Buru and Breakfast
Swirling away from the wake of the speeding truck soft snow billows in drifts across the intersection. Buru sniffs the air, cold in our nostrils, the chill has squeezed the life from the grass and trees. Yoshiro and I walk the route we walked before and tomorrow he and Buru will walk again. By then I will be somewhere else, where I am not sure, but Buru and I know that at seven he will be facing the cold and padding through the snow again.
Breakfast teaches me how to eat and egg. Lightly fried the white not all set, chopsticks separate white from the yolk piece by tasty morsel. When the yolk is exposed scoop it onto the chopsticks and eat whole, I’d never noticed that a yolk, free range or caged is a simple mouthful.
For liquids, the slurp. Taught to not do so, years of training are sacrificed culturally and I get into the swing. I will only feel comfortable when I don’t feel conscious about doing it. The slurp slurp echoes in my cup, I draw more air over the top of the tea, rewarded by the slurp swish which allows the over inhalation of air which signifies the gratitude. Modesty prevents me raising my eyes to check if I am doing this correctly and embarrassment prevents me from checking to see how it’s really done.
Nippon 6 – I’m so glad to be here.
Everything went so well. The connection in the city to shin Kobe, the shikasen to Nagoya. Wow, arrived by noon having left at 10am. Walked the streets all seemingly empty until later I discover folk are mostly under ground out of the cold in subways. Car parking in vertical towers, old buildings juxtaposed with new and very modern architecture. Making the bus is an intrigue, no terminal 7 after 1,2,3,4,5,6 just a street corner on the end. Drats, the information lady had been most helpful, so what had I misheard. 10 minutes later I find the missing terminal hidden away on the far side of the apron.
Ishawakbi is where I am going, the driver seems to know, I try to help him understand to put me off there. The 20 minutes I have been told the journey might take passes rapidly. I can’t sit properly cos I’m trying to get off all the time. Then I see the next stop showing on an indicator in kanji then in English, thank god, for I have the luxury of getting ready before the stop and brace myself for the cold, it’s 2.
She said to ring, but without a mobile a public phone is all I can hope for. Trying the chemist opposite I am given a good approximation of where the address I offer is. I try to memorize the number of streets west and cross streets, heading off boldly. There are no street signs and those there are written in kanji, no house numbers, lots of Lexuses, and high range vehicles in the street I determine to be the one the chemist showed me.
I round the block heading back to the main road. There on the corner is an ad in English for Changmai’s English school. I wonder. A glassed in shed cum garage at the front is full of toys and bric a brac. To the left of the garage is a traditional gate, with a low door to it’s right side. Though the garage is carless I reckon it’s worth a try, how lucky is this to find the lady’s name on a sign.
Knock knock on the door, tho a very traditional house the door is western. Much toing and froing indoors gives way to a twenty something guy opening the door, his gran standing well back. I present my sheet, then realize whilst I can read the Japanese romanised words, he can’t make head or tail of it. Much as we try neither of us can help each other understand, though when I show him changmai on the outside worn he recognizes it in the paper. Pointing at what I think is the school building abutting the road, he is adamant that it’s not them. I gesture at the surrounding houses supposing the teacher doesn’t live here but nearby, to no avail.
We part, I realize that I am close but not close enough.
At the phone box, I call with then without what I think is the country prefix code then it strikes me it’s probably a mobile. Over the next two hours I sit in the phone box out of the cold, watching lamhorgines, BMWs, and porsches tear up the road, I am in the right part of town. Plan b needed here as my boots chill from the air sweeping through the bottom of the glass phone box I make a last call to tell my lost host that I am heading for the bus stop, back to the station then the train to down town.
I take the subway, under the avenue I walked earlier in the afternoon. There had seemed to be few people on the street, of the few seen I most noticed the homeless, shoeless, unshaven, unkempt, uneverything man sitting in front of a closed gaudily adorned lottery booth with posters of every hue, at subway exit 1.The subway exit I rise from this time is one, there is no man, there’s no sun , there’s street lighting, I wonder where he has found to sleep.
I walk along the near deserted road, it’s wide four lanes each way with an expressway overhead carrying unseen unheard traffic quickly to somewhere. I peer into each doorway hoping for the english sign there’s supposed to be out front. There is and I knock.
