Okay, you’re thinking, who doesn’t like sushi?
(Well, back in the States I can think of a few people, and I’ve met one Japanese person who doesn’t like it, but I digress…)
The other day I was working overtime, in what my Aussie co-workers call a “mad dash for cash.” Those wacky Aussies: they like abbreviations, they like rhymes. Some of them like sushi.
Anyway, I was on a mad dash for cash Tuesday, and was working overtime in a school just outside the borders of Tokyo. Nice area, wealthy, with all sorts of shops, from clothing to food – not just ghetto ramen and Mickey D’s.
There are questions that students who have never met a teacher before are inclined to ask: Where are you from? Where did you live before Japan? Where do you live now? What was your job before Japan? As you might imagine, these sentences are usually not spoken in the most clear or even comprehensible English.
It gets boring answering the same questions eight times a day, so I’ve come up with varying responses to these questions, all truthful. When I get asked why I cam to Japan, I often say, “I came to Japan for the sushi.”
So, conversations with students generally take one of several set paths. These routes are kind of like commuting. You see the same road signs, the same stop lights, and often the same people get on and off the vehicle at the same points.
Without fail, students pick up on the fact that I like sushi, and just about every other Japanese cuisine. Except natto – that stuff’s just gross. Fermented grapes I can handle. Fermented soybeans – having tried them – uh uh. No way.
Right. So, this one student, a kind old man three years from his retirement with dreams of visiting the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, just ignores the roadsigns. You ignore roadsigns, at worst you find yourself getting rescued by the Jaws of Life. At best, you find yourself in someplace ridiculous like Yreka or New Hampshire.
This one conversation wound up in the Japanese-gaijin conversational equivalent of New Hampshire. He thought I meant that I wanted to become a sushi chef.
Being a sushi chef would be a fine occupation, but I’m not much of one for taking orders. The poor guy had such bad hearing, and such a finite English vocabulary, that I just agreed with him.
Yes, I said, I’m here to become a sushi chef.
Oh, he replied. Which restaurant do you want to work at?
Dai Sushi in Tsukiji, I said, naming a place I’ve heard only good things about.
Good sushi there, he said. And so we continued for nearly 40 minutes, talking about his dreams of visiting the National Parks in the U.S. and mine of becoming a sushi chef.
He didn’t ask why I was teaching English, though.