Well that was an interesting night. The plan always was to find an izakaya(*) to settle down in for the Japanese equivalent of bar food, plus of course sake. There are a few near the hotel – it’s easy to find them as they have red paper lanterns outside. Our ideal choice was one with pictures of the food so we could point and order. The first we went to was full, so we tried a second. This was where things started to get interesting. There were pictures outside, however as it was raining we realised we weren’t going to be able to refer to them. We went in and were shown to the bar. First problem, the internal menu had no pictures and we confused the poor waitress just trying to order sake. Next problem was ordering food, as again the waitress could not understand us, and we her. Fortunately the master (name for the bar man/cook who run these places) could a little and so after a tentative start the alcohol started to flow (with us using mo ichido to order more (it means ‘please repeat’ as used often in Japanese lessons when the teacher is going too fast)), and we started to point and order more food.
A guy sat down near to us, ordered some food and drinnk then settled in. We assumed he was a local. Dave noticed him glancing at us ans we assumed it was because we were gaijin in a very Japanese sort of place. Thus it was a bit of a shock when he suddenly leant over to look at some food and pulled out a phrase book. Turned out he was a Korean business man over for a few months for his company (we think he sells sports socks – his English was not very good and our Korean was non-existent). His glances had been similar to ours – to see what other people were eating so he/we could point a waitress at the dishes so he/we could order. He was joined by a colleague and the conversation between our two groups was on/off and basic, but pleasant. It was toward the end that he dropped the bomb shell on us. He asked if we fancied joining them for a drink else where, then said he’d pay for the first hour. Being Shinjuku and he being a business man, this could only mean one thing. Girly bar. While I could hear yells of my colleagues over the continents yelling to join them and to take pictures, myself and Dave started trying to work out our polite excuses. Fortunately when he went to leave it was obvious we were still eating, and so the Koreans left without us.
The whole meal was an interesting experience, though at a little under 7000 yen, a tad more that we had first expected to pay. With more preparation we would have probably eaten more (read – if I’d remember to take a food book I have with me), but I think we were both close to our limits alcohol wise with a view to feeling rough the next day.
One thing I forgot about last night, which David reminded me of this morning, was that at one point the Korean business man suddenly told Dave he was very handsom !! Perhaps it was not a girly bar he wanted us to join him at after all (actually I do think it was a girly bar, but perhaps he did have designs for Dave – wonder if Mr and Mrs Sadler are reading this 🙂 )
* The closest we have in Europe to an izakaya is probably a tapas bar. These places you either sit at the bar or at tables and order lots of small dishes, normally grilled meats cooked over charcole, such as yakitori.