i have this friend. two of my really close (canadian) friends who, at the time, happened to live right next to the snack bar he owned and operated introduced me to him. and when i first stopped by his restaurant, we instantly hit it off.
makoto has a little bit of a belly, a shaved head, and a laugh like a clown. i have never seen him wear any shoes other than sandals, even in winter. he loves to drink, he loves to sing karaoke after he closes up shop, and he loves to meet new people and ask them all kinds of questions (some of which are far from wholesome). he has a collection of cell phone photos of himself taken in public places during the wee hours of the morning, in most of which he is super drunk and as naked as a newborn child. in other words, he epitomizes the word goofy.
but what you wouldn’t expect from a person like makoto – who regularly asks new customers for foreign countries whether the proverbial carpet matches the curtains – is that his food is far and away some of the best restaurant food i have had in my life. when he brought out the first dish of food i ever ate there, the first thing i thought was “i can really learn something from this guy.” it tasted great, sure, but the plating was like something out of a magazine.
he has made me jack mackerel sashimi sliced into pieces and then put back onto the body of the fish to look as if it had never been touched with a knife. his ten-egg tamagoyaki is so fluffy and juicy you can’t help but eat the whole thing by yourself. in fall, he makes scabbard fish lightly battered and fried until the skin is crisp and the flesh is fall-apart tender. he has been known to serve up raw deep-sea angler liver garnished with sliced green onions and ponzu as an appetizer to go with beer. his specialty is a whole turtle in a hot-pot simmered in miso broth, and when you finish, he lets you sign the shell with a paint maker and hang it up in the restaurant. the list of delicious foods goes on.
90% of the time, he’s a weird and sometimes completely inappropriate dude. but every once in a while, his passions shine through.
sometimes, when i ask him to make me any kind of fish he wants, his eyes sparkle as he goes nuts making something truly special and beautiful. when we asked him about the significance of the big amber necklace he wears all the time, he replied that it is black ants preserved in sap in the act of taking apart a piece of wood. he wears it everyday to remind himself to work hard.
the most extraordinary makoto fact we have discovered to date is that he loves to take care of his pet turtles. when we asked him what kind, he replied that his personal pet turtle is a land tortoise, and it is his best friend. he also told us the tortoise’s name is mekemeke. mekemeke is big enough that when makoto sits down on his couch to watch tv at the end of the day, it naps in front of him so he can rest his feet on it like an ottoman.
he explained that he’s only had mekemeke for a few years because his last giant pet tortoise died in a house fire.
makoto is, in a word, unique. yeah, he’s a wild and crazy guy. but he has a gentle, refined, and totally unexpected side that has made him one of my most admired role models and one of my best friends.
keep up the good word, buddy. no doubt i’ll see you this weekend for some sashimi, some boozing, and some good old-fashioned karaoke.