I’ve got chills and they’re multiplyin’! And I’m losin’ control for the power you’re supplyin’ is electrifyin’! I’ve certainly got chills, all right. Autumn has swept through the mountains of Gotemba with a vengeance not in the form of hail and catastrophe but with a slanting mist. If it were any colder, it would have been snowing. My hair and clothes become flat in no time. Unfortunately, there has been no changing of the leaves to mark the coming of the season. They’ve just been dropping dead on the ground like flies, riddled with black spots of rot. The spiders have yet to leave. In the meantime, today bodes rainless.
On Saturday, I took my friend Toby up on his offer of joining him in Numazu for a get-together. He was pleasant enough to introduce me to his companions (Yoko-san, Aiko-san, and Kaoru-san) and we had a grand ol’ time. The girls were eager to introduce me to various aspects of Japanese cuisine at this little ramen-yakitori shop next to the train station. As a side note, yakitori shops are amazing. Oriented around appetizer-sized meals, you can share and eat and not get overwhelmed by portion sizes. It was definitely a night of firsts.
To begin, up was a glass of Coca-cola. Harmless, right? I had to explain to Aiko-san what would happen if she told the wait staff she wanted to drink a “cola.” Next came the edamame and pot stickers (餃子, gyouza). Those were things I was familiar with and chowed down on with no problem. The following addition was intestine (もつ, motsu) soup. In my head, when I hear “intestines” or “tripe,” I see this gelatinous pile of white goop all shiny and translucent. Never having had it before, there was no basis on which to compare this tantalizing tongue experience. Simmered in a broth with burdock root and green onion, it looked like any other kind of soup with chicken or beef in it. I will never forget how everyone leaned forward in anticipation of my reaction. Boy howdy, it was delicious! I worked on two bowls of the stuff.
After some conversation with my dinner mates, a plate was brought out to us that appeared to have sashimi on it. Laid out a bed of onions with garlic and ginger on the side, I was prompted to request identification on its origins. They replied, 「馬です。」(“Uma desu.” It’s horse.) At first, my American sensibilities were in conflict. There was a brief tug of war on whether or not I would be betraying anybody by eating an animal my country deems as special. My adventurous side and hungry stomach won. Placing a bit of this and a bit of that on a slice of meat, I liberally lathered it with soy sauce and wolfed it down. Chewing ponderously, again, as everyone was transfixed on the O Unaccustomed Opinion of the American I thought it was quite tasty but nothing I would prepare for myself.
There was some debate that followed about Japanese and Chinese stereotypes on who ate what animal.
I won’t go into too much detail about the kim-chee, Korean pickled cabbage. I like pickled vegetables, but not kim-chee. Sorry, Korea. I don’t appreciate spicy things.
We thoroughly stuffed our faces and enjoyed each other’s antics. I even fought over some octopus with Toby. All too soon, it was time to be scooting along to the bar: Merry Go-Round.
This was SPEC-TAC-U-LAR! Walking in, you wouldn’t even think it was a bar. Decorated in everything old school, I was transported to something akin to a cool uncle’s garage. There were signs, gas tanks, an old slot machine, mannequins, kewpie dolls, neon lighting, lava lamps, and Spiderman toilet paper. Our bartender, Wataru, was even dressed up in a black bowling shirt and pompadour. If you’re looking for a joint to bring a few friends without the publicity, I recommend this place. I also suggest you play the small drum set that’s next to the door. To complete the picture, disco ball-type lighting was flashing and tambourines were provided.
I’ve only sung karaoke once in my life and that was when I was attending high school and it was required. It’s funny how being alone and having friends makes a difference. Not a drinker, I still managed to get drunk off the happy vibes my newfound friends were throwing helter-skelter. All too soon, I found myself singing off tune to Blondie’s Call Me with Toby backing me up. Some ballads and a few Disney songs (I managed to find) were belted out before we moved onto Japanese numbers. I was able to find the only Japanese song I know relatively well: Kyu Sakamoto’s Sukiyaki (the original title is this:上の向いて歩こう, Ue no Muite Arukou; I Look Up as I Walk Along). It’s a 1960s love song. Throughout, I was served Coca-cola with a twist of lemon, cooked chestnuts and popcorn.
This was a night of firsts and it was all great fun. See you next time!