Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Fitting End

So my last night in Tokyo did a good job of reminding me of the things I will miss about Japan.

Since I've returned from Yakushima, I've pretty much been living at the office attempting to get something worthwhile out of my work. Well, that didn't work out so well. Even after presenting yesterday I've continued trying to clean up my code so I could leave something semi-useful behind to justify my time here. While this hasn't made for a very entertaining final week in Japan, it's pretty much what I'd expected.

For dinner, I decided to go back to the little place near where I live that I first had taco sashimi. Bunkyo-ku generally seems to be pretty off the beaten path for tourists and this place is especially so. I was hoping to try eel, which is the one thing I've been meaning to do but haven't gotten around to. Of course, the is no English menu and between looking it up online and getting to the restaurant, I'd managed to forget the correct pronunciation.

I ask the waitress if they have 'Ugani'. This is not the correct word. She is confused. I attempt to explain. A game of charades ensues. "It's like a fish". "No, not salmon". Good times. Finally, the guy at the next table over guesses I mean Unagi. "Hai, hai, that's what I want". They do not have it. She points out something on the menu and says something. I agree that that will be fine. She asks if Sashimi is ok, I say it is. I have no idea what I will be eating. Apparently some type of fish.

While I'm eating, a spot clears at the small bar overlooking the kitchen. The guy who solved the eel mystery indicates that I should move to the bar. I assume this is b/c the place is crowded and I'm currently taking up a whole table. I don't argue.

Being at the bar puts me in close quarters with others and begins everyone's favorite game of "Will the gaijin eat random crap we offer him?" Yes, yes I will. It's a fun game. Random people sitting around me offer some sort of food or drink. I say thank you and ask what it is. They say something I don't understand, but I nod gravely and attempt to repeat the word. I think eat/drink whatever thing is offered while they intently watch my expression. Usually it's good. An OK sign and 'Oishi'. All are pleased.

I explain why I'm in Japan. I mention that I visited Yakushima. This seems to impress people. The eel guy, Michael (when I askd him to repeat his actual name, he insisted that I call him Michael) was from Kyushu and had friends in Kagoshima. Michael and I are officially BFF's by this point. He even gives me a keychain of the Masked Rider, who he informs me is Japan's number one hero. So that's awesome.

After a little bit the waitress, who appears to run the place along w/ her husband the cook, starts trying to tell me something about a camera. The guy next to me says I should follow her. I'm a bit confused, but figure I'll just go with it. They tell me to take my beer. This seems strange. They give me a handful of the peas they have as bar snacks. This seems stranger. The lady leads me behind the bar and through the kitchen. I follow her through another small dining area and am asked to remove me shoes. I'm still not really sure what the point of this is.

Turns out, she's a photographer and has a small studio of her pictures that she wanted to show me. Some of the pictures are pretty cool. Lots of cherry blossoms. Apparently she was hired to do some photos for ads for one of the subway lines. After this, the husband cook brings a log book and asks me to sign it. Awesome.

I return to the bar and eat the peas. Upon learning that I will be heading to Hakata to catch my flight, Michael scribbles some notes of places I should go while there. He also insists on taking this photo, which he then emailed to me.

I think this is my favorite picture from my time in Japan. It pretty well captures how I will remember my Japan experience, right down to the guy in the windbreaker awkwardly touching me.

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