Beer at the Soba Shop

Beer at the Soba Shop

by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

The thing that bothered me the most when I moved from the city center to the suburbs in the summer of 1981 was that there wasn't anybody hanging around during the day. The majority of the population being white-collar, they left early in the morning and returned in the evening. Since I make it a rule only to work mornings and nights, I hang out in the neighborhood in the afternoon. It's the strangest feeling. The neighbors all look at me suspiciously, so I start to feel like I've actually done something wrong.

It seems like most of the people in town assume I'm a college student.When I was out for a walk recently, this old woman called out to me "Hey, are you looking for a room,"; taxi drivers say things like "Studying must be really tough, huh?"; and the clerk at the record-rental place asked me to "Please show your student I.D."

Granted, I live in jeans and tennis shoes all year round, but I'm 33 years old, and I don't think I look like a college student. But I suppose, to the people in town, anyone wandering around in the daytime looks like a college student.

I didn't have this problem at all when I lived in the city. I was always meeting people out for walks in the afternoon on Aoyamy-dori, just like me. In particular, I often ran into the illustrator Mizumaru Anzai (whose
work accompanies all of the essays in this book--Chris.)

"Anzai-san. What's up?"

"Um, errr, I mean, you know, kinda..."

And there were other similar instances. People in the area could never tell whether Anzai was really totally unoccupied, or whether he was actually very busy but didn't show it.

Anyway, for whatever unknown reasons, there are plenty of people wandering around in the daytime downtown. I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but fun is fun. When it got to be lunch time and I went into a soba shop and ordered a beer, they didn't make a strange face, and were always obliging. Beer drunk at a soba shop is always really delicious, after all.