Franklin Sussman '17: Osewa Ni Narimashita: Ten Places I Will Miss
Franklin Sussman is the 2017-2019 Shansi Fellow at J.F. Oberlin. This is their second year narrative.
There are many ways to say thank you in Japanese. From the basic arigatō found in most phrasebooks to the more complicated and formal expressions of gratitude, each one has a particular nuance and usage. One that is particularly relevant to the coming end of my time in Japan is osewa ni narimashita, or “thank you for taking care of me.” Though I live on my own and there are few instances to use this in interpersonal relationships, there are a number of shops, restaurants, or other establishments that I feel particularly indebted to in the way this phrase conveys. Without these places, my time in Japan would be more difficult, dull, and meaningless. Without some of them, I literally might not have been able to survive. So, I leave this as a tribute to the ten places I will miss the most. Thank you for taking care of me.
Rakuen: This Okinawan bar and restaurant right by where we live quickly became the Machida fellows’ go-to dinner spot after our somewhat long work days on Wednesdays. Over time, we have slowly explored the menu and shifted our regular orders. First, we stuck with the Okinawan classics like chanpurū, a stir fry with bean sprouts and bitter melon, and Okinawa soba, a noodle soup with a creamy and salty pork broth. Recently, we have discovered the owner and chef makes delicious tacos and we sometimes order simply tacos and edamame. We have also gradually gotten the chance to get to know the owner, who has taught us some ukulele, showed us her art, and offered to go to a public bath with us.
Three cups of Awamori at Rakuen
Cor: Just as important in our immediate neighborhood is the wine-focused restaurant Cor. Opened just a year before my fellowship started, this restaurant single-handedly brings fine dining to the otherwise average neighborhood of Fuchinobe. The chef and owner, Mr. Kobayashi, combines local Japanese ingredients, Italian and French cuisine, and wines from all over the world to create a truly transcendent dining experience. Mr. Kobayashi also explains every wine on the daily menu in simple language yet great detail and adjusts the order and quantity of everything we order to create a perfect multiple-course meal every time. Though the price is actually quite reasonable, we consider trips to Cor a special occasion experienced no more than once a month, usually after pay day.
J.F. Oberlin Fellows Leah, Kayla and Franklin sharing a meal with Shansi's Executive Director Gavin Tritt and Deputy Director Ted Samuel.
Dead or Alive: Finally, for the days when I have nobody to dine with but still want something more exciting than eating at home, there’s a very unique local ramen place called Dead or Alive. The contrast in their name is reflected in their menu, as they feature two completely opposing styles of ramen. The first is a salty sardine-broth ramen that competes with the other surprisingly prevalent sardine-broth ramen shops in the area. The other is a creamy chicken broth ramen filled with Szechuan pepper. This one is offered at five different levels of spiciness as well as a special challenge level called “hades”. When I first was getting settled in Fuchinobe, I was disappointed that there was no ramen shop offering a more “normal” broth, such as sea salt, miso soup, or soy sauce base. Now, I cherish the quirky offerings as well as the vast number of options between the “dead” and the “alive”.
Dead or Alive Ramen: Spicy Miso
Roof: My mom is a hairdresser and has cut my hair my entire life. Even in college, I waited until breaks to go home and have her cut my hair instead of venturing to try a haircut somewhere in Oberlin or risking one from another student. So, aside from a few so-so haircuts during my study abroad, this has been my first time getting my hair cut consistently by someone other than my mom. Since I have somewhat curly hair, I searched for salons that were known to be good at cutting foreigners’ hair. I found one and picked a junior stylist for my first cut. Mr. Tsuda took great care with me and my hair and I was thoroughly satisfied with the haircut. So, I followed him as he switched salons and eventually became a senior stylist at his current salon, Roof. I have even recommended him to a few friends and brought my co-fellows Kayla and Leah to him for a group haircut day. There is still nothing that beats the ease of going downstairs in my own home to my mom’s salon for a quick haircut, but I think I found the best I could hope to find in Japan with Mr. Tsuda at Roof.
