The theme of this post is the Japanese phrase for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, 一期一会 (ichigo ichie).
I first visited Fukuoka, Japan in the summer of 2009. Although I’d never been too enthusiastic about soup as the focal point of a meal, Japan already had my number for years. Thus, it was important that I try the creamy pork-based Hakata ramen – one of the local 名物 (meibutsu specialty products) – at one of the storied nighttime 屋台 (yatai food carts).
I was enjoying my dinner when an older Japanese man sitting to my right started asking me about where I was from, how the food is, how Fukuoka was, how cold did my soup get because he kept asking questions. To answer your question, no, I didn’t like where this was going. Actually, I now wonder what would’ve happened if I had requested a 替え玉 (kaedama second serving of noodles)…or if I didn’t respond in Japanese.
After a brief exchange, he invited me to eat sushi in Nakasu, a neighborhood he seemed to know well.
Only after that feast did things take a turn for the weird.
Surreal Moment #2: He wanted to go to a karaoke parlor. We walked into a place that was astonishingly unfamiliar to him. He asked the owner if they had a particular song. The owner said no. He then gave said owner around ¥7000 (~$74 at the time) and left.
Surreal Moment #3: Until that day, I was under the impression that Snack (スナック sunakku) were off-limits to foreigners. What’s a snack? A dingy, cramped smoke-filled bar where you pay women to talk about how amazing you are. If you are a regular, they’ll hold for you – with your name on it – your usual bottle of tipple. My host was chatting up the mama-san while I was speaking Chinese with a woman from Dalian. So much for the “no foreigners” idea…? Wherever we ended up, it was definitely one of the above-listed スナック. Then again, that was in 2009, so who knows what the name of the joint is now.
After that hour of unpredictability, he abruptly left me to go to see cabaret. Whenever I tried to ask him his name to thank him, he responded with 運命 (unmei fate/destiny), as in, “don’t mention it.”
Good sir, this post is for you.