Celebrating Shared Memories
Dear Family and Friends,
Kurumada Sensei turns 85 today.
She was the Head of the English Department at Shokei College when Izumi, Yoko, and I worked there. Actually, Yoko was my student before she joined Izumi as a secretary of the department. Together we were a real team.
Izumi often says those were, without a doubt, the best years of her entire life.
With Kurumada Sensei in charge, things were well run, but without an authoritarian bent. So, as long as the work got done, she left Izumi and Yoko alone. That meant there was a lot of time for laughter and just having fun.
I was pretty new to Japan then. So, my language skills and know-how in this culture were minimal. But Izumi and Yoko took good care of me, so we became great friends, and still are.
I left Shokei almost twenty years ago. The English Department closed down soon after. Izumi got sick and left last year. Yoko is still there, but in the main office. So, those delightful years of the three of us, guided by Kurumada Sensei, are long past. In fact, we seldom see each other anymore.
But a few months ago, something kept nudging me to contact Kurumada Sensei again. I have learned to heed that call. So, I visited her in her home. While there, I learned she would turn 85 this year. I mentioned that to Izumi and we thought a party for her would be fun. Yoko, of course, would be part of the celebration. And leave it to Izumi, she remembered a restaurant that another former Shokei student, then English Department secretary had with her husband.
The restaurant, Cloud 9, is small and simple. But the food is out of this world. Course after course of it. The tastes and colors blended subtly and perfectly. We were in awe with each presentation and bite. We joked that we must be on Cloud 10 with such a feast.
Usually Cloud 9 is open only in the evening, but for us, they opened for lunch. Even though the husband-chef was busy preparing our meal and those of the evening, he came out several times to chat with us.
He learned how to cook by going from place to place, pretty much all over Japan. He learned well. In addition to that, he loves experimenting, so he had very unique dishes. Some, like octopus and Miyagi beef, that took three days to prepare.
He (and his wife Yumiko) stirred tofu until it was like cream. They added a secret ingredient and poured it over strawberries. They served small pieces of fish that were to be eaten with a finely sliced, dried citrus fruit. And they made a dipping sauce with mild vinegar and dried plums.
Meals here often end with miso soup and rice. Even that was spectacular. The rice was bulging with vegetables and the soup included delicious mushrooms and fine seaweed. Kurumada Sensei was so thrilled by the day’s event, that she insisted on serving the rice to everyone.
We thought we were finished. But no. Out came the desserts. One Western, one Japanese. Again, tastes were unique and the chef’s secret.
Kurumada Sensei looked exhausted by the time we got her back home. But all of us felt very satisfied with the celebration. We also felt very happy to have added another delightful memory to the storehouse of those we had already created long ago.
Next year Yoko turns 50 and I become 75. I wonder if we will get together again. And could it possibly be as delicious and satisfying as Kurumada Sensei’s wonderful 85th?