Tag Archives: izakaya

The Wife, her Roomate, and the Husband

Numata, Japan. People sometimes have the weirdest living arrangements… or, sometimes, uncommon marriages too. Since my arrival in Numata, Ross and I had been having conversations about his musician friend Kelly. He had told me Kelly lived with his wife, her roomie, and Shoichi the little one. Now, I do not know about you folks, but a husband, a wife, and her roommate sounds like something suspiciously triangular to me. I felt like prying a bit but the right words eluded me. After all, the guy is a rock star and the wife comes from Brazil which is, as you well know, hot hot hot…

On Sunday night, after the Nikko trip, we would all meet at an izakaya for dinner and I would finally meet the two women in Kelly’s life.

When I am asked how Japanese people live, I do not know what to answer. I can pretty much tell you how a Canadian goes about his life in Numata, but Japanese people remain an enigma. All windows have opaque curtains so you cannot peak into their private space (no lack of trying on my part) and if you go to a restaurant, you end up being separated by a curtain or dine in a separate elevated screened room.

Entering the private room, I was surprised to see only one woman. Kelly introduced us: Nathalie, my wife, her roomie. His wife, her roomie? One person? For the last three days, I had been imagining the oddest menage a trois and it all boiled down to a wife called Harumi? Truthfully I felt a tiny bit disappointed… But Harumi proved to be a very fun dinner companion despite our language barrier.

Throughout dinner, Ross and Harumi sometimes adopted the same expressions (but I think Ross may have been committing emulation here.)

Kelly and Harumi did their very best to converse with signs and expressions so I could follow.

Monsieur Ross sat comfortably in his Prometheus shirt, acting very cool and controlled contrarily to Harumi and I.

He ordered the little shrimps you eat whole and while they may not look like much, they are delicious and not to be missed under any circumstances.

The dinner progressed with Kelly grabbing my camera and Ross making a demonstration of… either a religious ritual or how to chop a particular kind of meat. I could not tell you for sure but he seems definitely quite inspired.

This demented-looking man is the owner of the izakaya, Kei Chan. I took this photograph doing my rounds in the restaurant.

This friendly man showing off his skewers is Kei Chan’s faithful cook.

Kei Chan is also a magician and he came into our cabana to perform some tricks.

Ross appeared very interested, acting as skillful assistant too, but knew a lot of the magic and showed me later. After Kei Chan left, Harumi reclined on the floor and made faces. Harumi is a lightweight. Two sips of beer and happiness flows. I think this is what they called “meeting your match!”

As Kelly explained in one of his posts, musicians can be jocks too.

I surmise this was a case of “putting your money where your mouth is!”

And succumbing to the weight on his shoulders…

By this time of the evening, both men are calm and collected, and basically Harumi and I are, as we say in Belgium, “sur le toit” (on the roof.)

This is Harumi sur le toit.

Sur le toit, that’s generally when I let people take my picture.

And Ross wonders how he ended up with such a monkey woman. I think he may even have called me a baboon. The look on his face speaks for itself. (That was Kelly’s favorite photograph.)

Then we took photographs of all our feet (except for the feet of Sir Ross who was not in the mood for toe display.) Suddenly the reasons behind the need for an enclosed private space made a whole lot more sense to me. We left shortly after. Foot photography is always a tell-tale sign that all good things must come to an end.

Walking back to the house, I took this photograph of a man preparing the newspapers for the next day. He showed a bit of surprise at the sight of me entering his office. Ross, while very supportive of the idea, declined to follow me inside.

This is my Numata apple. I unfortunately dropped it. A gift from Harumi, it did not survive the walk home. Numata apples are famous and I can attest to their deliciousness thanks to the roomie. Apples are produced with great care in Japan with growers plucking the leaves off each apple to ensure balanced sunlight. Some of these practices have been discontinued to respond to the US competition after American apples were introduced on the Japanese market in 1995 at a much lower price. (sigh)

Numata apples are collected from more than 100 orchards and are integral part of the culture. A typical Japanese family outing is to spend time picking apples in a farm.

I did not go pick fruit in Numata.

planetross eats skewers of bones

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!)

Oyasuminasai!