Thursday, October 07, 2010

You are a fine gentleman (1).

When I was young, I wanted to try new things. One day, I found a posh building in central Tokyo. I went in. There was a rather nice French restaurant. I examined the menu. Although in those days my means were limited, I would somehow be able to manage it on that day. Yes, I wanted to venture into this establishment. So I asked my girl friend, who was standing beside me, if she would like the idea of a romantic dinner together. She said she would actually very much love it.

So I went to the entrance, and a lady in black formal dress welcomed us. When I said "we are two", she said she could not accommodate us on that evening, she was sorry, because all the tables were booked. I shrugged my shoulders, and walked off, thinking that nothing could be done, since all the tables were booked. Apparently it was a very popular restaurant.

Then something strange happened. As we strolled in the corridor, I looked back. There was a middle aged man and a younger lady in front of the French restaurant, looking at the menu just as we had been doing a few moments ago. From their behavior, it was apparent that they were just passing by, had not made a reservation, and were now examining the menu to see if they would like it. The man was a typical "salaryman", wearing a bland jacket and tie. The girl's dress was no better in taste.

Then something extraordinary happened. The lady at the reception came out, said hello to the salaryman and his girl, and welcomed them in. I could not hear what they were saying, but she was apparently inviting the salaryman and his girl into the restaurant, without any reservation, making no fuss. In a moment I understood what had happened. I walked away slowly into the street, trying not to disturb my girl friend.

It was a warm summer evening, and I was wearing a T-shirt and a jacket. My face was red with something, which I could not fully grasp. As I walked on, a sense of deep humiliation overtook me.

Whenever I lose the balance of my mind, I tend to remain silent, trying to contain my inner turmoil. My girl friend apparently noticed my transfiguration. Since she was a sensible person, she also walked on slowly, without asking me why or how.

(This essay to be continued tomorrow)


maruko247 said...

$hatahachiPersonally, I think the lady in the black formal dress had no tact. If she had denied you entry honestly, citing the house dress code, say, it would have been less of an issue, don’t you think? Instead, she made up some flimsy excuse which she applied to you and not the next person who she invited in within full view of you! Pretty tactless, if you ask me.
Going to university in California, restaurants and bars nearby posted their dress code (and often an age limit, too), which everyone had to observe. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, black or white. It seemed fair, and it made sense. This is how a mature and diverse society should handle things.
On the other hand, I grew up in Japan. When I was young, many restaurants were not so welcoming to foreigners, some even openly rude. It took the rise of a new generation and a kind of mutual understanding and respect for the situation to change.

Tsumabenichou said...

What a shame that the young couple couldn't have a romantic dinner in the French restaurant !
It might strengthen the humiliation that the company was not Mr. Shiotani but your girl friend. You couldn't curse and swear together for the narrow minded service.

I have not been declined to enter restaurants, but have felt walls hard to approach. I don't know then the wall is in my mind or out.
What did the French restaurant conserve by the visitor's appearance, formality or the charges ?
I had better think about formality more.

(ma)gog said...

When I was about 9 or 10, the Keio Plaza Hotel was the first and the only tallest building in central Shinjuku. I still remember quite well, the process of the construction of this unprecedented scale of the building around in the area, as I could see it even from my parents' house in Shibuya.

I have to admit that although I was somehow impressed by the sight of the building, I didn't like it at all. I thought it was ugly, and I was worried already in case "the big earthquake" happened, because the building looked so thin that it could never be able to hold itself standing properly in the coming disaster.

Anyway, one day in very hot summer, I went for a walk with my father and my sister. We didn't have any particular destination, and we were just strolling about Yoyogi park area, looking for cicadas perching here and there making the typical summer noise vigorously. Perhaps we walked through the Meiji Shrine as well, and when we realized, we could see the famous Keio Plaza Hotel far away in front of us.

By then we must have walked quite a distance, and my sister must have been tired from walking as she was still small, but my father suggested we should go and see the building. So we went on.

We must have all looked very much worn out from the long walk in the hot weather. Furthermore, we were all wearing very simple everyday summer clothes with beach sandals.

My sister and I followed my father into that prestigious building, curiously excited to see the brand new luxurious hotel.

I suddenly noticed however, that there were groups of people who were finely dressed up with beautiful dresses and Kimonos, and all the men were wearing dark coloured formal suits.

I felt my heart started beating so fast, confused with the sudden humiliation, and I glanced up at my father, who said nothing and just kept walking. We were all quiet. Indeed, very quietly we went outside into the summer street still glaring with the late afternoon sunshine.

Your old episode of the French restaurant reminded me of the even older episode from my childhood. My father was then younger than myself now, I wonder if he can still remember that summer day walk with his daughters.

yuzu said...

I do not like to read your humiliation essay. I know that it is a long time ago. You are always a fine gentleman.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Was this the so-called dress code discrimination case especially in the '80s? Very tense...

MK said...

Maybe that was just a matter of dress code?

Kabetti said...

i know how you feel. most of people experienced in the days of youth, i think.  i didn't care how i looked.

G S said...

Is it your clothes that prevented you from getting into the restaurant? I couldn't understand what happened!

Laurent Anzai Momy said...

I find this story very endearing, it's a classic tale of how pompous institutions such as a posh french restaurant in Tokyo often are judge you by your conformity and social codes, we see this in many Charlie Chaplin movies where he plays the tramp, who may may have a hole in his sock, and his hat may be bit scuffled but is no less dignified. the beautiful acrtress by his side (the tramp) is a sign that tells us that he has an inner value and riches in his heart that only the intimate can see, in a same manner your girlfriend saw that, the maitre d' hurt your male ego by her formatted conventional manners,, and your sensitive girlfriend instead of questioning why you were not having the romantic dinner as promised; immediately accompanied you outside to sooth your feelings and as if to say you are much more dignified in her eyes with you rheart of your sleeveless shirt that the salaryman in grey costume , it's also echoes the manichean parabolē in Frank Capra films like in the shop around the corner or Meet John Doe. It was a very nice anecdote notheless thank you.

(ma)gog said...

I have come back here again to leave a brief comment.

Unfortunately I could not get a
chance to ask my father if he remembered the episode mentioned above, as he passed away in the middle of November.

I still remember quite well, that he came to see me off to the door of my parents' house when I was leaving to come to listen to your lecture at the beginning of August.
(written in January,2011)

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