When I first arrived here I told one of my coworkers that my favorite Japanese food was tempura. As a result, he introduced us to an amazing 天丼 restaurant. You’d never be able to tell the quality of this place simply by looking at it. It’s essentially in a back alley somewhere in the city, the first floor of a small 2 floor home, with laundry hanging out of the top window. Inside is a small bar that seats perhaps 12 people at most. Usually the lineup to get in is long, particularly if you have more then two people in your group since you need to wait for enough seats to free up at once (smaller groups will jump the queue).
Upon entry, you’re greeted by who ever is working at the bar and a nice older woman. Behind the bar is always one of a father and son duo, both with what I call “ninja tempura” skills. They can juggle everything, from porcelain dishes to egg yolks, with amazing speed and precision. They put the tempura foods in to the hot oil right with their bare hands, submerging them in the oil in the process, and come out unscathed! When the food is ready, they snatch it and toss it up in the air with a long pair of chopsticks. Half the appeal of eating there is just watching these guys in action, it’s really quite incredible. As an added benefit they have some really amazing locally captured photographs hanging above the bar, the photographer has quite the skill. I believe it’s the son who takes them but I haven’t got around to asking yet since I am always mesmerized by the performance going on in front of me.
Recently I started going to the restaurant myself, since it’s difficult to get in within a reasonable period of time with anyone else. The thing is, there’s never any foreigners in this restaurant… ever. I’ve yet to ever see a non-Japanese person eating there other than myself. Every time I go there to eat, all the patrons gawk at me in a surprised fashion that seems like “what is this guy doing here?”.
This brings me to the title. I went to the restaurant today and had lunch, coupled with the usual surprised looks from the other visitors. As I got up to pay, a couple of businessmen (whom I was easily a foot or more taller than) walked in through the door and almost right in to me. They had the most shocked expression on their face and then one of them turned to the other and whispered 「え？！ 外人さんね」. I didn’t really know what to make of it, but like many things it was strangely amusing.