Lush: In addition to needing haircuts, I also needed to find hair care products since I no longer had access to the wholesale beauty supply products my mom could provide me. I tried a few Japanese brands, but once I discovered a Lush store very close to me in Machida, I was immediately committed. Though the brand is not Japanese, Lush products are all produced locally, which made me feel slightly better about their luxurious prices. The workers at the Machida Lush are also incredibly kind and take great care to find products that match the preferences and needs of the customers. Now, not only are my hair products from Lush, but I use their body products, face masks, and bath bombs as well.
akta: On Friday nights, I volunteer delivering condoms with the Delivery Boys program at community center akta in Shinjuku Ni-chōme, the gay district of Tokyo. Though the volunteering itself has lost some of its excitement and feels more like a responsibility to uphold now, the community center space of akta itself has grown to occupy a special place in my heart. Most of the time, it is simply a collection of tables and chairs with a vast array of pamphlets, flyers, books, and other paper documents surrounding them. However, I have seen it transform into a performance space for drag, dance, and drama during our annual party. It also becomes a café once a month, an art exhibition space periodically, and even a place to rest for volunteers who have had a little too much to drink at the end of year party. akta has shown me the versatility and importance of open community spaces and given me many ideas to take with me to LGBT centers I work or volunteer at in the future.
Franklin at the akta booth at Tokyo's Rainbow Pride (left) and the akta community center (right)
Rainbow Burritos: Before volunteering on Friday nights, I have to eat something for dinner in Shinjuku. At first, I took this as a great opportunity to explore dining options in the city. However, I quickly realized that Shinjuku is not a great area for quick or cheap dining, and it became almost a chore to find a place to eat each week. One of the options I keep coming back to, though, is Rainbow Burritos. Opened as a sister shop to a lesbian bar in Ni-chōme, this tiny bar serves simple Mexican offerings like burritos, nachos, and quesadillas, which are surprisingly hard to come by in Tokyo. Conversation with the owner Mami makes the experience even better, as she truly listens to and cares about all of her customers. Every time I go, she not only recognizes my face but remembers details about my life. She even sometimes offers me an extra topping or a somewhat generous pour of a drink. My loyalty extends to the Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival, at which her food stand serving banh mi and roast beef rice bowls is the only stand I patronize.
Jean-Paul Hévin: Chocolate is a necessity in my life, and a taste shared by every member of my family. When my mom visited Japan in March 2018, we discovered this extravagant French chocolate shop while walking down a street in Kyoto. My excitement grew when I discovered another location in our next destination of Hiroshima, and I could not believe it when I found yet another location in Tokyo, right in Shinjuku. In addition to macarons and cakes, this boutique sells single truffles that cost almost as much as a cheap bowl of ramen. Still, every time I think of this place and have ten minutes to spare between dinner and volunteering, something deep within me compels me to go.
Obscura: Coffee is not quite a necessity in my life, but it certainly helps me get up in the morning. Coming from Seattle, I have a somewhat discerning taste for coffee and I was eager to find a shop that sells a variety of high-quality beans. Thankfully, I was quickly recommended Obscura Coffee Roasters by my friend and former Hiroshima fellow Annelise. This roastery has three locations in the same neighborhood of Tokyo as well as two locations in Hiroshima, the hometown of the owner. Not only are the beans delicious, but Obscura regularly experiments with new coffee-based drinks, like a coffee sangria, a salty coffee tonic, and a coffee enhanced with Indian spices. Plus, every time I go I think of my friendship with Annelise, which has spanned from Seattle Youth Symphony, through college at Oberlin, and into Shansi and beyond.
Family Mart: Without a doubt the most important tool for my daily life is Japan is the convenience store. Though I am fully confident at cooking, the vast majority of my meals come from convenience stores as they are quick, delicious, and honestly around the same price as ingredients for cooking the type of meals I like. While there are three different convenience stores around where I live, there is only one on the campus of J. F. Oberlin University, and thus it is to this Family Mart that I am most indebted. Beyond simply providing lunch to me every day at work, this Family Mart also offers quick sustenance between periods on days when we have a packed schedule, and it stocks snacks and materials to turn class into a mini party when the students deserve it. It even has an ATM! When I go home, I will miss this Family Mart more than anywhere else in Japan.