Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

032 : Edamame in a kaiten sushi shop (now gone), Shibuya-ku
Born autumn this century in Tokyo, Edamame currently works as a EOL (executive OL) She came to Japan on a citizen visa. Why Japan? She finds the Japanese in her every time she returns. She digs the following Tokyo bits: the dichotomy of anonymity and intimacy, the fact that it is a center of creative energy, the entrepreneurial spirit & live-for-the-moment attitude, the sense of discovery, and the food! She, however, is a touch miffed by government and ward office workers - polite but not flexible, two-faced personas (omote/ura - who can you believe?), PSDs (public sprays of drunkenness ie vomit), people who rush to get seats on the train, and the lack of truly authentic Mexican food. For more info on Edamame you should send an email.


“The ika had made too many turns.”

We watched as the trained sushi chefs silently and expertly added more plates onto the conveyor belt. It was late afternoon and there were maybe five other customers who sat perched on their stools in cramped quarters. Our gaze was focused on the freshest catch to satisfy our appetites.

A plate of ika[1] nigiri sushi went round and round, waiting for someone to claim it and save it from yet another 360-degree turn on the belt. The ika had made too many turns. It was not attracting any one of us as we conspiratorially and collectively ignored its existence. One of the sushi chefs sprayed it with some water to give it a glistening exterior, just as a woman would put on fresh make-up to attract a suitor.

I remarked to my companion, “wouldn’t it be sad to become a dry piece of squid on the kaiten sushi of life?  That’s a fate one wants to avoid.”  We laughed about it as we began making a conscious effort to avoid it while counting every turn it made.  Four, five, six…it went round and round, to a point where you wanted to ask the itamae-san[2] to please put it out of its misery.

Years later, the shop went out of business.  And I too found myself discarded like some unwanted fish.

referenced works

  1. Few countries eat as much squid in as many different ways. Have you tried hotaru ika (firefly squid), an early spring delicacy the size of a large beetle, that squelches sensuously down your throat in a gush of fishy gutsiness? Or ika sugata yaki, a mortician's masterpiece of whole squid grilled whole and served in as "lifelike" a position as possible?
  2. Literally, person in front of the chopping board. Even the cheapest sushi places will usually have live performances of your particular morsel being prepared. How long it languishes unclaimed on that cold belt of death is a different matter. By contrast, itamae-sans in the very finest establishments never let their sushi expire in such an undignified fashion; they are attentive even to exactly the right temperature of their fingers as they coax fish and rice into a gem-like mouthful, which should be consumed almost as soon as it leaves their touch.

location information

  • Name: a kaiten sushi shop (now gone)
  • Address: 24-8 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya
  • Time of story: afternoon
  • Latitude: 35.661236
  • Longitude: 139.699445
  • Map: Google Maps


019She laughed at my effort and responded in English, ‘Long time, no seduction.’ — Qi Rari

018In my dreamy state, oblivious to signs and announcements I often boarded the wrong train.— Momus (aka Nick Currie)

017I was fifteen years old and it was one of those nights.— Yuko Enomoto

016That ear of corn just wanted to go home— Guttersnipe Das

015With his painstakingly coiffured mane blowing in the wind— Digits Wolfowitz

014Her voice, even across languages, betraying her worry.— Olly Denton

013I saw them drawing bamboo sticks from a silver rectangular box.— Daphné Haour

012A simulacrum of someone else's home, equal parts comfort and loss.— Adam Greenfield

011Jumbled Escheresque insanity where geo­graphy in any traditional sense ceases to exist.— Joseph Badtke-Berkow

010I could hardly make out anything apart from his glowing eyes...— Uleshka

009Shibuya was like a stroke.— Alice.d

008I cried for a while and wiped the dead bracken off my karate pants.— David Cady

007Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I calculate the remaining distance to the station.— Chris Tobber

006I once read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound by a cruel man …— Claire Tanaka

005The Bad Girl strutted off and I was left with a ham egg pie.— Guttersnipe Das

004I arrived expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki.— Ashley Rawlings

003The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.— Andrew Douglas

002Flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of yakitori in the air.— Jean Snow

001For two weeks the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine.— Joseph Squier


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