I was looking forward to being sick. Lacking time management skills and general self-control, sickness (when it’s not completely debilitating) affords me an excuse to skip some work, stop worrying and think. It also provides me ample time to read and write, two things that consistently escape me during the regular hustle-bustle.
It’s been about two weeks since we returned from our California trip, and at the very least, I owe my readers (oh ye few and loyal) an update.
My Japanese professor has emphasized, and correctly so, that cultural emersion is the best way to learn a language. Part of our class involves periodic “Japanese Marathons” where students are required to engage in 200 minutes or so of Japanese language activities throughout the week.
Fortunately for me, the first week of my California trip was complete emersion into Japanese culture. Unfortunately for me, my class’s Japanese marathon began on the second week.
Emi and I stayed in the decent-sized apartment that belongs collectively to my father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and my wife’s sister’s future husband or wife’s future brother-in-law, depending on how your describe it. They’re all Japanese and speak primarily Japanese with one another all the time. I loved being able to listen to Japanese all-day every day. It was challenging and stretching, but I’ll admit that at the end of seven days, I was really craving some English conversation.
The neighborhood was Asian, as were all adjacent neighborhoods. In fact, I can probably count the number of white faces I saw that week on my fingers.
Increasing the general Japaneseness of the week was the preeminence of my sister-in-law (Mari) and wife’s future brother-in-law/now brother-in-law (Hajime), a formal event for which Japanese people pull out all the stops.
Hajime’s family wonderfully fulfills every positive cultural stereotype you can think of for Japanese. Hajime, well-studied in martial arts, and his father both are world-class sushi chef’s; one of his brothers develops video games at Konami; another brother does high-class baking in Japan; another manages and serves food at a high-class Japanese restaurant regularly visited by famous people like Mark Wahlberg; and all have training in traditional Japanese Taiko drumming. They’re pretty much awesome.
There are a great number of things to do in LA, including visiting cousins, which I did not do (slaps forehead) because I simply forgot. Besides the wedding, Emi and I focused on mainly on food. Because the area of the city we stayed in is pretty much cut and paste from mainland Asia, we were able to sample some of the continent’s best, including dim sum, excellent sushi, green tea shaved snow, 85°, tea shops, and Olive Garden. Yes, Olive Garden.
Visiting Hajime’s restaurant was definitely one of the highlights our trip. It was great to see the man completely in his element, demonstrating the skills he’s crafted with over a decade of experience.
Hajime at Work
The shrimp you see at the end of the video are my new favourite type of sushi. They’re called sweet shrimp, and they were still alive about 60 seconds before I ate them. Hajime beheaded them with his bare hands (what a bad a$$), cleaned them and served them right in front of us. Everything was unbelievably delicious.
This blog post is getting painfully long for you, I know, so I should get to the most important part: the wedding. Mari and Hajime had a beautiful wedding, and although Mari had the general sense that everything was going to be a disaster, it ended up being perfect.
Hajime’s father, who owns the sushi restaurant, graciously and generously offered the reception at the restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet of excellent sushi and an open bar with high-end sake.
Mari & Hajime Crack the Sake Barrel
Hajime and his staff worked days ahead of time to prepare everything for the event. And, for the reception, a famous sushi chef flew in from Japan just to serve sushi at the wedding. Ever heard of Jiro? Compared to this guy, an amateur…
Hajime’s brother, the baker, flew back from Japan and spent three days creating the cake, which was a work of art:
Remember what I said about the Koshu brothers? Well, we also had the privilege of seeing a great Taiko drum demonstration at the wedding too, and the groom wasn’t too shy to participate too.
Taiko Drum Demonstration
All-in-all, it was a wonderful event, and Emi and I were so happy and blessed to be a part of it.