A house Soseki Natsume lived in at the Meiji Mura museum (more about Meiji Mura tomorrow). So many little kids were obsessed with the plastic cat that we had to loiter and mill about until there was finally a ten second gap between families and Sam could take a picture. Soseki is one of my favorite Japanese writers. I Am a Cat and Botchan are wonderfully funny.
Soseki Natsume I Am a Cat:
“‘Since it’s quite impossible to obtain snails or frogs, however much we may desire them, let’s at least have moat-bells: what do you say?’ And without really giving the matter any thought at all, I answered ‘Yes, that would be fine.’
… he told the waiter to bring moat-bells for two. The waiter said, ‘Do you mean meat-balls, sir?’ but Waverhouse, assuming an ever more serious expression, corrected him with gravity. ‘No, not meat-balls: moat-bells.’
Well, I thought it sounded somewhat strange; but as Waverhouse was so calmly sure and is so great an authority on all things Occidental — remember it was then my firm belief that he was widely traveled — I too joined in and explained to the waiter, ‘Moat-bells, my good man; moat-bells!’
The waiter … looked thoughtful for a while and then said, ‘I’m terribly sorry, sir, but unfortunately we have no moat-bells. Though should you care for meat-balls we could serve you, sir, immediately.’
Waverhouse thereupon looked put out and said, ‘So, we’ve come all this long way for nothing. Couldn’t you really manage moat-bells? Please do see what can be done’; and he slipped a small tip to the waiter. The waiter said he would ask the cook and went off into the kitchen.
He must have had his mind dead set on moat-bells. The waiter re-emerged with apologies and the confession that, of late, the ingredients to moat-bells were in such short supply that one could not get them. … But when Waverhouse proceeded to ask him what ingredients the restaurant did use, the waiter just laughed and gave no answer.
Waverhouse then pressingly inquired if the key ingredient happened to be Tochian (who, as you know, is a haiku poet of the Nihon School); and d’you know, the waiter answered, ‘Yes, it is, sir, and that is precisely why none is available even in Yokohama.’
And then, as soon as we were out in the street, he said, ‘You see, we’ve done well. That ploy about the moat-bells was really rather good, wasn’t it?; and he looked as pleased as Punch. I let it be known that I was lost in admiration, and so we parted. However, since it then was well past the lunch-hour, I was nearly starving.”