The lights of Mitaka beckon me, I keep my pace steady and breathe in the rain soaked, balmy air as I’m guided in, leaving behind the calm tranquility of Inokashira Park. As the crossroads approach a choice is presented to me; the light that blinds me ahead or the dark shadows of the train station that promise to swallow me, I can cross the road, glide into that darkness, be taken back.
I stare at the strange symbols held in my hand, describing the delights of this bar, an alchemy of flavours, seasoned, served and devoured. My finger places the order tapping the middle of the menu. I wait apprehension and excitement balanced like the chopsticks between my fingers.
“Drink please” my trance interrupted I turn and see two Cheshire cats waiting for my reply, “Drink please” the light guides me further. “beer onegaishimasu”. A few minutes later the table overflows with a variety of sashimi dishes and I am invited to share everything, an oyster especially for me is barbequing on the table. Another sip of beer before moving onto the next dish, all while my two new acquaintances relish in my enjoyment of their culinary choices. A phase book conversation begins, but is soon replaced with muscle aching grins and array of peace signs and thumbs up, words are not needed. Invited to go to another bar I pick up my coat and follow my new friends.
The spiciness of the food hits, as I take another bite, I gulp down water to try to extinguish the burning sensation in my mouth, not realising the drink in front of me is infact soju, a sweet and starchy, strong Korean alcohol. The stinging in my mouth assures me I will not make that mistake again. We make friends easily and rushed translation soon occurs, apparently very few foreigners frequent the bar where I began my journey, especially solo female’s, so my new friends wanted to welcome me and provide me with a favourable impression of Japan and the Japanese people. Accompanied to the train station with my return ticket kindly paid for I am in a state of disbelief that such genuine and good-natured gestures can be generated by a random encounter.