Numata, Japan. At 9:50 pm, planetross leaves work. Not before saying to his remaining colleagues he is sorry to depart before them: “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu”, “osaki ni shitsurei shimasu”, etc. Between you, me and the fence post, I don’t think he really means it (I would surmise the opposite is probably quite true), but Japan seems really big on manners and planetross is an extremely polite man.
At 10 pm, I see him pull up in his driveway from the balcony where I’m roosting (my favorite place to observe the neighborhood.) I run downstairs with the energy of someone who has been sleeping the whole time he has been working. No mercy! I feel eager to discover Numata by night.
planetross, Ross really, announces we will go eat at an Izakaya which is a bar/restaurant combo but sounds so much more exotic in Japanese. We walk for about a minute when I realize that for every step Ross takes, I have to take three. Hurriedly. He is a whole foot taller than I am and I think it’s all in his legs. At the traffic light, I look at him sheepishly and we go back to the house where I trade the four inch heels for threes. We are finally good to go!
Numata late in the evening looks deserted, a true ghost town. Pretty lanterns adorn each side of the main road but once you take small streets, it can get pretty dark.
At one intersection, Ross spots one of the teenagers who study where he works, going home on her bike. It’s 10:45 pm! On a Friday night! He explains that in Japan, to enroll in the good high schools, the student must perform well on an entry exam. If the results are deemed unsatisfactory, the Numata kid has to attend class in the high school from another town located an hour and a half away! Needless to say, the kids appear highly motivated to study and they spend most of their evenings and week-ends cramming for the exam.
I was surprised to discover blankets hanging from the sides of houses like this one. Ross explained that when two houses are conjoint and one is demolished, blue tarps are temporarily placed to provide some insulation. Often, they are not replaced by more permanent construction.
Of course, I make Ross pose in front of the tarps! You may be wondering why he never smiles on the images I post but I’m trying to balance out his own photographs where he is always cracking up. In fact, I have a lot of him smiling too ;-)
When we get to the Komachi Izakaya, we sit at the bar where we can see what happens in the kitchen. I grab the menu. Ha! Ha! It’s all in Japanese. No drawing. No pictures. Not a trace of English. I am not sure what I would have done had I been on my own. Probably stay close to the 7/11.
I give Ross the menu. Ross is now de facto the boss of what I eat. He suggests skewers of chicken skins, skewers of chicken bones and little shrimps you eat whole with the eyes and everything. I look at him funny because, of course, I think he is joking. He is not joking. The man has insane tastes! He never blogged about eating bones! Generously, he also orders some chicken and green onions which makes me feel much more comfortable.
It turns out, after a bite of the chicken skins (a little one just to show that I am worldly and would try just about anything), well it turns out they are so yummy I want them all to myself! The shrimps? Oooh heavens! So good! After hearing Ross eat the bones, I decide to draw a boundary but Japanese cooking absolutely rocks big time!
When we leave the Izakaya, we meet these happy young ones who seemed much less serious when not wearing a school uniform. The V is not for victory but for peace. All my photographs of young Japanese people include the peace sign. Nothing can be done. It is endemic.
We walked to the Suga Shrine where the Numata Festival ends every year. It feels extremely strange and surreal to be in a place previously described by Ross in one of his posts.
At the end of this dark alley, a Snack Bar. That’s not the place where you get a sandwich and a coke to go. This is where you go when as a man, you would like the company of a woman. Platonic company I must add. You buy a bottle, and a woman sits and talks to you. They seem fairly popular. Numata also has a number of Love Hotels where you can rent a room for a very short time. Some people just rent rooms for karaoke sessions or to have a place to entertain a group of friends.
It is 1 am and time to go to bed because tomorrow, we have to shop for toys, visit a Scottish castle, listen to Kelly perform, and have more chicken skins and a lot of sake for me (I’m still hesitating about posting some of the photographs!)