by Yurie Horiguchi
I grew up in an animal-loving family. There was always a dog or a cat (my responsibility) and I remember two little white birds in a cage (my mother’s charge) and a goldfish that died regularly and was replaced just as regularly. My brothers were responsible for that and although I could never prove it, I believe those poor fish died from over-feeding and too many changes of water each day as brother tried to outdo brother in showing how “responsible” he was.
I grew up, too, in countries that had societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and for years I firmly believed that their main duty was to rescue kittens from tall trees and rooftops, and to haul dogs out of deep holes into which they had fallen.
It never occured to me that anyone could not like animals, or mistreat them, or abandon them, or put them to death with strychnine or with a blow on the head.
I learned all these sad facts concerning the fate of many Japanese animals some six years ago when I became a member of the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS) and, as an unbeliever, was taken forthwith to the Tokyo University Animal Experimentation Center to see with my own eyes—and to retch miserably having seen.
Yet five years ago, according to JAWS, conditions at Tokyo University had already “considerably improved!” Thanks to millions of yen that JAWS had spent on the construction of roofed kennels, individual feeding and drinking bowls, regular inspection and cleaning of the premises (ankle-deep in mud after heavy rains) at least the dogs waiting to be experimented and operated on were not quite as miserable as they had formerly been. But still far, far too miserable, it seemed to me.
Also, thanks to repeated talks with doctors JAWS finally persuaded them that even animals can experience pain and prevailed on them to use anaesthetics before operating. And it was also repeatedly stressed that no experimental surgery can be meaningful unless the animal itself is healthy and operations are undertaken under aseptic conditions.
In recent years JAWS has furnished funds and technical advice to several provincial university animal experimentation centers, with marked success.
Unfortunately, however, funds are always limited in the JAWS organization. Each year, with rising prices, funding costs have risen too and thousands of helpless abandoned domestic animals will continue to be put to death by uncivilized means.
For hungry gaijin who are convinced that they will never, never be able to read that noren over the restaurant, there is the solution that all Japanese of all social ranks and conditions resort to: order your meal by telephone, to be delivered to your home.
First, however, you must case your neighborhood, or get your maid to do it. Every neighborhood has a selection of soba, sushi and unagi restaurants, as well as a small Chinese restaurant or two. Get her to collect a menu card from each one. They always have their telephone number printed on them.
Sobayas also prepare tendon (prawn tempura on rice), katsudon (breaded pork cutlets on rice) and my own favorite, oyako domburi (chicken and onions cooked in shoyu broth, covered with a beaten egg gently cooked until it is set, then the whole poured over a bowl of rice and sprinkled with nori (seaweed ) —delicious!).
There are generally a minimum of ten different types of soba or udon dishes to choose from. Get your maid to explain them, or if you are adventurous, order something different each time.
Sushi shops deliver assorted sushi (nigiri), generally in three categories—top, medium and ordinary—chirashi zushi which is sushi rice covered with a selection of fish, egg, etc. which are the same used in the preparation of individual sushi pieces, tekkadon which is rice topped with slices of raw tuna and nori, tekka-maki or tuna and rice rolled up in a sheet of nori and sliced, and kappa-maki where cucumber replaces the tuna.
The above are all Edo-mae (Tokyo) sushi. If you prefer the slightly sweeter, square sushi, you must find an Osaka sushi shop. A delicious specialty of the latter, served only during the winter months, is mushi-zushi, or steamed sushi in a bowl or special box.
Unagi shops prepare the famous Japanese grilled eel specialty, which can be ordered as unagi jubako which is grilled eels placed on hot rice over which the special sauce is poured, or kabayaki where the unagi and the rice are in separate boxes. Prices are high but a true unagi aficionado couldn’t care less.
How to order? If you can speak some Japanese, you first give your address, then your name. They may ask you perhaps if there is a special building or mejirushi near your house which will make it easier to find. If this is too complicated for you to explain, ask your maid or an obliging Japanese friend.
If you patronize the same shops often enough, they will know right off the bat where to deliver as you give your name.