My first taste of sake is like a first kiss--fleeting and unforgettable. Who forgets one’s first kiss?
One memorable summer evening in Okinawa, Japan, I was invited by a coworker to a house party in the middle of Awase, an area known for steep, winding streets that give way to majestic views of the Pacific Ocean. On this night, like many nights in the Ryukyu Islands, the moon peered over the waves and the concrete shadows with its silver warmth.
This was my first such invitation so I didn’t know what to expect. As I slipped off my shoes at the genkan (玄関, entrance), I caught a glimpse of a simmering pot of broth planted at the center of the table and was reassured. The host, Yabu, was a young chef and would soon be opening his own restaurant in downtown Naha. What a treat it was to be here among friends! Japanese and English were being spoken around the room and we were all enjoying the good vibes. As Yabu set out plate after plate--slices of meat and vegetables, various sauces, and paper-thin mochi--our curiosities shifted to the table.
“Oishii sou!” (Looks delicious!)
“What is this sauce made of?”
And finally, “Itadakimasu!”