It’s 4am on a Monday morning. The alarm goes off. I open my eyes and hit snooze. I do it so many times that it’s 520am by the time I actually get out of bed. I have an hour to take a shower, have breakfast, get dressed and get out of the house. Might be hard to believe, but I’m actually quite excited about the business trip I have coming up today.
This is one of those business trips that almost didn’t go through because of both business reasons and the typhoon that’s currently making its way through Japan. This’ll be my first time in Tohoku: a region in the Northeast that’s famous for its volcanoes, mountains and… the 2011 earthquake (and the ensuing nuclear incident).
The Tohoku Region of Japan consists of six prefectures. I’m heading to Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture: a city that suffered direct damage and was the closest major city to the epicentre of the earthquake. In Japan, major cities tend to be built away from the ocean, so the tsunami didn’t cause major damage in the city centre. Unfortunately, the coastal and rural areas were less lucky.
The Bullet Train Journey
I get on yet another shinkansen. This time it’s from Tokyo Station. I was a bit concerned when my company told me I’d be travelling from there as it’s one of those humungous stations that’s like a self-contained city. It can take 10-30 minutes on foot to transfer from one line to another. I’m not a fan… Much to my surprise, the transfer from the JR tracks to the Shinkansen was a relatively painless process.
It’s too hot and sunny to look out the window, so I pulled down the blinds. I’m listening to Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home. It’s been a while since I heard that song.
Whilst I quietly nurse my third coffee on the train at 8am, the gentleman next to me already has a beer in his cup holder.
You wouldn’t know it by looking around, but many people here have a terrible alcohol problem. Halfway through his second beer, he finds the courage to open a conversation with me. How disgusting. I am not charmed.
A smooth and slick two hours later, I arrive at Sendai. I roll up my sleeves and get to work.
The Post Work Dinner
When you talk for a living like I do, the last thing you want to do at the end of the work day is sit down and talk more – especially when it’s the same damn conversation you’ve had a million times over. So when I found out that I had to sit down with my colleagues for dinner – I was ready to jump out of the window of the car that I was sitting in. More small talk and meaningless conversation? Oh dear Lord help us all.
We ended up at a gyutan beef tongue restaurant at Sendai Station. The restaurant itself is super famous – as evidenced by the caterpillar like queue that stretched out the front door. The custom of preparing grilled beef tongue originated in the late 1940s. The dish is usually served with pickles, tail soup and barley rice.
I ordered the mixed set that came with two seasonings: salt and miso. I personally preferred the miso. Whilst the dish didn’t offend my tastebuds, I failed to see what the big deal was. The texture of the meat was chewy and tough-ish. Some pieces were delicious, but a lot of the pieces were simply not to my liking. I wouldn’t call it much to look at either…. Having said that, I loved the pickles and the soup. The pickles were packed with flavour. And the tail meat in the soup was incredibly tender.
Right now, I’m on the shinkansen back to my place. I have an hour and ten minutes before I arrive in Tokyo. Unfortunately the journey doesn’t end there. I still have to catch the connection back to mine. Oh and by the way – I’m absolutely knackered and all the trains are delayed.
Till next time – goodnight.