Part 5: Osaka’s Auntie Battle a Giant
Chapter 24: Invitation from the Royal Capital
“So, this is a buckwheat… noodle…?
Natalia stiffened at the sight of this new dish. It looked… horrible actually.
“The noodles are all brown and speckled, the sauce is all black with bits of things floating in it…”
“It’s meant to be like that. Well, compared to true Kansai style sauce, this one is a bit thin.”
The noodles were actually meant to be eaten with chopsticks, but, like a lot of things in this world, it can’t be helped. She’ll just have to make do with a fork.
A never before experienced flavour spread within Natalia’s mouth. With wide eyes and bulging cheeks, Natalia slowly chewed the noodles and swallowed with an audible gulp.
“What, just what is this…”
Natalia stared fixedly at Haruna.
“The moment it entered my mouth, I thought it was a little too spicy, but then it became sweet… the noodles are surprisingly springy and the more I chewed, the more different it felt compared to the udon… I mean, there are similar points, but, I mean, I just don’t know how to say it.”
Natalia’s fork plunged into the plate of noodles again, a swift twirl and a dip, and in went the noodles into her eager mouth.
“It’s delicious!” she declared through a stuffed mouth. “A completely different kind of flavour from anything I have ever eaten! Really delicious!”
“What’s this? Natalia, your comments are all over the place, wa~”
The tips of Natalia’s tail flicked left and right, making little ‘pyon’ ‘pyon’ sounds. Well, it looked like Natalia really liked it.
The entire plate of soba was soon devoured, leaving no survivors behind. She gave a delicate little burped.
“However, I do feel that this sauce thing kind of lacks punch in terms of flavour, some customers might find it too plain.”
“You might be right, nen. Well, we won’t be able to mass produce this soba dish right now since we don’t have proper soy sauce. Ah~ if only I could move the Wakayama Soy Sauce Factory here, na.”
They had more of less converted half of the office into a test kitchen by then.
“Ah, that’s right.”
It looked like Natalia had just recalled something.
“While you were out battling giants, a message came from the Royal Capital.”
“Fu~un, the Royal Capital again? What do those punks want? Is it the guild people?” Haruna was the highest level knight in the world with her Platinum rank, so there was a good chance that the Guild HQ might want to contact her about something bothersome again.
“Ah, no. The message came from one of the aristocratic families, one of the highest level. The House of Yakomai’s daughter actually.”
Natalia fished out the letter form a drawer and handed it to her boss. From the quality of paper alone, they could tell that it was expensive. By the way, Haruna’s social status as a merchant meant that she also had to deal with all kinds of official papers and documentations and this was hardly her first letter on pricey paper.
“It would appear that Miss Yakomai wants you to personally make Okonomiyaki for her, no matter what.”
“I see, I see, well, it might not be a bad idea to expand the [Haru-chan Group] into the Royal Capital, de na.”
Thus far, Haruna’s tried and true method of establishing branch shops was to tackle all nearby towns and cities firsts, and avoiding places that were too far away for her to supervise.
However, if she has a strong branch store at the Royal Capital, she would be able to spread her shops through the entire Royal Kingdom in one go.
“The Royal Capital is where people from all over the world gather together, right? Kind of like the City of Tokyo?”
If people got to know about Okonomiyaki and Udon at the Capital, they might even bring the idea back to their own home town, thus spreading the better nutrition concept even further.
“This is a one-of-a-kind chance, ya. Let’s go and check out this Imperial Capital place more closely.”
Haruna’s interest was thoroughly piqued.
“Oh right, I wonder if I’ll be granted an audience with the king.”
“… back to our original topic, I must strongly express my concern…”
Natalia was looking gloomier than usual.
“The Yakomai family’s young miss is famous for her bad attitude, moreover, the entire family is well known for being strict gourmets and have sent more than a few famous chefs away in tears. It would appear that they have some rather… exacting standards.”
“Everything will work itself out, I’m sure. It’ll all be fine, no worries, no worries.”
Haruna was clearly unconcerned. Well, she was a natural optimistic after all.
“Anyway, though Okonomiyaki is a commoner’s food, we can use fancy ingredients to jazz it up a bit. Let’s see, we can use ingredients normally eaten by aristocrats, yosh, let’s do that.”
