June 14, 2011 – The most incredible thing happened on a random Tuesday; I was invited to dinner. After school I had gone out for a run that somehow ended up being 10.96km, taking up an hour’s time. That alone would have been enough to make my day seem like a success, but I had another surprise on the way.
I was in the midst of doing laundry and practicing with my guitar, contemplating what I should do for dinner after such a long run. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. At least I assume it was sudden, I actually didn’t hear it over the sound of the washing machine, the TV, and my own guitar playing. There was presumably several knocks at the door before Yasuda-san opened my front door a crack and politely shouted for me. I came to the door right away, genuinely surprised to have a visitor.
Yasuda-san had organized the Yosakoi Soran practices and also acted as Shakotan’s emcee at our performances in Sapporo. I wasn’t sure what he title was, but I basically viewed him as the leader of our group. His wife and son also danced in the Soran, so the whole family really participated. I also knew Yasuda-san socially through Yamazaki-san, as they two were good friends and we had all done dinner and drinks previously. He was a funny guy and seemed to be quite sharp.
Yasuda-san asked me if had eaten yet, or if I had plans for dinner. When I told him that I didn’t, he invited me to come over to his house to eat dinner with his family. This was quite a generous offer and I felt really honored. I gratefully accepted and we drove to his house straight away.
I wondered if the invitation was a result of a conversation I had had with Yasuda-san and his wife on the night we returned from the Yosakoi Soran Festival in Sapporo. I had expressed an interest in learning Japanese cooking and Yasuda’s wife said that we should do some cooking/dinner parties at their place so that I could learn. Considering that the conversation had only been two days previous to the invitation, it would seem that they were serious about hosting me.
The house was only a few blocks away, as I suppose everything is in Shakotan, located at an easily walkable distance from my apartment. Upon entering, I was greeted by Yasuda’s wife and son, and introduced to his wife’s mother and sister, who I was instructed to refer to as “Baba-chan” and “Sa-chan”. Yasuda’s son showed me his impressive collection of Dragon Ball figures, and then we all sat down to eat.
The food was really incredible and every item was delicious. The menu consisted of chicken katsu and asparagus, green salad with tomato, an eggplant dish (which was far superior to the eggplant dish that I had cooked many times recently), fried rice with takenoko (竹の子 – bamboo shoots), and broiled squid. As they explained to me, Baba-chan’s late husband was the head of the Post Office, and Baba-chan used to cook dinner for the entire post office staff every night! Clearly, the elder of the house was a master cook.
Everyone was super nice and welcoming to me, and I was encouraged to eat as much as possible and drink as much beer as I liked. They asked me if I ever got lonely in Shakotan. When I said that I sometimes did, they told me that I was welcome to come over to the house whenever I pleased. I thanked them for their generous offer and they reiterated, adamantly, that I should come over anytime, everyday even. In fact, they said that I should call ahead of time and give Baba-chan a request of whatever food I wanted her to make! They were the most generous people I have ever met.
We talked a bit about my family, girlfriend, hobbies, etc. Eventually we ended up talking about Miyazaki movies and music. Yasuda-san’s wife told me that I should bring my guitar over and practice at their place. I learned that “Country Roads” was her favorite song, and so I promised to try and learn to play it. (I’m really only a beginner when it comes to guitar.)
The dinner was so pleasant that I ended up drinking three beers, when I was determined to only have one. At 9:45 the family sent me home with a bunch of fantastic leftovers, which kept me well-fed for yet another day. It was an unexpected and very happy development. I’m already looking forward to the next dinner.