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Food = Happiness

If anybody’s read my little blog description blurb, you’ll know it says:

I’m going to Japan for a summer internship. Join me on my adventure in Nihon, featuring food, broken Japanese, and just a dash of culture shock. It’s gonna be /great/.

And if you didn’t know, well, consider yourself enlightened. So as promised, this is going to be one of many food-related posts I’ll be writing…

I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends with another Techer, Grace, who’s also interning at Mitsubishi for the same period as I am. It does feel a little better to wander around in confusion (not "lost", just "confused") with a familiar face by your side than alone. Which seems to be happening a lot, since every time we try to go to a restaurant we look up on a map or Google Maps, we can’t find it. More than once we’ve overshot our destination by a few blocks, or wandered around in a loop only to find that we’d been walking circles around the restaurant we’d been looking for, or asked for directions to a place and then realize we have no idea where we’re going. It’s fun because we probably get to see more of the city and talk to more people this way since we’re wandering around so much, but a little annoying when we’re trying to find a particular store/etc. I blame Google Maps, though. It, like us, sometimes seems a little confused–like when it tries to route us to a supermarket half an hour away when it turns out we’re standing a few streets over from another of the same chain. Oops.

Our second weekend here, we attempted to go to Tsukiji fish market. It’s the biggest wholesale fish/seafood market in the world, and one of the things it’s really well-known for is its early-morning tuna auction. Starting around 5am every day, wholesalers auction off tuna that have been shipped there the same morning. The first 120 people who get there are allowed inside to watch the auction, so naturally, we thought we’d give it a go. Unfortunately, the trains don’t start running that early in the morning, so we got there the night before, wandered around a little bit, then found some 24-hour restaurants to spend a few hours in. At 3am we headed over to the fish market and started lining up.. only to be brought to another room where we spent the next two hours waiting some more.

Long story short, we spent basically five hours of our lives and a night without sleep to watch people take tuna very seriously for 20 minutes. I won’t say it was completely not worth it, but I probably wouldn’t do it again. Not that I’d be able to; the fish market is relocating to another area in a year or two and who knows what it’ll be like by then.

The upside to all this is experiencing some of the freshest fish imaginable, of course. Two of the most well-known and reasonably affordable sushi restaurants near the fish market are Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. Apparently Daiwa is run by the son of the guy who owns Dai, and they’re competing over who can serve the best sushi. Of course, being a famous sushi stop next to Tsukiji market basically meant the lines went around the block for both places, so Grace and I decided to go to Nakaya to get donburi (rice bowls with fish on top) instead. It was fantastic and the more I ate, the more I wondered if I’d ever go back to eating Chandler sushi. (No offense to Caltech Dining Services, but it just won’t be the same anymore.)

And now, with Tsukiji checked off our bucket list, our next (food-related, at least) goal is conveyor belt sushi. We were told there’s supposed to be one near the train station, but did I mention how it’s nearly impossible for us to find any restaurant we’ve looked for so far? Fingers crossed, but at least we know it’ll be another adventure.

Joanne Li