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  On Condensation

If I were very Zen oriented, I would spend hours contemplating things.  One of those things might be condensation; a delight, a mystery, and a distant memory. 

 OOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM.  (Ancient Budhist meditation mantra.)

Chas and I are great little adventurers.  We love to explore, and we feel only slightly intimidated by the fact that we sometimes have no idea where we are.  While we never actually get irretrievably lost, we spend a lot of time a mite befuddled.  One of our favorite places to walk is the Akasaka area of Tokyo, known for its spaghetti maze of streets, and its multitude of tiny restaurants.  The Capital Tokyu Hotel, our home away from home in Tokyo, sits right on the edge of this tangled section of town. 

The second day we were in Tokyo, we set off on foot to browse the tiny streets with the afternoon crowd.  We observed loud and gaudy Pachenko Parlors jammed in next to mysterious, dark, little doorways hung with silk curtains from which emerged exotic music and more exotic aromas.  The impossibly narrow streets are littered with vending machines which dispense everything from condoms to beer.  Tiny, densely packed shops challenge my bull-in-the-china-shop balance and coordination skills; and overwhelm our senses with a clutter of enticing visual and olfactory stimuli.  Here, in this closely packed mélange of businesses, one can find any kind of food imaginable, dead or alive.  Some of it is swimming frantically in crowded tanks, awaiting its culinary fate.  Most of it is displayed in way too lifelike plastic replications outside the hole-in-the-wall dining establishments.

One of the things we like most about eating in Akasaka is the wide variety of food available in such a small area.  The second best thing is the surprisingly enthusiastic greeting we get from the proprietors.   Upon entering the shop everyone in it, from the customers to the cook, bows, smiles, and shouts an appropriate greeting depending on the time of day.  Konichiwa!  (Good afternoon!)  Upon leaving, the same thing occurs.   Domo arigato gozaimasu!  (Thank you very much!)  Sayonara! (Good bye!)  There is no such thing as coming and going incognito.  Even if Chas and I could blend, which is a joke just to think about, no one gets away without the mandatory salutations coming and going.

This day we were on a mission.  After admiring umbrellas so exquisitely painted it would be a criminal act to get them wet; and cheap slippers to acquire for our future house guests, we set out on a quest for a liquor store.  We were looking to sample the local sake.  Finding the store was an adventure in itself.  Even though we had been given directions, there are no street signs in Akasaka.  However, Chas is like a diviner in search of water when it comes to locating alcoholic beverages.

Osake arimaska?  “Do you have sake?” we asked.  The proprietor spread his arms to embrace the entire shop.  Hmmmm…, this was not going to be quite as easy as we had hoped.  After much discussion and confusion, the proprietor rescued us, and assured us we had chosen well.  A might on the expensive side, like everything else in Tokyo, but we decided to buy it and try it anyway, rationalizing it was like buying a really good bottle of tequila in Tucson.  By this time the humidity and jet lag was taking its toll.  Missing the “Dry Heat” of Arizona, we headed back to the hotel where we put the sake in the refrigerator to chill.  Sometime later we brought it out for a taste. 

As Chas poured the clear liquid into the small glasses, I squeaked in horror, and pointed to a sloppy ring on the table.  This stuff was too expensive to spill!  “I didn’t spill it,” he said.  “Well, the table is wet”, I observed.  “Its condensation, Bobbie”, he replied.

Condensation?  Oh, yeah, I vaguely remember what that is.  We don’t have that in Tucson.  Welcome to Japan.