My First 24 Hours In Japan: The Start Of A Love Affair
I arrived at the Osaka Hana hostel at 8 am. Due to miscommunication I had arrived in the wrong city (Tokyo) on the wrong day, and thus had to scramble to buy an extra plane ticket and accommodations for the previous night. My friend Jade found a different hostel for me and I somehow managed to find my way there from the airport via multiple subway transfers. I do not know what I would do without the kindness of strangers. I asked one woman if I was on the right subway line, to which she assured me I was, but she then proceeded to take me throughout the entirety of my journey! I gave her orbits breath mints and she gave me Japanese hard candies. A friendship was born.
After a very long and tiresome journey, I wanted nothing more but to curl up in bed, but I was cold and hungry so I stopped inside a brightly lit, yellow noodle shop down the street from my hostel. Japanese novellas played from a television on the wall and I could see the cooks eating through the open kitchen. Communication was futile for me, so I took a chance and merely pointed to the bowl of the man sitting next to me. What luck I have, It turned out I ordered ramen with pork belly! I knew I wanted some soup to combat the cold and provide comfort from my journey, but tender, fatty smoked bacon was more than I could have hoped for. I slurped down the flavorful broth and shoveled the noodles into my mouth with a few dribbles of sesame oil for an added kick.
I awoke at 5 am, very eager to start exploring Japan. I checked out of the hostel, jumped on a train, and within a half hour my one carry on suitcase that I packed for the whole month was safely stowed in the new hotel. I asked the front desk directions for somewhere to eat a good traditional breakfast and was soon on my way, armed with just a crappy map, my worn converse shoes, and a thin peacoat borrowed from a friend in New York. I was clearly ill prepared. The front desk had told me I only needed to make three left turns to find my destination, yet I somehow managed to get lost anyway. Ironically, the only restaurants open seemed to be american joints! I found a place called “Burger Freshness” as well as a Hawaiian cafe “Eggs and Things” which reminded me of a Abercrombie and Fitch themed pancake house. I began to despair. Eventually I noticed a small cafe on a corner with no signage except for a Japanese proclamation that said something bout 7-11 am. Let’s take a chance shall we?
I now sit alone in an empty cafe while I observe an elderly woman hobble around, having just finished composing my “Japanese breakfast”. I walked inside and was greeted with a menu toting the “American breakfast” of toast with fried eggs. I immediately said no and that I wanted a Japanese breakfast, to which I received a huge grin in response. Within minutes, I have been presented with an artfully composed tray containing a bowl of steamed rice, some pickled vegetables, nori seaweed, a raw egg and what I assume is a rendition of miso soup containing mushrooms. The woman placed the tray in front of me and picked up my chopsticks, doing a whisking motion with her hands and making soft and soothing “shook shook” sounds, whispering as she pointed at my egg and the respective bowl of rice. I watched while she swirled dark ribbons of soy sauce into the bright orange yolk and ripped hunks of of my nori with her deft fingers. It was an intimate moment. Here’s to my first breakfast in this new and unfamiliar land, I am definitely starting the day off right.