Sushi, Sukiyaki and Skyhooks
When I first read an email from Sandra, our media person, saying “Abc radio 774 red symons would like to interview you re your blog and latest post”, my mind spun into two totally different directions. I immediately thought, “Me? On air? Nah ….” Although it was an honour to get such an offer from the ABC Melbourne’s breakfast show, I thought I wasn’t ready for that yet. The whaling dispute is a complex issue. How could I make my point in a short interview? Do I have enough and accurate information to speak about the dispute to the public? In addition, I had to do it in English, of course. I felt it was a bit risky.
However, the other thought in my mind prevented me from turning down the offer straight away. While I had looked for every excuse I could think of to decline the offer, one image started to dominate my mind – a lamb in a black and white image. It was the image of an album jacket from 1976 called Straight In a Gay Gay World – the album which I still keep at my apartment in Tokyo. (It’s in the form of a cassette tape, by the way.) “Yoko, if you accept this offer, you’ll be meeting one of the Skyhooks ….”
I had to make a decision in a more ‘academic’ and ‘professional’ way, whatever that means, though. I thought about my blog which caught the attention of the radio program. It said “Shall we talk about whales and whaling?” I started the blog to have a frank conversation with Australians about whales and whaling. And Red was offering an opportunity which perfectly suited my purpose. The answer seemed to be apparent. Luckily, I was a listener of his program and knew how he talked to his guests. I had a sense that he would not slash or chop me into pieces even if we ended up in very different positions. So, there I was at the ABC studio at the Southbank in a very early Friday morning.
The interview passed by like a flash. I was super nervous until I got into the studio but when Red started to ask questions, I felt OK. I was able to forget about some hundreds? or thousands? listeners out there and it turned out to be just another interesting and pleasant conversation with an Aussie on whaling. The only thing which was missing there was a cuppa or something, perhaps.
What is good about having such conversations is that there is a chance to pose questions and also to explain. The dispute on whaling has too many discourses attached to and it is filled with so many misperceptions, misunderstandings and misinterpretations. They are contributing to create wrong images and, therefore, enhancing the tension and misleading the dispute.
So, I was delighted when Red asked me “How do you eat whale meat? Do you have it as sushi? or … what??” Actually, I always had a problem with Aussie’s “our whales ending up on the Japanese meal table as sushi” discourse and had been willing to set the record straight. There came a chance! I answered “Yes, whale meat sushi is available. But I think deep fried dish is more familiar to the population.” I just didn’t like the way the Japanese food culture to be seen as simplistic as such – like every ingredient has got something to do with SUSHI or everyone is eating SUSHI everyday as we don’t.
Just referring to whale meat dishes, there is quite a wide variety. I recall deep fry, tail meat sashimi, bacon and hot pot to be on the menu of pub type casual restaurants in Tokyo. If you go through a homepage of Ganso Kujiraya* (literally means ‘the original whale restaurant’), a restaurant in Tokyo which specialises in whale meat, you can find boiled tongue, soy sauce cooked meat, tempura, even steak but no sushi. I am sure that some sushi restaurants may have whale meat sushi, but it is not the most popular way to have whale meat.
And if I could add a little more to the sushi issue, when did sushi gain such a huge international fame, anyway? When did it become like a queen of the Japanese food? If my memory serves me correctly, sukiyaki was the well known Japanese dish overseas in the 70s. Has it become a “yesterday’s hero”? Or am I “living in the 70s”still?
I know. The misperception about how whale meat could end up on the Japanese meal table may not have much to do with the whaling dispute. But I think these tiny misperceptions may create very wrong and stereotypical images of cultures which we are not familiar with. And tiny corrections should be made when necessary and possible, I believe.
Coming back to my first ever on air experience, I happened to get a couple of feedbacks from locals and got to know that there were some people other than Sandra who were listening to the program and were paying attention to what I had said. Over all, it was good. If there is anything I have to regret, that would be the fact that I failed to have my Spunky magazine from 1976 autographed by Red. Agh …. Next time, maybe?
*Anybody who is interested in Ganso Kujiraya’s menu, go to http://www.kujiraya.co.jp/dish/list.html.  Unfortunately, they don’t have an English site but it would be fun to see colourful pictures.