“Aw, man. This is the best job ever…. The best job ever,” says John Daub with a supremely satisfied smile. He had just taken a sip of fabulous creamy onion bacon soup at a restaurant named Kokoya de Kobayashi in the city of Kobayashi in Miyazaki prefecture, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.
He’s not kidding. He has a great job.
Daub and his wife, Kanae, have been “working,” spending several days in the area livestreaming videos for his “Only in Japan GO” YouTube channel. It might seem like an amazingly fun gig, and obviously, it is. But don’t be fooled -- he works hard at his job.
Daub began this series of livestream episodes two days before in Miyazaki prefecture, to attend a Mango Auction. Yes, in Japan they auction off mangoes just like the tuna auctions in Tokyo’s famous fish market – the top fruit went for $5,000. For one fruit. (He posted his edited report on the $5,000 mango a week later.)
I’ve been following the worldwide career of Marie Kondo with bemusement since her first book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” was published in the US in 2014. I’ve watched from a distance as friends have embraced Kondo’s single-minded prescription for people to clean up their lives, physically and emotionally, by focusing not on what to toss out but instead what to keep that “sparks joy” for them.
I’ve followed this fad -- which can feel a little bit like a cult -- sweep the world from afar because, frankly, I’m not a tidy person.
Naomi Osaka at the 2018 Nottingham Open qualifiers, photo by Peter Menzel, Creative Commons/flickr
I love following the exciting young career of Naomi Osaka, the world’s first Japanese tennis star who has been ranked number-one by the Women’s Tennis Association, after her recent win in the Australian Open.
I love her passion and skill and determination to win. And most of all, I love that she is mixed-race, with a Japanese mom and Haitian dad. And, that she’s culturally as American as she is Japanese or Haitian.
I love kaki. That's Japanese for persimmon.
Not everyone knows what a persimmon is, so let me explain. Persimmons are a popular fruit that is grown through much of Asia. The Japanese call it "kaki" (kah-key). Kaki are wonderfully sweet when they're ripe, but depending on the strain of kaki, they can be bitter.
I learned to love kaki as a kid growing up in Japan.
Something that can't be replicated by a "fake" Japanese restaurant in the US: Homemade Tofu served as part of a multi-course feast at Ukai, a lovely traditional Tokyo tofu restaurant.
I’m still pondering the process of cultural assimilation, and how I get so frustrated when Japanese culture – especially Japanese food culture – gets appropriated by people who don’t really appreciate the culture.
My mom has suffered from worsening dementia for years, and when my brothers and I saw increasing signs that she is no longer able to live by herself we moved her into a Memory Care Center nearby.
Two years ago, my wife Erin and I took the last of several trips to Japan with my mom.
My brother Glenn and I moved my mom from her house in Lafayette, Colorado, last month to live in a memory care facility nearby. She’s had dementia for a long time, and it’s gotten noticeably worse for the past couple of years. I’m still sorting through how it felt to take her out of her house, and how it feels now.