By Ben Mirin, CIR
I arrived in Nanae under the weight of three checked bags and an additional checking fee. 10,300 Yen, approximately $123. My second carry-on bag, a red Delsey roll-a-board, usually skirts past security in American airports, but officials at Haneda Airport were careful to enforce the rules on size limitations.
The flight from Haneda AP to Hakodate was the final leg of a journey that began in Concord, Massachusetts at 5:15am. An early flight from Boston to Newark, a 20-hour flight from Newark to Tokyo, and a night in the Narita AP Rest House had preceded it. Still, my spirits were soon lifted. The Section Chief and International Relations staff from Nanae’s General Affairs Section greeted me with hot tea and a 12-foot banner welcoming me to Nanae.
After first contact and official greetings, our group got into the car and drove to the apartment building that would be my home for at least the next year. My coworker, Emi Kimura, speaks fluent English, and she translated for me and my bosses as we drove beneath heavy cloud cover and a light mist left by a large snow storm two days before.
The apartment was a studio, and spacious by Japanese standards. I unloaded my luggage and prepared for a crash landing on the futon, but the night had just begun. My coworkers planted me back in the minivan they had borrowed to transport my baggage, and out we went for dinner.
Kaiten sushi. I have eaten sushi in the States many times before, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight I beheld inside this restaurant. Platters of beautifully prepared morsels were circulating on a conveyor belt that snaked its way around three dining areas and a fully stocked sake bar. Waitresses scurried up and down the aisles like clockwork, answering calls from buzzers located in the individual dining booths. Why diners used these call buttons was a mystery to me, as the parade of fish, egg, tempura, and vegetables held my full attention.
There was no time for hesitation. I grabbed small servings of sushi as they came until I had an assortment of platters decorating the table in blots of soft color. Food served in kaitensushi adds up dangerously quickly, and we soon had our individual collections of small plates in stacks of ten or more. Washed down with cups of green tea from the faucet at the head of the table, this meal almost put me to sleep. If I weren’t so obsessive about unpacking my bags I truly would have crashed into bed when I arrived home.
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