Before Narita was home to a vast international airport, it was home to a shrine and a series of low-ceilinged tourist shops. This particular restaurant is hundreds of years old. Eel is in season here. It’s rich and fragrant, almost the consistency of butter. Call it unagi.
“Yellow lace,” Haba-san says to me, scarfing up a piece of unagi. Yoshimi, his new girlfriend, nods and smiles. “You know, in Japan we have only yellow lace, really.”
“I’m surprised,” I say. “In America, we have all colors of lace. Black, red, blue.”
Haba-san coughs on his unagi. “Blue lace?!” he grunts. “I don’t think you have blue lace there. You are laughing at me.”
Outside the door, two cats growl and grumble guttural threats at one another. A delicate old lady pads up, her slippers scuffing on the hot pavement, and she utters a syllable. The cats spring and scatter like water.
I consider trying to explain the word “catcalling” to Haba-san, but decide against it.
“Actually, we mostly have the white race in the United States,” I say. “Some black, some red, though.”
“Yah, I know,” said Haba-san. I wondered what he thought I thought.