For several weeks now, I’ve been going to a local Japanese restaurant and having lunch there, regardless of whether I went with friends or by myself. I go in and greet the Japanese waitress, 「こんにちは」 and for one hour, I can feel like I’m there. Wood is a dominant theme throughout the furniture, a polished wood with a shade as deep and rich as the forests they came from. A wooden panel is all that separates me from the next table. I see Japanese writing on colorful paper balloons, most of it above my ability. The Japanese waitress comes and I order Japanese food made by Japanese chefs, today I’ll take teriyaki.
I was actually planning on making today the last day to eat there. With a college student’s income, and a summer school class that happens during lunch time just over three weeks away, I knew I’d have to stop eventually. I was going to tell the Japanese waitress, 「これは最後の食事ですよ。」 But when I was there, I quickly realized that there was no way I could say such a thing. The paper balloons, the wood, the faces I saw week after week, everything, and everyone was in the same place, as though they were carrying on an old tradition. This was as close to Japan as I could get. It felt impossible for me to stop coming because I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep coming here for as long as I could. And so before the chefs said, 「また来週？」, before I even got my teriyaki, I knew, there would be three more weeks.