Saturday, May 21, 2011

Round 3

As it's been 2 months and the time has passed like a blur. Although not as present in the news and world media, the situation remains dire. The situation with the nuclear reactors confirmed that one of the reactors had a full meltdown on the first day. We've been given the news but on information regarding what this means and what dangers this poses. With this there's still the situation of displaced people and refugees in shelters. From conversations I've had with people who've recently returned, there's a lot of refugees in shelters still not receiving sufficient support. Even now many shelters are not able to provide hot or properly cooked meals. Most meals served have been limited to rice balls, instant soups, and food brought in by volunteers. Many refugees remain uncertain about their immediate future. It's important that people here are aware of these things. With this in mind;

I'm departing for Tohoku again Sunday to volunteer in clean up assistance and to work as a photographer. I've been asked by a company to go with a team to the area around Ishinomaki in order to document and assess the current situation. Afterwards the report and images gathered will enable them to coordinate aid and address critical needs. Unlike the other trips I've made, this time the team will take the Shinkansen to Sendai then rent a 4x4 for the excursion to the disaster area. Instead of a 5 to 7 hour drive, the Shinkansen will get us to Sendai in about 2 hours. We'll go to the disaster relief command center for the NGO Peace Boat. At which point we attend several briefings and will be given our clean up duty assignments. We are instructed to be prepared with head lamps, rugged clothing, leather gloves, boots, dust masks, rain gear, and safety goggles. Going inside the structures will have hazards that require proper protection. I look forward to this trip as it's yet another opportunity to make a difference. Whether it's cleaning a home, a business, or public building; it all contributes to bringing the community back to life. It's round 3, I look forward to the next.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Night Sushi

I'm going to have to admit that I've been slacking a bit on the writing. More discipline needed on my part perhaps, but actually I've recently been extremely busy. Since the last post and this one, I took a break from writing for a while. Part of getting back to normal means making up for lost time. Things at work and life have gotten rather busy. With that in mind another aspect of normalization is finding time to slow down. I did that too. During the month after the earthquake despite a lot of things being shut down, no one could say they slowed down. The pace and pressure of life accelerated as days blurred into each other. Now after two months I can say things in Tokyo are back to as they were. Hence tonight's excerpt. I worked an unusually tough day. Got home and went on a very long and hard run. I don't jog, I run. There's a huge difference. Jogging is pleasant and fun and a near low impact form of exercise. It's gentle and can be a social event. Running is different. It's getting on the road, going hard and fast, as well as losing yourself. It hurts, it's challenging, and when you are done you have a sense you overcame your weaknesses and urge to quit. The best part is that in the aftermath, you feel great, and in the process of enduring you think clearly. It's a brutal form of meditation and I highly recommend it to anyone. After runs I get hungry. When this strikes me I'm left with amazing food cravings. It could be pizza, pho, burgers, Chinese food, etc... Tonight it was sushi. Therefore I'm writing about my favorite place for it.

So I went out for sushi at 1:00 AM. The evening was unseasonably cold and I headed down to a narrow alley near my apartment. Nestled a short distance from the main road is a quaint sushi bar. It's open until 3:00 AM. A 12 seat bar/restaurant with a long counter. It's wooded interior is warmly decorated with traditional Japanese crafts. Inside a friendly non English speaking chef named Shibuya-San runs a one man operation. He's been here for ages and has a regular following of customers. On any night anyone from a simple local businessman to a famous Japanese TV/Movie personality can be seen eating here. Tonight as I stepped in from the darkness, it's just he and I. He's a skilled chef and told me it took him 15 years of apprenticeship to master this art. Here in his shop there's no menu. Customers either know a certain type of sushi top of mind and order it. Or he'll make something to suit their tastes. As for me, he always makes me a variety of the things I've noted I liked and each time he'll  make and introduce to me at least one of two items that are new. It's a great way to learn about sushi and this type of Japanese culture. He executes orders with incredible speed and beautiful presentation. I'm quite fascinated by anyone who's good at what they do. With Shibuya-san he's taken a craft and turned it into art. Each piece of sushi is perfectly rolled in oiled rice and wrapped tightly enough that they never fall apart. The fish is always the best choice fish and extremely fresh as he goes to the market each day before opening shop. The seaweed, wasabi, soy sauce he chooses, and even the teas compliment the beautifully laid out food. Each time I have to stop and take a nice long look before I make the tough selection of which one goes first.

There's always good conversation with him. Every time I come here I loose a little bit of my troubles at the door and forget about them after I leave. Sushi is not always about food, it's as much that as it is the experience of having it made and presented to you. It's the ambiance of the moment and a witnessing of mastery. This I've learned from Shibuya-san and my many visits to my favorite sushi bar in the world. As I've not written in a while I wanted to write about it and share with you all one of my secret little hideaways from life's daily grind. It was a good night. I slowed down.