In Christchurch, I used to go from time to time at Momo, an authentic Japanese restaurant, simple and friendly, where Yoshi, the owner and chef, warmly welcomed its regulars, with his wife, Penny, an Australian based in New Zealand for many years. They liked discussing their homesickness, cultural differences, their families in their unique way. I often remember with a smile how Yoshi had to go smoke a cigarette at regular intervals.
Yoshi was a sushi expert, but he also knew how to cook local ingredients à la Japonaise. My favorite dish was kumara with honey, consisting of sweet potatoes and New Zealand honey, cooked on the grill (I made him promise to give me his recipe, one day).
On February 22, 2011, the earth shook in Christchurch and Yoshi’s restaurant disappeared. In the following weeks, I would pass the site, never doubting that Yoshi and Penny would return. A few weeks later, a tsunami hit Japan, and then I knew that Yoshi and Penny would not return.
I have often wondered since if Penny and Yoshi were in Australia, in another city in New Zealand, in Japan, or somewhere else. Whenever I think of that nice couple, I am always aware that although they are living somewhere, for me, they exist only in my memories, and there, they are as alive as ever but in the land of nowhere.