Found At: Bokkusu
‘A sweet and bitter green tea jelly that you eat from a package’ – described accurately, this snack hardly seems appealing. The packaging, too, is quite off-putting as only a packet of jelly can be. But as unappetizing as it seems, the taste is something transcendent – that quintessential matcha flavor that sticks with you, always (whether you like it or not). For me, especially, it is a poignantly nostalgic flavor, and in this time of uncertainty, I find myself particularly susceptible to nostalgia. Eating this, I can’t help thinking of all the springs that came before.
In a different Spring, I would be driving through Tacoma in a hot car that smelled funky even at the best of times. I seemed to always be driving, either hunting for jobs in a market that couldn’t yet afford me or picking up my friends who were similarly unlucky. We’d spend the days sitting by the water, looking out across the Sound towards the wealthy parts of town and talking about men and money and shared memories of the past. Sometimes, we would even treat ourselves with a coffee drink from a local stand and would sit in the cool sunshine as the ice melted and the whipped-cream dissolved in our green tea lattes. Together we laughed and joked and waited for the market to recover and for our lives to start. It was a bitter-sweet season to be young.
In a different Spring, I would be sipping tea on the balcony of our Seattle apartment. I was tired, then. Every day I felt the pressure to work, to strive, to achieve, to save – but every car repair or Spring fever put me right back on the edge. I had never been so rich, but I had never felt so poor – surrounded by coders and start-ups and charter-school teachers. In this city, quality mattered. In this city, everything had to be the best. In this city, I ran, I dieted, I worked overtime, I ate no sugar, and with every pleasure, I denied myself I hoped that it would finally make me happy. And so, full of second-hand pretension and first-hand FOMO, I had bought the third most expensive matcha powder from the supermarket. Yet even as I sipped away another $5, I realized that I could not tell this bitterness from any other. No matter how much I strove and spent, I would always be too rough, too course, too unsophisticated – like a swine working overtime to buy pearls. It was a bitter season to be grown-up.
In a different Spring, I would be sweating through my Uniqlo blouses in the humid heat of the oncoming Nagoya summer. On my way to work, I would pass by the little community temple with its two fox guardians, hurrying in my high heels so as not to miss my subway train. In my bag was a little green-tea flavored gelatine snack that I would eat hurriedly in the office if I had a moment to spare. In that Spring, I always seemed to be going somewhere – to work, to class, to meet a friend near the castle. Around me, the trees budded, bloomed, and shed their flowers in a soft pink snowfall but I ran right past them, almost late to my part-time job or my weekend trip. I wore my shoes until they fell to pieces and spent my pay on convenience store lunches, bottles of dark-green tea, and every pastry in the city. Life spread out around me and I was eager to explore it – but never eager to stay too long. It was a sweet season to be busy.
In this Spring, I sit by my window and listen to the pigeons groaning and the almost empty trains rumbling past. For once, I have the time to sit in the sunshine and think about all the times I’ve tasted tea before. Locked in place, I can spread myself out across time and touch those moments of sweet and bitter that remained constant while my world changed around it. I have not always been happy, and I have not always changed for good, but I have always found myself somewhere different. Each year has brought a taste I never knew before. For now, it is, at last, a peaceful season to be still.