Friday, November 2, 2007

An evening in Shinjuku's good old backstreet.

A block still retaining post-war Showa era style, near bustling Shinjuku Station, houses over 30 "nomiya", or Japanese-style counter bars. It's called Omoide-Yokocho, which translates to something like "the backstreet of the good old days". The small community truly lives up to its name.

On October 28th, after we had the patient assessment workshop, I decided to go for a glass of beer and a light snack in Omoide-Yokocho with two of my friends who also participated in the activity. It's Sunday night, so not all of the nomiyas are open, and if you want to see how it is when it's busiest, Friday night would be best. So we walked down the small but lively alley and hopped into one named Asadachi. Many nomiyas call people walking by to come in, but this place didn't, so we just said why not.

This place had a very interesting, or to some maybe peculiar menu. They had raw pig and cow liver, testicles, penis, and uterus, while also boasting frogs, whale meat, fish, and many kinds of shellfish. Most of these could also be served cooked. A wide choice of rare alcohol was also offered, like "sake" made from aloe, snakes, lizards, etc... but with all of this, the two-hour talk with the owner of this place was so interesting that it made the menu irrelevant.

When he talked, he talked as though if he had met everyone from everywhere. And he closely looked into the other's eye when talking, and continued to look into it even after the other had shifted his eye somewhere else. Very observant he was... he really reads people's expressions. He's met all kinds of people, from TV superstars to politicians and company executives to front-line employees. They all come here to babble about what's up in the world they belong to, and that's why he knows a lot about them... And maybe because he has seen the eyes of so many that, he says he can read one's personality just by looking into the eye.

A 68-year-old actor came in while we were there, and says he has been a regular visitor for over a decade. The owner knows a lot about his life... that he was a playboy when he was young though having a wife, did ordinary desk work in his 40s and 50s at an insurance company, but decided to become an actor after he retired at 65.

The owner told us many things... but the one that seems to have been carved in my mind is "What's most important is your heart, but just that won't get you anywhere... you have to be clever, maybe sometimes even cunning or sly..." Hmm, maybe so. :-)

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