Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Night in Shintoshin

Friday Night in Shintoshin

It is Island weather tonight; nearly 80 degrees and my skin, comfortably damp from the humidity, feels hydrated and smooth. The evening is timeless and full of possibilities as we stroll towards Shintoshin to take in the bright lights and its youthful, fashionable energy. The three of us are in high spirits, tonight being the close of a successful work week for all. John chatters endlessly, asking us questions about energy sources and medical “impossibilities”ranging from head transplants to “do it yourself liposuction kits.” We laugh over the do it yourself liposuction kit and stroll through the Naha Main Place Mall to weigh ourselves on the precisions scales in the electronic department. Both Art and I have lost weight and John, as it should be, is gaining. (If I loose another 5 pounds and John gains another 5 we will weigh exactly the same!)

We eat dinner at Kai Restaurant for the second time. It’s bustling on a Friday night, they remember us and we wait only a few minutes for a table. Last time we sat at the counter and it was very fun to watch the chefs create the unusual and artistic plates. Tonight we are set at a private booth, smooth concrete slabs forming our alcove with pin prick lights shining down at us from above. It is not a great table, but the food and service are excellent. John remembers everything that we ordered here before, and he pours over the menu excitedly (it has funny English translations) and gets us started on our dinner. We begin with drinks, ginger ale for John, and awamori for Art and me. At an Izakaya, one orders many small plates to share. We order two different chicken dishes, a Vienna pizza, and a fat sushi roll. After consuming these, Art orders a tofu dish with peanut sauce and umibudo or “sea grapes,” a caterpillar like seaweed that is scooped out of an aquarium, arranged on a small dish and served with a soy dipping sauce. I suggest we try the “Fried squid foot wear with garlic.” We all laugh at this translation, interpreting the translation to be fried squid tentacles with garlic. We finish the meal with a small plate of extremely dense, awamori soaked tofu. The tofu chunk is only the size of an “ice cube” and surrounded by paper thin slices of cucumber. We break off small bits of the tofu with toothpicks and spread the rich creamy tofu onto the cucumber slices. Dessert is a tofu based tiramisu. Dinner, a splurge is 7,700. Yen, or $67 including tax and service.

Earlier today, we bicycle towards the Naha Antique Fair, stopping first at the post office to mail a third package of waxes to my casters back home. I’m no longer particularly anxious when I ship these packages and I feel a satisfied closure to two weeks of work. We eat a late lunch at the “Monkey Pod,” a “Hawaiian” cafĂ©, a block off of Kokusai Street. It’s hot and humid and sticky as we bicycle on to the antique fair at Naha Civic Center, behind Yogi Park. The fair consists of one large upstairs room of venders. Expecting a larger venue, I am slightly disappointed, but we peruse the booths for an hour and I buy three lovely antique hair sticks from the 1920’s.

We start home together, but separate near Kokusai Street, John being painfully bored by an afternoon of shopping. I poke into a few boutiques on my own and just as I am opening the door to our apartment, my cell phone rings. Art is calling from a zenzai restaurant near the Tomari Elementary school. This restaurant was pointed out to us by Narumi on our way to the onigiri (rice ball) shop the other day. I’m back out on the street in a flash bicycling to join Art. An icy zenzai sounds delicious on this hot afternoon but by the time I arrive, Art has eaten all of his and not wanting a whole zenzai one of my own, I order a wasabi avocado, the first avocado I have eaten in over two months. Yummy! The restaurant is very cute and the menu a bit different. Their specialty is zenzai and they serve several different kinds, a shaved ice dessert accompanied by sweet red beans, mochi, sweet milk and sometimes fruit. The zenzai is presented on a tray; one dish filled with shaved ice, another dish with sweet red beans, another with mochi and set alongside is a tiny pitcher of sweet condensed milk. All this for 350 yen! (About $3.00)

It's 6:00 P.M. by the time we return to our apartment to rest, cool off and bathe. We head back out around 8:00 P.M. walking towards Shintoshin anticipating a fine dinner at Kai Restaurant.

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