I went back to “hell”. Actually, I went back there twice.
After my “down the rabbit hole” experience, I gathered my courage to go back to one of the restaurants. I had no problem finding “Jigokudani” itself, because it isn’t an imaginary place, it exists. Rumors say the area was actually established during the local territorial confusion caused by WWII. Looking at Google Maps – this area is not adjacent to any of the white-colored streets, so I speculate that people could have built the houses in a hurry.
Still, I didn’t have enough courage to actually open any of the doors; The word “Jigoku (Hell)” actually frightened me quite a lot. But, I told to myself, “Hey, just rely on the humor of whoever named the place. Hell is imaginary, and those shops are ordinary.” Still, I was very careful to choose which door to try. The Devil could be waiting inside after all.
So, I eventually found a place, a kushi-katsu restaurant. I opened the door, took a seat, and the chef asked me what I wanted a drink. I ordered a bottle of beer. Thank God Japanese traditional Kirin beer was served, not somebody’s blood. The seats were filled with local people.
Surprisingly, or should I say out of my limited imagination, the place was comfortable. The Kushi-katsu was served immediately after ordering, and the people sitting there were modest and a bit tipsy. They asked me “How did you find this place?” in soft Kansai accent, probably because I looked so young compared to them. I answered, “I don’t know. I think I liked the look of this place.” They seemed surprised and interested.
We had a little bit conversation about each other, having many laughs along the way. Closing time soon came – 10:00pm – and we stood up, paid and the customers all seemed to disappear magically. I truly thought that this was magic, but actually I didn’t know there were two entrances.
In between conversations with the other customers, I had some small talk with the chef. In the restroom there was an interesting, unknown painting, so I asked him “Do you like paintings?” and he said “Yeah, I was once in the Navy.”
So the second time I came, I brought a portfolio that I had bought at the Maizuru Musuem, the port where the returning soldiers came back to after WWII. Last time I came on the weekend, but this time was a weekday. The chef was standing inside the counter, alone, listening to Jazz. We chatted for a bit and I showed him the portfolio. He looked at it and said, “Hm. Great. Thanks.”
I drank a bottle of beer and had a good time eating crispy kushi-katsu while talking comfortably with the chef. I told him about my job and explained Izanau to him, also asking him if it was okay to write an article about his restaurant. “Yeah, why not. There’s no harm in that!” he said, So I took a photo of him.
At the end of conversation I asked, “Would you mind if foreigners came in?” he answered, “I don’t mind! You know, at first when they come, they look frightened, standing at entrance, so I often feel frightened too. Then they sit down, I try to speak to them, and they try to listen. They speak to me, and I try to listen. We have the guts to do that. So it’s okay.” In the middle of paying, I confessed. “To tell you the truth, I was frightened the first time I came in too, as the name of street is… you know, Jigokudani.” He smiled. “You didn’t have to be. Now it isn’t like 60 years ago. All the spots run by the devil have closed down.”
Address: Ōsaka, Fukushima-ku, Yoshino, 2−13-7
Phone number: Unavailable
[Weekdays] 11:30 - 13:30 / 18:00 - 22:00
[Saturday] 18:00 - 22:00
Closed: Sunday, Public Holidays
Closest Station: Nodahanshin Station / Hanshin line or Subway Sen-nichimae Line
Reservations: Not possible
Accept Credit Card: No
Seats: 8 counter seats, 8 table seats
Quietest times: Preferably weekdays
Price: 90 yen per stick of Fried Skewer / 300 yen per other Otsumami
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