Who wants to go to Japan?
I don’t frequently check my junk mail, but in November 2019, I was so glad that I took the time to scroll through and find something very interesting, written a month prior… While at first glance, an email title “Japanese TV channel TV Tokyo” could seem like spam, but something made me click it and read further…
It was an email from a production coordinator asking if I was interested in participating in a show about people who love Japanese culture. She found a blog post about kanpyo that I wrote in 2010. I frequently lamented about foods that I had access to in New York, but not in Bulgaria and kanpyo sushi rolls was one of them. Kanpyo comes from the yugao calabash gourd, which is shaved and dried. It is usually rehydrated with soy sauce, mirin and sugar… then used in a hosomaki roll.
Of course I chose to participate… It seemed like fun. We ended up shooting for about 4-5 days in November 2019. They came to my house in Kyustendil to shoot me making sushi, twice, they came to the truffle orchard, where we managed to find an early truffle on camera. They shot my family eating kanpyo rolls at my daughter’s volleyball match in Sofia and then I was part of a casting call at the Paradise Mall.
I never really inquired as to what this was all for, but the coordinator told me that this was part of a competition of sorts to see which person would win a trip to Japan for their dream experience. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.
After we wrapped filming I didn’t hear from anyone till January 2020, to let me know that they went with someone else. I was super disappointed and also confused. The production crew was in Bulgaria for a little over a week and spent at least 4 days with me. Who else did they film? I really thought it would have been me.
TV Tokyo contacted me again in mid-February to ask me to shoot some additional footage. I had already donated a lot of time and energy to this show, so I declined to participate. I didn’t feel like throwing a kanpyo sushi party for my friends when I didn’t even get the trip. After numerous messages back and forth and my repeated declines, the translator told me that they were trying to surprise me by telling me I didn’t get it, so they could catch my reaction on camera. She asked me to conceal this information from my friends and family. I had 10 days to hide the news and prepare for a sushi party.
So, winning a dream trip to Japan in February 2020… didn’t end up with my spending two weeks in Japan eating sushi and ramen, but three years of limbo, peppered with some false hopes. Everything was on hold for 2020, 2021, but then a glimmer of hope came in 2022.
I was in the car with my daughter and her friend, when I see a WhatsApp message pop up from the coordinator. I started screaming and jumping up and down. My teenage daughter was so embarrassed because I looked like a crazy person. Japan was prepared to accept tourists for the Olympics and the coordinator messaged me to see if I was still interested, but in the end… Nothing.
In April 2023, I got a phone call from a new coordinator, asking if I was still interested. Coincidentally, I happened to be in the exact place, with my daughter in Plovdiv outside the volleyball hall. A strange coinkydink, but I was more subdued in my enthusiasm… I set my expectations very low and hoped for the best. They had me fill out the same questionnaire about my dream trip to Japan… What I had been doing for the past three years… yada yada.
My patience had paid off… I leave for Japan on August 4th… I still can’t believe I am going. Where I am going and what I am going to do is up in the air. For one week the production staff will be shooting me experiencing Japan and I assume kanpyo… The coordinator said they would give minimum details to get my reaction on camera. I told her that it was fine. They gave me some instructions for shooting, no sunglasses and no visible underwear, I am assuming they meant panty lines? I am learning some Japanese on Duolingo… and off I go. I will stay a extra week to explore my other loves, whisky, gin and spirits…
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