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Quote from The Inland Sea


I sit and nibble at the stuff, sweet and insipid at the same time, and feel sorry for myself—alone and lonely, miles away from friends, eating shiruko on a wet, dead day, lost somewhere in the wilds of a land that preeminently knows how to make one feel alone. Reluctantly, I eat the last of the red beans—because there seems nothing else to do. The young waitress, plain and neat in a blue skirt and a white apron, has been watching me. Now she approaches, excuses herself, deftly removes the empty bowl, bows, and moves away. Soon she reappears, fills my teacup neatly, brings a new ashtray, removes the used one. She does all of this, as do most Japanese waitresses, decorously, with discretion and with care. Then she disappears and comes back with another bowl of steaming shiruko. She allows herself a smile as she puts it in front of me, turns and says, charmingly, “Okawari desu”—another helping. She had observed me, had perhaps misunderstood my reluctance to finish as a wish to savor. Now she was giving me, free, another helping because I had seemed to like it and because it was theirs. The Japanese concept of service is doing something nice for someone, and doing it as though for its own sake. This girl expects nothing because one need not tip in Japan. Even my future patronage is not to be considered, for the likelihood of my ever returning is very slight, sitting as I am with my belongings, waiting for a boat. And no one obliges her to behave in such a pleasant fashion. She does it because it is the proper way of doing it. And it is. It is the only way to serve and not demean either yourself or your customer.

Found by Brandon Lee in The Inland Sea.

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