"Discovering the joy of food in Hiroshima"

If I had gone through junior high and high school while living in the sakagura where I was born, I might not have been able to create Dassai.

My mother left home and my father left me with a relative in Hiroshima in the sixth grade. That's when I first learned about the world and that there were things that actually tasted good and things that didn't really. In the countryside, it was never about what was good and what wasn't. We just ate what we could. In Hiroshima, even curry rice was delicious. Hiroshima's food culture back then was a great experience for me. It was the first time I had ever had oysters, gyoza, hot pots, and even okonomiyaki. In the evenings, fishermen would come from the nearby harbor to sell the small sardines they had caught that day on a wheelbarrow. I was living in Hijiyama-cho in Hiroshima City, and in that area, most people only ate small sardines. People would just change the way they cook it. Back then, most kids would have killed for a burger – although I was not really fond of it myself. Back home in Yamaguchi, we would just eat what we would harvest from our own fields. First, I had wondered why I was being sent to Hiroshima, but now I'm really glad I was able to experience the urban lifestyle.

My aunt was very strict, and as a little boy, I oftentimes got scolded by her. My uncle, on the other hand, did not really care. After all, he was a poet. He actually was a Communist poet, used to buy the “Akahata” (i.e. the “Red Flag”, a communist newspaper), and was even invited to the Soviet Union. He taught me a lot about how society worked and also how much he hated the military draft checks. My uncle was a wealthy man and devoted himself to the study of poetry and literature. He had many books and allowed to read them. Some of them were original editions of Playboy with nudes in them, you can imagine how thrilled I was to take a peek at them.

When I was in high school, I didn't take part in any club activities, but someone invited me to join the Hiroshima International Youth Association. We had a summer school with elementary school children and I was given the task of taking care of them, but the kids would not listen to a word I say. I realized then and there that I wasn't made to be a leader. No matter what I was doing, nothing was going well. High school was a nightmare for me. Anyway, I dropped out of public high school and went to a private school. It was a boy’s school, so I had to keep my hair shaved for three years. For an adolescent boy, it was... a bummer.

I left Hiroshima in 1969 for Matsuyama and entered the business administration section of Matsuyama University of Commerce (now Matsuyama University). By this time, I was already thinking of taking over the family’s sakagura, but I didn't care for my studies. I attended only the minimum number of classes, and my grades were average. I joined the archery club because I thought I could get by without exercising, and of course, I couldn't hit the targets, no matter how much I practiced, I was not getting better at it. I had zero athletic ability and zero academic skills. When I wasn’t doing archery, I was just wandering around the city.

Next story: "Learning sales at one of Nada's sakagura"