My “Love Affair” with Japan

My interest in Japanese cuisine started when I was in high school. I got a job at a local Teppanyaki restaurant as a dishwasher and prep cook. Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cooking that involves preparing food on a flat, searing-hot griddle as diners look on. I would have loved to train with one of the Teppanyaki chefs, but that opportunity was off limits to me as a non-Japanese female.

Instead, I began shadowing the pastry chefs.

I became enthralled at the use of spices and textures that were so different than anything I had experienced in American desserts. This experience led to my total love affair with everything Japanese, and I knew that I wanted first-hand experience. Once my Associate’s degree was under my belt, I quit from Trust Essays writing service and began to look at 4-year schools where I could continue in restaurant management, and planned to continue working in the same Japanese restaurant. Then, one of my instructors told me of an opportunity to spend a year at the University of Tokyo, studying culinary arts and business management in combination — just the gig I was looking for, so that I could return to the States and open my own restaurant!

Clearly this was an opportunity that I could not pass up. It would involve working many hours a week with an internship, as well as a pretty rigorous class schedule… I knew the program would be intense and demanding, but I was committed to put in whatever effort it was going to take. I began taking the steps necessary to quit my job, sublet my apartment, and obtain a passport.

Less than two months after I was accepted into the program I was on a plane to Tokyo. The first month is a blur. Tokyo is amazing!

I fell in love the minute I arrived and cannot imagine living in a small town ever again. I find everything about Tokyo to be energizing. The other American students, in various degree programs, and I came a week early which turned out to be a great thing. It gave us time to experience the city as tourists. We ate, we went to the theater, we watched a baseball game, we shopped, and we experienced night life like we had never experienced before. Then it was time to get to work.

My schedule was intense, including waking every morning at 5 o’clock, to begin my internship — I had no idea that Japanese restauranteurs travelled long distances each morning to purchase foodstuffs from small growers, and it was a great opportunity to experience rural life in Japan. Large tombs enclosed generations of family members’ remains, right on the family property. Talk about quiet neighbors! Heavily steeped in their traditions, these wonderful people gave me an entirely different perspective on this rich and ancient culture. The 21st century has truly come to Tokyo, but out there, life had not changed much since the 19th century.

My classes began in the late afternoon every day and went into the evening. But students at the University of Tokyo are heavy partiers, so lack of sleep was a rather permanent condition. Interestingly, there is less homework and more in-class projects and activities than we experience in American universities, and that was a good thing! The business part of my program, particularly the entrepreneurship course work was challenging, but I now am fully prepared to run my own business.

I took the time on weekends to travel by train to all parts of this phenomenal country, and I had great guides from among my classmates. It is just amazing how a modern train system makes travel so easy, and the bus system in and around Tokyo is smooth and efficient (traffic, however, is horrible!).

I finished my year abroad almost 6 months ago, and the decision to do this was the best one I have ever made. It was expensive and I have some debt to pay off, but my life has been impacted by a people and a culture for which I have the greatest fondness and respect!

The learning paid off as well. I have been employed by a Japanese restaurant association as a consultant, and am actually training their kitchen chefs in the latest foods and cooking techniques.

My ultimate goal? Find the perfect spot for my own restaurant!

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