Return to Sendai

I have made five trips to my wife’s home town. Last year, my radio woke me up with a word I had never heard on air in the UK – Sendai.  A tsunami had struck. Even my intense rationality and Meg’s placidity could not completely cloak our anxiety. It took two days to make contact with her family. All was (relatively) well, but a city that I had developed an affection for was without electricity, gas, petrol and – worst – water.

When we went six months later, things in Sendai city itself were pretty much back to normal. Any discussion was pretty much confined to a matter-of-fact relating of events. Even a drive through areas that were still flattened did not engender the degree of emotional upset one might imagine. This blog gives some idea of the attitude of people in the aftermath.

From tragedy to the commonplace. A recent post on the engagingly quirky site Rocket News was entitled 46 Things That Surprise Foreigners in Japan. It starts

Even things that your average Japanese would consider completely commonplace and boring can be captivating for foreigners.

I would disagree with quite a few, though many are spot on. Here’s a few more that have struck me in Sendai:

  • The presence of traffic guards everywhere – entrances to car parks, on building sites,  by roadworks etc
  • Cyclists nonchalantly riding on pavements
  • Raised markings for the blind on pavements on all major, and some quite minor roads
  • The obligation to dress seasonally even if the weather is unseasonal
  • Bowing in unexpected circumstances – one example: a department store employee might bow when leaving the shop floor to go on a break even when no customers are in sight

And on our last trip I got to go to a maid cafe, something that my wife and her friends found more captivating than I did. The maids’ grubby aprons, among other things, making it less than titillating for me.

Maid in Sendai

You can ring my bell

One of the main reasons for my companions’ enjoyment appeared to be that the maids use the greetings associated with home rather than a public place. You can read more about maid cafes at this entertaining blog here. The irony for me was that we have been to genuinely old-fashioned coffee shops with waitresses in maid-like outfits elaborately preparing your drink – much more impressive!


7 thoughts on “Return to Sendai

  1. It’s nice of you to mention my home town! You know a lot about the city by now. Just one thing or two I would like to say; you said ‘did not engender the degree of emotional upset’, but I strongly disagree as what you saw is just a little part of the disaster. Many places are still suffering a lot and when I see the news my heart still hurts a lot. Lots of people are still living in evacuation places.

    Regarding the maid cafe, you are not allowed to take a picture of maids there. I took the one of you and accidentally a maid was in it…… (^-^;) My friend, Yukie, found this place for you to entertain.

    The genuine exclusive cafe is called ‘Hoshiyama coffee’. They have some branches –
    There is another cafe you and I like called ‘Evian’ in Ichibancho, which has more reasonable prices.

    When we visited in June this year, we found a couple of more interesting dining places. One is called ‘Oji-no Curry-ya’. A good looking young chef owns this place which used to be an ordinary Japanese style house in the Showa era. Really lovely place! The other one is a new place which belongs to Tohoku University in Katahira, Sendai – Sakura Kitchen/Hagi restaurant. I’d love to go there again! Shall we go back soon?x

    • well thank G-d for the internet, blogs and computers so that your wife is able to talk to you so candidly!

      On Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 4:40 PM, Joseph Witriol’s writings wrote:

      > ** > Meg commented: “It’s nice of you to mention my home town! You know a > lot about the city by now. Just one thing or two I would like to say; you > said ‘did not engender the degree of emotional upset’, but I strongly > disagree as what you saw is just a little part of the disa” >

  2. Thanks for the mention about maid cafes. I imagine the real maid cafes, where you are paying for the coffee rather than the experience, are indeed more interesting. As for reactions to events, subdued (or perhaps “measured”) seems to be the prevailing level of outward emotional response, based on our brief encounter with the culture on the ground in Japan.

    We also just posted a wide-ranging roundup of our experience with Japanese food. Would love to get your take.

  3. Well written stuff, interesting, tried to like it on the website but required joining up, a step too far! See ya 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Good but you could have made it a lot longer – enough of the links to other sites already. Let’s read more of your experience. Great title…

Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s