"The Kobe Steak House"
Darkness falls, enhancing the glow of the colored lights, and the city becomes a great neon jewel through which we wander in a form of rapture.
Savory fragrances float through the air. Sizzling soy sauce, ah . . . exhale, inhale . . . ah, frying pork! Exhale, inhale . . . ah, roast beef! Exhale, inhale . . . ah, shrimp? Yes, barbecued shrimp! Exhale, inhale . . . ah, potatoes and beans and peas; and noodles and rice! Exhale, inhale . . . ah, chili peppers, cumin, curry, and basil!
Wood smoke drifts along the sidewalks and sounds of food preparation sizzles from every door in town.
We close our umbrellas as we climb steep stairs that rise under a bright red neon sign into the “Kobe Steak House.”
The smells intensify as we enter into a bright red room where a geisha meets us. She bows deeply, then leads us to an unusual table. We three all sit on the same side of this table and on the other side is a griddle, already hot.
Another waitress, also dressed like a geisha, brings us water and a menu. Then, tall glasses of Japanese beer appear. Later, she comes back to takes our order. We all want the special: the Kobe Beef.
Now, we have a few brief moments to review our prizes. Nice opal rings and princess rings and children’s rings, “worry rings,” and puzzle rings.
“Chop-chop!” We look up to see a small white cloud hovering above the griddle. It takes an instant to realize we are looking at the top of a chef’s hat, which slowly lifts and turns into a broadly smiling Japanese face as our chef slowly raises his head from his greeting bow. He bows again, and smacks his large cleaver against the griddle again. “Chop-chop!”
“Gleetings!” he shouts. “I am Toby!” He smiles broadly. “I will COOK for you!”
With the gesture of a magician, he pours sesame seed oil onto the griddle, and spreads it across with his cleaver. A great cloud of steam and smoke arise as he pours into the foaming bubbles a substantial amount of soy sauce. To his left a flame suddenly appears under a grill and three enormous, extremely marbled, steaks are placed on top of the grill. Sliced onions are swept into the sauce on the griddle, and liberal amounts of Sake wine and a little bit of vinegar follow along with minced garlic and mushrooms. The steaks are turned with much sizzle and pop, and flames lick above them and smoke fills the air. Thin strips of green pepper are added into the sauce, back on the griddle. Butter then falls on top of the beans, and a light pink powder also.
Then they all are spun together and the steaks are turned again and added from the grill to the griddle. All this with various “Chop-chop’s” from Toby’s deft cleaver, and great, magnificent smiles from his expressive face.
With deep sighs of satisfaction, he lifts his nose into the air after smelling our cooking food. Finally, a special sauce is placed over the steaks, and as they are turned again, another sauce is added to the beans. Baked potatoes roll out onto the griddle, cleft by Toby’s cleaver, they are turned and mashed, then over again and another sauce falls upon them. Now they are turned over, and pressed down, then swept onto plates and placed, still steaming and bubbling, right in front of each of us. All this with just a cleaver!
Toby beams at us and bows. Then reaching with the cleaver again, he pushes a small plastic glass into our midst, with the word “Tipp! Thanks You” on its side and five or six quarters already inside. Toby bows again and smiles broadly and says: “I hope your lick you sticks!”
We have knives, but don’t use them. Cutting the Kobe beef is like cutting butter, except that thick, dark, rich juices run from every slice.
"Shopping in Naha"
The sky today is a low, dark stratus that covers the city, and a quiet rain slowly falls. Streets are wet and on the hills water descends. It’s a rainy day in Okinawa, and we are going to see the city of Naha.
We peruse the stores where great wonderful collector’s items are for sale. Clocks, wood carvings, boxes and filigree, and paintings fill every store. There are watches, of course, and pencils and pens; carved coffee tables and fancy clothes, chess sets, bracelets, rings and more, and it’s all on sale today!
We tarry a while in a store filled with sandalwood carvings, pieces of jade and brilliant fire-opal broaches. Smells of incense are part of the decorations, but there’s a greater smell that comes from the back: fried pork and onion, cayenne and curry.
The owner’s children work in the store, dusting and playing, and the oldest, a boy about seven, is already helping customers. We asked the owner about his son’s help, and he said that his grandfather had inherited the store, then his father had run it, and now it was his. Then he smiles at his son, and says, to us “It’s been a good store, and we’ve met a lot of nice people.”
There are sandalwood boxes built to hold jewelry, mahogany tables with Asian scenes carved into their tops. They would sell in the States for two thousand dollars, and you can buy them today for one hundred bucks!
Incense always floats in the air and umbrellas are everywhere, and everything’s on sale, but only for today!
A rainy day. In Naha. It's a good day.