Monday, 1 November 2010

"The bar run by fishermen!" and the kindness of tipsy old men

This is my new favorite restaurant - "The izakaya (Japanese-style bar) run by fishermen" as the sign proudly proclaims in local dialect. My good friend T. and I first stepped in here last friday on a whim, drawn by its distinctive name and diminutive size (barely larger than my living room). The interior is warm and a little dark, the wooden walls adorned with pictures of fishing boats and their captains. Two men seated next to us recommended the managatsuo (butterfish) and maru-aji (horse mackerel) sashimi -  "we caught 'em this morning!" - before launching into an impassioned monologue on the wiliness of the maru-aji. This fish, apparently, does not reveal itself to just any fisherman, but moves from cave to cave with the tides, revealing itself only to those with the requisite intuition and good karma.  I'll spare you any overly pornographic description of the grub, but suffice it to say that the sashimi, and the fried octopus, and the stewed fish-tails, were awesome. Top it off with a warm cup of sake, and we have the stuff of dreams.

Feeling the pull of that warm sake on this cold autumn night, I returned to the izakaya run by fisherman a few hours ago. I'd be lying if I denied enjoying my minor celebrity status here in Arida, the locals' unabashed curiosity at my tall American presence in their midst, the inevitable compliments on how good my work-in-progress Japanese is. (This exoticness has its flip side, of course, but that's for another post.) Tonight I dined with the president of a local oil barrel manufacturer and his companion, both of whom showed an interest in America beyond the usual comments about how far away it is.

president: "It looks like Mr. Obama is in trouble in the upcoming election, eh?"

me: "I'm a big fan of his."

companion: "Me too! I feel bad for President Obama - he gets no credit for all the work he's done with his policies. And that Tea Party...."

president: "It's a gap between rhetoric and action. Mr. Obama seems stuck inside his own head and, unfortunately, he's going to pay for it."

My Obama-sympathizing companions left an hour later, but not before leaning over the counter and whispering to the bar's masuta ("master"), "Carter's dinner's on me!

The masuta's wife gave me a mischievous smile as the door closed behind them: "Well aren't you lucky?"

"Yes. Yes I am."

1 comment:

  1. The maru-aji reminds me of catfish and okie-noodling. Except you make it sound much more sophisticated. Must be a disparity between rhetoric and action.

    I love being known at a neighborhood bar. I hated New York the summer I lived there, until I found a neighborhood bar and started feeling safe and cared for.