I had the good fortune to go to Japan many years ago. I was teaching at culinary schools and didn’t have time to see much, but I ate very, very well when I managed to go to a restaurant in the evenings. The Japanese people I ate with seemed surprised at how much I liked – and wanted to eat – Japanese food. One night we went to a restaurant that set bowls of soy milk on a heater in the center of our table and as a skin formed, we carefully peeled it off with chopsticks and slid the thin slippery skins in our mouths. Another night at a simple sashimi restaurant, one of the courses was set down in front of me, a few pieces of raw seafood in an elaborate, and enormous bowl made of shimmering pieces of glass attached together. Except when I touched it, the whole thing shattered and I realized it was made of ice chips, each one somehow magically attached to each other.
But best of all was the wagyu beef restaurant: a bib was tied around my neck, slender rectangles of meat were brought out, and each piece of beef was singed for perhaps one-half of a second on each side then placed on my plate. And for a moment, everything around me stopped and I sighed as this rich, incredibly tender and juicy morsel of warm beef literally dissolved in my mouth. It was nearly eight years ago, yet I remember every bite I had in Japan.