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Sushi House

Chloé Hirschhorn

    It was a street I had been down quite a few times in the past few days, but I had never noticed the tiny set back storefront with orange flags hanging everywhere. All that was outside was a board with six different colored plates, each pasted with a number, a price.  Looking in through the door, I could see a number of Japanese, young, old, men, and women, pulling plates of food off of a conveyor belt.  It was not until the second time that I set foot into this sushi house that I realized, like Theodore Bestor in “Doing Fieldwork in Japan,” that I had found a wonderful place filled with delightful people that would make for excellent fieldwork.

    The room was small, with hardly enough space to walk around between the conveyor belt carrying plates of sushi and the walls. I chose a seat on a stool around the bar (as if there were any other options) and looked around to see the proper way to begin my meal. Take a tea bag from the box and a mug from the top of the bar; there is a hot water spout next to your seat. Take a pair of wooden chopsticks, take a small dish for your soy sauce and wasabi (that’s in the tiny packets on the counter). There are tongs in the tin container of pickled ginger, don’t use your chopsticks to pick that up.

    I had finally settled in and carefully chosen a plate of sushi, two thin slices of pink fish laid on top of a small square of white rice. The woman who greeted me at the door, possibly the owner, was looking at me from the end of the bar. I thought perhaps I did something incorrectly, had I offended her? She walked behind me and picked up a red kimono off of the counter.  An American girl who was also sitting at the bar explained that the woman had dressed her up in this ceremonial kimono that she won at an auction, and that I could wear it also as long as I would go outside the shop wearing it, to attract customers.  The woman smiled and nodded in agreement.

    I gratefully slipped into the kimono, and suddenly heard, “no, no, hair up in kimono!”. Embarassed, I quickly pulled my hair up into a ponytail. The woman smiled, and gestured towards the door. From outside, I could feel her watching through the window, not with fear that I would leave, but with pride that she had given me this opportunity to share her a piece of her culture.

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