Our 1st Night Out (aka Clumsy Navigation)

Tuesday night, feeling the weight of the time difference from our Monday evening arrival, we decided to meander through our quiet Tokyo neighborhood, Setagaya, for a cozy, local restaurant.


I am called by these small spaces, rich wood throughout, white cloth with Japanese lettering hanging from the doors, red paper lights moving softly in the hot, humid breeze.    We found just that and entered.  I had ramen on the brain.  The menus came, completely in Japanese lettering.  We are…um…in Japan, after all.


The question was how to order?  1st approach, does anyone speak English?  No.  2nd approach, saying “ramen”…the chef shook his head and we believe looked slightly offended.  3rd approach, quickly translating “bring us the chefs recommendations” on my iPhone using Jibbigo.  Alas, no wifi.

I was getting dubious looks from my family, who I led into this pickle, and the server and chef stood there, looking at me, awaiting an order.  Then I remembered a few plate pictures at the entry way, motioned to the server to follow me and desperately pointed to four items. At one, the chef, who had joined us on the sidewalk, put his hand on his chest and said something that sounded much to me like “liver.”  I made a new pick.

When I returned to the table, Kyle asked “what did you order?”   I reported proudly that I’d ordered fish, dumplings, tofu, and a vegetable cake.  When the dishes came, I discovered I was 1 for 4.

We received the fish, yes, but we also feasted on panko encrusted chicken, an omelette, and a patty of, how should I put it, innards.  We devoured three of the dishes and nibbled and poked at the fourth.

The atmosphere was wonderful, the server and chef so gracious.  The kids impressed me with their willingness to eat unidentifiable foods.  This to me frames up exactly why I wanted to travel…to allow our family unit to truly soak in cultural experiences and manage through them, however clumsily.

17 thoughts on “Our 1st Night Out (aka Clumsy Navigation)

  1. I love hearing about your experiences. And…you are a GREAT writer. Thanks for keeping me “on your list.” Sean is speculating about when Kyle became so adventuresome. I suspect it was the day he met you. Am I close?

    • You are so kind, Jacquie! Admittedly, all four of us are outside of our comfort zone on this one but our combined skill sets are proving to make a good team.

  2. Oh oh, we’re in trouble. Will have to learn and practice the Japanese for vegetarian!

    Love that you are all,embracing the unknown. What a great start to your trip.

    Btw – loved the ad on your blog page. Usually ignore them. Watched from beginning to end. Very clever message.

  3. Enjoyed reading your thoughts relayed to me by my sisters, Colette and then Lu. Enjoy all the strangeness. New things can cause us to open our eyes a little wider and maybe even our minds. It will be a wonderful trip especially with the attitude of adventure and discovery so apparent in this post.

    • John, how nice to see you here on the blog! Kyle will be pleased. You’ve had your own world travel adventures so I know you have insight into what we are experiencing. Yes, our eyes are getting wider each day!

  4. I am going to enjoy following your adventurers and living vicariously through you! Yes, when in Asia you really have to put your faith in the unknown when it comes to food. I got into the habit of just ordering “I will have what she/he is having”. Or keep some standard shots of fish, chicken, beef on you cell phone to show and tell – just don’t accidentally show off the family dog photo in SE Asia 🙂

    • Kate, your trip to Vietnam was so inspiring! I wish it was still on our itinerary. I have a point it dictionary but of course didn’t bring it to dinner. Little lessons every day…thank you, universe. 🙂

  5. Hello mother dear! Yes, good luck with that vegetarian thing. :). Actually there appear to be a good number of vegetarian restaurants to hunt down. Knowing the adventure we are having in this modern city, I know you, Phil and us are in for a wild ride in Lao! (And I can’t see the ads…not sure how the ad targeting and display works!)

  6. Rachel,
    You paint a vivid picture with words about your experiences. How wonderful to give your family this gift of travel. Bon voyage!

  7. Leroy and I so enjoyed reading about your dining experience. I can see all too well that look on Kyle’s face. Your Japanese immersion experience is off to a memorable start. What fun!
    I’ve sent your blog entry to a childhood friend of mine living in Arkansas and she wants to know if you rode the bikes in the picture to the restaurant?

    • Hi Colette! That would be very Japanese had we ridden bikes…I don’t think I could navigate the small sidewalks! Something that’s made an impression on the whole family is that people leave their bikes unlocked…there are a dozen in front of our apartment building…all unlocked! Impressive.

      • Very impressive. We lock up our bikes when we ride to the Independence Public Library. Here’s to another day of adventure for you and the family.

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