Monday photos: Last chance sushi at Narita Airport Terminal 1

It's been yet another bad week for me, which is why I haven't been around - again. Last Friday (December 2nd), I was rehospitalized due to my surgery wound getting badly infected. I know it was the right decision, yet being stuck in a hospital room is such a depressing thing. And the food, the awful food, does not make things any better. To make things worse, a fever and some kind of reaction to the antibiotics I had to take to combat the infection had totally robbed me of my appetite.

As I lay there in my small, chilly room alone, trying to find a comfortable position on the hard narrow bed, I wondered sadly if I would ever find food interesting again. Even things that were actually edible looking on my dinner trays, like fresh fruit, had lost their appeal. Everything smelled awful.

Then I started to dream, about the food I used to like. I don't know if people normally have dreams with smells, but I could smell ramen (Sapporo style chicken-and-pork, flavored simply with salt) soup, and yakitori being cooked on a charcoal grill, and the sharp sweet odor of almost too-ripe strawberries. In my somewhat delirious state, I was hallucinating about food.

The food I thought about the most was sushi, specifically the one that I like to call Last Chance Sushi. This is served by a small sushi-ya, Kyokatsu, that is located within the restricted zone of Terminal 1 at Narita airport. They've positioned themselves well, and their storefront signs say it all.



Every time I leave Japan, always from Terminal 1, I just have to get some sushi from Kyotatsu. I always get a takeout box rather than eating in. Slowly munching my way through the sushi pieces as I wait at the gate helps me pass the time as I combat the depression I feel as I wait for my plane, the plane the will take me away from Japan again. When will I eat good sushi again? Soon, I promise myself, soon.


I have such mixed feelings about Japan. The food and the fun and my immediate family draw me back, keep me tied to it. Family problems and numerous sundry stresses draw me away and ultimately contribute to the decision to live elsewhere. But ultimately, it is my homeland, and I can never change that.

Most of us don't know when our last flight away from this world we live in is scheduled to depart, unless we're being executed by the state. But if we did, wouldn't it be nice to have a last chance sushi place to visit, just before you board? Perhaps I was being rather morbid, but these were the types of thoughts that filled my mind last week.

I'm so glad I'm back home again.

(And a related question, though I may have asked this before: if you knew you were 'going away' forever, what kind of restaurant would your Last Chance place be and what would you eat there?)

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I have heard that smell is the strongest scent tied to memory, so I do not think it is at all unusual for you to have experienced smells in your dreams. We experience all of the other senses, so why not?

And if I knew my number was up, I would eat at a Brazilian restaurant and order the same food my grandmother cooks every day for lunch - rice, beans with sausage, chicken, and mashed potatoes. My family is from Brazil, so that means home.

Hi Maki,

I'm making dinner (steamed sticky rice & mung beans, and roasted whole chicken) and reading your blog. I like your question. I hope my "going away" meal will be really Good. A nice Vietnamese meal with all of my favorite dishes maybe. Or a nice Japanese, or French, or Italian, or Greek meal...something with a lot of delicious, top quality ingredients. And sharing it with my husband and loved ones. I wish you a good recovery and I look forward to reading many more wonderful posts on Just Hungry.


I'm glad you're feeling better! It's been a while since I was in Japan, but I'll be getting last chance sushi the next time I'm leaving.

My most favorite restaurant in the world is the Pineapple Room at Macys in Ala Moana Shopping Center. It's owned by Alan Wong's and just has the best food. Now you're making me nostalgic too.

Please take it easy and take care of yourself!

A really good steak, medium rare, not too large but thick, with mashed potatoes, pan gravy, a vegetable, and a green salad with blue cheese dressing. (That's my favorite anytime meal.)

Or a really good steak, medium rare, not too large but thick, with two ears of fresh sweet corn and butter, and thickly sliced tomatoes.(That's my favorite summer meal.)

Hang in there, Maki: a lot of us have had serious health problems and survived to enjoy another day, another favorite meal, favorite delicious smells, and good friends. So will you. Best wishes for your recovery.

Hi Maki -

My last chance meal would definitely be ramen noodles -- simple but delicious. Maybe with a side of saba? That might be too much though. Hope you feel better soon!

- V

I'm sorry to hear you're not feeling well still. I had hoped the silence meant you were on the mend...

As far as my "last" meal goes, I don't know that there's any one place I would have it at -- I'm of mixed heritage (Filipino, Mexican) and my husband is Sicilian and German (and a great cook to boot). For me, home tastes like my grandparents' separate kitchens, as well as my husband's cooking.