“But, that young miss’ bad attitude, if you serve her something that ‘s not to her taste…” in contrast Natalia, the natural pessimist, was worried.
“Ah, don’t worry about it, no worries, no worries, I’ve lived in Osaka for a long time and is quite used to attitudes like that.”
“What are are saying? Are there lots of bad people in Osaka?”
“No, no, it’s our neighbour, ya.”
Strangely enough, rare look of dislike appeared on Haruna’s face.
“It’s Kyoto, that place is populated by people with bad attitudes, always saying things they don’t mean.”
“So, they’re the opposite of you.”
“Yes, yes, if you ask, I’ll even tell you all about my number one and number two adventures, ya.”
“Please don’t, I seriously don’t need to know those things! How do you expect me to give my report now!?”
The people of Osaka did not really hate the Kyoto-ites. In fact, a good number of the Osakans chose Kyoto as their holiday destination of choice, based largely on the fact that it is right next to them.
Kyoto had always been a major tourist destination even in the past, thanks largely to the cities that surrounded it. People from Osaka and Kobe would frequently pop over for a day trip, and the number of tourists it drew was equivalent to the whole of Kanto or Kyushu region.
Despite this, Osakans never really warmed up to the people of Kyoto, one of the possible reason for this was that majority of the Osakans are merchants.
And merchants value profit above all else. Moreover, in order to properly do business with each other, the people of Osaka had developed a rather disconcerting habit of inquiring after a stranger’s annual income record as part of their ‘get to know you’ greetings. Which really showed just how money minded they are.
In contrast, people of Kyoto are largely descendent from aristocracy, inheriting the manners, traditions and customs that came with being part of the upper class. Combine this with over a thousand years of peace, you have the makings of a society that values complicated customs and strict manners over honesty.
Kyoto used to be the seat of government of Japan. This meant that beautiful temples and palaces were built to serve as places of leisure and deep contemplation. This naturally meant that formal manners and specific customs became the done thing.
Furthermore, the complicated relationship between Osakans and Tokyo-ites, or Edo-ites more like, could be explained by studying how these cities developed.
Edo used to be the city where samurai from all over Japan gathered, samurai stationed permanently in Tokyo naturally became bureaucrats and administrators, enforcers of laws and red-tapes which is something that businessmen would always find annoying at best. It was also the government’s job to investigate and potentially close down and take over failing companies, which was not something that will endear them to merchants.
Moreover, during the Edo Period, there was no city as large or important as Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, therefore they’d naturally saw each other as rivals as they vied for power. Of the 3 so-called major cities of Japan, the one with the least influence was Osaka. Even as late as the 21st century, Osaka was seen as backward and lacked the values and finesse of a properly developed society.
At least, these were all Haruna’s impression which she ranted passionately at Natalia.
Within the Imperial Capital letter were some suggested dates for Haruna to come.
This was the era where the only mail available was snail mail, nothing at all like high speed e-mails we take for granted. Because of this, some allowances had to be made when it came to scheduling a meeting. After all, it’s not like people could just drop whatever they were doing the moment they received a letter of invitation and just scurry off to meet up.
“Alright! They want me to come on this date, eh. Let’s write them a reply now, wa.”
Thus, a tentative date had been decided.
Next, Haruna’s eyes glanced over to the kitchen.
“Which such limited time, we won’t be able to test out many new recipes before going, na.”
Haruna was pretty confident about her own cooking ability, it was confidence backed by hard work and research after all.
“Though rare, there ARE people who disliked Okonomiyaki, because of certain ingredients like octopus. They just see it as some kind of alien creature, and not food. Also, people who are allergic to wheat definitely can’t eat them.”
“So, are we going to create some new dishes?”
Natalia managed to maintain her poker face, but her shining eyes betrayed her excitement. She’ll be able to ‘taste test’ even more delicious food soon!
“I guess, na. But, I won’t let Natalia try any until I’m satisfied with the recipe.”
Thus, before their departure day, Haruna spent most of her time testing her recipes in her office/kitchen, going through many trials and error in order to develop the ultimate dish.
Since she has plenty of money, there was no need to hold back when it came to ingredients.
Finally, it was time to make their way to the Imperial Capital.
[Gumihou: Ohoho, I wonder what kind of people she’ll meet at the Capital?]
 Number one and number two adventures – Erm, pee and poo