TED WILSON REVIEWS THE WORLD: JAPAN (PART 3: FOOD)
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Hello, and welcome to my week-by-week review of the world. Today I am reviewing food.
Some of the best food in the world is at the Macaroni Grill in Burlington, MA. But some of the other best food is in Japan.
My hostel room in Tokyo didn’t have a kitchen or stove or refrigerator or sink, and if I left any food sitting out, the Japanese man living in the other bed would eat it when I wasn’t looking. I started eating out a lot.
Every morning for breakfast I would have a taiyaki (a fake fish filled with chocolate). Because of all the calories in my breakfast, lunch was limited to a single bowl of rice with a lot of salt. There are no calories in salt.
By dinnertime I would be exhausted from lack of food. Although I spoke no Japanese, I would try to speak with my eyes, pleading “help me I’m so hungry and can you recommend a good place for dinner” to anyone willing to make eye contact. My eye-words were often lost in translation.
One evening around 4 PM, desperate to eat anything at all, I stopped at the first place I saw — I think it was called Jiro’s Sushi Restaurant. Unfortunately it was booked up that night, and supposedly for the next several months. I’ve never heard of a place booking up so far in advance. I think they just wanted to get rid of me because I asked for a senior’s discount.
I decided to start my own pop-up sushi business right in front of Jiro’s Sushi Restaurant. I wanted to show them they weren’t the only game in town and also I was running low on money because I was eating out all the time.
It turns out sushi is a lot harder to make than it looks, so I just bought some at 7–11 and glued on some labels that read “American Ted’s Sushi.” Sales were pretty slow and then a businessman kicked all my sushi everywhere and yelled at me. Then a policewoman showed up and I had to run. That was one of the worst dinners I ever had.
I was so disillusioned (and weak from lack of protein), that I got on the wrong train and ended up in Nagano, an hour and a half outside of Tokyo. After wandering through the woods, I found my way to an old man’s farm where he and his wife warmed me and fed me a bowl of bees. At first I tasted them only to be polite, but they turned out to be quite delicious. They had a smoky, meatiness to them.
What also had a smokiness to it was the bowl of cigarettes that I started eating. It turned out this was just an ashtray and I was being too polite.
BEST FEATURE: Sushi is so ubiquitous it can be bought at 7–11.
WORST FEATURE: Sushi is so ubiquitous it can be bought at 7–11.
Please join me next week when I’ll be reviewing Full House.