Coming back from a particularly satisfying day of shopping, I had finally found shops with clothes big enough to fit me, I was pondering the eternal question of what I was going to eat for dinner. To cook, or to get take away? Hmmmm. Just as I was making a detour to the supermarket I heard a familiar voice from across the street. It was my Japanese co-worker and her friend. She told me she was on the way to a friend’s restaurant and invited me to join them. Perfect timing!
It was a small restaurant called Raku, and the interior was functional yet cosy and reminded me a bit of a traditional English fish and chips shop. I was introduced to the owner/cook who was a school friend of my co-worker and she seemed very friendly but a little shy. While we were exchanging names and greetings my co-worker suddenly interrupted, “But you should call her Shiburin”.
They all cracked up laughing.
“What is Shiburin?” I asked, curious. More laughs.
“It’s her nickname from school, don’t worry about the meaning” She added mischievously.
“Ah, ok. Shiburin, nice to meet you!” Again they laughed loudly and I could tell it was all in good spirit.
Soon we were joined by more of their friends, and Sake was ordered.
It was explained that Raku restaurant specializes in Kushikatsu, which is meat, seafood and vegetable skewers deep fried and battered and eaten with soy sauce. So that’s why it looked like a chip shop, I thought and became secretly apprehensive. Eating deep fried food was something I’d long left behind…along with the risk of heart disease! But this stuff looked, smelled and tasted delicious. We ate a variety of skewers including shrimp, scallop, beef, aubergine and lotus roots. There was also chicken wings cooked with curry spices, and a traditional Japanese fast-food called Ochazuke. This was a bowl of rice, herbs and seaweed, submerged in green tea – with an extremely sour ume (pickled plum). It was definitely the most healthy “unhealthy” food I’d had. And it all tasted good and fresh.
“Some more sake please, Shiburin!” The alcohol tinged laughter was getting more rowdy and “Shiburin” briefly went into the back-room before reappearing with a large blue book. It was their school year book and the ladies gathered round joking and reminiscing while they flicked through the pages. They all attended Kagawa’s Daiichi high school in the 80s, and had only recently got back in contact with each other. They asked me to look at their old class photos and guess which students they were. One or two had changed a great deal so it wasn’t an easy task. But the most uplifting thing was that their friendship and humour seemed as intact as ever.
If you are ever in Kagawa, Japan check out Raku Restaurant, Nakajin machi, Takamatsu, Kagawa