A Guest Post by our Sweet Boy
My earliest memories are of my mom and I taking an ordinary trip to the Community Store for a little treat. As we would walk in the store the owner and employees would all shout an “irashaimase” welcome. I would shout back, and they would laugh, since irashaimase is something only shopkeepers say to customers entering their shops. We were living in a run down apartment in the heart of Tokyo and doing it Japanese style. Dad’s new job had brought us to this new and foreign place. My parents had lived in Japan before, but it was my first time; I was two when we arrived. Every day we would ride on the bike and drop my sister Sophia off at the Japanese public school she was attending, and then enjoy the rest of the day together the two of us. We’d make a stop for onigiri rice balls and then stop by Mejiro Garden to eat and to clap for the carp, which lived in the ponds there. I remember that part. And I remember my blue futon and the dusty colored feral cats outside our apartment, with their torn fur. We have photographs of me visiting various temples, the Daibutsu, markets, local festivals, but one of the only things I truly remember in Japan is the food, the tastes and the smells that have stayed with me, but not their locations or the activities that surrounded them. On our trips to the Community Store I faced a number of choices overwhelming to a child. What to choose? I often picked the Badtz Maru and Kero Kero Keroppi gum and lollies. Or there were the milk ice pops. Nothing I have tasted since has ever compared to their flavor. I also remember the Calpis drink my mother would make, milk protein concentrate mixed with water, and how I loved to eat sheets of dried seaweed so much that I could eat them by the bag. And the osembe, rice crackers, wrapped in the same nori. My family talks about hot yaki imo off trucks and kakigori ices on hot days, roasted ayu in the fall, and freshly made tofu. But these are the things I remember. After a long day, we would return to the apartment for what we hoped would be a peaceful night. It wasn’t usually peaceful. We could hear all of our neighbors and their living sounds, and the feral cats fighting in the street. My dad would return in his suit and dress shoes. Mr. Jeremy Fisher of Beatrix Potter’s Tales wore those, too, and I longed for a pair of these “Germany Fishers” and my own “Daddy coat”. I think it’s interesting, though, that of all the sights and sounds of our life in Tokyo, my strongest memories are taste memories, tastes that indelibly belong to memory now. The things I taste today are linked to those early taste memories, compared and stored for pleasure.