Reconnections and Missed Opportunities
On Sunday Kuniko and I shared a day off together. There was brisk, cold weather and the threat of afternoon snow, but looking out the window in the morning we could see nothing but sunshine and blue sky.
We decided to take a long walk from Okubo to Akashi. We used to do this almost weekly when the weather was warmer, and it was nice to get out there and do it again. The beach was peaceful, and we walked at a slightly faster than normal pace to try to burn calories from our high calorie dinner (chicken and morel mushrooms in a cream sherry sauce) from Saturday night.
Two hours of walking in beautiful weather gives us plenty of time to catch up and talk about the past, present and future. I hope we get back into this routine from this spring.
In Akashi we went to check out the newly constructed station-front building and shopping. It mainly consists of a big bookstore, the city library (moved from the park, I presume) and lots of medical offices. The area around Akashi station has improved quite a bit.
A winter or two ago we once did this same walk, and then we warmed up in a tiny izakaya drinking sake and eating grilled fish surrounded by old guys. We did a similar thing this time, finding a restaurant that was open in the new building, and we ordered chunks of yellowtail simmered in a soy sauce broth, some oden, and we split a mini bottle of hot sake.
There were a lot of other restaurants around in the new building, so we also stopped at a Taiwanese restaurant. They served us some spicy noodles (with almost no soup, which we prefer), a rice dish with vegetables, beef and rice noodles that had been braised in a spicy rich sauce that hit the spot. We also had some shorompo, but unfortunately they weren’t so great.
While we ate Taiwanese food Kuniko noticed that the name of the new sushi restaurant across from us had a familiar name. The master of the sushi restaurant came out and hung up his noren, and we recognized him. It was the same underground sushi restaurant that we used to visit so long ago with Mr. Komori. It had been ages since we had visited the restaurant, partly because he had to close temporarily for the construction of the building we were currently eating in. The construction took more than a year.
The sushi master recognized us as we waved through the window and smiled, and so we decided to drop in. We didn’t have any stomach space for sushi, but we wanted to say hello.
Inside the new sushi restaurant was laid out exactly like the previous one, just much cleaner and newer. The sushi master looked the same as always, his wife was also the same as ever, and they smiled and greeted us like lost children. He said that business was going well in the new location, they had been open since December, and he was happy with the place. We promised that we’d come back for dinner sometime soon.
Then he said something shocking, that completely caught us off guard. He said that he hadn’t seen us in a long time, since before Mr. Komori died.
Turns out, Mr. Komori had died almost two years ago. The sushi master thought that it was some kind of cancer, maybe in the stomach. He was surprised that we didn’t know, and we were so shocked it took a while to process the information. The last time I had talked to Mr. Komori we had made the usual promises to get together again soon for drinks and sushi, but I couldn’t believe that it was more than two years ago. I couldn’t believe that he had died.
Mr. Komori played the ocarina at our wedding, hosted my family for a New Year party where we made soba noodles and gyoza, he took me around Hyogo showing me his hometown festival, introduced me to restaurants all over Akashi, and was always so kind and full of humor.
It was kind of a double shock – I was shocked that he had suddenly died and also shocked that I had let time slip by unnoticed and missed out on a chance to spend time with him.
Kuniko and I took the train back to Okubo, and we hugged each other over and over. I was thinking about how soon you can lose touch with someone once you get caught up in the grind of working every day. Unfortunately I won’t get a chance to reconnect with Mr. Komori, but I’ll do my best to stay in touch with the friends I have. Time is limited and getting more precious for us each day. Sunday we got a brutal reminder of that, and we’ll try to take it to heart.