While Snow

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In a tiny alley bordering Kausuga 2-20, is the White Snow restaurant. The noren was out as we walked past at lunchtime yesterday, so we slid open the wooden door, ducked under the curtain and tried our luck. What a delight.

It's a classic place that could be 50 years old, or five. An L-shaped dining bar surrounds the tiny kitchen which is screened from view by a cabinet full of dishes and foods. Handwritten paper strips hang over the bar; each one bears a different menu item and price. Bottles of soy and other sauces, little jars of toothpicks, and napkins stand evenly spaced along the upper edge of the counter.

To the left of the counter, several low tables rest on a tatami dias under two paper-shaded windows. The room is dim and comfortable. And although White Snow's deserted on this Saturday afternon, we know they do a steady trade in the evenings--there are two dozen "keep bottles" on the shelves, mainly sake and a few whiskey, each with a date and its owners name written in indelible marker on the bottle.

At the end of the counter where we sat is the altar of popular cuture. A television rests loudly on a high shelf where most patrons can keep up with the televised national obessesions of food shows (daytime) and baseball (evening). It broadcast a "wide" show of talk and variety while we ate. Below the TV are several shelves of knicknacks, books and magazines. And who is making an offering at this altar? It's Happy, the ever-cheerful dwarf of legend. He's got a bucket of red silk roses in his arms and looks thrilled to offer them to the gods of media.

Speaking of the gods of media, if you haven't read Neil Gaiman's American Gods, I urge you to try it. It's a dark, funny, and thought-provoking story of old vs new. A book certainly worth your time.

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