At least I won’t starve
With the hotel restaurant not a viable food option on my yen-conscious budget, I set out Saturday morning in search of something to eat.
There’s a weird vibe to leaving the hotel in a foreign country where you don’t know your way around, don’t speak the language and don’t have a cell phone with non-WiFi internet. It’s a combination of “I really want to see EVERYTHING in Toyko” and “I really, really don’t want to get lost in this maze of back streets.” I’m sure astronauts feel something similar when they step out of the lunar lander.
Limiting myself to only a few turns, I walked for about 20 minutes on a narrow, one-lane road populated mostly with restaurants and bars. Once I’d passed a McDonalds, a Subway and a 7-Eleven, I knew this was the path to sustenance.
Noodles seemed like a relatively safe option, so I ducked into a soup bar located below the Bear Hug massage parlor. Just walking in the door, I’d already made my first mistake. Not in selecting the place — the food turned out to be cheap and delicious — but by entering before ordering.
The old man behind the counter led me back outside to a machine built into the wall of the restaurant where customers select which dish they want. Since there was no English anywhere, I led him to the sample display on an adjacent wall and pointed to a bowl of dark broth with thin brown noodles, an unidentified sliced meat and a poached egg.
Three minutes later, the bowl was in front of me. Taking a cue from the other diners — three Japanese men around my age and an older woman — I brought the bowl close to my face, slurped loudly and shoveled with chopsticks.
If returning a plate with uneaten food is a sign of disrespect to the chef in Japan, well, I definitely respected those noodles.