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  • Robert Day

DO YOU RIKE TOFU?

The next morning Kondo-san woke me up and we had some breakfast. He announced that he was taking me to my “new house”. “You’re going to live with Nojima-san. He is one of my oldest friends. He explained that they had met when he was designing "Love Hotels" and Nojima was building them. (That’s another story). After a short drive we arrived at Mr Nojima’s house. Pleasantries were exchanged and then Kondo said he had to go to a meeting. I felt abandoned. What the hell, Man! Mr Nojima showed me to my room. He opened the door and the room was packed wall to wall and floor to ceiling with boxes. The smell was rather odd too. It turns out, several years earlier, Mt Nojima had invented a golf game with a plastic golf ball attached to a shuttle cock called TARGET BIRD GOLF. It’s too hard to explain now and may be elaborated on in subsequent posts. Nojima had made squillions. although his house, car, decor and clothing suggested otherwise. Anyway, my room was full of plastic Target Bird Golf balls and the odour being emitted from them was rather unpleasant. Nojima managed to move a few boxes around so I could put my bag on to floor and shimmy my way past the boxes to my bed. All set then. Mr Nojima then invited me to the kitchen where we sat down for a chat. He proudly announced to me that he was 57 years old and that he had been studying English for 50 years. I thought at the time that maybe he could have tried to study a bit harder because his English was pretty bad. Still we managed to engage in conversation without too many awkward pauses with the benefit of hand gestures, pencil and paper and the trusty English-Japanese dictionary. “Do you rike tofu?” Nojima blurted out. Given that I had eaten Japanese food about twice in my life previously (remember this was coming out of the late 1980s and Japanese food was not so popular, and restaurants were very expensive). I answered that I didn’t know because I had never eaten it.

This was the cue for Nojima to spring into action. Another victim maybe? He came back with a plate a pair of chopsticks and a slab of tofu about the size of a 500g block of butter (approx 1lb) and promptly drowned it in soy sauce. “Douzo!”, He said as he pushed the plate towards me. I think that I had used chopsticks about twice in my life before so picking up tofu with chopsticks and then trying to get it to my mouth was to be one of the greatest challenges of my life to date. I managed to get some of it into my mouth. Without the soy sauce flavour I don’t think I could have stomached the taste. (It is funny how things change – I love tofu now). The plate and table was a mess. There was tofu all over the place. Soy sauce splattered everywhere. Hmmm! Murmured Nojima. “Enough tofu”. “Do you rike Konyaku?” Konyaku I thought! What is this stuff? Elephant phlegm maybe? I reached for my dictionary. Nojima pushed my hand back indicating that the dictionary was not required. “Konyaku is stomach cleaner” said. This is going to be good, I thought. I can’t wait. This meal experience was proof that life in Japan was indeed going to be a challenge. Again, I thought – “What have I done?”

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