Oh my goodness, Internet. We have Japanese friends.
I am so excited! The story is this: it is Japanese tradition to bring a small gift and introduce yourself to your three neighbors when moving to a new neighborhood. (Neighbors to the left, the right, and across the street). We were behind the curve on that, and it was just yesterday that our real estate agent came to introduce us to ours. In the case of non-Japanese speakers, the agent serves as translator and leaves a business card so the neighbors can call if we are really annoying.
SO. We did this yesterday, Godiva chocolates in hand, and just one neighbor was home, across the street. She came out and started speaking English! And invited us to dinner the next night - tonight! We are so lucky with this neighborhood, let me tell you. Chikako teaches English in their home and also teaches Japanese cooking(!) and Tosh has an import business. They have travelled the world, including the U.S., and speak fluent English. We headed over to their house at 5:00 pm with cookies and a sixer of Sam Adams to offer our hosts. Little did I know how insufficient this would be, compared to the feast they prepared!
There was an amazing salad with tomato, radish sprouts, marinated onion and tofu. A half avocado for everyone, with minced onion and dried fish flakes. Grilled miso bonito - one that Tosh (Chikako's husband and man of the house) had caught on a boat this week! Sauteed sweet peppers with sesame and dried fish. And then, my friends, there was the sushi.
Picture it: a platter the size of Rhode Island in the middle of the table, on which was displayed more sashimi than I've seen outside of a restaurant. Tuna, salmon, squid (which I'd told her we like - you should have SEEN her face when I told her we were Americans who don't eat beef or pork but like squid! "Beef is expensive - you'll be good friends to have!") yellowtail, cucumbers, seasoning leaves called ooba, wasabi, and tamago, which is a layered omelette, sliced to fit in sushi. Then there was a plate of nori, the familiar dark sea vegetable used in sushi, and we each got a big spoonful of sushi rice on our plate. Grab a sheet of nori, add some rice and pick your favorite ingredients for a handroll and voila - everybody is happy. Chikako warned not to put too much rice or we'd get full fast, so we didn't - and we ate SO. MUCH. Yum. YUM! There was also natto, which apparently makes you a genius. I will have to remain dumb - Google it and you'll see why. :)
OH! Then there were the drinks - Asahi beer and sake, first cold, then hot. Then tea made from green tea leaves and from rice. And after dinner we were treated to two kinds of pear and slices of persimmon!
This was just the food. We had such a great time, I can hardly say. We talked about music, about their travels and Chikako's students. They taught us some more about Japan, and offered to show us around and enjoy the cherry blossoms with us in the spring. We promised to have them over for dinner, just as soon as we get a table on which to serve. I am planning to go over during the kids' Halloween party at the end of the month and talk with her English students - what fun!
I am overcome, Internet. I am having spells and clutching my pearls and dabbing my forehead and getting all Southern on your asses. Also yes, I am a bit tipsy. Why do you ask?
P.S. to my Maine family: Chikako mentioned how much she loved Maine, but she was baffled by our tastes for lobster. In Japan when they eat a lot of crab, they have many little bowls of seasoning - soy sauce in one, maybe a garlic sauce in another, or lemon juice or the like - and they season every couple bites a little differently. She did not understand the American way of eating lobster, with every bite the same and so boring. Anybody willing to try a new way?