Today was a cold and rainy/snowy day in Tokyo. It snowed most of the day, but with the temperature hovering in the upper 30’s, there was no accumulation and no icing. It was just a gray, dreary day — which is really unfortunate for a Saturday. We look forward to our weekends of wandering around Tokyo, and today was just not a good day for that. So… we hung around the apartment for awhile, went out to run a couple of quick errands and have hot soba noodles for lunch… then back to the apartment for the afternoon.
This evening we decided to go out to our favorite sushi restaurant here in Tokyo. We grabbed our umbrellas, and walked the mile to “Nihonkai” — “Japan Sea”
Four years ago on our very first night in Tokyo, this was the restaurant we went to. And it is still our favorite sushi restaurant here. Nothing fancy… just a neighborhood “sushi-go-round” (conveyor belt sushi restaurant). The sushi chefs are in the center and they prepare the plates of sushi and place them on a moving conveyor. When you see something you like, you just take it off the conveyor. But… they also take orders, and will prepare whatever plate you want. “Sumimasen! Maguro onegaishimasu!”
Four years ago, we couldn’t speak any Japanese… we couldn’t read the menu… didn’t know the names of the fish on the menu. They brought us the one copy of the English menu, and we ordered from that… mostly pointing at pictures.
But they were nice to us… they were helpful… and over time, we learned so much from them. We ask questions in our simple Japanese, and they teach us the names of the menu items. We have found our favorites, and now we can order them in Japanese. Maguro (tuna), tobiko (flying fish roe), kani sarada (crab salad), to-ika (squid with shiso leaf), nattou-to-okura (nattou with okra)… We can read some of the Japanese from the menu — but they still usually bring us the English menu. (We really prefer to use the regular Japanese menu.) When we have a question, the waitstaff is always willing to help us… “Sore wa nan desu ka? “What is that?” And they teach us.
We have been there often enough now that they recognize us… they greet us warmly, and make us feel welcome. We see other regular customers there, and greet them. It is a friendly and comfortable place to spend an evening. We have our favorite sake that we order from the menu (Yes… just like wine, there are many, many different kinds of sake… all with different tastes, characteristics, and prices). They bring us chilled sake glasses in sake boxes. Fill the glasses to overflow into the boxes until the boxes also are full. If you prefer hot sake, that is also available. (Very nice in the winter time!)
As our time for living in Japan moves far too quickly to an end (only about four months before we have to move back to the US), it’s little things like this sushi restaurant that I know we will miss most. It’s not just the sushi — I know we could get good sushi at any number of places here. It’s the way this place makes us feel — welcome, and comfortable. Like we belong.