Wednesday, March 30, 2016
I somehow made it to the cafeteria at the Daio wasabi farm. I'd already withstood a couple months of being illiterate in Japan, so it wasn't shocking. Although navigating an unknown village by bicycle without being able to read street signs was a new feat. But then, of course, the food ticket machine didn't have any photos on it. I would have to translate between the characters on the machine that would take my money, and the plastic food display on the table. Possible, but a considerable amount of effort.
Instead, I held the door open for a man and woman with a baby in a stroller. I pointed to the man which plastic dish I wanted realized, pointed to the machine, and shrugged my arms in the universal sign for I-don't-know. He pressed the button, I inserted the money, and eventually received the correct dish: cold soba noodles garnished with seaweed and wasabi, with dipping sauce, and a side of wasabi greens wrapped in tofu skins. Wasabi greens are rather difficult to come by in my hometown-of-the-moment (i.e., Pittsburgh). It was worth the awkwardness (which was pretty much constant in my life in Japan anyways).
It only got more challenging on my bike ride back to the train station. I had traced my path returning to the main town, but could not for the life of me find my destination. Another hour was spent wandering the streets approaching total strangers saying "Eki?" and getting slowly closer and closer as I was pointed in the correct direction like a mindless hitchhiking robot. Being an English speaker in foreign countryside really cuts back on the communication dimensions.