Note: Today, I ventured to Nara prefecture to do some research for a “Day Trips” feature I’m writing for a travel magazine. So as not to scoop myself, I will only reveal that this involved being served some complimentary sake. I wrote this on the train coming back to Osaka. It is, obviously, part of the day’s experience that will not make it to my editor.
It’s 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and I’m slumped in my train seat, trying to figure out why I’m drunk. The shopkeeper only gave me two tiny cups of richly perfumed sake so even weak little ol’ me shouldn’t be this fazed. And yet, here I am: barely able to focus on my notebook and snickering to myself. I half wonder if my euphoria stems mainly from the shopkeeper’s compliments on my Japanese. I had been nervous about combining the “temiru” form with “temoii” when attempting to ask, “Is it okay if I try some sake?” but, apparently, I must have done something right because she said, “Of course,” and led me to the vat. Then again, I’ve been told that the moment the Japanese stop complimenting your language skills is the moment you know you’re actually speaking correctly. Whatever. She got it. And I got the liquor.
We’re a few stops away from Ikoma station now and I remember the uneaten bento in my bag. Oh, well, there we go. I was so nervous about messing up my editor’s directions that I forgot to eat it. Mystery of the Lightweight Drunk solved. There’s nikujaga and mushroom rice inside, deliciously homemade by ME and I want it. It makes sense to pry the lid off of the meat and potatoes to pluck an earthy morsel out with my fingers, not my chopsticks. When I eat the potato I taste something foul. Where have my hands been? I really can’t say for sure.
Hic. Hic. The sky is clear, cold and bright. We’re whizzing past white concrete homes with vibrant blue crane-feather tiles and 20 potted plants out front to create a garden. There’s a baby in the stroller next to me playing with her striped socks and a couple of grandmothers across from me wearing kimono. Hic. Hic. I’m feeling dithery, free and, today, at this moment, hopelessly in love with Japan.