When I lived in Japan, I played keyboards in a girl-rock cover band called “Nobuko and the Stone Buddhas” (or “The Stone Buddhas” for short). We were active in Oita Prefecture around 2004-2005. The band was named after the famous Stone Buddhas of Usuki (Photo above by Tanaka Juuyoh) Here are some MP3s of recordings we made in a rehearsal studio in Nakatsu City, where I lived as a JET Programme participant. Download all tracks (ZIP).
Not the Stone Buddhas of Usuki but the Kitsch Buddhas of Chinatown
Tash and I went to a restaurant in Nakatsu called Ichi-gou Gochisouya (一合御馳走屋) for the first time tonight. It’s in an old Japanese-style building close to downtown that used to hold an udon/soba noodle shop popular with local expats. Now, it’s an Izakaya, a kind of Japanese style tapas/gastro-pub sort of restaurant. “Ichi-gou” means “one gou” in Japanese. A “gou” is a unit of measure in Japanese that is a bit less than a cup, that is used for rice and sake. “Gochisouya” means feast or banquet place/restaurant.
We walked into this gorgeous Japanese space with an open kitchen. It seemed like there were more staff members working there than customers, so service, like always in Japan, was very prompt and attentive. We were also brought a small blackboard with the specials and recommendations of the week that supplemented the vast menu already on the table.
Apparently, our presence in the restaurant was funny or something. Some of the chefs were giggling when we walked in and when we left. Also, when I ordered a second round of food and drinks, the waitress asked us if we could read the menu. hmm, um, I’ve already ordered once and I read the Japanese menu fine. Why ask now? Maybe it has to do with the fact that Natasha is a stereotypical blonde gaijin. One of the girls at the neighboring table made it a point to say “Hello! Hello! Hello!” in English to her girlfriends as she walked past us when she walked in late to join them. So who exactly was she saying hello to? Not us, because it’s not like they she was trying to strike up a conversation with us or anything. Maybe just showing off her English to her friends? Who knows, but with 6 years of mandatory English at schools here, I would certainly hope that every Japanese person with a high school diploma can say at least “hello”. Alas, gaijin still equals funny in rural Japan.
All this aside, let’s talk about food. We ordered:
Ryuukyuu-tsuke (琉球漬): Marinated sashimi pieces with slivers of daikon radish
Asatsuki to Toufu no Hanryuu Sarada (浅葱と豆腐の韓流サラダ): chive, red onion and tofu salad with a spicy Korean-style dressing
Watarigani no Koura-yaki (ワタリガニの甲羅焼): crab and squid meat topped with a Béchamel sauce and broiled gratin-style in the crab shell
Ebi no Tempura (エビの天婦羅): classic tempura-style fried shrimp
And washed it all down with a couple of nama-biiru (draught beers).
mmm. An excellent new discovery and a great way to celebrate the start of the weekend!