Uma Umai? 馬 うまい?

One of the highlights of travelling alone is the opportunity to meet new people, some of whom later became my friends along the way. There’s so much to learn from such interactions, whether it’s the exchange of language, culture, societal norms, etc. And these interactions often happen when you least expect them.

That was how I met Ruriko (淵 ルリ子), a Nagasaki native who happened to be in Kumamoto to meet up with a friend. She was happily chatting with her friend when I accidentally knocked over a pint of beer while browsing the menu at this restaurant called Uma Sakura (馬桜) in the Shimotori shopping arcade (下通り ショッピンアーケード) that specialises in horsemeat. There’s of course no lack of restaurants in this shopping arcade but I just wanted to try a full horsemeat course that day. And this restaurant looks pretty decent.

Back to Ruriko and my beer accident. Sensing that I may have some difficulty understanding the menu or ordering the food, she offered her assistance. And the next thing I know, the three of us (including her friend) started chatting like long-time friends. We exchanged contacts, and till today, we still kept in touch. I had promised her I would definitely visit Nagasaki the next time I go to Japan. Coincidentally, my original itinerary had included Nagasaki but I changed it just 3 weeks prior to departure, in favour of visiting Beppu and Kumamoto after a colleague’s advice. There’s so much left to explore in Kyushu, and two weeks really don’t do this place justice. In case you’re wondering how the horse meat tasted, it wasn’t enough to blow my socks off. I would say it’s a little like beef, but on the fatty side, which is ironic because I had imagined these horses would have tough muscles from all that running. By the way, a full horsemeat course doesn’t come cheap, and expect to spend upwards of 80-90 USD. I opted for a humble horse steak instead. And a second pint of beer.  LS

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