BY ERNEST TUAPE
(Craft It’s new foreign correspondent in Kampala)
#1. Yujo Izakaya
Carol, my Tanzanian friend whom I met in Nairobi, told me the last time she was in Kampala, she ate Japanese food.
I’ve never eaten anything Japanese. I’m a grasshopper guy.
She said its taste remained ingrained in her brain. She thought about the restaurant every day, like having the same sweet dream every night. She needed to go back.
So she asked if I could join her and her colleague, Rose, for dinner. I said yes.
The place? Yujo Izakaya. Plot 36 Kyadondo Road, Nakasero Hill.
That’s about 20 meters from the gate of Nakasero Primary.
#2. Ton Katsu
Then I couldn’t make sense of the menu. We were like strangers, the menu and yours truly.
It had names like ‘katsu’, ‘shogayaki’ and ‘dengaku’. I was new to these things.
And when you have no clue what you’re looking at, and your food adventure tolerance is low because you have office work the next day, you go with the simplest because you aren’t ready to mix up your stomach walls.
Rose helps me with picking a dish. I order a Katsu.
It’s shiny crispy pork served with cabbage strips, sliced tomato, dip sauce and steamed rice.
It’s time to say the grace. I always pray before eating. I do this silently with no one noticing I even did. My mother taught me this. Praying for your meal is also a highly regarded tradition in Japanese culture.
I was in Japan space. I needed to do it right. But I did it wrong. I said my grace in English.
Here’s how to do it.
Put your palms together and bring them close to your chest, under your chin. Say the magic word “Itadakimasu” – to humbly receive. Bow your head slightly. Pick up your eating tools.
I’m now immersing myself in this experience. A plate of Katsu is sitting before me on a green and grey tablemat. Two courteous women, both married, are sharing a table with me, wishing me the best appetite.
I pick up the otemoto. Some call it hashi. Let’s not complicate things here. These are chopsticks.
Picking up rice with chopsticks felt like learning to walk. Baby steps, rice dropping on my pants. Otemoto is falling off my fingers and Damalie, the waitress, concealing her smile.
“You’ll learn how to use it,” she tells me.
I ask for a fork.
Oh, this universal language called music. It speaks to all. It heals the soul. Babies love it. Animals love it. Birds do it.
The Japanese make it.
You’ll hear the whispering sound of the shakuhachi, a flute; or the soothing rhyme of the koto, a string instrument on a wooden board.
Yujo plays a delicious blend of smooth Japanese and mellow African ongaku.
Whether this mix of music has anything to do with the fact that the corporate headquarters of Talent Africa are at the same location as Yujo Izakaya, is something I have no answer to today.
Tuape blogs at www.silliedance.com