Omotenashi: How the Japanese Remind Us We Deserve to Be Happy
On our last night in Tokyo, we missed the korot stop. It was nearly 8 PM, and we knew this was our last chance. “Dude! We have to turn around!” My friend and I got off at the next stop along the red Marunouchi metro line that connects Shinjuku and Tokyo Station, then hopped right back in to go the other direction.
I can’t recall whether it was Ginza, Kasumigaseki, or Shinjuku-sanchome station, but I still remember exactly what the tiny stall selling little pieces of heaven looked like. It was a 10-foot-long aluminum box with two glass displays, their bottom half straight, the upper half curved — the kind you typically see in bakeries and cake shops. “Thank god!” The single-pull metal shutter was still open.
The two ladies behind the counter were already packing up to go home, but when they saw us running towards them yelling, “Korot! Korot!” they stopped in their tracks. A korot, by the way, is a crêpe filled with whipped cream, wrapped tightly like a little pillow, at the center of which may sit a piece of banana with some chocolate sauce, a strawberry, or any other delicious filling you can imagine. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to biting into a cloud, and if you do, you too will gladly get lost in the giant spider web that is the Tokyo subway for a chance at one more taste.
Smiling as always-friendly as most Japanese service staff tend to do, the women wanted to take our order, but they didn’t understand English, and we didn’t speak Japanese. Down to our last 1,000 yen, we pointed at the kinds of korot we wanted, and they filled a little plastic bag with the five pieces we could afford.
“Do you take euros?” we asked, waving a blue 20 € bill in front of their faces as if it was worth anything more than the paper it was printed on, here, 9,300 kilometers away from home. And then, after shaking their heads and looking incredulously at the strange note, the two korot salesladies did something amazing: They filled our little plastic bag to the brim with leftover korots, and despite our pleading, they wouldn’t take a dime.
Somehow, they sensed how important those fluffy delicacies were to us, and they decided we weren’t going to…