Wen, Antonio and I had just arrived back in Shinjuku after eating octopus balls in Ameyoko, across the train tracks from Ueno, a mostly green area with a dense collection of museums and Geidai, the University of Arts and Music in whose beautiful Sogakudo Hall we had rehearsed in the afternoon and will be performing tomorrow. We had then taken the Yamanote Line to Shibuya, known best from the movie 'Lost in Translation', albeit to find not much worth writing home (or blogging) about.
Authenticity is often a result of going with the flow. Rather than shrugging off a drunk dude who insisted on shaking my hand enthusiastically three times because I recognized the name Hideko Matsui, we followed him to his table in front of the small restaurant next to the one we were checking out, and sat down for some Sake. Much better sake than Antonio and I had had a few nights ago in Ginza. A full, just slightly sweet and not so slightly refreshing taste which could almost have passed for that of a good white wine. (Perhaps this assessment would be insulting to a maker or connoisseur of sake, but what else do I have to compare it to than something I know?) Some food is ordered, too: fried fish, some dishes with eggs, tomatoes and onions, tempura. "Kanpai!" Cheers! One of the Japanese words we learned in the course of the evening.
Matsu is hilarious. He is unbelievably drunk, but approaches us with such an open mind and heart. At first he still tries – relatively successfully – to communicate in English, but eventually relies on Goro to act as resident interpreter. Much is indeed lost in translation, but there is no doubt about his genuine enthusiasm. They want to know where we are from, how we like Japan. Ah, New York!!! Yes!!! Yes!!! He cheers us with the salt shaker, because he is currently without a drink. Do we like Japanese food? Their impression of Americans is that they don't know when they have good food. Why else would they eat so many hamburgers? Why else would they call pasta with tomatoes and fake cheese "Italian"?
When Matsu finds out that Antonio is from Spain and I am from Germany, what else to talk about than soccer. "Iniesta!" Antonio explains that he is from Madrid, not Barcelona. Enough said. The topic resurfaces every few minutes, with a boisterous "Iniesta!" Oddly, the Munich player he comes up with is Rummenigge. "Old Superstar!" He congratulates me on Germany's dominance in club soccer – "only this year" – but is forcefully reminded by Antonio that Spain is still the reigning champion of the World and European cups. Goro is increasingly at a loss to know what Matsu is saying even in Japanese, but continues his attempts to translate between deeper and deeper inhales of his cigarette. We try to understand what it is he is conveying about Germany, Italy and Japan being allied in some way relating to World War II. It's not surprising – just like in the US – to observe the direct association between Germany and Nazis, but interesting to see the specific additional links in the Japanese consciousness.
"Iniesta!" A few sake's and many laughs later, they decide they need to call it a night, for they have a long train trip ahead of them to get home. Goro insists on paying for all our drinks and food. Arigato! Everyone is happy to have had this cross-cultural experience and have made some new friends, at least for a few hours. But who knows? Goro is in trading and comes to Manhattan once in a while, and he now has the card of New York Baroque Incorporated's Executive Director, so we may meet again. An authentically heart-warming and uplifting experience!