Asia | Japan | Northern Honshu | Nagaoka – Dinner With The Locals
Wednesday night, I got off the shinkansen after traveling from Nikko to Nagaoka, to see a beautiful sight. There, weighting for me, was the smiling face of Yayoi Aizawa. Yayoi stayed with me in my home in 1992 through an exchange program with Fort Worth Sister Cities International. It was delightful to see a face I recognized!
Yayoi had told her co-workers and friends about by impending visit, and some of them said they would like to meet me. So our time together would begin with dinner. It was about 7:30 PM when I got off the train, so I was ready for dinner. The restaurant, named Okomeya, was a few blocks from the train station. On the walk to the restaurant, we passed one of her female friends, Junko Watanabe. Junko was on her way to English class, but she would be joining us at dinner later. When we arrived, we found two of her male co-workers there waiting to greet us, Takayuki Minagawa and Shigenori Ohashi. Takayuki and Shigenori had purchased an English phrase book and were practicing while they were waiting for me to arrive.
We entered the restaurant, and put our shoes away in cupboards, and the staff rolled my luggage away to somewhere secure. We were guided to a table at which we appear to sit on the floor. We do not have to sit on our legs though, because there is a hole under the cover of the table where we can hang our legs. The waiter comes over to take our drink order, and I see a sign of how far ahead in the computer race the Japanese are. The waiter pulls out a white object about eight inches long by four inches by maybe an inch thick. It appears about the size of the tiny portfolios that waiters in America open up to write our dinner orders down in. When this waiter opens this portfolio and starts taking our order, he isnt writing with a pen but touching buttons on one side and the screen on the other side to take down our order. I learned later that with the press of a final order completed button, the order prints out in the kitchen, removing the need for the waiter to run back to the kitchen to place the order. Saved time AND increased accuracy!
There is a drink special in Japan that translates to all you can drink. For one price, you can have all the beverages off of one special menu for one price. There is usually a time limit. During dinner, I think our time limit might have been two hours, but the waiter kept coming back and telling it was last call, and we would keep ordering more drinks. We started with sake, than beer, then wine. After that, I had a collection of drinks that dont translate to English. Yayoi would go down the menu, and if she couldnt translate something, I would order it so I could understand what it was. My favorite that evening was a cold oolong tea that was alcoholic (somehow).
We did eat as well. Lots of sushi I love sushi! as well as rice crackers, cheese flavored tofu, crab salad (more crab than salad) and squid pizza (of which I passed on having any) and finally rice ice cream. Yum! A great night for food.
And a great night for conversation. For as nervous as everyone was about their English, I think they spoke wonderful English! I tried to speak Japanese a couple of times, but they knew a lot more English than I knew of Japanese. We would go around the table taking turns asking questions. It was a lot of fun. Takayuki is about 30 and not married. Shigenori is 28 and married with a daughter named Manna. I tried to explain the manna from Heaven biblical reference, but I dont know if it worked. A couple days later I ended up finding the reference in an English Bible that Yayoi had (a gift from my mother) so that Yayoi could find the quote in a Japanese Bible and show it to Shigenori later.
Takayuki is looking for a female companion. He had talked to Yayoi and asked her if she knew my blood type. In Japan, asking someone their blood type is along the same lines of asking someone what their astrological sign is when you are sitting at a bar. Yayoi told him before dinner not to ask me, that I might not understand. She was right! I would have thought that I was out to dinner with a bunch of vampires! The Japanese are thought of as very light skinned people, with very dark hair, you know hmm So instead, he asked me, What is your favorite type of human? Human? I knew he meant what kind of man do I like to date, but human? Honestly, I was impressed. For all the languages Ive studied, I have not learned how to say the word human in any of them. And he was worried about his English! I think his English was great!
Junko arrived less than an hour after we had started at the restaurant. She is studying English conversation one night a week, just because she wants to! I wish I had that much determination about a language goal. Her English was great and we talked about where we both worked and going to gardens.
I dont know how long Yayoi, Junko, Takayuki, Shigenori and I were there that night. I do know that I had a wonderful time having great conversations with all of them. And I know that my blood type is A positive.