What a huge week.
This past week, we had a pre-Hanukah party in the Jewish Community. We got a relatively big crowd, and met some really great people. I’m not sure if we can repeat that kind of success any time soon, but I think there is what to build on.
I also started work for one of the local Combat Logistic Regiments. I’m a long-term sub while their official chaplain is out, but I’m pretty happy about it. I’ve only been there for two days and I’ve already had some really good counseling sessions.
But let’s talk about the most important thing that happened: A few nights ago, I ate chicken.
Keeping kosher in Japan is not exactly the easiest thing to do. Eating “not-treif” in Japan isn’t much easier. But we have an apartment, and we have an oven, and the commissary is stocking Empire Chicken Parts!
So it’s a little freezer-burned. When you live on the other side of the world from the closest Kosher butcher, you have to make a couple of compromises. But, a little paprika, maybe some seasoning salt, and maybe a little Old Bay Seasoning (yes, they sell that here), and voila – dinner is served…and it’s delicious.
When eating out in Japan, it is important to know that local restaurateurs want to make the most delicious food in the world. I am sure they can make a spicy tuna roll without putting in shrimp. But why would a person want that? Treif is (probably) delicious.
There is a certain blank look that comes on the waiter’s face every time we try to explain that we want the salmon, but we don’t want the crab. I don’t have to understand Japanese to know what he/she is really saying: “Would you eat it on a boat? Would you eat it with a goat?” No, Sam-I-Am, that’s not how I roll and I’m not going to rhyme either.
While it’s tough, we have found that, with our policy of eating hot-dairy, we are able to eat out. There are some American-ish places. Supposedly there’s a Bollywood and Indian Food restaurant, and I heard there is a Buddha-Bodai-esque Buddhist Vegan Chinese place (but I don’t know where). But, we’re in Japan. We want Japanese food!
I have a favorite non-sushi restaurant, but I have absolutely no clue what it’s called. I like to refer to it as “the delicious restaurant halfway between Kinser and Foster next to MOS Burger…you know the one with the white sign and all the cars in the parking lot.” There’s another one between Camp Lester and Kadena AFB, but I haven’t been to that one yet. They make Udon (basically really thick-rice noodles), and they make it good.
The number one reason that I like this place: its delicious. The second reason is that I can actually watch as they make the udon, and I know they don’t put anything in it! It comes with vegetable tempura and fruit/fish wrapped in seaweed and rice. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. While Japan isn’t known for making prices affordable, this place is pretty cheap. That also makes me happy.
So there is udon, but there’s also some pretty solid sushi. We went to a phenomenal sushi restaurant with a local couple (they are Americans, but they’ve lived here for nearly 50 years). It was good. I thought the sushi in NYC was comparable, so it wasn’t life-changing. However, it was very good and very authentic.
And then, there is the sushi-go-round. It’s exactly what it sounds like (as long as you were expecting me to say “sushi going around the restaurant on a conveyer belt”). It seems weird, and you start to wonder what happens to the stuff that keeps going around and around after an hour or two. But it’s hilarious, and not bad at all.
There is so much to talk about, and I could talk about the food here forever.
Tomorrow, Leora and I are going down to one of the marinas to find some fresh caught fish for Shabbos. I’m pretty excited about it. I feel like “Joseph Who Loved the Shabbos” (if you haven’t read it, it’s a quick read and its life changing); I'm gonna buy a fish and its going to be huge (and it will fit in my kitchen). We’ll let you know next week if we are successful in our attempt to find fresh fish (it’s harder than you’d think!). Until then, eat some readily-available kosher food for us. We miss it.