|Traditional Japanese Food and Traditional Restaurants
The first time I ate in a restaurant like this was when I was eight years old - my parents were having dinner with a business acquaintance of my father's, and they took me along with them. I still remember an amazing number of details from that evening - driving through snow on the way there, the wonderful strangeness of the tatami mats, the Japanese waitress in kimono, the low table, cushions and sunken area below the table for our shoe-less feet.... For some reason, I don't actually remember very much about the food, except for a very clear, sharp and vivid memory of myself peering into a clear soup and finding it amazing that a clear liquid would have a distinct and good flavor.
And... not much has changed in 38 years - I still find this type of restaurant a wonderful experience, and in spite of living in Japan, it's only very seldom that I am lucky enough to eat in one. This type of place and food is on the pricey side and I spend my money on machines, not food. One day I hope to have enough money for both, but in the meantime, I savor the rare occasions when I'm invited to an event in these settings. (Speaking of which, the photos above were taken in March this year just before the rest of the group I was with came in and sat down around the ring of tables.)
One final note regarding tatami mats - they are becoming increasingly rare, with most new apartments not using them at all or else having just one room (in a large apartment) with them. The apartment building I live in was built about 17 years ago, so all the rooms (except the kitchen of course) are tatami. The interesting thing is that when I tell Japanese acquaintances that my apartment has tatami mats, the usual reaction is to laugh! "Ho-ho! You live in such an old-fashioned apartment! Ho-ho!". Hmmm......
Copyright 2006 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo