Chapter 17:

Kanto: Chapter 13

The Kimochi Warui Diary

Before leaving Tochigi, we stopped at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. Bookmark here

It wasn’t quite lunchtime or suppertime—the restaurant was mostly empty. The only other patron was an overweight Japanese man in grey sweatshirt and sweatpants.Bookmark here

Eventually, a waitress appeared to show us our seats at the bar. She pointed at the tablet affixed to the wall and showed us how to order by touching our selections on the screen. Bookmark here

She didn’t try speaking any English to us—we were far from Tokyo, after all. Even the road signs don’t bother labelling their English equivalents. We managed to communicate that we wanted some beers, and she went off to retrieve them.Bookmark here

Jotaro was flipping through the pages on the touch screen, cycling through progressively more expensive rolls of sushi. Bookmark here

“Holy shit, we can eat whale sushi?Bookmark here

We loaded the tablet with our orders and sent them to the chef. Some minutes later, the conveyor belts brought them out on specially marked plates.Bookmark here

The slice of raw whale meat was dark red and, laid atop the small lumps of rice, looked just like any other piece of sushi. Jotaro picked up the roll and dunked it in some soy sauce. Then, in an exaggerated Japanese accent, said “Fack yu whare!” and shoved the roll in his mouth.Bookmark here

After savoring the flavor for a few moments, he gave his assessment:Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s just OK.”Bookmark here

As for me, I started with the basics: a simple salmon roll.Bookmark here

Surprisingly, this was the first time we’d eaten sushi in Japan. Bookmark here

I’ve been told that the Japanese sushi is far superior to what they serve in America. Even in California—where we share the same ocean with Japan—it’s nothing compared to the way the Japanese sushi is prepared.Bookmark here

After all, our sushi restaurants in California are often ran by Koreans; the sushi itself is made behind the scenes by Mexicans; and we can only image what’s going on with the fishermen at the ports. Bookmark here

While race or ethnicity certainly doesn’t dictate your ability to make sushi, you can’t deny that culture likely does. The sushi made by a native Japanese, born and raised in Japan, would be leagues different than anyone else’s. Bookmark here

But enough talk—I would find out for myself with my salmon roll!Bookmark here

First, I lifted the salmon piece to find a small dab of wasabi underneath—something you’d never see in typical, American sushi. In America, you’d likely anger someone by sneaking wasabi into their dish! Bookmark here

Suddenly, I recalled a friend telling me that sushi was originally designed to be eaten with the fingers—a habit enjoyed by the ancient Japanese elite. Whether or not it’s true, there’s no denying that chopsticks are now the norm. Bookmark here

I wielded the chopsticks—a skill that, even after a lifetime of practice, I still have not mastered—and firmly grasped the sushi. I placed the sushi in my mouth, savoring all the flavors and textures. At the beginning, I preferred not to use soy sauce or wasabi, because I wanted to taste the rice and salmon in its most pure form. Bookmark here

Yes… Surely, this is the way that Japanese sushi is meant to be enjoyed.Bookmark here

“Oi!”Bookmark here

The fat Japanese man in the sweatpants, just a few seats down the bar, called for my attention. Bookmark here

He stood up and walked over to me. Unlike those in the city, nothing about his expression looked pleased or interested in my being a foreigner.Bookmark here

“I show you…” He said. “I show you right way eat a sushi.” Bookmark here

First, he filled a small dish with soy sauce. Then he took my chopsticks, picked up my sushi roll, and dunked it repeatedly in the soy sauce. Bookmark here

Goosh, goosh. Bookmark here

Droplets of soy sauce flew from the dish and onto the counter. Bookmark here

Goosh, goosh… goosh, goosh. Bookmark here

The roll was completely soaked with black sauce. When he finished his work, he put the roll back on my plate. He even tossed a few wasabi packets in my direction.Bookmark here

“Now eat.”Bookmark here

I smiled reluctantly and gave him my best “arigatou,” hoping he would leave after that. Bookmark here

But he didn’t. Bookmark here

He stood there, glaring at me until I forced the soy-sauce drenched pieces of rice and fish into my mouth.Bookmark here

“Delicious,” I said and gave a thumbs up. Bookmark here

He then returned to his seat almost looking angrier than before—as if he’d just handled a minor perturbance. He continued to drink his beer, eat his sushi, and watch the TV without looking at us again. Bookmark here

Shortly after, we paid for our meal and left. We walked to the station in silence. Bookmark here

And then, Jotaro said suddenly:Bookmark here

“Hey, what the fuck was that guy’s problem in there?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know,” I said. My mind was racing with hundreds of thoughts as to why the man had reacted that way. Was the way I was eating sushi really that strange?Bookmark here

Jotaro put on his best Southern-redneck accent: Bookmark here

“Seaweed eatin’ harbor bomber! Sit down ‘n eat yer rice!”Bookmark here

Sorry, but I burst out laughing.Bookmark here

“You’re a racist piece of shit,” I said.Bookmark here

“It’s just a joke,” Jotaro said. He took out a cigarette and lit it.Bookmark here

He was right about one thing, though: Bookmark here

What was that guy’s problem in there!?Bookmark here

For once, I felt better leaving the question unanswered.Bookmark here

This Novel Contains Mature Content

Show This Chapter?

You can resume reading from this paragraph.