I went to Akashi.
Yes, in Hyōgo Prefecture.
In response to queries about exactly what sort of intimate bond I share with Akashi, the answer is surprisingly none. I have neither relatives nor friends living there. Naturally I have never been there myself. If I had to say, my only connection is that I once learned in social studies class that it is the place where Japan Standard Time is measured. So as for what purpose I traveled to this place to which I have neither link nor tie, that would be to eat “real” akashi-yaki.
Simply put, I eat a lot.
Being well into adulthood, I’d like to leave behind the days of eating everything in sight, but my stomach, you see. It’s still young. It knows not the sensations of indigestion, heartburn, or stomachache. Whether I’m in a funk, under the weather, or over my head in love, my appetite never abates. On occasion you can find Maaya Sakamoto with a smug smile, paging through the steadily growing list of numbers for yummy restaurants in the “Dining” category of her cell phone address book, and soon this girl will turn 28.
I have a grand dream that I would spend the rest of my days to accomplish.
I am fully aware that Tōkyō is a metropolis of delicacies where the world’s cuisine is on display. Yet I must concede that the kiritanpo-nabe I had in Akita, the sōki soba I had in Okinawa, the motsu-nabe I had in Fukuoka, the tofu I had in Kyōto, the Tex-Mex I had in Texas, and the chilled noodles I had in Korea….
Against such forces as these, Tōkyō cannot win! At all!
So as long as I still breathe, I will travel across the globe to as many places as I can, and sample the food each land calls its own. I want to discover the “real” flavor of each dish.
This is not limited to merely food.
The reason, purpose, and workings for the existence of everything—I want to know the underlying source of each. This “want to know” has become the strongest driving force in my life, and a force that constantly propels. I want to comprehend every last detail of the various things that surround me. To make one-word judgments based on your personal preferences of what you like and what you don’t, what’s attractive and what’s ridiculous, is simple. But to resolve to accept something as it is, regardless of preconception, information, or bias, means you must reach for the underlying source. Between right and left, shadow and sun, there is always a middle ground. For the purpose of attaining that calm feeling.
When it comes to food, I want to eat it having experienced the air, climate, culture, and people who formed the backdrop for the flavor’s birth. This is the pattern I want to follow as I sample the flavors of the entire world.
So then, back to my “real” akashi-yaki.
It was delicious beyond belief. I went to a restaurant tucked away in a fishing harbor, the sort of small, ancient place only the locals would know. I found out that akashi-yaki is called “tamago-yaki” in Akashi. The set of 20 my 600 yen bought were prepared by a kind old lady with a beautiful smile and arrived with a pleasing aroma, creamy and thick to the center, with the sort of flavor that pretended to be nothing special while in reality impressing upon the eater their long history and depth of love that was enough to bring one to tears.
I left to the friendly cry of “Come again!”, my tender tongue tingling from the piping hot meal, and walked a short ways along the coast. The sun was just about to set. I may never walk this road again, and I may never taste that flavor again. But in this moment, I am here, I have discovered that flavor, and the sunset is delicious. Ahh, what bliss! How could I ask for more?