On our trip to this particular coastal town in 2008, my wife planned lunch at a sushi restaurant. (The woman in front of my wife is my MIL.) I know that sushi is available all over Japan. Japan is a nation of islands with numerous coastal towns. However, this city, located on the Sea of Japan, is considered to have the best sushi in its Japanese equivalent of a U.S. state. The city is even famous throughout Japan for its sushi.
It’s also known for having expensive sushi.
When we went to the restaurant, my wife figured our sons would just eat miso soup and rice, a meal that usually satisfied them six years ago. However, it was in that expensive restaurant when my then six-year old son (my younger son) asked a fateful question. “Can I try that pink stuff?”
He’s been a sushi fanatic ever since.
When I think of this city, like my wife, I’m also reminded of food as well. However, the food comes to my mind, after sushi anyway, is peanut butter.
Yes, peanut butter.
During my first year in Japan, the #1 item on my travel plans was to attend a certain world-famous festival. A friend of mine, who knew I was going to the festival, said I should plan a side visit to a coastal town that was about 30 minutes from my destination. (The town that is the subject of this game.) It was an old trading capital, my friend mentioned, and important in history. I couldn’t resist. However, it was February, and bitterly cold with high winds and over a foot of snow on the ground. After seeing the sights all morning, I popped into a local grocery store to get warm. Tucked away on bottom shelf in one row was a surprise I didn’t expect: three jars of Peter Pan peanut butter.
It wasn’t like I couldn’t get peanut butter in Japan. At the time, I lived* about an hour away from Kyoto. There was a foreign foods store in Kyoto and a jar of Skippy could be had for the equivalent of $15 dollars. However, I was never a Skippy person. I grabbed all three jars of Peter Pan and headed to the checkout. (When you live in a foreign country, you’ll be amazed at what you do for food you miss. The only Mtn. Dew I could find in Japan in the 90s was in a vending machine in Ueno station in Tokyo. Every time I went to Tokyo, I made sure I passed through Ueno station, buying somewhere between 8-10 cans each time.)
In hindsight, though, I shouldn’t have been surprised. This popular coastal city has more of mixed feel than a pure Japanese feel. A trading port, it sees an eclectic group of tourists from all over the world and some signs in the area are translated into English, Korean, Chinese, and Russian.
* My first year in Japan, I lived in a little town in central Japan called Ibuki-cho (Ibuki Town). It was located near Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. It’s an hour’s train ride from both Kyoto and Nagoya. (I use “was” to describe Ibuki, as the town has since been annexed and no longer exists.)
Walt Mussell primaily writes historical fiction with inspirational and romantic elements. His favorite setting is medieval Japan and he refers to his writing as “Like ‘Shogun,’ but the heroine survives.” He also writes Biblical fiction and is working on a manuscript with a 19th century American setting.