In each monthly subscription program for HPAC there is a section featuring musicians and the stories of their instruments. Today was my turn to be interviewed and I felt prepared. I don't really know much story to my instrument other than the way I acquired it–no Red Violin mysteries. They asked me questions about my cello, took its picture and explained that this year they also wanted to include more information about the members as well. Still felt ok about this. There's a lot I don't know about myself, but I felt I should be able to handle most questions.
But then it came. A question not uncommonly asked of me and most foreigners in Japan. I should have been ready for it. But my guard was down: What is your favorite Japanese food?
Might I cry with such a question. Not only is there no answer, but the list doesn't end, the things that I will miss upon leaving. I think people usually expect dishes for answers–okonomiyaki, sushi, udon, yakitori, ramen–and surely these things I will miss, too. But what weighs heavily in my mind concerning my love of Japanese foods is how I will obtain my needed rations of everyday simple things when I return to the US: miso paste, kinako powder, red bean paste, mochi, wakame (seaweed)..... These were the ones I listed, in addition to some traditional dishes.
And since that unanticipated question, more have been piling into my mind: tsukemono (special pickles), the eggs here with their orange soft centers, furikake (the oh so many varieties of rice seasoning!), shizo seasoning (which I put in my miso soup tonight- why not, what's delicious plus delicious?), sour plums in general (a taste I didn't like when I moved here and will now miss), real wasabi, the ubiquity of sesame things, chestnut filled pastries and persimmons.
And it's not only the foods themselves. It's the way that they waltz into and out of your life. A delicious thing that you find once in the grocery may not be there again. Certain regions of Japan have things that cannot be found elsewhere. And the pleasure of being offered something unique in beautiful packaging. A true invitation to enjoy it while you can. A year ago my brother and I were offered a candy on the bus (it's ok in Japan), a delicious candy, I couldn't forget it nor could I find it again until it appeared in the sweets basket while on tour. I saved the wrapper in hopes I would one day find my Cinderella on any grocer's shelves. Oh the joy of finding it tonight, waiting for me in the nearby market! I trust not that it will stay, but I'm happy to have it while it's here.
And as I listed just a few of these simple things (remember this list cannot be exhausted) my interviewers suggested another I might like, a type of miso soup involving shijimi, a seashell flavoring. No! Oh this love and loss cannot be stopped! I embark on a new possibility with hopeful intrepidity.
There are so many things that I will never taste. So many delicious things. But I'm happy to have had the interaction with these few while I'm here. And while it hurts to think of leaving them, I will continue to enjoy them while I can, while I can.