Most Expensive Bowl of Ramen I Hope I'll Ever Have
Spent most of today in Ueno, mostly at the Tokyo National Museum. A little overwhelmed with all the art work there, and realizing that I really need to learn more about the details ofJapanese history. My 7th grade timeline didn't provide quite enough context to appreciate all the subtle evolutions in silks, lacquerware and most dazzling of all--swords, both Tachi
. An 11th century sword that's still so sharp the reflections off its edge blind my camera deserves more careful study.
On my way to the train station I was suddenly starving. I saw a restaurant by the concourse that said "forms in English available, please feel free to come inside!" which was pretty encouraging. But inside all I saw was a vending machine. A little disappointed, I lit up when I saw that the options on the vending machine included a bowl of place rice for 150 yen. Put my money in and out came at a ticket. Okay, I thought, maybe I redeem that somplace further in. Walking through a narrow corridor I saw an almost as narrow room, with a bunch of people seated at a bar--each person facing into their own little cubicle. Away from me, towards the inside wall, it was mostly men, but right next to the door sat a young woman. She saw me standing there, confused, and waved me in to sit at the little cubicle next to her. There I was worried to see that between me and the other side of the counter was a red curtain that hung so as to perfectly obscure my face. She pressed a red button in the counter in front of me somebody walked up--I could only see their chest and arms--and started talking to me in Japanese. I said Wakarimasen about four times before the girl stuck her head in my booth and said something rapidly in Japanese--I definitely caught the word gaijin--and I could hear a bit of commotion on the other side. Finall a guy came up who kneeled a bit so I could see his face and with some difficulty told me that I would have to pay 750 yen for Ramen, as the rice ticket I just bought was only a side dish. He assured me the ramen would be vegetarian ("no meat?no fish?" "no meat! no fish!") and I was too chagrined to refuse. After a faceless hand slid me a bowl of ramen and small bowl of rice, a bamboo curtain slid down and covered what small view I had had of the kitchen behind the bar. I was perfectly isolated--wooden cubicle walls on either side, curtain and bamboo curtain in front, my own little tap of water on the side. I guess in such a crowded city, people appreciate the chance to be in their own little world. Nine odd dollars, however, is more than I am willing to habitually pay for a bowl of Ramen.