The first time I walked into a Japanese Starbucks, I thought I was ready. It’s pretty easy, really. “Large” translates to “Grande,” in some bizarro Italian-English-Japanese-word hybrid, and “coffee” is just a bastardized pronunciation of the same: “ko-hee.” Even “Hot” is, well, “Hotto.” So it’s not rocket science. Coffee’s just about all they sell, so they’ll definitely figure it out. Anyway, that’s what I thought.
It was a Starbucks in Ginza. I remember it clearly because it was a sunny day and I was sweating like a Shiba, having just walked back from a sushi lunch in Tsukiji wearing a suit. The moment I stepped through the door, a young lady in black and green greeted me. I was ready. “Hotto co . . .” I started to say.
But instead of saying “Welcome,” she blurted out, “Right now, all the seats are full,” in Japanese. I understood the words all right, but why was she saying them? I looked behind me, like maybe she was talking to someone else, but it was like the Sahara back there. Whatever, once I make a plan, I stick with it.