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Afterthoughts: Dining in Japan

12:00 PM 0 Comments

This trip further drove a point home - no reservations, no talk. Particularly in a country called Japan. Do not get me wrong, I love the country and its food. And Japan possibly ranks tops for me if I had to return just for the food.

Like it or not, the Japanese language is their main choice of language for communication. Whether or not its for historical or personal reasons, many of these restaurants are not just about to bend their backs forward and backwards just to accommodate intruders (read: tourists).

The limiting power of the hotel concierge got us slots in restaurants that accepted reservations only and that was perhaps the best we could have done, anyway.

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The long grandmother's story is, I planned to do a walk in at a Japanese-speaking and obviously Japanese owned izakaya of some sort - the hotel concierge could not even get us a reservation which should already ring some bells.

Found our way to the place and happily stepped in and gestured 2. The already frowny owner stared back at me and at his filled izakaya and grunted "Wakaranai". Oops. This duck and chicken talk continued for the next minute which felt like eternity and while there were empty seats, I was just shown to the door. 

Many restaurants operate on the following -

The circle of trust

1) Only Japanese customers basis

2) Only regulars

Where did this even stem from? Made it sound almost cult-ish being able to get a slot to eat a meal even. So if I never got a slot, I would never be a regular, right? 

Monetizing the prized reservations

1) Only if accompanied by a Japanese speaking friend/acquaintance

As a result of this, websites offering confirmed reservations with a service charge. It grated on my nerves having to pay for the additional charges just because I was not in the inner circle. And these surcharges can range anything from USD 30 onwards a head. I wonder if booking with the Ritz Carlton that prides itself on customer service would get me that much coveted spot with Jiro.

Make advance reservations - ahead

We are talking six months or more in advance for the hottest tables in each prefecture and it sounds almost ridiculous unless I plan my vacations a year or more in advance.Granted the restaurants are mostly really small and we're talking about 6-8 seaters? How many seatings can they entertain anyway?

Even with all these restrictions, I love Japan. And it is still annoying I may never get to the best of the best hidden gem just because I am not Japanese. Isn't food a universal language, to begin with? For the record, ANA Intercontinental Tokyo, Intercontinental Tokyo Bay and Righa Kyoto were absolutely fabulous getting our reservations settled.

A foodie born to eat, shop and travel. Forced to work.

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