Ta­ble talk

Ja­pan House Lon­don’s res­tau­rant has an ex­quis­ite menu – and, er, fa­cil­i­ties

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - William Sitwell

William Sitwell at Ja­pan House Lon­don

LIKE A FIRST DATE, pass­ing your driv­ing test, or the attempted as­sas­si­na­tion of Pope John Paul II, you never for­get your first Ja­panese lava­tory.

Mine was at a ho­tel in Tokyo. I had al­ready been fully briefed on the eti­quette of busi­ness-card ex­changes, but no one had men­tioned the loos. For the for­mer, as a meet­ing com­mences, you queue up in or­der of se­nior­ity, ac­cept a prof­fered card with two hands and sim­i­larly of­fer yours, say ‘nice to meet you’, give a lit­tle bow and, as you take a seat, place the cards you have been given care­fully on the ta­ble in front of you. A sen­si­ble thing is to map the cards ac­cord­ing to where your coun­ter­parts are sit­ting. That way, you can see what their names are, even if you can’t read or say them.

I pon­dered this as I checked in to my ho­tel room. Two hands, nice to meet you, small bow. I was ad­mir­ing my own pack of busi­ness cards, printed spe­cially for the trip – on which my name had been spelt pho­net­i­cally in Ja­panese (William Shi­tow­ell, I later dis­cov­ered) – while set­tling in the bath­room, slumped upon the facility (this is, be­lieve it or not, a res­tau­rant re­view, so I’ll keep things del­i­cate). All of a sud­den, I felt a cold lit­tle spurt from be­low. I shrieked. The cards went fly­ing. There was a whirring sound and the spurt be­gan to os­cil­late. Then it stopped and a lit­tle heater kicked in. I calmed. Ooh, this is nice, I thought.

As I say, not an ex­pe­ri­ence you for­get in a hurry. In­deed, I couldn’t wait each day to be re­united with my new friend.

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