After everything else, train station noodle stands are still one of the cheapest ways to fill your belly, which is why, in the oppressive heat of a Kansai summer, melting from every pore, you willingly hand the cook a 270 yen ticket for Tempura Soba. The businessmen huddling over the packed counters around you dab at the rivulets of sweat coursing down their temples with neat squares of folded cloth, and every one in the place eyes the moist water pitcher beside you jealously. The steam from the good broth makes everything fuzzy and encourages you to sweat in places you didn’t know you could and soon, with a little help from the hot red pepper-and-black-sesame mix sprinkled into your soba, every orifice is running. The noodles are slurped by the men in an effort to cool them down but you, after a year and a half, still can’t bring yourself to do it. You delicately sip, twist and twirl and are finally faced with a noodle-less bowl of tasty broth. You’ve been told you shouldn’t drink it – too much sodium – and you know you shouldn’t drink it – you’re already a boiling puddle of your former self – but you want it all the same. Feeling your toes squish in your shoes is what snaps you out of your broth lust and you gulp another complimentary cup of ice water, mutter a solemn “arigatou” to the cook and brush aside the heavy cloth curtain on your way out. It delivers an appreciated gust of breeze.
Throughout the train station, on the way to your bike, you hope feverishly that you don’t run into anyone you know: all of that simmering broth has caused your nose to flow like a spigot and it won’t stop.