The narrow street is dark but for the dim glow of lanterns. Anywhere else as a woman alone I’d stick to broad, well-lit thoroughfares. However, so long as you’re not blazingly stupid about it, Japan is safe after dark. By venturing down a lane such as this, amazing culinary delights can be found.
Seriously disadvantaged by my inability to read, tonight I find no cues. No open doors or window displays or menu boards. A sleek gray cat flashes yellow eyes. A lone cyclist creaks past.
Reaching a cross-street I decide to go one more block before backtracking. There it is! Sushi written on a bright red lantern. Though the place looks closed, I slide the door open (as I’ve seen my local friends do) and call out: Sumimasen. Konbanwa.
I’m somewhat worried. Will I be welcomed? Some establishments unapologetically post No Foreigners on their doors.
Mom in a worn brown sweater under her apron rises and bows. Irasshaimase. I bow and in Japanese politely request a seat for one. She points and nods to the empty counter with all of 8 seats. Hai dozo. I bow and apologize in Japanese. I’m sorry. I don’t speak or understand Japanese well. However (I smile broadly and wait for the beat), I understand sushi.
That breaks the ice. Pop, who looks as though his cuisine agrees with him, reaches behind a pillar, pulls out a plastic folder, bows, holds it toward me with both hands and reassures me in his best Eigo. No probrem. Engrish menu!
Relieved, I slip off my shoes and step up. It’s going to be a fine night.