Eating Out

Last weekend, the first two girls I met (Carolin and Hiromi) were nice enough to hang out with me, show me around, help me navigate a few stores and restaurants, and just generally distract me enough that I didn’t run to Tokyo and hop on the nearest plane back to the states.

Hiromi and Carolin. Guess who’s Japanese and who’s German! 

A few of the things I did (which I may or may not elaborate on in posts to follow):

-went to AEON, the mall, went in a few stores and ate my first Japanese food (in Japan) 

-went to Hiromi’s aunt & uncle’s mandolin orchestra concert and met part of her family
-was attacked with broken english by an elderly gentleman at said concert who was very excited that I was from America (Carolin, a German girl, and I were quite obviously the only people who weren’t Japanese at this concert)
-went to a park in Ota where an old Japanese castle used to stand
-saw many japanese Akita 秋田犬 (specific Japanese breed of dog) romping together in said park 
-tried to find the cheapest rice cooker (which amounted to almost $60, and I didn’t buy it)…however there were rice cookers for over $1k. It’s fricken rice. Do you really need a $1200 machine to cook it?

A large incense burner in front of a shrine.

-went to a Peruvian restaurant in Oizumi, which is the next town over with the large Brazilian and Peruvian expat population. I spoke Spanish to the owner, since he spoke only a small amount of Japanese and no English.
-went to the driving range with Hiromi…as in yes, golfing. I was bored. And I made a straight 160 yard drive with a  five iron! I think that might be pretty decent, considering I’ve held a golf club…twice.
-visited a shrine where Hiromi showed me the traditional way to pray
-went to an izakaya (居酒屋) which is a really common place for the Japanese to go out to socialize. It’s characterized as a pub, and people often go there to drink, but to me it felt more like a restaurant. There’s a large drink menu, and all you can drink special, and smaller sort of appetizer or tapas-style dishes, along with some dinner sized entrees. I think that since many Japanese homes are not traditionally built with enough room to entertain many guests, places such as an izakaya are used for that purpose.

Which brings me to my main topic of this entry: Restaurants. 

When you go into a restaurant, you may need to take off your shoes before you go into a seating area, it depends on the place. You also may be sitting on cushions on the floor, or at a normal table/booth. If you’re sitting on the floor, the proper way for women to sit is kneeling or with their legs bent and their feet tucked to the side….as if you were kneeling but then kinda fell over to the side. Men sit cross legged, I think. (It’s not really a big deal, especially since you’re a foreigner, really you can sit however you want). The waiter will bring you a small glass of water, and if you want more you will need to ask for it. Some menus have pictures on, some don’t. Better hope you have a Japanese speaking friend if there are no pictures! 😀 

This is a picture of MY portion of Ramen. It’s huge. And it comes with huge chunks of pork, a bunch of bamboo and scallions, and a piece of seaweed, along with noodles and broth. There are a ton of different kinds of Ramen, and Ramen shops are everywhere.

When you want to order, you either press a button on the table which calls a waiter over, or you call”sumimasen!” すみません meaning “excuse me!” At this point you rely entirely on your friend to order for you. And probably to ask for more water. Never pour anything for yourself, it’s considered…rude? I think? You’re supposed to pour for the other person, which should remind them that you need more water/tea/beer etc too. If they’re still not getting the hint, then you’re supposed to nudge your glass towards them. 

Hiromi, fried rice, ramen, gyoza, and I. 

A warm slightly damp towel is given to you in a plastic bag. It’s polite to use it to wipe off your hands before the meal. 

It’s absolutely fine and even encouraged to pick up the bowl you’re eating from while eating. Also, drinking soup sans spoon is the way to do it. 

An interesting thing that I wasn’t aware of before today… I went to lunch with a male coworker. This coworker has a girlfriend whom he frequently takes to the same restaurant where we went. The waitress gave him dirty looks the whole time we were there because of the fact that he was at the restaurant with a woman who wasn’t his girlfriend. It’s assumed that he’s cheating if he’s out to lunch with another girl.

When paying, it seems that you always go up to the register. And you never tip, for any service.  If it was really really amazing service, you can pay extra at the register. You’re also not technically supposed to say ‘thank you’ for service in a restaurant or store or anything. I find this to be a pretty impossible habit to break.

I’ve heard people say that the portions in Japan are smaller and that you don’t get enough food at restaurants. So far that seems to be entirely untrue. I have never left a restaurant still feeling hungry, and about half the time I can’t finish the amount of food I’m given. My only complaint would be that restaurants on average seem to be a bit pricier, however, you aren’t tipping, so it ends up evening out. 

So far I’ve eaten at a Peruvian restaurant, an izakaya, a foodcourt, two Indian restaurants, a Ramen restaurant, and several convenience stores. But more on the food another time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s