One of the more interesting and disturbing things about living overseas is seeing the changes when you go back to your home country. There are the usual things: everyone’s aged a bit; trees have grown out; wall colors have changed; and your favorite hangouts have closed. Although those changes can be disconcerting, what really surprised me is the changes in raw fish and communications that occurred while I was away.
When I left the USA in 1996, neither I nor practically anyone I knew, had ever tried raw fish (I’d eaten raw oysters at The Boston Sea Party in Denver, but that doesn’t count.) I was intrigued by the idea of eating raw fish and vowed that, sometime during my first year, I would try it. Then, on my first day in Nou-machi, I ate at my colleague’s house and the first dish she offered was a plate of sashimi. I was like “as well now as another time” and attacked the sashimi without mercy. (I subsequently spent a good amount of time learning to pick slippery stuff up with plastic chopsticks.) I liked all the food I was offered, although two of them gave me pause: squid, which is a bit like eating a slippery unsweet gummy bear, and salmon eggs, which I remember using as bait when we went fishing near two-mile bridge Hayden.
Now, raw fish in all its forms is one of my favorite Japanese dishes (raw horse is another, but that’s another post). However, I’m in the land of raw fish and such things aren’t that surprising. What did surprise me was returning to Salina, Kansas in the early aughts and seeing a Japanese restaurant that served sushi. While I was spinning my totem to see if I was dreaming, She Who Must Be Obeyed was going “Hurry up! They’ve rice! They’ve got rice!”
I’m still stunned such a thing would exist in the middle of Kansas, even for a brief time. I’m also a bit surprised that sushi has become as popular as it has nationally. When I left it was in the realm of wealthy jerks and pompous well-to-dos. Now, it seems to be as common as potato chips.
Speaking of wealthy jerks and pompous well-to-dos, when I left the USA, they were the only ones who had cellphones. When I got to Japan cellphone use was more common, but it still had a small group of users. By 1999 it had exploded in Japan. I remember reading that there were something like 3,000,000 cellphones in use in the USA while Japan had 30,000,000 in use (which meant one in four Japanese had one). In Japan this was driven by shockingly expensive land-line installation prices so I wasn’t surprised. I got my first cellphone when I moved to Tokyo and having one made my job easier.
However, about the time I was in the USA trying to figure out if the sushi restaurant was real, I also noticed that several of my friends had cellphones. (And, for the record, they were not wealthy jerks or pompous well-to-dos, for the most part.) A few years later, even my mother had one and, in 2013, everyone had a smartphone.
I’m now in the smartphone market, not out of any desire to be more high tech–and quite frankly, the cult-like devotion some people have toward their smartphones is somewhat disturbing–but because my eight year old clam shell phone is being held together by duct tape.