Saturday, October 31, 2009

Making friends in Japan

And once again those little flag pins lead to adventures. We’re in Takayama, a town in the mountains. The old part of town has been well preserved and is a UNESCO world heritage site, which means it is a big tourist destination – both for international and domestic tourism. Wilf has booked us into a little hotel that has a selection of types of rooms – we’re in a Japanese style room with a private bath. You know what that means – we’re sleeping on the floor!


There’s himself reclining on his futon.

And here he is watching a baseball game:


Traditional it may be, but we do have Internet access! Anyhoo, we set out tonight to walk around the old town. Bought some skewers of grilled something from a street vendor – don’t know what it was but she was doing a brisk business, so we figured we should join in. Takayama is known for its sake distilleries and we dropped into one store for a sample. Or two.

Eventually we found our way to a pub listed in our guide book. It gave the name – Wada, but of course none of the restaurants have their names in Roman letters. The guide had the name in Kanjii, so by following the map and trying to match the characters we figured we were in the right spot. We snuggled up to the bar and were given English menus. Which are of limited help, sometimes. I mean, really, when the menu says ‘Chicken tail on skewer’ what are you to make of that? What do they consider to be a tail on a chicken?  ‘Chicken entrails on skewer’ – I actually figure they mean that one and thanks but no thanks.

We settled on chicken yakitori, fried squid and grilled shiitake mushrooms and with enough pointing at the menu and hand signals got things underway. The rest of the people at the bar were vastly amused by the cook’s attempts to speak English and were giving him a hard time. After a lot of head nodding and smiling eventually came the sentence out of which I could pick ‘America?’ Which led to ‘Ah, Canada’, then a lot of had signals to ascertain that, yes, Canada does have mountains. Pretty soon the two couple next to us were sending over skewers (nothing scary, thank heavens) and they passed their dish of squid just as ours arrived.

I gave each of the two women a Canadian flag pin – and what a commotion that caused. Such excitement!In fact one of them got on the cell phone – I could hear a torrent of Japanese, out of which I could pick ‘Canada’ and ‘Vancouver’ – and then then phone is handed to me to speak to this person! It was so loud in the bar that neither one of us could hear the other….

Anyway, much bonding occurred – I was presented with a bead bracelet, cards were exchanged, drinks were bought and by the time they all left it was handshakes and air kisses all around.


And no, I don’t know why all Japanese feel the need to make the rabbit ears when they are having their picture taken.

The Japanese have been extremely polite, helpful and kind to us all along. I’ve been really trying to speak a few words of Japanese. I think I’ve got  Good morning and Thank you very much down quite well – people seem to recognize what I’m saying. We were walking in a garden yesterday and I said Good morning  - Ohayo gozaimasu (which sounds like ohio gozaimasss) to a man as we passed on a narrow path. I don’t think that the fellow could looked any more surprised if a unicorn had walked by and spoken to him. Today at lunch I said Thank you – arigato gozaimasu to the hostess and she looked surprised and blurted out ‘Very Good!’

I’ll leave you for today with the following as a warning to what happens when someone has one too many beers on a Saturday night:


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