Using Your Noodle to Surf

Ta Kudama

Beach Naraha

I remember the noodle houses in the train station at Abiko Station in Tokyo. I'd arrive when it got dark and the white bright lamps would be attracting moths that would dance around each light seeming to celebrate their own traditional Japanese affairs. It was humid and during that train ride I was usually packed in like a sardine with all the other passengers. Many would pile in at Ueno Station and the people on the outside would get pressed up against the glass. Arriving at Abiko station was perfect as the cool breeze complimented with the freedom of the outdoors and proved to be dual relief from the moments that had ticked by previously. It was on these occasions that steam rose up into the high ceilings of the train station platforms and gave off the smell of boiling noodles and breaded delicacies. 

The noodle houses in Japan have delicious ways of cooking noodles. They provided needed refreshment on a hot humid day or in the middle of January where the cold air from the ocean creeps through any heavy jacket and renders it useless. The food is delicious, but there is also the system by which the food arrives and this seems to enhance the sensory experience. Every noodle house is accompanied with a vending machine and the food was ordered by pushing the desired dish, which lights up in its plastic display. Upon machine recognition, a white ticket would pop from the machine. It happens that at precisely this moment that salivation starts. I feel that that the consumption of food starts right at the point when the white ticket comes into view. It's the same way that Pez candy shoots out a little pellet. If you happen to eat the candy before it gets in the Pez pellet machine the resulting taste seems to be significantly diminished. Is there any flavor enhancement in the Pez machine itself? It would seem so. The same thought came to me when the vending machine spit out my white ticket. At that point, the experience had already started. I would then hand the ticket to the ladies behind the counter and the noodle dish I knew was soon to come. The noodles would come in promptly and steam up my face rendering the outside humidity useless whereas moments before it had been overpowering. It made sense of the humidity. Then after a bowl of full noodles I'd walk under a floating moon to my host family's house.

Noodles also came into my life when I didn't live in Tokyo, but instead when I lived in place that was more north. Are most noodles made of rice? I think most things are related to rice in Japan. Surfing is even related to rice in Japan. I had wanted to go surfing with a friend I had met on the waves, but had missed the opportunity until one afternoon in the late summer. He called me up and asked if I wanted to help out on the farm. I reluctantly said yes as the heat pounded down on the grass outside my window. At that moment in time the sea seemed to be a better option. Regardless of my present stage of inertia though, I soon arrived at the farming location and stepped out to greet my friend and also say hello to the sound of crickets that were hanging out in the rice fields. I was then given the task to drive the "Ta-Kudama" or the "Rice-Car" I stepped into the cool muck with some rubber boots and pushed a contraption that separated the perfect troughs of the rice that grew neatly in rows that lit up light green in the late afternoon sun blaze. Having my feet in the cold muck turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant experience as it kept the rest of my body cool despite the pulsing heat that threatened to boil the rice as it grew green.

Soon the daily rice activities were finished and at that point surfing came into the picture. We drove up the coast watching the shimmering sea side paint transitory pictures next to the textured beaches sometimes showing bars of sand and sometimes showing the concrete tic-tac-toe like structures that filled a function that few were aware of including myself. In this timely manner Koichi's surfing van promptly arrived at some beach in Tomioka. We pulled up to a dozen or more surfers staring into a receding horizon yearning for an incoming tide. Was it only me that noticed the ebb and flow of life in that observation? I think not. My surfing adventures had started in Hawaii in 2009 and here they resumed on the northern coast of Japan. I must say though that I never felt that I got a grasp of the sport. Maybe it was that I was caught in the simple delight of sitting on a surfboard before the breakers broke. There was the often preoccupation of being caught in the hypnotizing repetition of silent water giants sliding under me on their way to shore. Could I create Haiku's about waves? In these moments it seemed the ocean was creating poems or playing a song.

The surfer community of Naraha and the surrounding parts of the Futaba district knew of the silent monster that they lived around. They knew that creeping under their home was nuclear energy that buzzed or hummed its way to Tokyo and helped the lights blink neon in the city that doesn't sleep much. In 2010 I'd get into conversation with them about the negative externalities to an economic nuclear system. They all gave off the Hawaiian vibe of being free flowing and had loved how the mother ocean had healed them. I would say that they were skeptical about living in Futaba at that time. I heard from very few of them after the spring of 2011 would hit. I think most of them headed to Okinawa or southern shores. There still is my long board that I bought from Yamata San in that house next my school in Naraha. There is that giant dead bee too that lays overturned upside down with its feet sprawled into the sky. When I first opened the storage room and saw that bee I got the feeling that it had been there for many years. The storage room was huge and was the place where the teachers of Naraha used to live. They had downsized though and had remodeled the old "baseball storage closet" to the accommodation that I had communed in during my teaching stint there. The old quarters served as a storage place. It was where I stored my summer tires for my Daihatsu Move. After I left Naraha in 2011 the winter tires were never again to be taken or changed from my vehicle. It kind of coincided with the fact that I never would surf again as well in Japan up to the present. 

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Using Your Noodle to Surf