So, I guess I'd want to eat at home with all of my family making their best dishes. Since it's cold and rainy outside right now, all I can think about are soups and stews, whether it's Mexican or Filipino menudo (totally different dishes, but both equally delicious), or Italian minestrone or lentil soups with fresh-baked bread.

Anyway, I hope you feel better soon and that the Guy is taking good care of you!

The "last-chance sushi" reminds me of my final meal in Tokyo after living there for 6 months last year.

Due to being a poor student and the rising yen, I did all I could to save money by cooking for myself and making my own bento (you and your site was akin to the guardian angel of the small kitchen in our dorm, shared by a gang of foreign students trying to make sense of konyakku and dashi). I could never allow myself to buy a store-bought bento, or anything from the department store food halls.

Therefore I decided on my last day to make a special trip to Shinjuku, where I turned in my paperwork to the ward office, cancelled my Japanese bank account, and visited the Takashimaya food hall with the intention of finally buying a special bento to eat on the train-ride back to Narita.

It look me forever to finally decide on one from among the multitudes of beautiful bountiful boxes. (Alas, in the end, I was still afraid of spending 2000 yen+ on a single bento) It was centered on three perfectly shaped, mixed rice onigiri. I was drawn to the onigiri because that was the first Japanese dish I attempted to make, many years ago in my mother's kitchen in Michigan. It was the food I carried in my bags as I explored Japan, hiking across forest trails and urban jungles alike. Finally, one of the three onigiri was the cheery, celebratory osekihan- I had just completed half a year of living on my own in Tokyo, a semester at a prestigious university, and was moving on.

I was more contemplative than usual as I explored my treasure box. In a way it represented the Japan-excursion as a whole: something that was long awaited, full of interesting and distinct experiences, that would come to an end all too soon.

To wrap up my musing here, your last change sushi reminded me of my last-chance bento. I think it would be wonderful if all chapters of our life, and indeed, life itself, could have memorable meals at its end. Afterall, the satisfaction of a good meal carries us forward in our day, why not in our life as well?


PS. It occurs to me my username here is different than the one I've used to interact with you Maki on twitter. ^^;; My twitter name is @ruchgrac

My last meal would have to be grilled chicken fajitas with lots of guacamole, sour cream, cheese and spicy salsa...hmm!
I would have to make them myself though because restaurants never give me enough sour cream and that makes me mad! :)

Hope you feel better soon!


I'm sorry you're still recovering but glad you're home now.

As to my "going away meal", I would want something that my Mom would have cooked, a fest of my favorite things: Nilaga, Kare-Kare and maybe some Empanadas or Sio Pao. I'm Filipino and these are the things that my Mom made when I was sick, feeling blue or as a celebration. Although I'll never see her work in the kitchen, singing as she cooks again (she passed away 2 years ago), when I smell these and other Filipino dishes -that I can't help to remember her. Dad says he likes cooking these dishes because it keeps him close to Mom, and it keeps our family together. Where ever we are.

I hope you make a swift recovery!

I really don't know it so hard to choose because I don't really have a favorite food because I like so many. I hope you feel better soon.

As with you, it would be sushi, omakase (chef's choice) to surprise me; a good chef will always use what he has that is freshest and most abundant, and I like to be surprised more than I like any particular thing.

One time, when I thought I was developing a serious health issue (fortunately I was wrong), it was a beautiful Spring day, and even though I was feeling crappy, I took a picnic blanket out on the lawn and spent the day lying around on the grass with the cats, looking at apple blossoms. Nothing like illness to let us know our time on the planet is finite. And like your reader Sylvia said; lots of people pull through serious illnesses and live a long time, and get to eat many more delicious meals. So don't get too morbid about it:-)


The image of you and cats outside on a picnic blanket has stuck with me for days since I read your comment. It was a lovely way to cope at the time, and others will appreciate the idea also.

If, at some future time, a problem befalls me (or any of us), I hope I will picture myself outside, on a blanket, looking up at blossoms with my cats. It will be so calming.

Thank you,
Sylvia (and currently her 6 cats)


I hope you get well soon, really. It's a pity you don't enjoy food anymore, I hope you recover your apetite soon as well!

I love food memories, and I really think they help people getting better, well done with this post!


So sorry to hear you've been in the hospital again, Maki. I've spent long periods of time being ill (and memorizing the cracks on my ceiling because I was so bored). I'm sorry you are having to go through that too!

