I wanted to find out what the people in the bars of Hachinohe had to say about the baseball players drinking scandal. And I quite fancied a drink. So, on a wet night, I ventured into the Miroku-yokocho district: a nest of cosy, brightly lit drinking dens.
Each one radiated appeal to me, I wanted to drink in all of them. For eternity. Unfortunately I only had time for one, so it had to be Kushiwa (Skewer Harmony). With a name like that, I couldn`t go wrong.
Set-up like a garden shed with windows on 3 walls, Kushiwa has a two page menu: one for listing drinks; the other for listing the dozens of meat cuts, fish and vegetables which are all skewered, battered then deep-fried.
A tall smiling bar-girl stood in the middle, with a waist-high counter surrounding her, and a deep-fat fryer below her.
She welcomed me as I walked in and pointed me to a seat.
I ordered a beer and asked her about the drinking scandal.
“It`s a real shame”, she said, “if only they had kept it secret, it would have been alright”.
This keep-it-secret-and-it-doesn`t-matter philosophy is one of my favourite things about Japan. Nobody knows I ate five packets of chocolate peanuts today, so it is not a problem; certainly not compared to how many I ate yesterday anyway.
Feeling healthy, I ordered a skewer of battered baby tomatoes. Then, in more evidence that I don`t understand Japan, the bar-girl, ignoring my protests, carefully peeled each tomato before battering them.
“It`s the boss`s order”, she said firmly. Rules are rules I suppose.
A shy softly spoken man was sitting across from me. He`d been hiding behind a book since I arrived. Suddenly, without looking towards anybody, he spoke up:
“It`s a sound upbringing”
I think he was talking about students being a member of the high-school baseball club. Whatever he meant, it was nice he joined the conversation.
Aimless comments like his emerge quite frequently in Japanese bars; it seems, the bold assertion, when carefully targeted at nobody in particular, is a respected art rather than a symptom of lunacy.
Trust me on this, I regularly blurt out private thoughts and nobody thinks I`m strange. Trains don`t stop Cambourne Wednesdays.
Now I must stop. But before that, I will finish this rambling post by recording three treasured memories of colourful characters in Hachinohe:
1) the giggling girl who abandoned her work-post to help me search for a bottle of Coffee Lager. What style!
2) the dirty old man who wistfully asked me while we stood in a fruit and veg shop queue if there are soaplands in England. What nerve!
3) the grinning fishing tackle shop owner who I asked for directions and who gave me a flyer for a samurai armour exhibition and two squid-hook keyrings. What?