From “A Hopeful Sign” – Every Meal in Japan is an Experience

My latest post on the e-zine “A Hopeful Sign” is about eating in Japan.  As most of you know, I truly love food and eating, and it is a big part of the Japanese culture. You can get to the post properly HERE.

In case you can’t see the link, here is a teaser of the post, but to see the full meat of it, please click on the link above.

Like many humans, I spend a lot of time not only eating, but thinking about food.  In Japan, food is not just sustenance or yummy, but a different type of art form.  From the casual to the decadent, food has a prominent place in the Japanese culture far beyond the sushi that many people associate with the country. That being said, let’s begin with sushi:

The above photo is from my favorite sushi restaurant in Japan, Fukuzushi.  Labeled by Frommer’s as possibly the best in Tokyo, it has been in business for four generations and is currently owned and run by the great-granddaughter of the founder.  Every piece of fish is hand-chosen by specially trained sushi chefs at the Tsukiji Fish market the morning before it is served.

This is a photo of master sushi chef Toyo Agarie at Fukuzushi.  He told us that he studied and worked as an apprentice for many years to become a proper sushi chef.  Once he mentioned that he worked in the restaurant for more than a year before ever touching a piece of fish.  Look carefully at the photo; Toyo-san is holding a knife in his right hand that he swings expertly toward the piece of cucumber in his hand in order to slice it beautifully to be put on the plate next to the fish.  He swings the sharp knife so fast that it’s barely visible in the photo. It’s an ancient skill and art that he practices.

A Hopeful Sign is an excellent site, full of uplifting messages and stunning photos.  Please go to the LINK and enjoy!

The Great Shoe Debate

Like any good New Yorker (where I trained in the art of workplace etiquette), now that I’m working and commuting, I try to wear my flip flops or sneakers to work and then change into proper shoes when I get to school.    For years now, I have noted that women in Japan do not change their shoes, but they wear these gorgeous heels and boots right on the trains and buses, and for however long they are walking between public transport stops.

This week, I found out I am mistaken, sort of.  My friend Masami, who owns and runs Fukuzushi – the very best sushi shop in Roppongi (4th generation owner…), casually mentioned that Japanese women are always carrying shoes.

“Where?” I protested.  “I see them in their gorgeous shoes all over the streets!”

“Ah yes,” Masami nodded, “but they carry slippers for the office.”

It turns out that Japanese people have the exact opposite attitude about footwear than Americans.  The Japanese people wear their fancy footwear out in the world – TO the office – and then once safely inside the confines of the office, they wear only slippers.  So they do not wear these beautiful, yet pinching, shoes for a twelve-hour plus day.

This still gives me pause.  If shoes pinch, then they pinch for the thirty minute commute, or they pinch for the five minutes in the office ’til you realize it and remove them to walk in stocking feet, which I’ve done more than once over my years of working.  Frankly, I’d rather be comfortable for the part of the day where I KNOW I’m walking than in the office, where I can usually take my shoes off under my desk and no one will notice.  Of course, that applies to office workers, not for teachers.  Teachers have to have something proper in which to teach, but it does not, apparently, have to be the nice shoes in which I’ve just commuted.

I’m not sure which was is better – for the psyche or the foot, but they sure are completely polar ideas.  Isn’t it great that after about eight years of my association with Japan, I’m still learning new things?

The Top Ten Things I Miss About Tokyo

It’s about that time of year again, when I do the list of things I miss about my adopted home when I am away from it for so many weeks.  So here we go!

  1. Walking everywhere – I spend so much time in my car in Washington DC – even living right in the city!
  2. The drinking culture – because everyone drives, fewer people have a smaller number of drinks – I do love my drinks!
  3. My favorite sushi restaurant – Fukuzushi.  In Roppongi.  I never eat sushi in the U.S.
  4. Mount Thabor bakery in Azabu Juban – there is truly no French bakery quite like that here in DC.
  5. Using my iPhone like it was meant to be used – I do as little data roaming as possible here in DC, and I miss just pulling out my smart phone at will.  I use a cheap, old, little Nokia phone here in DC.
  6. My tiny little car – I’m driving a rented Chevy Impala here in DC, which is 1.5 times bigger than my little BMW 318I in Tokyo.
  7. The service – I like American restaurants just fine, but the service in Tokyo is white-glove perfect, all without tipping.
  8. May’s Garden Spa in Roppongi.  I have a pretty good hairstylist here in DC, but even if the cut is nearly as good, the experience of the salon in Tokyo is second to none!
  9. Japanese TV – those advertisements are a stitch!!!
  10. My TOILET – for reasons I will not enumerate – but suffice to say, I miss its “functions”!!

I’ll be in DC for a little over two more weeks.  I love it here, but I am looking forward to going home to Tokyo.