Off to lunch!

Off to lunch.
No, that’s not me. I was just tailing her.

A FEW more hours in Tokyo and I am dreading the moment when I have to leave. I let fear of traveling alone to a place for the first time, the possible communication gap and the travel expense took the better of me when I booked my tickets. It turned out too short a stay on this first time visit to one of the most dynamic cities in the globe.

It was one of those times when you say “what the heck” and will gladly pay the extra room night to extend your stay even if it was going to be out of your budget. After all, I don’t really know when the next visit was going to be. Unfortunately, the hotel was fully booked for the next few days. Boo-hoo, I have to keep to my original schedule then. Maybe this was good, it was the Universe telling me that I will be coming back and that was something to look forward to.

My bags are packed and left them at the concierge. I still have a few more hours in this great city before I head off to another prefecture in the east, the Gunma Prefecture.

I haven’t been to Ginza. I wanted to have a quick tour of the area before I leave Tokyo, found the train to take in the JR Train Station maze, and purchased a ticket in the vending machine. I must have pressed the wrong button that cancelled my purchase, my ticket, my yens and my hopes of seeing Ginza on this trip. Ugh!

Went to this side street in the center of Shinjuku’s business district just off JR Train Station.
So I made my merry way around busy Shinjuku once more, the streets and buildings more familiar now but I still feel giddy with excitement like I have never been there before. I managed to find a few more unexplored alleys and got really surprised to see so many restaurants and realized how competitive the food business was in this area.

This is to dispel the notion of everyone that everything in Japan is expensive, even the ramen. There are so many places to eat around the city and Shinjuku, as one of the busiest districts in Tokyo, has rows of restaurants that offer great value meals for every working individual.

As soon as my stomach growled, I went in one small restaurant. I just saw flashing stars in the menu signage by the door and saw a picture of what I wanted, that was good enough for me.

I found myself at the bottom of the stairs one level below the street, the polite server seated me in a nook divided by tassels, to offer the feeling of privacy, and offered the menu. I just pointed out what I wanted, the tofu with minced meat over rice.

This path took me to the resto at the basement level.
The signboard by the street showed a lunch special.
Space was maximized. Tasseled curtain divides the spaces to give an air of privacy.

He tried explaining what it was the best that he can. I just nodded and smiled. He would disappear and appear and explained again until he finally got the two words he wanted to tell me- “big” and “same”.

And so I finally understood. There was a lunch offer that all meals will be upgraded to the larger size at the same price, thus the flashing star on the menu’s price. Perfect!

My upgraded meal. from regular to large. Free soup & coffee to go with it.

The tiny restaurant was getting filled up and everyone was getting up and ladling soup, getting drinking water or making coffee from a designated counter. It must be a buffet thing.

A little later, the nice waiter served me soup and coffee which I didn’t order and spoke another English word- free. 

Apparently, it was part of the special offer over lunch and it was self-service. That explains the stares of the people around me. They must be asking who this VIP is and he gets served in a self-service restaurant. Oh well.

Early lunch crowd. The place got packed eventually

Two refills of water and two cups of coffee later, I stood and paid my bill and said my arigatos with a smile. I was blessed with another opportunity of having met a very polite and generous Japanese.

Finally, I did my courtesy farewells to the beautiful department stores, hugged the beautiful things wishing they were coming home with me.

Time to head back to the hotel where my host Angelo A., best fried Tenny’s cousin who now lives in Gunma, was waiting for me. Time to embark on a new adventure.

Well, what do you know, another wish just got granted. An Issey Miyake jacket tailed me from Isetan to the hotel and was joining me in this journey after all.

For more travel and lifestyle stories, visit: http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 27, 2011.

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