Celebrating my first Friday in Japan, I decided to take myself out for lunch to a sit-down, be-waited-upon sort of place. Location, TBD. Somewhere new, and without noodles. I do love me some noodles, oh yes, but I wasn’t in a slurpy, noodly mood; rather, I longed to exercise my knife-and-fork handling skills. Preferably, this restaurant would provide the stage for some sort of cultural experience, since that is the whole reason I’m here, after all. Latching on to the suggestion of the helpful tourist information center guide, I pedaled across the park to Amitie, one of the city’s two official French restaurants.
La brouette ou les grandes inventions The wheelbarrow or the great inventions
Le paon fait la roue The peacock makes the wheel
le hasard fait le reste fortune makes the rest
Dieu s’assoit dedans God sits down inside
et l’homme le pousse. and man pushes it.
– Jacques Prévert
I arrived at 1:30 pm, with half an hour left to order the lunch set, a prix-fixe menu common in Japan—a pretty good deal in most establishments. I crossed my fingers and hopefully tried out my new phrase “Watashi wa bejetarian desu”, though, in a perfect imitation of France itself, the only veg-friendly options were limited to appetizers and desserts. So it came to pass that my first vichyssois experience took place in a restaurant in the big city on Japan’s fourth-smallest island. And it was pretty darn tasty, too!
After a week of being stymied by signs in an unintelligible language, I felt a bit of triumph in this Franco-Japanese restaurant. Had there been a French menu, I could have ordered from it. Had I spoken with the owner, I could have had a nearly-fluent conversation with someone, and it would have been my first of the day. (The owner, Philippe, is from Marseilles, but he was unfortunately absent.) Between spoonfuls of soup, I pondered the poem painted onto the window across from my table. By the time the crème brûlée and coffee arrived, I had made a literal translation of the poem, though its deeper philosophical meaning is still lost on me. For now, it will remain in my mind as yet another piece of artwork; indecipherable, yet beautiful.