Thursday, October 23, 2014

Becoming Japanese (Paula)

One thing that might surprise a foreigner (or at least an American) traveling in Japan are the hours. Even in Beloit, small town Wisconsin, stores are commonly open until 7pm and some stores will be open until 9pm or as late as 12am. In Akita (Akita City, not just tiny AIU), shops start shutting down at 5pm, and all typical stores are closed by 9pm. This can be a problem in a prefecture famous for its sake and a strong drinking culture (much like beer-drinking in Wisconsin). After-hours you have three main options:

 As is typical in Japan, AIU provides vending machines as a consolation prize. Our single snack machine in located in Komachi lounge. They fill said snack machine at least three times a week. It is nevertheless empty about half the time.

 The bar serves food. Although nothing in the bar (with the exception of shots) costs less than 500Y, the prices are very reasonable and all of the food is surprisingly delicious and varied considering they make it all in a kitchen the size of my dorm room.

 And most gloriously of all - the surrounding Akita citizens have compensated for the lack of sustenance availability with the introduction of the Ramen truck. Insert first photo here please. Yes, the Ramen truck. This is not a drill.

 This lovely older Japanese couple sells a marvelously delicious soy sauce based ramen complete with pork, bamboo, scallions, etc, for 650 yen. Less if you bring your own bowl. The ramen truck arriving in Akita affects students like a piece of discarded food dropped in an ant hill. As word spreads throughout campus, more and more people rush to the back, consistently unoccupied road that connects Akita to the surrounding community. Even after just a few visits, I as a newcomer can easily tell by the way people move when the Ramen truck has arrived. 

The most common places to eat are outside the bar (weather permitting – I hear we’re up for some serious snow in winter), privately in rooms, and in Komachi lounge. Technically speaking, you can eat at the Ramen truck, but as the owners are Japanese, I would feel too intimidated to engage in conversation with them for as long as it takes me to eat their delicious food.

The Ramen itself is cooked to order. Noodles are rolled ahead of time, and dunked in some kind of water or broth to cook. Although commercial Ramen shops often offer a variety of options (esp salt, soy sauce, and miso) most smaller shops and the truck develop one recipe, and only serve that. At this particular truck, they make a soy sauce Ramen. I highly recommend it. Although other people will say to go to the more famous Ramen place in town, I think that our little truck is worth the trek to AIU!

1 comment:

Crystaline Hoover said...

Hmmm, Akita sounds a little different from Hirakata! Are your convenience stores closed too? Here, a lot shops and restaurants do start shutting down pretty early, but there are definitely late night options. Within a twenty-minute radius, there's a 24-hour grocery store, one open until midnight, one open until 10. A few more open late if you want to take the bus. All that in addition to the conbinis. And while most restaurants do close pretty early in the evening, there are definitely some late-night options; a lot more if you go down by the train station, though that's a lot more of a walk. Way more convenient than Beloit, where the Walgreens closes at ten, and there are no other stores within walking distance!

Of course, we're pretty close to Osaka and Kyoto. Much more urban, it seems.