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Comfort Just Around the Corner

Comfort Just Around the Corner

When you grow up in Hawaii and move away, we’re given what I like to call a sixth sense that let’s us identify any other Hawaii local no matter where we are in the world. And if you end up talking story with that person, chances are you know them somehow through some other friend. This is not uncommon for us islanders and we’re quite used to it.

But what’s even better is when I studied abroad all the way across the Pacific Ocean, I made a Japanese friend who SOMEHOW knows people who I went to high school with. I met my dear friend Kota during a social event at our university in Tokyo. After we made the connection that I was from Hawaii and he studied abroad there, the rest was history and we’ve been friend’s ever since.

Like many of my friends, Kota is a world traveller who has been to nearly 20 countries. What I find interesting about all the places Kota visits, is that all of the destinations are near the equator. In other words it’s warm…extremely warm. You see, Kota grew up on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and has mentioned he’s not the biggest fan of the cold. I’d imagine an average of six meters of snowfall a year and sub-freezing temperatures for eighteen years, either makes you love or hate powdery winters. But luckily, when Kota returns home to Hokkaido for the winter holidays, he has a comfort food waiting  to keep him perfectly content despite the cold.

A comfort food seasoned with the characteristic flavor that can only come from the weathered, expert hands of a loving grandparent. 

Let’s see what it is shall we?

Meet Kota!

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I like eating. Whenever I have time to spare, I seek new food experience online to offline. The best thing about the weekend is that I get to visit restaurants from my bookmarks on Tabelog (Japanese version of Yelp). Yet, I am lucky that I work in Nakameguro (Tokyo, Japan), where you can find many fancy places to eat. So I also enjoy exploring foods on the weekday and it is my first priority to save my lunch break before any of the projects I am working on.

I grew up in Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture in Japan. People associate Hokkaido with primeval forest, wild animals, and fresh foods. Someone had actually asked me if I have a cow back home. I would say I lived a rather city life, where you have things like Starbucks and Apple store, and unfortunately, no cow at home. But it is probably true about the fresh foods. I realized that only after I moved to Tokyo for college. Even though most of the people do not have a cow at home, many people have a direct access to farmers, dairy farmers and fishers in Hokkaido. I remember I went to visit different farmers to buy vegetables and rice for each harvest time and fish dealers came to my house to sell fresh seafood. Now that I live in Tokyo, I realize it is not the case for everyone.

When I go back to Hokkaido, I always stay a couple of nights with my grandparents. They live only a few blocks away from where I lived with my parents and they always seem very happy to have me at their house. As your grandparents might do the same, they always ask me these questions like “Are you hungry?” and “What do you want for dinner?”. There is one thing I always ask them to prepare for me, here comes my comfort food, “My grandad’s Tamagoyaki”.

Tamagoyaki is a Japanese rolled omelette with thin egg layers. Since I was very little, it is my favorite breakfast menu that my grandad cooks for me. Even though each Japanese household has different ways to cook their tamagoyaki, my grandad’s tamagoyaki is second to none.

First, my grandad is very skillful when it comes to rolling tamagoyaki on the pan. It is a bit firm on the very end of the layers but it is fluffy and juicy inside. It is never the same no matter how many times I tried to get the perfect balance.

Second, he knows where to get fresh eggs. He got to know many people through his career because he had to move to different cities in Hokkaido almost ever five years. (By the way Hokkaido is as big as 20% of the land of Japan). He got to know this egg farmer when he was in the little town called Kuriyama and he loved the quality and freshness. They are still delivering their goodies to him every month. It is always better to use fresh ingredients and surely it is the case for tamagoyaki too.

Last but not least, his tamagoyaki tastes special with the story of his childhood. He was the oldest son of five siblings and his family did not always have enough foods for hungry kids. And egg was like gold dust at the time WWII had just ended. Now when he cooks tamagoyaki for me, he makes it extra big with seven to eight eggs. Some people say that egg is not very healthy when you have more than a certain amount.

But I know that extra big tamagoyaki is a sign of happiness for him. I am writing this on the flight back home. I am definitely going to ask my grandad for tamagoyaki again this time.

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I thank Carly for the opportunity to think over my roots and appreciate what I have had in my life.

Written by Kota K.

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