This is one mising note from my journey to Japan.
“Kanzakimachi wa doko ni arimasuka?”
I thought I spoke the language but strangely nobody understood me. They attempted to help but unfortunately I even went further to the dense part of the town. The air was as humid as after monsoonal rain in rice fields and I was starving like beggar.
When I saw a small, bright, dry and pleasant-looking restaurant loaded with people chattering in one corner of the street, I felt seeing a light at the end of a tunnel. Driven by the aroma, I stepped in. No single foreigner. I didn’t look like one either, until I opened my mouth.
“I want to eat,”
All of a sudden, everybody stopped talking. Men behind the counter stared at me, then to everybody else as if seeking for explanation. I anxiously glanced the whole room. There were long tables arranged in rows, few people busy preparing food, three notice boards in Japanese character displaying menu (I guessed) and a bunch of guests observing me back.
“That one, inside the…pan,” I gesticulated.
The pan was actually identical to a cauldron; it was big, stocked with yellowish liquid, boiling and sizzling. A chef kept putting more ingredients in. If it was part of wizardry, I wouldn’t be very surprised. I noticed most of the guests were men, wearing dull-coloured shirts and towels tied on their heads. One gave me his bowl, saying something unintelligible but I comprehended that he wanted me to taste his because the soup was spicy hot (signalled by pushing his tongue like panting hound and waving his hand frantically in front of his mouth). I hesitated. Never in my life had I eaten from a stranger’s bowl. What about hepatitis? Yet almost every heads in the house nodded in agreement. I didn’t want to let them down.
Everyone was watching when I pushed a spoonful of the fluid into my mouth. It was incredibly tasty: a thick savoury warm soup with meet broth, combined by fragrance of boiled vegetables, herbs like parsley and lemongrass, a hint of ginger, pepper, chilli and other flavour that I would never recognise.
“It is good,”
I did not exaggerate at all. Everyone was laughing and even clapping, as if it was an entertaining performance. I caught a glimpse of price on the boards, relieved by the amount of zero. I didn’t understand their number. I shouldn’t have been worried. Dinner that night was on them. I should just have known the name of the dish.