Macrobiotic Restaurant Owner:“Where did you learn Japanese?”
Macrobiotic Restaurant Owner (hereinafter MBO):“Oh, your Japanese is very good!”
[Aside:this comment is basically filler. A Japanese person will tell you this if you know 2 words, for example, "Konnichi-wa" and "Toyota".That is one of the reasons why the first scene between Uma Thurman and Sonny Chiba in “Kill Bill” is so great.]
MBO:"Wait, did you say Virginia? I’ve been looking for someone from Virginia. You see, I have this dream of learning to make soy cheese. One time my friend brought me some soy cheese from San Fransisco, and I tried it, and I kept the box for my favorite one. It says that it comes from a place called Charlottesville. Do you know this place?"
[Let me stop here again:it was hard enough for ME to find HIM.His restaurant is off the beaten path to say the least, northwest of Harajuku.I basically had an address:Jingumae 2-18-5. That's it. Nothing else. I had to simply find it using the address. So here’s a quick lesson in reading Japanese addresses.Jinguemae is short for Meijijingumae, which translates roughly as “in front of the Meiji…um…jingu.”2 is the ward #, so you just find the 2nd Jingumae ward.Use your map.Not the one in Lonely Planet/Frommer’s/anywhere.You have to buy the one map I found that lists Tokyo by wards.OK, now that you’ve found ward #2, find the 18th block.Don’t worry, they are easy to find.The 18th is across from the 30th.Found it? Good.Now find the 5th building.These wards are each as much as 500 years old, so the numbering might not be exact. Don't bother asking for help. No one can help you, because the truth is that no one understands the system. That's why most buildings don't even POST THEIR DAMN ADDRESS ON THE BUILDING.]
One of the Edo-Tokyo Museum's dioramas of old an old Edo Ward, in this case, Ryogoku.
Ryogoku was later burned to the ground by a guy who couldn't find his friend's apartment because the address system was too damn confusing.
Me:"Wait, I’m FROM Charlottesville."
MBO:"Really? Oh, maybe you could help me. Here is the address of the company. It is called 'Sunergia'. I would like them to send me some samples and help me learn to make soy cheese for Japan.I would like to travel there and stay and learn to make soy cheese."
[Again, I need to point out that I’m just outside Hara-freakin’-juku.This is the teenage girl/I-swear-they-are-not-gay-but-they-sure-look-it-guy capital of the world.This place is famous the world over for being the fashion capital of Japan, and at various times, the world.It is also not a place for 2 government lawyers from Charlottesville, Virginia to find dinner.But back when I thought my brother would be joining us, I found a few vegetarian places and stored the addresses.“Why not find one?”I thought.]
Me: " Well, here’s my name, email address, and phone number. I will find the company for you and we will see if they will teach you to make soy cheese. And then you can come to Charlottesville."
So there you go – if any of you reading this know someone who can make soy cheese, or knows Sunergia, Inc. in C’ville, let me know, and I will let my man Mr. Yamada know we have a plan. If you want to put him up at your house, he's a damn good chef. Otherwise, he may have to wait another 20 years for someone dumb enough or lost enough to go looking for his shop who is also from Charlottesville, Virginia.