My last chance meal is hard to decide. If I could have two, one would be my Japanese homestay mother's sukiyaki, she makes the best I've ever tasted and I cannot replicate it (I've tried). It's one the best things in the world.

And I'd also love the freshly made ravioli stuffed with wild mushrooms I ate one afternoon in the Chianti region of Italy when I was twenty-two years old. One of the best tastes of my life.

Hope you are feeling better soon!


Hope you'll be feeling a lot better soon!

The hamachi carpaccio and most anything else at Hiroshi in Honolulu. The have the best staff, including the best bartender, Cassidy. I only get there every 3 or 4 months.

A childhood meal of fried clams (in a hot dog roll) and ice cream for dessert at a Howard Johnson's restaurant. The orange and turquoise restaurants all over New York state had my mother's favorite ice cream - butter brickle.
Parents, those excursions with your kids will last for their lifetime, make them happy.
Maki, you will savor food again. Never doubt it.

Please eat to keep up your strength! Find something you like and eat it slowly.
My last meal would be the one I ate many years ago in a roadside "restaurant" on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It was just a rough picnic table under a thatched shade structure but it had a fabulous view of the ocean. There was a very small menu: the ubiquitous Gallo Pinto (rice, beans and eggs all scrambled together and fried) and whole fish stuffed with a crab mixture and fried. There was warm beer and Tamarindo punch to drink. As I recall it was extremely reasonable and will always stand out as the best meal I've ever eaten.

I also attach smells to memories. Every time I smell peaches or dill, I think of my maternal grandmother. I didn't come from a family of cooks. She usually opened a can of something for dinner. But I guess she did some canning or preserving when I was really little. I was also in the hospital over the weekend for double vision which is making me really nauseous. I can't look at, smell or eat much either. When I get under a lot of stress, I tend to hallucinate. I always have and I guess it is a coping mechanism. As they were pushing me into the tube for a CTscan, I saw my grandmother. She was so young and happy and she told me to stop being such a "big baby". That sounds just like her.

If I had to choose a departing meal, it would have to be at Cafe Pascals in Santa Fe. Their menu changes with the seasons. So I couldn't pick one item as a favorite. Everything is good there. Maybe I would have one of each menu item.

Praying for you to have strenghth because you are on your way to a full recovery. Believe that. Try not to worry. I know that is hard to do.

I do hope you're better soon!

I think my last chance meal would be slices of my grandmothr's homemade bread, buttered, with homemade strawberry jam, and a glass of cranberry orange juice.
It takes me back to when I was little, and very excited to spend a night away from home, at my grandmother's house. She would always fix me that for breakfast.

"I have such mixed feelings about Japan. The food and the fun and my immediate family draw me back, keep me tied to it. Family problems and numerous sundry stresses draw me away and ultimately contribute to the decision to live elsewhere. But ultimately, it is my homeland, and I can never change that."

I can't thank you enough for that paragraph, you put into words exactly how I feel about Japan and my reasons for choosing to live elsewhere. I started following your blog to learn how to make all the dishes my mom used to make when I was little, but have also gotten a lot of comfort in reading your personal stories about your relationship with your mother and other family members. Thank you so much for writing your blog.

I hope you feel better soon! I'm glad you're at home, hopefully that will speed up the recovery process.

As for last chance meals, whenever I leave Japan, I always have to get some onigiri and inarizushi from Narita, plus some chips, ramune candy and milk tea. I stock up and eat most of this stuff on the plane and skip eating airplane food.

When I fly from the states to Japan, I smuggle a subway hoagie onto the plane. Not as satisfying.

My first response to last-chance meal was "Curry, of course," with genmaicha. Despite not having ever tried either until I was in high school and college, they've been very homey comfort-food flavors for me ever since.

But then I read the comments, and saw someone mention sukiyaki, and remembered long, happy meals with friends over the hotpot. So I guess I will have to say shabu-shabu, with lots of friends and an endless supply of good green tea.

I am so sorry to hear you're not feeling well. I wish you a speedy recovery. I love your blog, it got me started into Bento-ing, and has helped me and my guy get healthier. Many of your recipes were far more delicious and satifying than the convenience of fast-food could hope to compete with.

My last-meal would be from a restaurant called Golden Phoenix. It was the BEST Chinese restaurant I had ever eaten at. I would always get a different item every time I went there, and I loved them all. And every meal they served would come with a small foil packet, containing a bite of their DELICIOUS salt-baked chicken.

