The Best Bowl of Soba

I accidentally got on the local train from Nara to Kyoto. It takes over two hours but, on the bright side, is tourist-free. I guess I stuck out like sore thumb with my backpack and confused expression.

An old man sitting across from me struck up a conversation. He told me he was studying English and then showed me these dog-eared manuals he brought with him to read. Originally, they had pictures of the Capital Building and Rockefeller Center, but they were so worn that you could barely make out the picture.

His English was really great, though. He told me he was 80 years old but had never traveled outside Japan. He really wanted to visit the U.S. one day to see all these places that were in his language manuals.

I told him I was on my way to Kyoto, and he asked me if I liked soba (buckwheat) noodles. I told him I did. We went to a small noodle shop in the train station that he recommended to me. It’s the kind of place where you buy a ticket from a vending machine in order to get your meal. He bought me a bowl of soba with tempura for 350 yen, insisting on paying.

It was delicious. We slurped away in silence.

He walked me to my shinkansen train when we finished the meal. I thanked him and just as I was about to introduce myself, he abruptly left.


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