At 12:00 every day, thousands of office-workers spill out into the sunshine and go in search of lunch. There are many, many restaurants, all serving lunch “sets” for between 700 and 1000 yen (approx 7 to 10 euro). Some places are very popular, such as this curry restaurant 白銀亭 Haku-gin tei (white silver house), and there is a long line outside every day.
Haku-gin tei‘s curry is hot and spicy, unlike typical Japanese curry which is quite mild and sweet. Their most popular offering is katsu-curry, which is a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet like a schnitzel, on a bed of rice and covered in curry sauce. You can also get chicken curry with spinach (the healthy option!) or curry with cheese. No vegetarian options, which is normal in Japan. Each meal costs 850 yen. There are pickles on the counter and you can take as many as you want.
When a space becomes available you sit at the counter and order, and your meal is served in less than a minute.
There is a good mood at lunchtime – everyone’s looking forward to their food and it’s the only time during the day you can take a break from work and chat with your colleagues (Japan doesn’t do tea-breaks). However, there are other customers waiting for your seat, so you eat quickly and don’t hang around.
On Monday last week Yuko came into town and I met her for lunch. We went to a more traditional place near my office.
You pass through a small courtyard and through a sliding door and feel like you’ve entered a different world.
You take off your shoes and go to the dining room, where you sit on the floor beside a low table, with a kind of pit under the table to put your feet into.
Each meal is a 定食 teishoku, a full lunch “set” consisting of various items. The price you see on the menu is the price you pay – no tip, no extras, that’s it. If you order a meal at 950 yen, that is exactly how much you will hand over on the way out. This is Yuko’s lunch:
and this is mine:
Anti-clockwise from bottom left, you can see a bowl of rice, a little bowl with some boiled vegetables and grilled fish, a couple of slices of tuna sashimi, a pork and vegetable dish, tempura (deep-fried shrimp and vegetables in batter), soup, and pickles, all very nicely presented. Tea comes free with the meal.
This kind of teishoku offers a lot of variety and is great value at around 1000 yen.
Note on the word of the day:
ご飯 gohan literally means cooked rice, but by extension it means food. The three meals of the day are 朝ご飯 asa-gohan, 昼ご飯 hiru-gohan, and 晩ご飯 ban-gohan, literally morning food, midday food and evening food.