Sayaka Matsuoka is Associate Editor at Triad City Beat in North Carolina. She is among four NextGeneration/Diversity Scholarship recipient attendees at the 2019 AAN Convention, held July 11 – 13 in Boulder, Colorado. Here she shares her thoughts at this year’s conference.
You can’t really find it in North Carolina.
It’s salty and tangy and offers a bit of a kick at the end. You can eat it on its own, but I highly recommend eating it with freshly cooked white rice.
Mentaiko, or spicy pollock roe, is a rarity even in Japanese-owned restaurants in our state.
But in Amu, a little izakaya or Japanese style pub, next to our hotel in Boulder, it made the cut.
It looks kind of gross, to be honest. It’s pink and looks kind of like a chubby, severed finger slapped onto a plate. The membrane holding the thousands of miniscule eggs sometimes has fleshy veins that look like red flashes of lightning. It’s a popular dish in Japan and Korea, often eaten with pasta or rice, or for those brave enough, by itself.
Brian, my editor, didn’t like it.
But I grew up eating the stuff. In fact, it used to be my favorite go-to lunch as a kid. Kind of like an American’s peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. Easy, fast, delicious.
Growing up Japanese American in the South it was hard to find my favorite foods in restaurants. Even now, you’d have to go as far as Waraji in Raleigh to find proper Japanese food, or my mom’s kitchen. But in a town like Boulder, where the culture is vibrant and there is more ethnic food than a city twice its size, finding these dishes came pretty easily.
I didn’t feel like an outsider for an hour. The staff spoke, although basic, pretty decent Japanese and the other customers ordered and ate stuff that people in North Carolina would at the least, be confused by, and at the worst, reject entirely. It felt good to be in the company of people who didn’t treat me or my culture as foreign.
That’s kind of how the entire trip to Boulder felt like, really.
At this year’s Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual convention, hundreds of weirdos like us gathered at the Hotel Boulderado for three days. Eccentric editors, investigative journalists, creative art directors and driven sales people commiserated and celebrated with each other over the trials and tribulations of working in this industry. While we’re lesser known than the dailies, there are hundreds of papers just like us, scattered throughout the country, working tirelessly in our communities to tell the stories others won’t touch.
I’m relatively new to this community.
I got my start in the alt-weekly world in 2014 after graduating from college. I thought I would go on to study art history in grad school and work in a museum curating works of art for a large audience. Telling stories with visuals that conveyed the values of the societies depicted at that point in time. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get into any of the graduate programs that I applied for.
That’s when I discovered Triad City Beat.
I applied for an internship that I found online and astonishingly, got accepted. In the five months that I worked at the small, just-starting, altweekly, I learned everything that would change the course of the next few years of my life and beyond.
I learned to interview and really listen to people when they talk. I learned to write, I learned to edit; I learned to have more faith in myself.
When I finished my stint and moved to the Triangle, I had the clips and the confidence to pitch to Indy Week. When my fiancé and I moved back to Greensboro last summer, I reached out to TCB and began working as a staff writer covering culture. After a few months, I was promoted to associate editor.
Now, I get to tell stories through the written word. Through other people who shed light on the values of our society. We can be the lanterns in the dark.
Not a lot of people understand what being in this industry is like. That’s why going to Boulder and being surrounded by those who get the day-to-day struggles and triumphs was an invaluable and unforgettable experience for me. It’s a type of camaraderie that I hadn’t really understood until I was in the thick of it all.
Being a part of this community has forever changed who I am and how I view myself and how I interact with the world.
And it’s an even better feeling when there are others to share that feeling with.