I feel the Japanness draining away, slowly. That's the way of things, I suppose. You come back home, you retain some connections, you keep up your language studies. If you're lucky, you work at a related job. You eat Japanese food. But it still slips away, by degrees.
One thing that has vexed me for some time is the lack of "Japanese things" around DC. Back when I lived in New York, I didn't venture into the city proper that often. Nor did I really have much reason to seek our Japanness. It's kind of ironic, though, that I now know Manhattan to be a hotbed of Japanese commercial activity. And not like "we sell some Japanese stuff" stores - I mean real chains from Japan, like Kinokuniya and Uniqlo. And Ippudo...mmmm.
Ok, so Japanese people are concentrated in NYC, and also in California and Hawaii. Fine.
You'd think DC would be a good market, though. There's a Japanese community, though everyone tells me it's not that large. Perhaps that's because a lot of the Japanese here are diplomats and representative office workers who are only here for a couple of years on a rotational basis. Still, that's a solid foundation. And Japanese is trendy, right? And DC is international, right? So why not open some J-stores in these parts?
I know not. I know that Kinokuniya has store locations in Washington state, Oregon, and Illinois. I know that Uniqlo has stores in Pennsylvania now; Connecticut, Massachusetts, and about 5 billion in New York and California. Neither one has a place near DC. Rage.
Though the selection pales to what you'll find in one of the aforementioned metropolitan hubs, there are some decent Japanese restaurants around these parts. My go-to used to be Nichi Bei Kai in Columbia, MD, but they closed down for relocation and never relocated.
There's some high class fare in DC, like Sushi Taro. That's for the high rollers, though.
Despite the horrible name, my current favorite is Sushi King, also in Columbia, MD. I believe the staff are all Chinese, but their chefs can make some tasty American Japanese food.
The other day I tried out Yuzu, in Bethesda, MD, with Mint. The occasion was her birthday. Although it hasn't supplanted Sushi King at the top of my list, they had a pretty interesting menu, and at least the manager appeared to be Japanese. I'd bet the chef was as well.
We had to try the special corn tempura. It didn't look pretty, but it was surprisingly good. Beyond that, the spicy karage, sushi rolls, and chirashi were pleasant enough. Nothing to write home about, though. The sunomono had more seafood in it than I usually see, which was nice. But then again $8 is a little steep for sunomono.