With my belly (temporarily) full, I still had a full hour-and-a-half to kill before my seating at Tomita, the tsukemen haven that had brought me to the city of Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture.
Japanese stairs are not for the faint of heart.
Matsudo is a bedroom community located in the greater vicinity of the Tokyo metropolitan area, funneling tens of thousands of salarymen and students to and from the capital city everyday. This, of course, means that there’s not particularly much to do in the city of Matsudo proper that you can’t really do anywhere else in Japan. So I pretty much just wandered the streets for a few hours, no doubt freaking out dozens of pensioners on the street with my hulking foreign presence and having to climb lots and lots of stairs.
Finally, 4:30 came around and I meandered back over to the relatively humble storefront. Finding myself immediately instructed to wait by one of the nice dudes working at the shop, I sat down at the head of a long row of chairs jammed unceremoniously between the wall and some space heaters. I only lasted about two minutes before it felt like my legs were about to melt, mostly because the heater was approximately five millimeters away from my calves and was apparently cranked up to roast.
Second degree burns are no way to start a meal.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long, as the rest of my seating group (in order to ensure the maximum amount of quality control per bowl, Tomita seats its customers in waves, filling the cramped shop with customers, serving each and every one of them, wiping down and cleaning up, and then starting the process all over again) had all arrived right on cue, no doubt having been anticipating their meal for the past several hours.
I got seated in a relatively unexciting wall seat, pretty much coming face-to-face with a portrait of the (recently deceased) originator of tsukemen, which in terms of dining companions ranks somewhere between an actual person and a bare concrete wall in terms of being entertaining.
My dining companion.
With my dining buddy for the meal being completely unresponsive (faded framed pictures generally don’t say much), I settled in and braced myself for an experience I’d assumed would be somewhere between face-meltingly amazing and alien ghosts implanting happy emotions into your brain good (that one was for all you Scientologists out there). It was a relatively short wait until my food was placed before me.
I know you guys have come to expect a lot of words and sardonic turns of phrases from me but for this one, I’m just going to let the pictures do most of the talking. Continue reading