more readily accessible for international palates. The spread is easily adaptable for vegetarians, simply by removing the beef and increasing the vegetables – not that I care about vegetarians in general (see for example 5.209 Animal Assault) – but as an event organizer I am concerned about leaving anyone behind (see for example 7.324 Left Behind), especially anyone high-level. As long as senior management doesn’t object prima facie to the restaurant’s chain nature, I’m hoping they accept our hard-earned recommendation.
As ever, I cannot spend a night in Japan (urban Japan) without indulging in a convenience store midnight snack – typically some spread involving tuna and whisky. Conveniently, my hotel has a convenience store. Yay.