Non-Fiction

My Trip to Japan | Day 7, Fool Me Once, Coco Curry House

Previously: I explored the area around my hotel and ate at Eggs N’ Things

November 8

Jetlag had officially passed at this point, and I was waking up at normal 8:30AM hours.

I did my daily ablutions in the dormitory-esque bathroom area (four toilets and four sinks). I dawned my yukata (complimentary, but could not be bought) and headed down to the showers.

The ‘Spa’ in Centurion Cabin & Spa was in the basement. I believe this is a means to cater to customers who aren’t hotel-guests. That, or it’d be difficult to build on the top floor. Using the pass-card, I went down and entered the women’s area.

It was similar to the onsen back in Tokushima. First you picked a locker and undressed, then you entered the bathing part. There were eight showers available, all with complimentary soap, shampoo, and conditioner. They even had free brushes and razors you could take from the locker room. Just after the showers was the bath – which I’ll hereby refer to as a hot tub. Though much smaller than the onsen, it could comfortable fit nine people. Just next to that was the sauna, equipped with a TV.

I was strictly there for the showers, so I was in and out in ten minutes or so.

Because of the time difference, 9AM proved to be the best time to Skype home, as my parents would have just finished dinner. Although I had been emailing my mom daily up until November 8th, we’d yet to Skype. As any parents would be, they were worried about me thus seeing me in person was very reassuring to them – more so than an email.

So I video-chatted my parents and I told them what I had been up to. We talked for a good while, but I had to end it as breakfast had a limited period. I promised to call again tomorrow, hung up, and made my way down to the lobby.

The redeemable breakfast cards given by the hotel offered two options: western style or Japanese style. I opted for western that day, as I wasn’t sure how the Japanese style worked.

The western style breakfast included pastries, cereal, and juice. Mostly a lot of carbs. It was buffet style; in theory a person could refill as much as they like, but I think most people limited themselves to two trips – at least I did.

My day officially started around 10AM and I immediately started with Tokyu Hands. That day, I wanted as much time as possible to enjoy its wares.

I was in there for an hour, exploring the stationary and beauty sections extensively. Mostly stationary, as Japanese products are the most ideal of pens, markers, and notebooks. There were a huge amount of day planners and a good number of people browsing them. Japanese people take that shit super seriously. It made me realized why there were so many stickers and stamps.

It was only day seven out of 22, thus I restrained my spending habits to 10 small items.

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The first of many stationary binge buys.

After an hour, I left satisfied and continued to my intended touring spot – that huge shrine I had passed walking to the hotel. I had grabbed an informative pamphlet of Kyoto before leaving the hotel, thus I intended to visit that shrine, further explore Kyoto Station, and whatever else came up.

I was walking down the main street (I had originally taken a backroad to the hotel) and enjoying the views. It was raining on and off. I didn’t have an umbrella, but my coat was doing the trick. Strangely enough, although I had eaten breakfast recently, I was suddenly very hungry. To the point it stopped me in my tracks and I decided I needed something immediately.

I was just walking up to an intersection when this epiphany came to me. Although a McDonald’s was just around the corner, I was right next to a Coco Curry House. The menu was on display outside so I took a peak. As I did, the employee manning the cash register came outside and handed me an English menu. I was so touched! Then I saw the cheap prices and I was sold – I walked in and was seated on the second floor.

A different employee brought me another English menu, but I had already decided on curry. What else would I get at CoCo Curry House?

The restaurant had two curry options; pre-designed or build you own. I was fascinated by the latter because of its novelty. It had four steps: chose a sauce, rice size, spice or mild level, and a topping. The sauce was meat based, either pork or bef. Rice size scaled up from 200 to 500 grams. The toppings could be various vegetables.

The third step, the spice level, was where things got messy.

CoCo Curry House had a whole page that laid our the “Build a Curry” order. At step three, spiciness, there was a table outlining all the spices and mild levels. Mildness is irrelevant to this story, but in hindsight I really wish I had gone for it.

coco curry house spiciness

As seen in the table, spiciness varies from ‘mild flavour’ to ‘Spice Level 10.’ The emoticons, I thought, were a supposed representation of the food. I was blown away by this table considering a person couldn’t eat Level 6 until they finished a full plate of Level 5 spiciness.

I had never been great with spice, though I had been diversifying my palette over the years. I was foolhardy – I thought Level 1 sounded good. It even said, “Stimulates your taste buds with a bit of spice.”

A bit. A bit.

Convinced, I called the employee and ordered: a pork sauce curry, spice level one, 300grams of rice, and some tomato paste as a topping. I also got orange juice.

In the quickest turnaround I’d ever seen in a sit-down restaurant, my order came in less than five minutes. I guessed that there was a huge pot of curry in the back that was spooned out and adjusted based on order.

Taking a picture, it looked innocent enough.

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A quick reminder, for the first ten or so days of this trip I had a cold. Sneezing, stuffy noise, sore throat, and all that. Of course, it’d be ridiculous to mention it over and over, since who can remember all the times they sneezed or blew their nose. That’d also be terrible to read, I imagine. So I wouldn’t blame someone if they’ve forgotten when I mentioned it briefly in an earlier post.

The curry smelled good. It was perfectly divided into the rice and the sauce. I was messaging a friend on Facebook and told them as much.

Then I took a bite.

In the first second, it was quite tasty. Sweet and savoury. Then, in the second second, I had a coughing fit.

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Because of my cold I could barely choke down a spoonful without coughing it back up. The spiciness had pinpoint accuracy in my throat. Water didn’t help and neither did the orange juice. Like a dummy, I didn’t even think to order a glass of milk.

I had 100% underestimated Level 1 spicy.

CoCo Curry House is kind enough to have a bottle of honey at every table. After that first bite, I poured about a tablespoon’s worth into the curry and stirred it around. It didn’t help. I tried eating the with three parts rice one part curry. It didn’t help. I tried eating curry with the tomato paste. I tried powering through. I tried even more honey – honest to god half the bottle. None of it helped. I could barely taste a difference.

 

There were four other people on the second floor – two women diagonal to me and a couple of business men to my right. I was embarrassed trying to eat the curry because I could barely keep it down. There was a moment where I spit out some rice because I was coughing so much. For the majority of my meal I kept my head down and tried to eat.

I was hungry, so I was determined to eat as much of the meal as possible, but I knew it was futile. I was struggling to shallow, I really was.

I don’t know how long I was there, but I felt like 45-minutes. Ridiculous, considering I got that curry less than five minutes after I ordered it.

I eventually conceded, eating as much untainted rice as I could. I felt some shame as I left my table, knowing I had barely made a dent in that curry. I felt even worse as I passed an empty, recently-occupied table with plates nearly licked clean.

At the very least, my hunger had been sedated and I was doing what I wanted – trying Japanese food.

Next time: Zen Tourism at a big fancy shrine and a Pagoda

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