Sadly, the restaurant is no longer in business.

I was feeling ill, but for different reason when I left Japan last year. I didn't even think about food, just overwhelmed by sadness. I went back to Japan for the first time in twenty years. Now reading your article, why didn't I stop by for last sushi??? Was I out of my mind? Lesson learned. I hope you are feeling better.Take care :)

I was feeling ill, but for different reason when I left Japan last year. I didn't even think about food, just overwhelmed by sadness. I went back to Japan for the first time in twenty years. Now reading your article, why didn't I stop by for last sushi??? Was I out of my mind? Lesson learned. I hope you are feeling better.Take care :)

It is always so heartbreaking leaving Narita. 'Luckily' for me, last time my flight from Komatsu to Narita had been delayed, so all I had time to do was run from terminal 2 to terminal 1, stopping only for wasabi flavoured kit kats to take home to hubby in Australia.
It all brings a giant lump to my throat, thinking about goodbyes.
I hope and pray that you will feel better soon and regain your hunger for all the things that are delightful to you.
There are simply too many foods I can think of that I would want to be my good-bye meal. Maybe I could just eat myself to death with them all!!!!! I would be happy to go that way, if I must think about such a thing at all....

hm. i think i'd want a good meal from the first thai restaurant i ever ate at. i was with my first real love, living out of the house for the first time. for chinese kids who live within driving distance to a good school (go bears!) it was almost unheard of to move out when you could still live (eat and sleep) at home while in college. pork and black mushrooms stuffed into small tender squids in green curry sauce, delicate deboned chicken wings stuffed with clear noodles and bright veggies, seared eggplant with basil, corn and crab fritters with tamarind sauce. every dish came with another small fresh mound of fragrant jasmine rice in a different shape. the place is no longer there, but i've never had such good thai food since, and there are many good places around where i live.

take care of yourself. i hate hospitals too, and yet, i'm grateful to live near the one that too many of my friends have had to use.

good luck. i follow this blog in the hopes of inspiring myself past pbj sandos.

Last chance meal would probably not be sushi, instead a lovely bowl of ramen from a good little local shop. pref kyoto ever since i visited kyoto its had a place in my heart. and after the ramen i will go to a little traditional bar that i stumbled over when i was there, have a few cups of sake some small side dishes with it, while enjoying the atmosphere.

My last meal? A lovely easy to make Lemon Risotto with Arugula but it would have to be with my partner who makes every meal special :)

Glad you're back home!

Great post. Once again, you made me cry.
Hope you get back on your feet soon. :)

I hope you get better soon. Are you in a Japanese hospital? If so, I understand about the food. I was in the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital for two weeks. After my surgery I developed pancreatitis, and I was only given rice gruel (kayu) for almost a week. Needless to say, if I never see a bowl of kayu again it won't be too soon :-)

No, I was at a French hospital...actually, 2 hospitals in the last month. I think that hospital food everywhere is just bad. (and I wouldn't have minded some okayu myself...oh how I missed rice...^_^;)

Hi Maki:

Your post made me think of a post on my blog -

about airport food in general. Why is it usually so awful?

My last chance meal might have to be at Yummy Korean BBQ in Hawaii - there used to be one in the interisland terminal in Honolulu - whenever I would go home for a visit to Canada (often at Xmas!) I would savour a plate lunch there... I remember actually crying after the last bite of one, one time.... :)

I was also recently diagnosed with cancer and continue my fight. Hang in there - and be positive. Gambarimasu!!!!!

Homemade pirogi would be mine; my mother's family is Polish and it's my favorite comfort food. They are not made at home much anymore and the supermarket versions are just not the same as a tender handmade egg noodle dough filled with a soft potato and cheese filling, then boiled (like a bagel) to cook the dough and pan fried in butter with onions. They need to be eaten hot right away from the pan for maximum yumminess. Not a heart-happy dish by any means but it nonetheless makes me pretty happy when I eat them! I think you would like pirogi too <3

Hi Maki,

If I could know when my last flight out would be I would choose a Chinese food meal as my last. Although I'm Canadian and have no clue what real Chinese food is, I would have the Canook version of it. Wonton soup, some kind of noodle dish (I love noodles), sauted veg and egg roll. Yum!

I hope you heal soon!

