welcome to the land of thimblefuls of water. this is something rarely commented on in discussions of japan’s foibles. when you sit down in a restaurant, the waitress will provide you with a tiny glass of water with at least 1/2 inch of room at the top, so you have at your disposal maybe three good gulps. i suppose this forces you to either annoy the waitress constantly with pleas for more or buy a drink. on the plus side, i’ve actually become less of a snob about something and fallen in love with the japanese beer. unlike the obscene number of choices at the microbreweries across the u.s., when you order a beer in japan, you get the same thing everywhere. it’s the quintessential beer--cold, yellow, nameless beer with an inch of head in a tall glass. somehow the straightforward simplicity of this transaction warms my heart.
along the same lines, i finally darkened the doorway of my local kaiten zushi restaurant. the only reason i haven’t been there before now is because i didn’t know we had one. this is a basic, no frills sushi place where a constant rotation of already-made sushi items parade by on a mini conveyor belt and you simply take the ones you want (the chefs are replacing them as they are eaten). there are a few inherent problems with this kind of place...some things rotate around for a long time and get less and less fresh (and with sushi, who wants that?) or someone (like the three children sitting one table over from us) coughs on the sushi as it goes by, rendering it less than appealing. however, this is a place where you get exactly what you want when you want it and are exactly as full as you want to be by the end. it’s a very cheap way to fill up--most plates of two pieces cost a dollar each. you also get to see all the things you would never think to order and try them if you so desire. i went out on a limb and tasted the rare beef sushi, but it was disappointingly tasteless and i haven’t yet showed any signs of mad cow disease.
japan is the only country where a simple dinner party can turn into a “truss up the foreigners in kimono” party and always turns into a karaoke party.
here's me working the ballet pose in an effort to look, i don't know, less awkward.
i went to a dinner commemorating the british POWs who were held in work camps here during WWII. you’d think POWs would necessitate a solemn occasion, right? well yes and no. by the end, the last surviving prisoner of the camp was grinning from his ninety-year-old face wearing a hapi and beating a taiko drum with all his might!