Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring

Noodle shop 1

After walking around the town for so long, they all were ready to have some tea and relax. So they were surprised at Tsubasa's proposal, since it was not yet 11 AM. But since everyone was fond of noodles, they decided to go to the noodle shop Ryoko recommended. The shop was fairly crowded in spite of the early hour.

Grandfather checked the status of the restaurant with his RUICA and said, "This shop has scored many agreement buttons. The restaurant has been endorsed not only by visitors, but also by residents." First he ordered sake. The shop attendant smiled and said, "Here is the shop's specialty."
Chilled sake in a small blue frosted glass bottle, together with a white porcelain cup, were placed on the table as if they were treasures. "This is a restaurant where tableware, food and customers are cherished," Grandmother whispered to Tsubasa's mother, who nodded.

Tsubasa's grandfather and father drank sake and ate pickles. Grandfather did not forget to take pictures of the sake with his RUICA to update "Kohei's sake lecture" site. The crunchy noodles with wild vegetables had a savory aroma, and tasted delicious. The flavors were enhanced by a wonderful soy sauce, so good that they wanted to use every drop. According to the menu, the vegetables, including wild mushrooms, were grown locally, not imported. Production of vegetables for local consumption was the practice here. Tsubasa was happy to eat with Ryoko and wished she would eat her noodles with grated radish slowly, so that he could be with her longer.

"Oh!" Ryoko exclaimed, suddenly turning her attention to the entrance. The family with two children had entered. She pretended not to notice them, so as not to embarrass them, but prepared to give immediate help.

The boy's parents said something to the shop attendant and pointed their RUICAs at the menu. RUICA displayed a menu suitable for the food-allergic boy. The boy hesitated over his choices, and finally made a selection. The attendant's manner was friendly and respectful, and made the boy feel proud of himself. He had probably felt frustrated at not being able to eat whatever he wanted at other restaurants. Like many other people, he had not been able to make good decisions due to lack of proper information. Similarly, when Tsubasa's grandmother had been sick, she had hardly dined out at all, because she had no sure way to control her intake of salt and calories in a restaurant.

A bowl of special noodles with deep-fried tempura was brought to the boy's table. Tsubasa thought they looked delicious; who would have guessed they had been made without eggs and buckwheat? This kind of menu might be called universal design applied to food. The family enjoyed a great meal.

Grandmother spoke out suddenly.
"I like living here. I want to live in a town where people like Ryoko-san pay such attention to others." Tsubasa and his parents did not know how to answer when she spoke so directly. "We were very glad to live with you in Tokyo, but the downtown life itself was very tiring. Even though there are many people in Tokyo, we never met someone who showed concern for us, or who needed us. There was no sign of caring for others there as Ryoko-san does here; she treats us with great respect and patience. In addition, I do not think I can meet people who need me in Tokyo."

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