Our affable tour guide Inoue-san has given Kyoko a fresh crab from Hokkaido. The large and lively beast barely wedges into her pot. Naturally, it isn’t eager to go in. Yesterday we saw others at the Tore Tore Ichiba (Maizuru’s fish market), but none as big as this. I’m guessing that this one must have set him back at least 150-200 (Canadian) dollars. When I mention it Kyoko shrugs. He’s rich, she says.
Lucky you, I answer. It’s always good to have generous, rich men as friends. She laughs and pours warmed sake into glasses. We raise them in a toast. Kampai. Domo arigato gosaimasu, Inoue-san.
I don’t want to be rude, but I’m not sure I can eat one more thing. After touring Kyoto’s Nanzen-ji we stopped for a huge sushi lunch and on our way to Hosen-in Temple indulged in dried persimmons. I figure the best way to handle the problem is to confess. I ask Kyoko to forgive me if I can’t eat more than one leg; however, she doesn’t seem perturbed.
Once cracked open we see the crab is female and full of eggs. There’s more to eat here than we suspected. Still, there’s nothing like warm sake to bolster one’s endurance and we dig in. Eggs devoured, we pour more sake and start on the legs.
As we work our way through we share stories. She tells me about her late husband who died young of leukemia. She has rebuilt a full life without him, and because she can’t travel herself, she brings the world to her home instead. A regular host to exchange students and people (like me) she befriends while guiding for Kyoto International Service Club, hers is a full life. But I sense she’d give it up in a heartbeat to have her husband back.
In true Japanese style, we do our best. After a few hours only cracked shells remain. We have demolished the whole thing! Nearing midnight we toast again: Domo arigato, Inoue-san and discover we have emptied the entire box of sake as well.
Kyoko-san, I had no idea that two women our age could still do this: tour all day and drink all evening. The kitchen is too small to dance or we might have. We look at each other, nearly collapse laughing and toast our stamina with the dregs of the sake before staggering off to bed.
Thank heaven I thought to turn the kotatsu on before we started or my futon would be an ice cube. But with this much warm sake inside, I may not have noticed.