I met with a Japanese woman, Makiki, who just moved to the area to work in a retirement home and wants to improve her English. She put a flyer up near our office offering to do a language exchange. As I really wanted a Japanese speaker to help me with my studies, I emailed her, and we agreed to meet. It turns out that due to declining birth rates, there will not be enough workers in the future, and one area of great need will be elder care. The government is planning on importing many care givers from South Easty Asia (Philipines, etc.), and English will be the common language between them. So, Makiko believes that bettering her English will put her in a good position for the future, especially in a management position.
So, while I was practicing my Japanese in the airconditioning at the university, Joan was slaving away in the full sun at the farm. She had been telling Takashi-san and See-chan about our trip to Korea, especially the food. They really enjoyed the story of the still wriggling octopus that I was
lucky enough to eat. She also told them about our regular Friday night sushi take out night. The photo on the right shows what we had last night.
They asked her what her favorite sushi was, and she responded, "Salmon and eel." After some discussion, it was determined that Joan likes the sushi made of BBQ "unagi" or river eel, as compared to "anago" or sea eel. After awhile, Takashi-san paused, made a serious face, and said, "Joan-san, I recommendo (the name of a restaurant). They serve unagi."
Luckily, I just then stopped by on the way home from the university, and it was decided we would go for lunch at this restaurant. This was pefect because it turned out to be one of those mysterious restaurants with the half curtain hanging in the doorway and indecipherable writing on the signs that we had been eyeballing for some months in the neighborhood. In fact, it was immediately opposite the sento (public bath) we had discovered. There are so many we have not explored yet; it is really nice to go with someone who can lead the way.
We ducked past the curtain, the aquarium, and the bucket with the turtle despearately scrabbling away at the sides ("Don't think about it; don't think about it; Don't think about it," I thought to myself."). After we sat at the table, See-chan order four lunch sets of the BBQ unagi, and we hungrily waited while the small space filled with the smell of grilled eel.
As you can see from the photo, the meal was brought in covered dishes. A small dish of pickled cucumber, carrot, and daikon partnered with another of juicy, peeled tomatoes.
Removing the lids revealed a rectangular piece of grilled BBQ eel resting on rice and the ubiquitious miso soup, full of green onion and small shellfish sprung open by the heat. It was all
very tasty and yet another example of the great cooking in Japan, especially the smaller portions and the healthier ingredients. And, all that for only 680 yen!