I had never eaten such a luxurious meal before, and never in such a beautiful restaurant. Nor such an expensive one (over £30 each!). The bearded stranger couldn’t stop thanking me, but I was obliged to thank him also.
It started like this. The bearded stranger was a friend of a friend. She told me he was coming to Kyoto and would I please look after him. My friend’s description was accurate: there was only one bearded gaijin (foreigner) who got off the train with a backpack. We visited some of the temples for which Kyoto is famous. At Heian Shrine we saw the shishi-go-yan festival where children wear traditional dress, and where the tent labelled ‘Emergency Help’ was not for missing children but for those struggling with their child’s kimono. Then I took him to the restaurant.
The Junsei restaurant was a beautiful old, traditional house. All guests had a private room, and ours had a small stream running through it into a peaceful pool of carp just the other side of the outer screen, which we could slide back to look at the gardens and bridges. The screen to the room would open discreetly occasionally and the waitress would be waiting outside on her knees. She’d come in to deliver and take away the food. There was lots of food: my favourite dish was bean curd strained through silk while he had a shabu shabu, eight dishes including beef. It was all delicious.
I paid the bill. He thanked me so much. I thanked him so much. Then I told him what happened. So we laughed and we both thanked our friend in Tokyo who had sent me the money for the meal.