I’ve been meaning to write this for almost two weeks, since getting back from a brief trip to Matsuyama on Shikoku island (literally, the “fourth country”). Murata-sensei and I were visiting Orito-san of Ehime University and doing some research on CCTV in Japan. While I was there I had three meals that were worth reporting on, all for different reasons.

On the day we arrived, Orito-san booked a table at a restaurant called Ikaya. Now, for those who know some Japanese terms, this will clue them in as to why this wasn’t necessarily the best place to take me. “Ika” means squid or cuttlefish in Japanese and “ya” is a suffix for a place that sells something, so honya is a bookshop (hon meaning book). Orito-san had checked and there were things on the menu I could eat, she claimed. She was right, but that didn’t make the beginning of the meal any less uncomfortable for me. There’s just something about having even what someone else is eating lying on the table twitching and looking at you while they eat it. What they do is they cut the main body of the squid into sashimi (cthushi) and serve it together with the head and legs still attached to each other. Once the main body has been eaten the plate goes back to the kitchen for the legs to be made into tempura. That way you know that both the sashimi and the tempura are as fresh as it’s possible for them to be. The rest of the meal was fairly nice food, though the grill it yourself vegetables and the fry it yourself chicken, while ensuring that every mouthful really is freshly cooked, strikes me as rather a lot of work for what’s supposed to be a “meal out”.

So, on to the next morning (well, both of the mornings were almost the same, actually). The University has a fairly old but very cheap guest house very close to the Ehime University campus, which is where Murata-sensei and I were staying. They had an option of a Japanese-style Breakfast or Western-style Breakfast There were a couple of other people staying and they both had the Japanese-style breakfast, which was very traditional: rice, miso shiru (soup), cold grilled fish, pickled vegetables, a soft boiled egg and green tea (plus some other odd bits). Murata-sensei and I both went for the
Western style which, as you can see from the picture consists of coffee (fine); yoghurt (fine); fruit (fine); a fried egg (fine, except it had been cooled after cooking to prevent the yolk finishing cooking); shredded lettuce with the egg (bit odd); cold grilled fish (err, pardon, Western-style? OK a hot grilled or fried kipper is traditional British, but a whole flatfish or a chunk of salmon?); soup (eh?); and finally some of the doorstep bread you get here toasted then cut most of the way through into squares (fine). It really looked like someone who’d heard of the concept of a Western breakfast but couldn’t quite get their head out of Japanese concepts.

The final meal worth talking about was the lunch on the second day. Maybe to make up for the squid, or anyway because I was there, Orito-san took us to “Charlie’s Vegetable” which is a sort-of vegetarian restaurant between Ehime University and the town centre. I say sort-of because in Ehime “vegetarian” also includes seafood (though not fish), so some of the things on offer had prawns and possibly some squid in there though I was avoiding the subject of squid at this point. It was buffet style at lunch with most things fairly clearly labelled. A huge range of different salad ingredients washed and sliced (as appropriate) with several dressings available separately. Three different soups (only one was “no seafood” but it was nice), a bunch of vegetable stuff as well and a huge range of desserts in Meatloaf proportions. A lovely place and definitely one I hope to return to when I visit Orito-san in future.