Being in Japan and Being at Home
I am Japanese. I grew up in Japan but now I have spent more than half of my life in America.
A few days ago I landed in Tokyo. It's my home... country. Yet, I feel so very foreign in Tokyo. I realized just because I'm in the country I was born in doesn't mean I am at home. And after these many years of making America, Boston my home, I am noticeably having a hard time relating to people in Japan. People and their ways seem strange and I seem strange and different to them. I'm not one bit surprised or upset just find it interesting. The funny thing is that this sense of being my own, some what of an outsider, didn't start now. It was always part of my life.
I feel so very blessed to have very welcoming and open minded parents who are always willing to let me pursue my own values after they taught me the basic right and wrong, respect, and grace. During my childhood, I was exposed to many different cultures due to my parents inviting many people into our home. Some even lived with us. Whether they are from different countries or not, as a young child I realized that people all come from different places with different ways of thinking. My father always said to me "Hito wa hito. Watashi wa watashi," (They are who they are and you are who you are.) whenever I got busy comparing myself. So, I was always who I was not always adhering to any social expectations. It was confusing but now I'm thankful.
However with this said, culture and society formed so much of who I am. And this is the reason why I feel that no matter how many years I spend in Boston, my food still has that Japanese taste.
When I started making ramen, I only made Tonkotsu ramen. I love Tonkotsu ramen and I used to think there's no better ramen in the world. But after 2 years of making just Tonkotsu, I started to feel that I wasn't quite connecting. I love the process and it taught me a lot but it didn't feel like it was my food. At that point I realized that something I love to eat isn't always the thing that I can connect with while I make.
Now back in Japan, I had a funny thought after eating some Japanese food. Everything is absolutely delicious but it didn't taste like home. I thought to myself, "wow, my palate has changed."
I am really excited about my interpretation of shoyu ramen. It's not really traditional. But it feels right to me and I can connect to it. I love the wicked shio ramen. I can understand my food better traveling back to Japan. Being at my home county where my subliminal palate was developed, I discovered that the flavors of America, specifically Boston, have also left that same kind of impact. I am Japanese but I also feel very much a Bostonian. And this is why I love eating Tonkotsu ramen but love making my own totally untraditional style ramen. My ramen is made with application for both cultures.
Boston is my home the same way Fukuoka is.