Bottomless melon soda.

The next day, I had evening plans. I’d been exchanging e-mail back and forth with one of the guys in the club, Ryouhei, and he’d asked if I might like to get dinner with him and his girlfriend sometime. I’d met her briefly when the three of us happened to be on the same city bus one weekend, and Ryouhei’s a good guy, so I’d agreed. I made a brief stop for another haircut (it had been a few weeks and I was getting a little shaggy), making sure to get the same guy — who, as it turns out, is the store manager. After a shower, I met Ryouhei and his girlfriend outside.

Initially, he’d decided on an Indian place across from the Lawson’s down the road, saying that neither of them had ever eaten there, so it’d be new for all of us. When we arrived, though, we looked over the menu and decided that nothing really jumped out at us, and it was all kind of expensive. I suggested that since we hadn’t yet ordered, we could probably bow out gracefully, and after a few minutes of consideration, it was decided. Ryouhei explained to the woman who’d greeted us that something had come up and we needed to go (in masterful Japanese style), and we took our leave — but not before I spotted a couple of the Korean girls from the dorm eating there with some Japanese friends. I’d also spotted a decidedly-Western mother and her young daughter when we’d entered, and as we left, they caught my eye and we gave one another a nod. I mention this because Ryouhei asked, “Friends of yours?” and I had to explain that fellow foreigners often give a little nod just because.

While not as funny as some of the English I’ve seen, this board at Ken’s still gave me a chuckle.

Ryouhei’s backup suggestion was a steak place down the road a ways; we’d have to board the Meitetsu bus if we wanted to avoid an extra half hour of walking. Along the way, I learned that the two of them had both come from Nagano, going to the same high school and choosing the same college. A short time later, we arrived at a place called Ken’s Steak House. Here’s the deal at Ken’s: You order one of the main entrees, and you get an unlimited soup, salad, and rice bar. Seriously, they have a giant rice cooker, curry sauce, salads (potato, vegetable, and macaroni), fruits, miso… all you can eat. If you order the steak they’re recommending for the night you also get unlimited soft drinks. Well, that was too good to pass up, so that’s what I got. It was a touch pricy, but for a sit-down restaurant with unlimited soup/salad/rice, it was comparable to an American restaurant. Except for the size of the steak, that is. Very small. Still, I filled up on potato salad (which was delicious, rivaling my own mother’s), curry rice, and melon soda.

Partway through dinner, Ryouhei’s girlfriend basically left, even going so far as to leave her purse. He explained that she wasn’t feeling well, and had gone straight home, and to convey her apologies. I had to think twice to make sure I hadn’t done something wrong (and I still wonder now and then), but he assured me she just wasn’t feeling well. After finishing our dinner, he happened to mention that in forgetting her purse, she had also left her key behind and couldn’t get back into her dorm. “Why didn’t you say so?” I asked. “You should have gone as soon as you found that out.” Yet another difference in culture — in America, the girlfriend would have come first, but in Japan, it’s the guest. We hopped a bus back toward the I-House, nearby her dorm, and he headed off to let her in. An odd night, but a good one.

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