Thursday, May 18, 2006
Today was rainy, so we just took a quick trip by car down the Izu Peninsula in the morning, culminating in the discovery of a great Chinese restaurant a few miles south of Hayama. (Even the Japanese don’t eat Japanese every day.) The highlight for me, though, was stopping at a gas station, and seeing station attendants bowing to patrons. I wish this happened at home--when I pay $35 to fill up my little car, I might appreciate a little bow myself.
After lunch, John drove us to the town of Enoshima. This town is on an island separated from Kamakura by about 100 yards of water. It’s a little on the tacky side, which was interesting to see. I didn’t think the Japanese did tacky, but they do in fact have plastic trinkets representing extinct parts of their culture just like we do. They show things like Samurai swords instead of cowboy iconography, but it’s the same idea. Enoshima did have two fancy hot springs and was apparently the site of the yachting portion of the 1964 Olympic games, but aside from that, I guess I have to say it wasn’t a banner sightseeing day. (We really only went there to pick up flyers about the spas.)
On the way home, thogugh, we stopped at a junk shop in Zushi that was overflowing with beat-up shoji screens, multi-drawered Japanese bureaus needing refinishing, nearly complete sake-cup sets, used kimonos, Godzilla cigarette lighters, and other detritus of daily Japanese life. It was far and away the most culturally illuminating part of the day. A slack-jawed boy who had been playing catch with his buddy the whole time we browsed (“so much for the workaholic stereotype,” John said under his breath) sold me an abacus, which I will have to ask Daisuke how to use.
Dinner was another eye-opener. John and I walked to the port area of Hayama, which is a formerly funky, quickly gentrifying part of town. All the places we wanted to eat were closed for some reason, though, so, starving, we found ourselves in front of a Denny’s, and decided to go in.
John had been before, so he knew what to expect, but I was completely unprepared for a Japanese Dennys. Except for the color scheme and the modest prices, almost nothing was familiar. Beer was served. Waiters bowed. Waves broke against the beach right outside the restaurant. The menu was almost completely Japanese favorites (I had pork stir-fried with ginger, for example), and portions were small.
And no, I don’t know if you get a free meal on your birthday. I didn’t have the vocabulary to ask.