The Typhoon Lover

The Typhoon Lover by Sujata Massey Page A

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Authors: Sujata Massey
1990s, Japan’s once teaming tuna and yellowtail population had dwindled. Fishermen who caught baby fish like the one I’d seen, rather than waiting for the babies to mature and lay eggs for a future generation, were thinking of quick profits and disregarding the environment. But the whole reason they chose to be unscrupulous profiteers was the existence of greedy gourmets like myself.
    The chef suggested inada , which was a slightly more mature form of hammachi , and I agreed readily. I sipped a tiny cup of hot green tea while I watched the chef deftly slice the fish and layer it on fresh sticky rice. Then, it was my turn. I swirled each piece of sushi through a mixture of soy and wasabi in a little blue bowl at my side. I was in a state of bliss. The only problem was that I knew another person was behind me, subtly but hostilely waiting for the seat. A few years ago, I would have turned around to acknowledge him and apologize, but today, I was bent on enjoying myself. I didn’t turn. I kept eating steadily, at a pace that suited me.
    “Okusama, another honorable customer is waiting,” the chef said, scooping my plate away from me after I picked up the final piece of tai with my chopsticks.
    I cringed. Why had the man addressed me as “honorable housewife,” the kind of honorific men used only with female customers of a certain age? I’d gone through my previous life in Japan with restaurant and shop owners calling me oneesan, which meant “big sister.”
    The tai in my mouth suddenly tasted metallic, but I dutifully chewed and swallowed. Then I picked up the hand-scrawled bill and squeezed through the standing-room-only crowd to the cashier. The sumptuous sushi breakfast had cost about $8.50, a bargain compared with what breakfast would have cost in the hotel. I got a receipt for business purposes and tucked it safely away in my pocket, confident that so far, I was handling expenses in a way that my government would approve.
     
    My worries about not knowing how to behave correctly continued when I reached the Meiwashima Auction House in late afternoon. The young woman behind Gucci sunglasses who was guarding the door didn’t recognize me. In fact, she attempted to stop me from entering.
    “I believe I am preregistered. Shimura Rei?”
    “Oh, I’m sorry.” The girl looked at her clipboard and nodded. “Yes, yes, I see your name is on the list. You may pick up paddle number fifty-three at the main office.”
    I remembered her from half a dozen sales past, but apparently she hadn’t remembered me. Well, there were a lot of people, I thought to myself, as I joined the long queue standing at a desk behind which a crew of women were issuing pine paddles approximately the size of fans. I looked around covertly at the well-dressed shop owners and private buyers who were nodding and smiling at each other as they waited. I spotted a few familiar faces, those belonging to the owners of some big, fancy shops in Roppongi, Omote-Sando, and the like. The ones who recognized me gave the correct half-bow, to which I bowed back at the same forty-five-degree angle. There was no need to chat. This was a chichi auction—a place to which it had taken me a couple of years to gain admittance.
    It took a good twenty minutes to get to the head of the line, and when I did so, I asked, as innocently as I could, if Takeo Kayama was bidding.
    “He has a number, yes! And here is your paddle!” the clerk answered brightly.
    “Sorry to bother you, but what is his number?” I said, slowly taking the paddle numbered 53.
    “It’s not a problem for Kayama-san; he already knows the number. He already registered,” the clerk answered.
    “We are old friends, and I do not want to bid against him. For that reason I would like to know whether he’s placed any absentee bids on any of the items in today’s sale.”
    “Yes, he has. But it’s against the rules of our auction house to give direct information on a particular customer’s

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