Just a few days ago, I had the privelege of meeting Cik Kieli in Pok Ku's chatroom. And reading her blog suddenly made me miss Japan very much. Not that I lived in Japan. I have only been there on two visits but somehow the experience of being in Japan was unforgettable for me and I thirst for more.
In one entry, cik Kieli wrote about her trip to Ameyoko Market in Ueno. I have never been to Ameyoko market but I remembered having my first meal in Japan in Ueno.
After a long flight, I arrived in Narita excited. I remembered the customs officer asking me what was my plan while I was in Tokyo and I said I wanted to shop. Hehehhe. Shop for what he asked. I said well Baby-G watches and lots of electronics. And I want to eat as much Japanese food as I can. Yes I love my Japanese food.
From Narita we took the fast train to Ueno. But we decided to break our journey in Ueno before continuing our journey to Tokyo because we were afraid that no restaurant would be open by the time we arrived in the vicinity of our hotel. It was so obvious that we were new to Tokyo, the city that never sleeps. Even if they were no restaurants open, there would be many 24 hour convenience stores that sells fairly good bento sets.
Anyways, we had no real way of picking a Japanese restaurant. One thing I noticed that was different in Japan (compared to Japanese restaurants abroad) they are very specialized. The sushi restaurant would only sell sushi. The soba place would only serve soba. The teriyaki place would only serve teriyaki. Not quite the same all-in-one restaurants that I have been outside Japan.
My main staple of Japanese food has been mainly sushi so I thought why not try a soba place for a change. As usual, we try to gauge how good a restaurant is by how busy they are. If the store is empty, its probably bad. Now if the restaurant has a steady stream of customers, then they're probably allright.
Another problem was language. We didn't speak any Japanese. I had wanted soba with the vegetable fritters on top. But we had no way of conveying our order. So in the end we just said, "Soba." Soba came with some seaweed topping and some fried dough bits (more like kerak in Malay.)
I don't know if it was the long flight. Or the air in Ueno but that soba was sooo good! (The only other soba I found to be better was in Hakone!)
And to complete the experience, once we paid our bill and made our way towards the exit. Everyone or it felt like all of the staff anyways, popped their head out to wish us "Arigato gozaimas." Even the staff at the back popped their head out to wish us thank you. I was so flabbergasted. These people were so polite!
Or perhaps they were curious to see 2 gaijins eating at their restaurants ;) But whatever the case, I was so impressed.
Ueno was a bustling town but alas we had to make our way back to Tokyo. It was my first night in Japan, and I was already in love.