My true love: jajamen

It’s nice to know that no matter where I go, kids will look at me like I’m furniture.  Even if I make faces and weird noises, or wave frantically like I’m having a seizure, no reaction whatsoever.  This happened today at a coffee house.  It’s reassuring in a depressing little way.

After spending too much time at the tourist center to keep in touch with peple, I went to a ramen spot I’d noticed earlier, only to find it closed.  I wandered a couple blocks and turned down a little side street to find a line of people standing outside a shitty little restaurant.  Not knowing what they sold or what it cost, I jumped in line, assuming it must be tasty and affordable if all these working-class people were willing to wait in the rain for it.

Once at the front, I noticed a small sign with a photo of what looked like jajamen, which I can now recognize by sight as a direct result of living in the tourist center, where they play a video on repeat that cycles through  the same information in four different languages, and introduces the various reasons you should really fucking enjoy yourself in Morioka: festivals (drums and horses), nature (“Soon, the mountains turn color…”), tofu and liquor (so much sake), and of course the star of the show, noodles.  There are three types that are famous in Morioka: reimen (“chewy”), wanko soba (“a bountiful feast”) and jajamen, the most delicious noodles I’ve had in quite some time.

Back at the restaurant, I asked the guy in line behind me, “Jajamen desu ka?” and he looked at me like I was mentally damaged.  Naturally: who stands in line for well over 40 minutes for a mystery meal?  He said yes, then asked where I was from and what I did for a living.  We had a very broken chat about that, and after a particularly long pause, I got up the courage to ask if the jajamen was served hot (it was a cool day, I wanted hot noodles).  So I asked in my best broken Japanese, “Jajamen-wa, atsui desu… ka?”  He said, in very clear English, “Yes.  Very very hot.”

Twenty minutes later we were both seated at the bar, next to each other by chance.  He helped me order (the only options are small, medium, or large, which is awesome, ¥450, ¥550, ¥650 respectively), then showed me how to eat it (doused in vinegar and thoroughly mixed).  After he finished off the noodles, he took one of the brown eggs from one of the bowls on the bar and cracked it into his empty dish.  He mixed it up a bit with his chopsticks.  I watched, horrified.  He lifted the bowl, and I was sure he was going to slurp it down, but he handed it to the cook, who ladled in some hot water from the pot where fresh noodles were being boiled.  He let it sit for a moment until the egg was cooked, which ended up as something like egg-drop soup, added some of the meat miso that came on the noodles, mixed it up and ate it with a spoon.  Each bowl for raw eggs was coupled with a bowl for the shells.

This place has become my go-to spot when I have a hard day, or am feeling depressed.



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