Saturday, January 13, 2018

A series of pleasant surprises

You know that moment when you bump into someone you haven't seen for years just walking along the street (I once bumped into my old legal director from Tokyo walking along Piccadilly in central London some 6,000 miles from home) and think "wow, what are the chances?". Some situations are causal, if I hadn't taken the chance to come to Japan, my son wouldn't have just gone to St Andrews University. But others are co-incidental, and last night was the defining example. Strange things can happen anywhere, but I swear they focus on Tokyo, the co-incidental perspective vortex as it were.

And so it goes. Last night my wife and I decided to go to our local little B1 bar for a bite to eat. Nothing special but a nice location close to where we live, friendly staff and the best beef in red wine sauce you can find anywhere on the planet. Only to be surprised as the manager had quit after arguing with the owner and taken all the staff with him and it now the new (and emergency airlift) staff only served sushi (not completely perfect on a cold winter night). The new manager was a little weird it has to be said, (take this objectively rather than subjectively, he really was weird) not speaking but still standing next to our table in the otherwise empty locale, just swaying to the music. I was genuinely feeling a Psycho moment waiting for him to lock the doors and turn slowly around, and so, finishing up quickly, we paid up and departed somewhat looking over our shoulders.

At this point, I'm still hungry. Going next door to our favorite local restaurant (great food, atmosphere, staff) the place was packed except for two seats at the counter next to a lady sipping a glass of wine on her own. My wife struck up a conversation and started to discuss the essence of different tipples and at one point the Japanese word for an oaky flavour, "taru" came up. I misheard and thought it was "taro", which meant my friend, Kashiwa-san, had named his dog over a clever English word play. "Kashiwa" means oak tree and his dog was called Taro, meaning oaky. I explained to the ladies chuckling at the whit until they disabused me of the brilliance of thought and explained I was a wombat and had misheard.

Anyway, it turned out that the lady worked in a small bar opposite our favorite place in a small alleyway known as Nombe Yokocho (Drunkard's Alley) hidden in the backstreets of Shibuya, central Tokyo. It then turns out that she was relatively new to town and had grown up in small village in the mountains west of Karuizawa in central Japan where we've had a small bolt hole for a number of years which is excellent for weekends out of town and away from the summer heat. And of course then we find she worked with a friend of ours when she was young in said mountains. And then, the grand finale, it turns out, obviously, she actually knew the very Kashiwa-san I'd been chuckling about earlier in the evening. And, of course, his dog, Taro. It's a funny old world, Tokyo. And if the old bar manager hadn't quit, we'd never have known. It was a really nice night. Though somewhat surprising...