Headed out to a morning of sight seeing, we stopped by a nearby cafe for breakfast. Hubby’s cheese dog and caramel latte set (¥620).
My ham, egg and pesto sandwich set (¥430).
Japan’s cafe selections are now largely espresso based, allowing for customization of flavors and soy milk, etc., but the one thing I still find hard to find here is a caffeine free alternative. Decaf is still hard to come by, so I carried my own rooibos tea bags around. But even that level of customization can face some bumps in a culture where efficiency and convenience trump individualization and special dietary requests. I had to laugh when reenacting my ordering scene to hubby who was saving a table for us:
Me (in Japanese): “I’d like the morning set A please”
Cashier: “What drink would you like with your set?”
Me: “May I have a cup of hot water?”
Cashier: “Um, the set only comes with your choice of these drinks (pointing to menu): coffee hot or iced, tea hot or iced, cappuccino, cafe latte”
Me: “So… would I be able to select the hot tea, just without the tea bag?”
Hoping to buy some sympathy, I volunteer, “I’m pregnant and am trying to limit my caffeine intake”.
Cashier: “Oh, OK…”, looking really unsure
But listening to the cashier converse with the barista was another funny episode.
Cashier: “One cup of hot water please”
Cashier: “So like a hot tea, but with no tea bag”
Barista: “So should I make tea and remove the tea bag?”
Cashier: Whispering now and glancing towards me “No, she wants just hot water, in a cup…”
Barista: “Oh, all right…”, peering over the counter to catch a glimpse of the weirdo who ordered the hot tea without tea.
With so many millions of people living in this metropolis and navigating such a complex city, I think a certain level of rigidity, conforming to the options provided to you, and following the norms is necessary. It’s what makes the city function so smoothly. Hubby and I enjoyed re/discovering these and other cultural nuances on our trip, and we tried very hard to be good visitors by walking on the “right” side of the subway station, standing on the “left” side of the escalators, and to otherwise not disrupt the pulse of this awesome city. At the same time, we had to laugh at instances like the hot tea, or when I got scoldings from an employee at the art exhibit for stepping 1 step out of the white taped square we were supposed to stand within while waiting for the elevator.
Anyway, after enjoying my delicious breakfast and rooibos tea, we headed to Asakusa to visit the famous temple where once again, we were treated to a view of beautiful cherry blossoms.