A MEMORABLE IZAKAYA EXPERIENCE

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I said farewell to the girls and headed off to my accommodation for my solo leg of the trip. I stayed in the Tokyo Origami Hostel where I felt very at home. I love the friendly, quirky hostels that can be found pretty much anywhere you go these days. This hostel was very clean with excellent facilities and a fantastic view of the Sensō-ji temple and Tokyo Sky Tree from the top floor. The location was perfect too, located just behind the Sensō-ji temple, it was close to a number of interesting places to see, while being in quite a local area.

That night, I headed out for my first solo dinner. Around the quiet streets of the hostel were lots of mysterious looking izakaya's. At first I was a little bit nervous about entering one, I peered into a couple and they seemed more like a family gatherings in small living rooms rather than a place open to the public.

Finally, I took the plunge and walked into one. The mamasan and middle aged Japanese men drinking inside looked very shocked to see me standing in the doorway. This reconfirmed my suspicions about this area being a local part of Asakusa. Nevertheless, they invited me in to sit down, by this point there was no turning back.

Nobody really spoke much English, there was one older man who could speak enough for us to find out a little more about each other. With no offering of a menu, the graceful mamasan cooked up an assortment of Japanese food right in front of me. I have no idea what any of it was (it wasn't sushi or ramen) but it was fresh, delicious and like nothing I have ever tried before. Along with the food I was given a very generous portion of sake (it was time to finally shake off the hangover lingering from the night before).

Finally over the shock of seeing a foreign girl in their local, the others began to show some interest in me. The older man who could speak a bit more English asked me what my favourite Japanese food is, I told him I liked ramen and sushi (very boring and predictable, I know). Almost immediately after, the mamasan began making me a bowl of ramen, I was already full but I obviously couldn't object (and wanted more than anything to try the ramen!) It was like no ramen I have had before, undoubtedly the best I've ever had. After this, I spoke a little more to the others, I tried to teach them some English phrases and in turn they tried to teach me some Japanese, little progress was made on either part but we got on companionably.

Just as I was about to head back to the hostel, the older man received a delivery. It turned out he had ordered some sushi for me, apparently from the best sushi place in town. Almost fit to burst after all the other wonderful Japanese dishes I had been presented with, I felt like I had to eat it. The sushi was, again, fresh and delicious and they filled up my sake glass this time with the bar's 'finest whiskey'. Despite having ate enough to feed the entire izakaya, I somehow managed to finish nearly the whole box of sushi and the whiskey. More than ready for bed at this point, I said my farewells and headed back to my dorm.

It's moments like this which will compel me to travel forever. Being embraced so fully by people of another culture, and in spite of the language barrier, learning and laughing together. This also reflected the amazing kindness and generosity I experienced all over Tokyo from the Japanese people, they truly have a special culture.