While in Japan, a mixture of confusion and greed (mine) led to enough saké being ordered to down a small horse. I have not touched saké since.
We dine at Gonpachi (the Kill Bill restaurant).
I’m with my travelling companion Nelle, her friend Alicia and Japanese partner Kazuo, the latter whispers something into Alicia’s ear.
She pauses for a moment and then leans across the table, suppressing a giggle and says quietly, “Kazuo thinks you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
As I stuff more edamame into my mouth, I wonder, am I really a behemoth? I console myself with sake, both the hot and cold variety, much to the amazement of Kazuo who clearly appreciates the potency of this rice wine more than I.
The local restaurants are great: the menus are in Japanese, but in most eateries there’s a display cabinet at the entrance containing plastic examples of all the dishes. Also the menus have pictures of the food, so you can order simply by pointing.
When the waitress arrives to take our order, Kazuo points to a dish that would emaciate a sparrow. I am not quite so restrained, as I am STARVING.
I point at several starters and two main courses. As I pause to consider a third, my menu is whisked away by my startled waitress. Her amazement is equaled only by observing the speed at which I devour my order when it arrives.
Suddenly, I don’t feel so well. Unsure if it’s the raw jellyfish I’ve just consumed or the alcohol, I excuse myself and go to the bathroom.
In my somewhat inebriated state, I approach the nearest waitress and muddle my entire Japanese vocabulary consisting of only two words: sumimasen (excuse me) and sudoko (number puzzle).
While gesticulating wildly with my hands I repeat, “number puzzle” over and over again. She smiles sweetly, disappears and returns moments later with a pair of chopsticks and then bows. “Number puzzle,” I say and bow in return. She bows again and so do I – this continues for some time. Fortunately, the excessive cow-towing has restored my sobriety and I return to the table, lamenting my decision not to learn at least some basic Japanese.
In the taxi on the way home, I vow to keep my phrase book close to me at all times.