The Soba Incident
by Duncan Dixon
Moving to a new country and meeting a new culture always has the potential for incidents that are embarrassing at the time, but humorous later. The following incident happened to me several weeks after I arrived in Japan. I was in Odawara around noon and I decided I wanted to have some ebi soba. I found a restaurant display that looked good and, because I could not speak Japanese, carefully copied down the characters under the display, on a piece of paper. I went into the restaurant and gave the paper to the waitress. She read it, gave a nod, and pointed me to a seat at a table in the middle of the restaurant. A lacquer box topped with soba soon appeared. It came with a bowl of broth leaving me with the problem of what to do with the broth. I knew I had to get the noodles and broth together somehow. I debated with myself for a few minutes, do I pick up the noodles and dip them, or pour the broth over the noodles? I finally came up with what seemed a suitable solution -- pour half the broth over the noodles. I did this and watched to my dismay as the sauce ran our of the bottom of the noodles, across the table, and began dripping onto the floor. The other customers looked at me with thinly disguised amusement and I began to wish I had ordered something simple like katsu-don. About this time the waitress appeared and looked at me and the mess I had made. She disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a fork. By now I was completely embarrassed. I ate quickly and discovered the reason for my problem -- the bamboo mat so cleverly hidden under the soba. I paid my bill and fled. To this day one thing puzzles me; I never did get the shrimp that were supposed to be on top of the soba. My First Tanabata by Duncan Dixon
* Read the two versions of my paragraph about Tanabata.
* Which is for readers unfamiliar with Japan and which is for readers who know Japan? Version 1
Every July when the Tanabata festival arrives, I...
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