Dear funkydrummer readers, it’s time to step out of the cold snow and into the welcoming warmth of my local sushi restaurant for a while. As my time in Japan quickly slips away, I realise there are still many aspects of life here that I am yet to document.
One such tale that must be told takes place at my favourite sushi restaurant in the neighbouring town of Katsuyama. It is here, that many of the expat (gaijin) community often gather to gorge on various types of raw fish and green tea that float by on the belt.
Many sushi restaurants use the “kaiten” system to serve their customers. A simple, yet brilliant concept, patrons sit around a circular conveyor belt that brings dishes past for you perusal. When you see something you like, you simply pluck it from the belt and devour it at your table.
Each plate has an electronic chip imbedded within, so that upon eating your fill, the waitress simply scans your stack to calculate the bill. It’s an excellent and efficient system, especially for foreigners who might have problems reading the menu, because there’s no need to order anything.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that many of the dishes that make laps of the restaurant have a western twist thrown in. Alongside the traditional slices of maguro (tuna) and unagi (eel), more modern tastes exist. One such of these is the beef “sushi”. A slice of lightly browned beef, sprinkled with salt, sitting atop a cuboid of rice, it is a divine taste to behold.
Now, the smiley faced manager of the restaurant knows that when it comes to his beef sushi, us gaijin are powerless to refuse its melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. He knows, that no matter how many beef sushi he makes, the gaijin will eat them all.
Like an seasoned salmon fisherman might tie a fly, he carefully prepares the bait with his expert blade. Once the gaijin have settled into their seats, he casts his irresistible lure onto the conveyor belt, so that it lands just a little upstream from our lair. He waits patiently and watches as the succulent beef trots downstream towards the shoal of gaijin, like a juicy worm to a fat trout. He knows he will catch a whopper tonight.
Upon spying his beef, the gaijin go into a feeding frenzy. Hands shoot out into the slow flowing current of food and grab the bait, greedily devouring it with haste. Natto, and ikura are ignored, but four, five, six, plates of beef sushi are gone in an instant. The master fisherman quietly smiles to himself. He’s hooked a big one, profits will be up tonight.
Occasionally however, the piranha-like gaijin can cause problems for this fisherman. You see, when another patron of the restaurant orders the beef sushi, he cannot allow it to flow past us - it would never make it through. Instead, he must go to the trouble of placing it downstream of the shoal, out of striking distance from the ravenous gaijin species.
However, this is but a small inconvenience for the master fishermen. As the gaijin fork out their wads of yen at the till, he waves a friendly good night, safe in the knowledge that the shoal will be back in his waters soon.