It is just past 6:00 on a Monday evening in September at Kawaguchiko Park Hotel, which is a beautiful hotel beside the Lake Kawaguchi and about 60 miles east of Tokyo. Lake Kawaguchi is one of Fuji lakes, and one of the best places to enjoy the sight of Mt. Fuji. I, my brother, and his Japanese friend are visiting here to enjoy our five-day vacation. Lake Kawaguchi is not great, but its sight is very beautiful. The whole town is enveloped in darkness and mist, and the faint lights in the town bathe us in warmth. We are very pleased in this comfortable small town. Like most people and places in Japan, our hotel is also very small and exquisite. The road outside the hotel leads straight to Lake Kawaguchi. There is an old Japanese fountain outside the hotel. The vapor is drifting from the hot spring. We sit in the dining room of the hotel, waiting to enjoy our Japanese cuisine.
This dining room is equipped with Western-style chairs and tables, so we do not have a chance to experience the traditional Japanese low tables and cushions. I have had a traditional Japanese dinner before, so I can recall some scenes about a traditional dinner in my memory. First, shoes must be taken off when stepping on the tatami floor since the tatami mats are very clean and very hard to clean. This kind of room with tatami mats is called “washitsu”, which is all made with wood. From my memory, the washitsu is the traditional room in Japan, and it usually has a sliding door, some tatami mats and a lower table. Usually, we just sit on the tatami floor to have a meal, but in the traditional Japanese culture, “in a casual setting, men usually sit with their feet crossed and women sit with both legs to one side. Only men are supposed to sit cross-legged. The formal way of sitting for both sexes is a kneeling style known as seiza. To sit in a seiza position, one kneels on the floor with legs folded under the thighs and the buttocks resting on the heels” (“Japanese cuisine”).
Our dining room is a Western-style room, and the tableware is in front of us. The main tableware in Japanese cuisine is chopsticks. Unlike Chinese chopsticks, Japanese chopsticks are shorter and sharper. After a while, all dishes are placed on the table by a young and beautiful Japanese waitress, who is very polite and always keeps a very pretty smile on her face. In front of everyone, there are eight small plates on a tray: four are pickled vegetables plates, one is a tofu plate, one is a fish plate, one is a salad plate, and one is a konjac plate, which is like a kind of jelly. Outside the tray, there is one bowl with a whole fresh raw egg, one hot bowl with fire under it, a rice bowl, and a fruit plate with two pieces of orange. All the food and dishes create a very beautiful picture since they have various colors and shapes. They are not some simple food, in my eyes, but a perfect work of art. They are so exquisite that I am not willing to eat them.
While I am enjoying this art of food, a voice drifts into my ears.
This is a signal which means that the dinner will begin. Japanese always say that before a dinner. That means please enjoy cuisine.
After saying that signal, our Japanese friend begins to eat. First of all, he uses the wet towel to clean his hands. Then, he breaks the shell of the egg, and pours the egg into the hot bowl. Next, he begins to eat the dishes. The first dish he eats is the picked radish dish, which is like an appetizer. But he does not eat it up. Then he eats each dish in order from left. Similarly, he neither finishes any dishes, nor jumps over any dishes. He is eating very politely, without saying anything or making any sounds. We all enjoy delicious cuisine in a very quiet and comfortable environment.
Then, our Japanese friend wants to order some sake. “We cannot have a Japanese meal without sake. Drink some sake, and you will feel the dishes become more delicious than before. Believe me!” He says to…