Sunday, January 22, 2006

FAQs about Chicago's Japanese restaurants

Since I've begun planning a summer trip to Asia, it's natural that certain news stories catch my eye. For example ... this one:

Unemployed sushi ched stabs daughter to death

The typo in the headline, by the way, is not mine. But the lead paragraph might lead to several questions about Chicago's Japanese restaurants, questions that my self-appointed expert on all things Japanese, Mr. Harry Handa, will answer:
An unemployed South Korean sushi chef was accused Saturday of stabbing his teenage stepdaughter to death with a butcher knife after she refused to let him into the family's suburban Chicago apartment.
Q1: Hey, aren't sushi chefs supposed to be Japanese?
A: Yes, except for the fact that there are very few Japanese people living in Chicago, so most "Japanese" restaurants employ Korean, Thai, or Mexican workers. Plus, if you ask the Koreans, they'll say they're the ones that invented sushi. And sumo. And Hello Kitty.
Q2: What happened to all the Japanese people in the city?
A: There never really were that many Japanese in Chicago in the first place. The greatest influx came right after World War II; when they were released from the internment camps, many families chose or were forced to head east instead of going back to their homes on the West Coast. After the war, the Japanese economy started booming, so fewer of them wanted to move to the U.S. anyway. Those who were here ended up, for the most part, with professional jobs and moved to the suburbs. Which would you prefer, being a doctor or a sushi chef?
Q3: Hey, I thought I was supposed to ask the questions! But since you asked, I wouldn't mind either, as long as I'm able to slice through flesh with a really sharp knife. Speaking of which, what brand of butcher knife did this unemployed sushi chef use to kill the girl?
A: Ah, as you can see in the picture, a real chef uses a long, thin knife. This shows that he wasn't good, using a butcher knife, the weapon of choice for barbarians.
Q4: What should be the punishment for the crime of stabbing a 15-year-old to death?
A: Again, if he was Japanese, this would be simple. By humiliating his family in such a manner, the Japanese sushi chef would turn the knife on himself and perform seppuku. Since he's not Japanese, he'll have to wait for somebody else to kill him.
Q5: How is it possible for a sushi chef to be unemployed? Aren't there, like, at least two Japanese restaurants on every block of every trendy neighborhood in the city?
A: Not quite. Currently there are only 130 Japanese restaurants worth mentioning in Chicago.
Q6: So, which one's the best?
A: Sushi in Chicago? Yuck! In Japan, the cheapest sushi shop gets its fish fresh off the boat that morning. What do they do in this city? Catch the fish in the Chicago River? No thank you, I believe in eating the national food in whatever country I'm in. That's why I only eat at McDonald's when I'm in this country.
Q7: Speaking of that, how exactly do Japanese people pronounce the McDonald's advertising jingle?
A: "I'm rubbin' it!"


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