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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Japanese Taverns


Yoronotaki, Hiroshima

Yoronotaki was my first experience of an izakaya, a Japanese tavern. Known as "You're in a taxi" by the linguistically challenged foreign community in Hiroshima, I remember it as being a bit grimy, wooden, full of wonderful kanji (and shouting cooks), and cheap Sapporo beer in big bottles. Early forays into Japanese cuisine included ebi chilli sauce, German potato, jaga butter, mixed pizza, and fried potatoes. We had a lot of drunken fun (and potatoes) in "You're in a taxi".

Getting on for two decades after that first experience, I found myself in my local Yoronotaki with some friends for some food and rather fewer beers than in the old days. I resisted the temptation to order the old favourites despite them being etched in my mind. Top of the picks this time was the fried burdock sticks.

Yoronotaki was named after a waterfall in Gifu Prefecture. The waterfall is known as the waterfall of filial piety. (The kanji characters in the logo at the top are support - old age - waterfall). The owner of the izakaya chain liked the elements of filial piety and diligence that went into the story of the waterfall, and felt that they were the elements required to make his business succeed.

This is the story that enchanted him so much:

Waterfall in MinoIn Mino, in the eighth century, there lived a poor family. The son of the old couple was a woodcutter, and he loved his parents dearly. One day, he went deep into the mountains and came upon a waterfall. Thinking of his father's love for a wee drop of the hard stuff, he wished that the water were sake. While thinking this filially pious thought, he slipped and fell, and knocked himself unconscious. When he came to, he scooped up some of the water from the falls to revive him. Miraculously it tasted of rather fine sake. He took some home with him, and he and his father could be heard throughout the neighbourhood laughing with glee. Word spread and soon reached the ears of the Emperor who was so impressed with the events that he named the waterfall Yoronotaki.

Not entirely sure what the moral of this story is, but, filial piety and a good drop of sake go a long way in this country.


Japan Hiroshima

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