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The day began with a slightly earlier rising and shower, as we planned to meet in the hotel lobby and partake of the buffet breakfast instead of grabbing take-away sushi at the combini. It had western breakfast things including cereal, bacon, eggs, toast, croissants, juice, etc, but also Japanese things like rice, miso soup, tiny fried fish, tofu, and so on. Matthew had been threatening me with natto and umeboshi all week, and finally found some of both at the buffet.
Never one to avoid sampling new foods, I started with the natto, or fermented soybeans. They came in a tiny plastic cup with a sealed lid. Pulling the seal off, I smelt the contents, and didn't notice anything off-putting - which was odd because I was expecting a strong smell of some sort. When I put my fork in, however, I noticed the sticky, slimy, stringy goop covering the beans, which looked incredibly unappealing. The fact that the strands stuck to the fork, and the beans, and would simply not break no matter what I did didn't help. I ended up with sticky strands of this goop all over the place. When I finally got some beans into my mouth, I had strands going from cup to fork to mouth, and they simply stretched longer and longer as I tried desperately to break them. The taste was actually very mild and only faintly unpleasant - a sort of stale, musty taste. It was the texture that was more off-putting.
Having extracted myself from the sticky strands with great difficulty, I ate a small croissant to cleanse the palate before tempting fate with the umeboshi. The pickled plum sat innocently on the plate, daring me to eat it. Matthew popped one into his mouth, so I followed his lead. The outside wasn't too bad, but once the skin broke and the delights of the interior were revealed to my uninitiated mouth, it was clear that the humble plum was far, far, far worse than the natto. It was salty enough to be unpleasant mixed with the overpowered sweetness of the plum, and at the same time incredibly, horrendously, nastily sour. I washed it down quickly with orange juice and raced for another bowl of corn flakes.
Early in the day Matthew found a suitable moment to give Kato-san and Saito-san the gifts we'd carried from Australia - a pack of individually wrapped Tim Tams, a bag of Caramello Koalas and Freddo Frogs, and a box of "Emu Bottom" brand macadamia shortbread. They opened the shortbread and shared it around, and it was actually very good.
For my last lunch at the Canon canteen I had the katsu dish, which Saito-san described as "fried hamburger". It was minced meat, pork I think, made into a schnitzel-like patty coated with breadcrumbs, and fried, served with some salad. I also grabbed a bowl of miso soup and what looked like a coleslaw from the cold food servery. As we ate, Saito-san questioned the fact that I hadn't also taken a bowl of rice, which he thought was very odd. I looked around and sure enough, every single person I could see in the canteen - a hundred or more - all had a bowl of rice as part of their meal.
When we were done with meetings after lunch, a heavy week of work behind us, we packed our lenses and cameras and other assorted equipment into our luggage bags and waited for some of the staff to take us out to dinner yet again. Being Friday night, it was more informal this time, with several of the more junior staff joining us, making a party of seven.
Okonomiyaki, round one
Matthew flips his
By this time we were full, but another course arrived, with more shredded vegetables, but this time mixed with a watery liquid that made the result more like a stir fry than an omelette. There were four different types of this, one with octopus bits, one with a curry flavour, one with soba noodles, and another one I didn't get to see properly because it was on the far half of the table from me.
Completely, stuffed, we made plans to meet Saito-san and Endo-san tomorrow at 9am in our hotel lobby for the trip to Nikko, before waddling back to our hotel for the night.
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