i'm sure you could tell i had kinda written off shin, right? after a lot more texts, he invited me to go out again. as i said before, i'm down with being his friend, so i said sure. i kinda wanted to give the guy a chance since i did have a good time the first time we went out. this time i didn't obsess about being kidnapped. that's progress! anyway, we met near my house, rode our bikes to a restaurant (high school chic), and then tried to assess the place. neither of us had ever been there, but i had chosen it because he said he wanted to go to an izakaya, and it was the only one i had seen nearby. the owner was coming out as we were locking up our bikes, and he was extremely warm and polite, so we decided to go in. the thing about japan is you never know what you're going to get based on the outside of a building. some apartment buildings look like post-apocalyptic jail bunkers and are gorgeous inside. some restaurants are like that too. the only thing you can see is a doorway with a noren hanging outside to show that it's open. so we walked in and this is what we got: a tiny, dirty, smoke-saturated room with a handful of characters already three sheets to the wind. one bear of a guy (about 50?) sleeping on the bar was wearing a furry hoodie with embroidered flowers, and another guy was sporting a fluffy gray mullet. the owner had cleared one of the only two tables for us, and everyone else was sitting around the bar. clearly they were regulars. only in japan can you walk into a situation like that and feel perfectly safe and welcome. we got some curious glances, but they weren't hostile. the owner went to great lengths to make us comfortable, turning the heater in our direction and apologizing profusely for keeping us waiting while he made our dinner...but...shin and i agreed we never wanted to go back. after that we rode our bikes to a much more sterile establishment: some plain, cozy dessert chain, and shared an ice cream waffle. wake up cinderella, it's already midnight! and i had such a good time! it wasn't awkward or boring even for a moment. we said goodnight quickly (it was frigid outside) and pedaled home.