“Umm… Sydney.” I glanced at my twin nervously. “Do you know where we are?”
“No. Not really.” She eyed a Japanese café to our right distractedly. “Why?”
A car zoomed by.
“Do you want to try this café for lunch?” she asked after a moment. “It smells really good.”
I stared at her, grinning. Usually the knowledge of being lost disturbs most people. I gathered my wits and scrutinized my surroundings. Every sign in sight was written in Kanji.
We stood beside a telephone pole at an isolated corner of Hiroshima train station. My sister and I had just spent the morning with a group of high school students on a school trip from Denver, Colorado. We had explored downtown Hiroshima together, visiting Peace Park and the A-Bomb Dome memorial. After catching the train back to Hiroshima Station, we had helped the group purchase traditional Japanese boxed lunches for their bullet train ride to Osaka. Waving goodbye a few minutes earlier, we crossed the street to catch our bus home. But due to extensive renovations, the station had changed completely. Nothing was located where we remembered. We were lost. And sweaty. And being the foodies we are, ravenously hungry.
“I’m starving. Can we find someplace to eat?”
“Don’t you think we should figure out where we are first?” I asked.
Sydney stared at me drolly. “Fine…” she sighed. Her eyes spoke volumes. It’s not like we haven’t been lost before. Twice in China. Three times in Hong Kong. Five times in Thailand. More times than we can count in Japan. And we’re still alive, aren’t we?
I ignored the cue stubbornly, and we forged on. We roamed the busy station in the humid summer heat for the next thirty minutes. We walked in circles. We climbed flights of stairs only to turn around and walk right back down. We asked for directions. And now, we meandered aimlessly through the station’s second-floor—the restaurant floor. The mouth-watering smell of traditional ramen filled the air. The sizzling sound of frying okonomiyaki (a Japanese type of pancake stuffed with pork, cabbage, beansprouts, and a fried egg) was tantalizing. We finally stopped at a quaint Japanese restaurant at the end of the food strip. An older woman stood at the register. Eyes sparkling, she shouted out her lunch special above the din of her surrounding competitors.
“Fresh sushi with homemade miso soup!” She cried. “Come in now and we’ll add chawanmushi (a steamed egg dish with seafood) for free!”
Eyeing the two lost foreign girls, she skeptically pointed to a picture of her lunch special: a traditional Japanese wooden serving tray lined with thick cuts of raw salmon, tuna, shrimp, mackerel, squid, and octopus over warm bite-sized portions of vinegared rice.
Unbeknownst to us, this tiny restaurant, serving a maximum of twelve people, was the Japanese senior citizens’ local hub. Retired Japanese ‘grandmas’ and ‘grandpas’ gathered at this restaurant in Hiroshima station to socialize over steaming mugs of bitter green tea, fresh plates of homemade sushi, and warming bowls of fish-broth based miso soup.
While most Japanese teenagers our age opted for ramen noodles, we stared at this restaurant longingly. Exhausted and hungry, I surrendered to ambiguity. And we joined the senior citizens for a late lunch special.
Delighting over high quality tea and our favorite Japanese dishes, we failed to notice the amusing stares of Japanese senior citizens until our empty dishes were cleared. The two men behind the sushi bar eyed us humorously. The group of older women sitting at the table next to us glanced our way and grinned. We sheepishly smiled back.
Sydney and I eventually found our way home. The next time we get lost, I won’t panic. We’ll just look for another good restaurant and let the foodies inside of us lead the way!