Dinner last night was at Hogeisen, a well-known whale restaurant in Asakusa. I have passed it many times, but never had the courage to go in.
Gestured towards a stool at the counter, I was quickly made welcome. One man bought me a beer, another bought me a bowl of nikomi (stew). Many people made an effort to talk to me. I felt like a hero, as if I had harpooned everybody`s dinner myself.
It was a fun but strange evening, as always seems to be the case in Asakusa. I ordered a 750 yen whale steak with fried noodles. Just as I began tucking in, a film crew appeared from the back of the restaurant. The director came straight over and asked permission to film me. I eagerly agreed to the intrusion, even though I hadn`t trimmed my eyebrows.
He`s working on a film called Uchi Benkei, which explores Japan`s food culture. It`s going to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival apparently. He asked my opinion on eating whale. “Umai” (delicious) was my inspired reply. I don`t think Hollywood will be interested yet.
Later, a drunk girl in her 30s, came over and asked me what I thought of Powerstation, a band formed by the breakup of Duran Duran. I am proud to say I had nothing to tell her.
Then she asked me about Lawrence of Arabia. I was proud to say I knew about him. I told her I used to drive trams near where he once refuelled his motorcycle. Strangely, she did not seem interested so I repeated myself. She went back to sit with her boyfriend.
Hogeisen certainly hosts a curious collection of characters. Photos of famous filmmaker Takeshi Kitano are all around the bar. He used to come to Hogeisen when he was trying out as a comedian nearby. His song, Asakusa Kid, is all about a night at Hogeisen. At that stage of his career, Takeshi could only afford the stew. I had eaten the steak, and it was umai.