I get a lot of invitations to special events, and I turn down most of them. But sometimes an invite comes along that I can’t resist. Like this one:
I’m not sure why I was invited to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 75th birthday at the official residence of Japan’s Consul General, but I was certainly intrigued. I figured that would be as close as I’ve ever been to Japan — if you don’t count the afternoon I spent in a soaking tub at Ten Thousand Waves 20 years ago. Or all the time (and money!) I’ve spent since, sitting at sushi bars assisting in the depletion of a vast variety of species of fish plucked from the Seven Seas:
I must say I felt like a visiting dignitary waltzing into the an elegant Tudor that takes up a large corner of a city block atop Queen Anne Hill:
Which, as you can see, has an unobstructed view of the city. (I hope to finagle an invitation back next spring, when the blossoms on those trees must be knocked-out-gorgeous):
I was a little late to the reception, and made it through the metal-detector under the watchful gaze of a guard standing sentry — of which there were several. Ditto for Seattle’s Finest, hired to keep an eye out during the festivities as protection from I-know-not-what.
As I made my way inside, I heard the strains of our national anthem and found many important people gathered to honor Emperor Akihito, including several consuls from other countries, titans of industry and commerce, and Bellevue’s Director of Economic Development, Robert S. Derrick, who saw my name-tag and came over to introduce himself — and thank me for answering his wife’s e-mail about Queen Anne restaurants, several months back. He wasn’t eating lunch because, woe is him, he was expected at a dinnertime schmoozefest at Rover’s, where he’s likely sitting as I type.
There was a bit of pleasant speech-making, courtesy of Consul General Mitsunori Namba (nice digs, fella!) and Washington Senator Paull Shin offered some charming history as part of a toast to the Birthday Boy, who was there in spirit if not in the flesh:
After the pleasantries, everyone was invited to enjoy a buffet lunch, much of which was made in-house, though the sushi was brought in from a certain nearby kaiten parlor:
While everyone else lined up at the buffet and strolled and found a place to sit or stand, eat and chat. . .
. . . I begged for a look behind the scenes in the consul’s kitchen. There I found the house chef, Yuichi Sato, and another fine fellow hired for the occasion who was stirring an enormous pot of curry sauce (staff lunch!). I’d show you a photo, but they asked me not to shoot in there. Too bad, because the curry looked great and I’d have liked to have stuck around for staff meal.
On my way out, I gave up my name-tag to the adorable Adora Lanphere, who works at the consulate and, needless to say, speaks fluent Japanese — something she learned while living and teaching in Japan. (Jealous!):
Adora, bless her heart, told me she’s a regular reader of All You Can Eat. Which is great, because maybe then I can get the answer to my burning question about His Imperial Majesty’s birthday reception: Yo, Adora! How was the curry?