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Tuesday, 1 July - link

Five Percent on Two

Always this rush to conclusions - who am I? Why am I here? To what group do I belong?

I was alone, in light rain for the first night of July. It was not as hot in Tokyo as I had been promised. Not the enforced languidity of an urban rainforest still populated by wool-suited workers and marvelling tourists. The woman working at Buffalo Exchange agreed with Jane that I shouldn't get polyester blend pants, because in the oppressive Tokyo heat and humidity, she said, I'd end up with "swamp butt." Instead there was just a creeping warmth; when I sat still long enough I felt my muscles clenching and drops popping out my forehead, spine and neck.

Arriving and moving around has had me pumped up. I'm not bouncing around because I'm weighed down by bags, and I've been here before. I did the math along a flourescent lit street, coming back from the expertly tuned tiny casual pork cutlet restaurant - I've spent about 5% of my time on the earth living in Japan. I didn't order the house special, as I had intended when I slid open the door; they handed me an English menu and I confused myself. Pork with ginger sounded nice, and it was, stir-fried thin sliced onions and green peppers. But it was not the meat coated with egg and batter quivering in hot oil, made by the old chef owner with fancy eyeglasses. And maybe I am better for it.

I'm still looking for new ways to understand and describe the world around me. I come back here and it's familiar, yes. I can piece together words and moods and attitudes. I hear the lite jazz version of "Champs Elysee" on the restaurant speaker and it sounds like "Sakura." This place matches patterns in my mind. And one is still the inscrutable restaurant. I haven't learned enough of the Japanese characters to understand all that an awning offers. So I see a place that serves food, I know, because its lights are on late. And the signs all point to dining and gathering. There's a glass door to the restaurant, but the door has been frosted over in the middle - the key part. There are some little wooden chairlegs peeking out at the floor level. And above the frosted glass, you can see the top of a bar area, with some hanging lanterns. But what's in the middle? Happy patrons eating squid? A room full of noodle-slurpers? An assortment of Japanese catchall served by a tired barmaid to two old men arguing about a baseball game being broadcast from a tiny TV?

I could unravel that mystery by stepping inside. And I have delved into restaurants without promise or precedence. But without any understanding of the cuisine or the crowd, seeing only at an awning and some frosted glass, my hand stays in my pocket.

This would be cause for flagellation, that I should explore further. Except that I did end up eating wonderful food. In the company of myself, my voice running long into the night, as Jane sleeps, the first victim of jetlag on this journey.

Posted on 1 July 2003 : 05:10 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.