” Do you have room for one please” I ask.
The host beckons me in through a narrow bar/ restaurant, just closed.
At the door to the back area shoes off, then carried and into a narrow passageway, my pack banging the walls.
He moves two steps ahead then beckons me past cupboard doors to the left. He motions that I should open the door behind me I just passed. He has already opened the one ahead off me.
Half expecting to be shoved into some Japanese cupboard dungeon in which the futon torture is administered I stumble headlong and shoeless into a deep passageway the width of a broom closet. To the right are closed cupboard like doors, and to the left I can see through two open sliding doors the flurry of futon and blankets being stacked on the tatami. It’s a double room, twelve mats size, a big tv, and a low metallic gas/electric heater. Much bowing and welcome, before a withdrawal, and I’m alone, shoes in hand and so glad to be here.
Nagoya diner, night diner, wet wet wet.
A little restaurant down a street all closed to traffic, theres a few bars open, gingerly I open the door. The food samples in the window look like battered prawns and beef ¥720, I point to the ¥720 and the lady points to 210, 160, 130 I guess it’s the serving size, I go for 210 hope it’s large and wonder what I am going to get that’s large. Gotta eat somehow, I am famished. It’s freezing outside and warm in here. A cup of green tea settles me, and then more folk arrive. Though it seems deserted on the street peering through some of the doorways there are carousing couples and groups eating laughing, out for a sunday dinner.
A prawn, two battered fried golden egg like objects, all sit atop shredded cabbage but the prawn is mounted on several macaroni pieces with a side of mayo, not bad for the price, the 210 being for a large plate of rice. It tastes delicious, I scoff it fast, can’t understand the samurai film on the tv which has everyone else entranced. Their dishes cool as the watch, while I eat mine to the last grain before they take even several mouthfuls. It’s gone twenty minutes, time to write about what I have seen, and try a bar down the road for a sappora beer or something. Feels like I have passed a barrier and taken the plunge, intending not to eat anything western while I am here, let’s see how this goes!
The streets here are bare, the convenience stores are open neon blazing onto the darkened streets. I wander through the back streets not scared a little wary, find a post office, could be useful, but not much else. The night impression is important for orientation. Freed of extraneous influences sighs that can’t be read all that imbeds is the shape an size, and openings between buildings where the sky, though inky dark is visible.
On the main drag there are some restaurants, which all seem to be open to the wee small hours. Why wee small hours? Is that a bladder reference from a night’s drinking? One tho has a wonderful wee sign wee fi available here, and the place is open 24 hours and serves pancakes! That’s breakfast then decided as I trudge back.
I tip out the tatami, doing bows to the doors as I slide them open then shut to get in practice in case a host comes.
The shower room is communal, and when I arrived I was told I could use it anytime, anytime. I read somewhere where showering to be clean then int the hot tub, and there’s the hot tub with silver facing down on a blue backing flaring on the water, the bath deep enough to drown three people, it’s a monster, and the room steams.
I shower and soap and shower again incase I am not clean enough then for good measure soap and shower again. The bath is so so relaxing and I’d boil a lobster in it if I had one, but failing a lobster I broil myself till my finger tips go all baby wrinkled after the old man wrinkles puff up then ease into softness.
No one communes in the bath room area, a slight disappointment if the truth be known, so I sleep like a top without the need for that sappora beer.
Nagoya, such a beautiful whoosh.
Its a little later than I intended but I get the pancakes, quite fluffy, but ne’er as good as made by an american woman. Internet is free and so is wifi, did I think that was wee fi last night? Damn!
I boot up iPad but have to wait for connection, there is no password, it’s straight on, the emails fly in, shame they are from someone else’s account and i am sending from her account too, seems I’ve been spammed. Shit!
So I send a few apologies, a few attempts at sending out jottings to folk, but as one comments such an impersonal way it do. Such an impersonal way to remark about it too, “But as one comments”. So I reckon outpourings of the theHobartChinaman should launch again after the little guy has had a yuletide rest.
Pressing the send button, the iPad warms up sending one, sending two, sending three, then whoosh …whoosh …whoosh the audio hisses as they are launched, what a wondrous sound.