Scenes from an Izakaya

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One thing I miss about Sendai is the quality time I spent with friends. In Los Angeles, everyone seems to be too busy to be stuck in the same place with the same people for too long. When I lived in Sendai, I spent hours with the same friends in the same part of town. There were several hundred bars and eateries in Sendai’s “downtown,” so it never got old. Once we got into a restaurant, we stayed for hours, talking and drinking until just before the last train departed — though most of us rode bicycles home.

On this day, my chef friend, Nanae, chose a retro-cool izakaya, Hanbei, for dinner. She described it as “junky” (Japanese people pronounce it “jan-kee“), but I thought it was pretty amazing. 1950s-era memorabilia filled every wall, and post-war music played in the background as a guy dressed in a happi coat and hachimaki took our order. “I thought this would be a great place for you to take photos,” she said. I love how she thinks ahead.

I made a new friend, Kyoko, that night. Just before I left for this trip, I found out through Nanae’s Facebook posts that Kyoko’s aunt was selling T-shirts as a way to help raise her spirits after the tsunami. Her uncle was one of the many swept away by the tsunami in Kesennuma, a seaside town just north of Sendai.

If you look up the Miyagi police station’s list of missing people, you’ll notice that many are men. That’s because when people fled for safety on that day, it was a majority of men who felt compelled to make one last check before abandoning their homes and businesses.

I was moved by Kyoko’s aunt’s story and wired her money for a handful of shirts, then Kyoko delivered them to me the night I met with Nanae.  Modern technology never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to social media sites, we can share each other’s stories. If it were 10 years ago, we would never have met.

Read previous posts HERE.

Views expressed in this blog series are not necessarily those of Rafu Shimpo.

 

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