I came to Japan for one reason only: to try the best sushi. Apparently a new place opened up and it was so the rage. My traveling partner was still fighting off jet lag so I set off on my own.
The place wasn’t too hard to find, there was a streetcar that dropped you off right there, only I missed it the first time and as it was a one-way ride I had to ride it all the way around again. But I was determined.
There wasn’t much of a line to get in. Only one guy ahead of me. I eavesdropped a bit. The guy at the window asked what he wanted. The man in line said sushi.
Window man: 2nd floor. And it’ll cost you to check your coat in.
Man in line: no it won’t. It didn’t last time I was here. I’m leaving my coat on.
The window man grumbled but allowed entrance to the man.
I was next. I took off my coat. I was prepared to do anything to eat the sushi.
What’re you here for? The window man asked me.
2nd floor, sushi I said. And here’s my coat. I was ready.
The man smiled and allowed me in.
Inside was much busier. The second floor sushi restaurant seemed more like a bar. It was cramped, it was dark. One side had a counter where people were lined up. There were small circular tables throughout the room where people stood and ate and talked. One corner had a jukebox that played some incomprehensible loud music.
I got in line, trying to make out what the sign said. Under inari there were four options, none of which sounded familiar. This had to be the best sushi place.
Someone behind me was saying I cut in line. I turned and there was an angry group of people crowded up. I bowed and went behind them. Then I saw another line next to ours that was much shorter. I line jumped, causing another uproar from the group. But I didn’t care.
I don’t remember ordering but soon enough I was at a table with my plate of inari. It looked familiar enough, the simple soybean skins like tents over the sushi rice safe inside and a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. There was also a side of beans and seaweed salad.
I picked up a red bean between my chopsticks and thought of my friend, who had traveled all this way with me, only to be stuck in the hotel. I could picture what he was doing so vividly and as I focused on him that before I knew it I was him. We (he and I) were in the hotel room where I left him. We were in bed. I felt sad. Sad because I was alone. Sad because the reason behind this whole trip was that his father had just passed and left him with some money. The only thing he wanted to do was take a trip to Japan. He invited me along since we were friends and I could help him get out of his funk. And then I had gone and left him alone to fulfill my selfish dream.
He was sleeping in the hotel, cursed by jet lag, while I had pushed through and ran off. His dreams were of his dad, and of home, and of me. He dreamed of the day his father got married. They were in a church, my friend was the ring bearer, and everything seemed happy. And then the dream morphed. As my friend walked down the aisle, the church transformed into a movie theater. Now he was in a seat watching a movie, while his church shoes got stuck to the floor. The movie was an old Western, I think. And my friend sat there in the theater alone eating popcorn. As he chewed I chewed. And I felt sad again.
Then I was back to myself, in the sushi restaurant. The bean had left my chopsticks’ grip and that’s what I was chewing on. I swallowed. A tear flowed down my cheek.
It was just so tasty.