Leaving your "home" place for your new home place is always a bit painful. In Italy we say "partire é un po' morire", "to leave is to die a bit", and it feels more true at each departure.
On top of that, being always the pessimist, I've always the nagging feeling that the train or plane I'm boarding could be the one in the headline of the newspapers because of a crash or a bomb....but that's just me being morbid.

Anyway, well, as far as last meals are concerned, I don't really know, too many good things to eat in the world, the box in your picture looks very tempting, as I love all things with rice and fish combined, sushi or risotto it does not matter, so it could be a good choice, or a wild mushroom risotto, may be with a sliver of truffle to round it up.

PS: take good care of yourself and get well soon.

Amazing! After a two-week visit I had my last meal in Japan from this little place and it might have been the best sushi i had during that trip - I hadn't expected much (i've found airport food typically on a par with hospital food, institutionalized beyond recognition) but i felt like a character in "Babette's Feast" as I tasted that first bite of something that thoroughly woke me up from my tired traveler's torpor. thank you for reminding me of that treat!

Hi Maki, sorry to hear of your last trip to the hospital. Cancer treatment sucks no matter how you look at it. I recently celebrated my 5 year cancer-free anniversary and I have to say, it feels good to be alive. You'll look back on these days with waning memories of the horrid times. Just keep dreaming of food and cats and whatever else wanders in...I will continue to think of you and know you will kick cancer's ass!

PS Definitely ramen...seems the places where you're forced to stand and slurp taste the very best.

"I have such mixed feelings about Japan. The food and the fun and my immediate family draw me back, keep me tied to it. Family problems and numerous sundry stresses draw me away and ultimately contribute to the decision to live elsewhere. But ultimately, it is my homeland, and I can never change that."

Maki, I feel exactly the same about France! It remains my homeland, I might go back there one day but for now, it's healthier for me not to live there.

To answer your question, if I knew I was "going away" forever I would try to eat all those delicacies from my Provence (e.g. calissons, navettes, fougasse, oreillettes...) one last time. If I would have to pick a restaurant, it would be in Paris and it would either be "Chez Germaine" (a steak tartare!) or at the Japanese Restaurant "Miyako".

Last but not least, I wish you to recover soon! Hospitals are just awful.


It's been about five years since I left Japan but the longing for some of the sights and sounds never leaves me. There are so many good foods and food smells that I remember, and I don't have to be dreaming to smell them. Lately, at the end of the year, I'm craving soba and remembering especially the scent of the soy sauce/sugar/ mirin/vinegar that saturated the air outside the little local obento shop as it prepared all the favourite foods for the holiday. Strangely when I get like this I even crave the taste of foods I didn't like, like hijiki. Sushi is not such a trial as I can get reasonable sushi occasionally from a few Japanese restaurants in the near-by city and I can also make my own. But I can't get shiso and I really want a salad with that shiso non-oil dressing. Man, I miss that.

Happy New year to you, Maki. I know you will feel like eating soon -- but couldn't someone bring you something from home or take-out to tempt you? Even a good fried egg and rice would be better than that hospital food. And you need some good green tea and perhaps ginger tea made with fresh ginger slices to settle your stomach.

Take care of yourself and be well. If love can heal you, you should soon be fine. Look at all the love people are sending you here.


Such a tough choice! I love all sorts of foods, all sorts of cuisines. As an American who grew up in the extremely diverse DC area and with an adventurous cook for a mother, I had the good fortune to be able to delve into an astoundingly wide variety of cuisines throughout my life. I love them all.

If it were my last meal ever, I think I'd want a sampler plate of popular dishes from around the world. A peice of unagi sushi for Japan, a spoonful of palak paneer over basmati for India, a slice of moussaka for Greece, a dollop of shiro on injera for Ethiopia, a slice of fried fish and a few chips for Britian, a small tamale for Mexico, a mini-cheeseburger for America, etc. Since we're playing fantasy food, I might as well go all out!

Whenever my husband and I go on a long trip, the last place we eat at, and the first place that we seek out when we return is our favorite Italian restaurant, Tommaso's on Kearny Street in San Francisco. When returning on a late flight, we have even called in our orders from the car while driving in from the airport.

While neither of us is Italian, it is our touchstone. When seated in one their booths, smelling the goodness coming out of the brick oven, we know that we are home. The owners embrace us and ask "How was your trip?" They know what we are going to order before we say anything. Specials are for regular visits, the "usuals" are for pre/post travel. We crave the cold, crisp antipasti. We need the perfect prosciutto pizza. And that first bite of linguine with red claim sauce ... ahhh.