September 13, 2011
My last day at JAXA dawned, unsurprisingly, hot and humid. The lab group, however, did something surprising for lunch: we all went out to a restaurant for a meal. About ten of us moseyed out of the campus and past the safety signs, where Beoka and Morita-san posed with the flyers, riffs on the Mona Lisa and the three little pigs/big bad wolf.
Our destination: スシロー (Sushiro-), a purveyor of 回転寿司 (kaiten zushi, or “conveyor belt sushi”).
We’ve all seen sushi moat restaurants where small boats of sushi float in a circular body of water surrounding chefs making rolls and tiny dishes; here was the Japanese original.
Aikawa-san was super amped to pour hot water for まっ茶: the restaurant provides a jar of powdered tea, and each table has a hot water spigot.
Nigiri-zushi perpetually goes around on the conveyor belt. There’s even a machine in back for forming the little rounds of rice.
You place your order by interacting with a tablet.
A few minutes later a pleasant voice announces that your food is arriving.
Aikawa-san was super excited for all the onigiri-zushi. Tani-san was skeptical of Aikawa-san’s ability to put away all this fish.
Shrimp, onions, cucumber, and mayonnaise. Uh?
Spicy salad (スパイシーサラダ), complete with warning kanji (辛) that this is spicy!
Original dolce ティラミス (tiramisu)！
Aikawa with the final damage.
Tani and Kodama were incredulous. Aikawa had done in about 22 plates of sushi. I had seven, same as Tani and Kodama.
We returned to JAXA. Morita photobombed as I tried to take a photo of a water filtration device outside of the hypersonic wind tunnel.
Maro-san posed with his inspirational shirt.
I gathered my bags and hopped on a bus to Kichijōji, then a train to Kanda Station to meet Yuka for dinner, and finally another train to Haneda to fly out of Japan and back to the US.
In only six weeks I’d traversed Japan, visiting about a sixth of the prefectures in a country which has in total 47. I’d made friends who were not only Americans, but from Thailand, China, Hong Kong, and of course, Japan. My ability to decipher kanji, and to read kana, improved tremendously. My spoken Japanese didn’t improve as much as I would have liked, but my vocabulary increased, as did my appreciation for the language and culture.
I am supremely grateful to MIT’s International Science and Technology Initiative, MISTI, and specifically MISTI-Japan, for giving me the chance to visit, live, and work in Japan, as well as to JAXA and Sakaue-san for accepting me into their labs and campuses.
If you’d like more photos from this summer, they’re all here, and all blog posts from Japan are here. Thank you all for reading; it was a lovely time, and I am so glad to have heard from everyone who wrote, commented, and gave advice. It was an amazing summer in the land of the rising sun.
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