Twenty-three years older, and I still can’t place myself anywhere.
I had successfully escaped Tokyo - its garish demeanor and unearthly rhythm – and traveled north to rearrange my jumbled sense of humanity. Within Hokkaido’s staggering spaciousness and evaporating mountain peaks, a small town in Otaru tempted me to stay with its old-world simplicity. Quaint reconstructions of English architecture overshadowed the land, but to the dismay of westernization, small fish markets defiantly survived between the cracks. In this space, fishermen reigned.
I was the lone ranger of a generation too young or too old; even so, the vendors enjoyed my new face and naiveté towards seafood. They directed me to a local sushiya, where inside, the golden wood interior and a vibrant array of fresh fish greeted me. After a few seconds, the chef emerged from faded curtains - a man in his mid-20s. The townspeople had played a cruel joke on me.
But the craft ran in his blood. He molded my sushi with amazing grace and diligence, every piece a work of art. After a few sakes, we stumbled through conversation until I asked him about his age. He smiled. “I decided to stay,” he responded. He had an obligation to carry on the family business. Yet, in his self-possessed manner, he seemed perfectly content, and the elegance of his movements showed he cared. We returned to small talk as I savored the rest of the meal.
As I stepped out into the night, he shouted at me.
“Ganbare – Hang in there.”
I unconsciously nodded, whether to comfort him or myself, and headed out. As I rounded the corner, the ocean suddenly splayed out before me. I thought of turning back, but gazing into the nothingness past the horizon, I lost myself again.