Near the train station is one of those stand-up noodle-and-beer bars with the noren curtains (暖簾) hanging halfway down. Every night after work, I see a row of legs exposed beneath the curtains, always in blue, gray, or black slacks, never even one in a skirt. These are guy sorts of places, it seems. They’re fast and cheap, with simple, hearty food—noodles, fried meats, and kebabs. Not to mention beer and sake.
Every time I walk by this place, I feel a stab of sadness for these bodiless male legs, the bobbing string of chouchin lanterns (提灯) their surreal substitute for heads. Working and eating and working, maybe to support a family, maybe not, sucking down their food as mindlessly and quickly as possible. They seem the combined legs of a single creature.
Inside, though, in the warm light, surrounded by the smell of dashi stock and buckwheat, the clang of pots and pans, and the sizzle of hot oil, they must be happy as they fill their stomachs. They’re flanked by working men like themselves, barking orders at the friendly cook and owner—the “Master,” who I imagine to be a garrulous, bald Osaka guy, making everyone feel at home. A white towel is thrown around his neck, and sweat glistens on his face. “Hai, hai,” he says, head bobbing. “Ooooki-ni.” (Osaka slang for thank you.)
Left out, maybe I’m the one who’s sad and lonely. Ha.