Meeting the Boss
Osamu (Sam) Odajima arrived at the hotel, made a brief introduction and suggested (but in a manner that you wouldn’t disagree with) that we go for lunch. He was early fifties, average height and build, jet black hair, of course, and walked very upright and purposefully to the restaurant. It was a Sunday and whilst I felt rather awkward, clumsy and a bit sweaty in my woollen suit and tie, he looked comfortable, confident and relaxed in his weekend attire of Hawaiian shirt and slacks. Having completed an MBA in the US his English was excellent, not that he made much small talk, and although my preconceptions of a katana wielding warrior were over the top, Odajima-san was clearly not a man to be messed with.
As we entered the restaurant we were greeted with a volley of shouting from all staff, ‘irashaimase’ or ‘welcome’ as I later learnt, and we took a stool at a bar. I was relieved when Odajima-san offered to order for both of us and whilst he studied the menu I studied the surroundings. Classic minimalist Japanese scrolls on the walls, beautiful ceramic tableware and immaculately dressed smiling staff. We made small talk, enjoyed a couple of delicious ice cold Asahi Super Dry beers, smoked a few Mild Seven cigarettes then the food began to arrive…
The restaurant was of a type called ‘Izakaya’ which offered a variety of small meat and fish dishes. The quality of the food and the standard of service were superb. As is usually the case with me, I was starving and put away far more than my share of the food with relish. Odajima-san was clearly impressed with the fact that I could eat and enjoy, pretty much anything that was put in front of me, and was fluent in chopsticks! The last dish to arrive was completely memorable, it was a small crustacean best described as a cross between a crab and a miniature dinosaur. I didn’t know whether to eat it or fight it, but after being assured that it was edible, all of it, head, legs the works I went for it. Dining out in Japan was clearly not for the faint hearted and this was just the first of many fascinating challenges that I would live and love to experience. Oh and the dinosaur? That was delicious too!