To live and die in Kitami: The end of my favorite restaurant
January 14, 2010

This week has been difficult in multiple ways. First of all, my office sent me to volunteer at the local daycare center. I absolutely adore children, but I was thrown into the job without any knowledge of what it entailed… The boss literally dropped me off on the doorstep and said, “Ganbatte!” Couple that with a staff that speaks zero English (and a volunteer with basic-at-best Japanese), and you have a recipe for dire frustration.

Secondly, there has been an insane amount of snowfall this week. For snowboarding, it would be perfect… However, I walk to work everyday. In Japan, you are pretty much screwed for footwear if you are over a size 10.5 US. I’m a size 12, which translates as a 30 in JP size. I haven’t seen bigger than 28.5 (except for sneakers, which were a 29 and had to be ordered from another city in a size 30) since I got here. What I’m getting at is this: I only have assorted sneakers, boat shoes, and a pair of Nike SB high tops. I didn’t pack winter boots because I moved here in 90-degree August. I have wet feet every single day. This is all specific to my unhappiness this week because my loving mother sent me a pair of Dr. Martens high top boots that were supposed to arrive yesterday… Thanks for the continued wet feet, Japanese Post Office.

There are the “little things” as well. I allegedly hurt my eyes in Niseko when I did a few runs sans goggles (they fogged up). I’ve been on eye drops all week and can’t wear my contacts. I love my huge Wayfarer glasses, but I definitely prefer the contacts. I also left my snowboard in a friend’s car, so I was unable to hit the slopes on Monday…

Anyway, finally, on to the bane of my week…

My favorite restaurant has gone out of business (insert sad face here).

B&T Curry Cafe, the most incredible Indian/Nepalese curry that I have ever encountered, permanently shut its doors on January 9th after only 3 months of business.

I have only lived in Kitami for about half of a year now, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand what did them in. B&T has 2 other operations, one in Sapporo and one in Kushiro. The Kitami branch was the 3rd B&T in Hokkaido. They set up shop in a very nice location, one block off of Ginza Dori, the main drag downtown. Ginza Dori is nothing but various restaurants/izakayas, karaoke, bars/nightclubs, and snack/hostess establishments (there will be another post explaining these, but essentially, bars with pretty waitress dressed in skimpy dresses where you pay to be flirted with). At night time, regardless of day or weather, Ginza Dori always attracts clientele.

However, Ginza Dori takes a long time to come alive. The streets are generally bare until post 10 or 11pm. B&T shut its doors for the night at 7pm, 7 days a week.

Additionally, Ginza Dori is a place where people go to consume vast quantities of alcohol… food is just a bonus for most patrons. B&T didn’t offer alcoholic drinks until about a month ago, and there were only 4 or 5 selections to choose from.

On my first visit to B&T, my friends and I were served by a handsome Nepalese man who spoke fluent English and Japanese. I believe he said that he spoke 5 or 6 languages. We never saw him again. In the next weeks, young Japanese girls took over as servers. The client base is probably 99% Japanese, so this was a perfectly acceptable change. Unfortunately, in the last month, all of the Japanese workers disappeared.

The entire staff (except for back-of-the-house) was replaced by one, very odd, middle-aged Nepalese man. His English was better than his Japanese, which was still nearly impossible to decipher. On several occasions, he very creepily attempted to ask me to help him find a second job. I explained that there was nothing I could do, especially since I’m also a foreigner, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I made the mistake of sharing my cell phone number with him (he had promised a discount if I helped him with his English), but he only used it to continually inquire about job prospects…

Last week, I enjoyed my final bowl of B&T Tikka Masala with naan. I went for #9 on the spice scale (out of 11). The creeper was the only person working, doing all of the cooking and serving. I tried to convince myself that this fantastic little restaurant could make it, but what I should have been doing was eating slowly and savoring every bite, knowing it would most likely be the last.

I walked from the day care center to B&T on Tuesday and Wednesday, but was greeted only by closed blinds and a locked door. Hesitantly, I dialed up the weirdo to confirm that this was, in fact, the end… then immediately erased his contact information from my cell.

I think you were the final nail in the coffin, asshole

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