イキラン, or Ichiran to us gaijin, is a no-frills ramen restaurant which runs heavy on flavour and charm. As soon as you enter the small bar-style eatery, you are greeted by all staff, regardless of what task they are doing, offering a friendly welcome in almost-unison. You are quickly beckoned to any available seats, among the many friendly locals and engrossed salarymen enjoying their hot bowl after a long day in the office.
The menu is simple, with just enough English on them to ensure you are free to order confidently. And once you order, from any of the smiley staff around, you will begin to feel really immersed in the cosy but crisp interiors of Ichiran. An old TV adorns the corner, the day's newspapers spill out of a small rack on the wall, satisfied patrons wave goodbye and exit gracefully. The whole restaurant is open for your eyes to penetrate; you can see the skilled artists at work in the kitchen creating the udon noodles, stirring the fiery soups, cutting mountains of vegetables and, of course, greeting new customers!
A jug of iced water with glasses will appear in front of you, to pre-empt the heat and spice you are about to consume. The food is fresh and quick, you won't be left in the dark for any time. And when you have that first taste of quintessentially Japanese ramen, thick with miso and aromatic goodness, you will honestly wonder why you have ever eaten anything else.
The bowl is a journey, you question whether you want it to end, without doubting for a second you will reach the conclusion. There will be temptations to lick the bowl, there will be a feeling of climax and food-dizziness. After it's over, your dream state will relinquish, the bowls are quickly dispersed of and it is almost like they never existed. Except for that satisfaction in your stomach and that indescribable sensation on the tip of your tongue.
Your stay in Ichiran will seem to come to a natural end, and you can leave to explore the lights and action of Fukuoka with your wallet barely any lighter and your tastebuds much more learned. One day perhaps, you will return.
I’ve realised that I actually tend to enjoy doing nothing, contrary to the general opinion. However, what I don’t enjoy about doing nothing? The guilt associated with it.
Anytime I’m spending my time doing nothing, there is always something my conscience feels guilty for not doing instead. When I was at school, it was homework or revision. When I was at university, it was essays and revision. Now I’m at a break between studying, it’s job hunting and ‘getting myself out there.’ So now when I spend a day doing whatever I want, there is a niggling sense of guilt and regret that I am not being active and productive. Yet it is this feeling which makes doing nothing undesirable and frustrating, not the activity itself.
Actually ‘doing nothing’ is usually anything but; this includes listening to music, discovering new music, watching your favourite TV show, playing a game, browsing the internet, reading, going for a walk or a cycle, and my favourite ‘do nothing’ activity: absorbing information. Yet most of these activities, unless done with some sort of justification or in moderation, are looked down upon by our peers as unproductive and a waste of time.
If I had unlimited time in a day, I would be free to do ‘nothing’ for as long as I want, and because the day would be everlasting, I wouldn’t run out of time in securing a ‘productive’ day for myself. I could job hunt (sigh) and enjoy spending time by myself. But the way time works, the sense of regret comes through when it gets dark and you realise this day may just merge into the others.
This brings another dimension to this steam of consciousness. When you do nothing with friends, it’s known as being social. Yet doing nothing alone is not counted under this loose term. Is there not such a thing as getting to know yourself? Is it really impossible to be social with yourself? I have good times going for a walk or a cycle by myself, listening to music. Yet this answer in response to the nauseating question “what did you do with your day?” is less socially acceptable than saying that I went for a walk with my friend. There’s a taboo to doing nothing by yourself,as it’s considered a singular waste, rather than the amount of time we spend essentially doing nothing only with someone else.
A side note here is that there are justifications and excuses for actually doing nothing which are also acceptable to others and ourselves, aside from the ‘social’ aspect of all this. An interesting one is hangover days. Yes, we all have them, and on especially heavy comedowns, you have the perfect excuse to do nothing all day. I generally don’t feel as guilty on these days because I have the justification of being tired, moody, spaced out, hungover, zapped or any other wacky adjective. I was social and did an activity the day/night before, that is going out drinking, and now I have a specially designated hangover day to waste. Even if I still have deadlines or ‘real things’ to be doing on these days, the justification is enough to minimise the aspect of guilt. Doing nothing in certain circumstances can be self-justified enough to take away the frustration of feeling like your time has been wasted.
Anyway, there’s no real point to this post, I was just interested in putting across the view thatdoing nothing is neither a waste of your time, nor is it actually doing nothing. I think once I realised this, I can be a bit more happier with myself and doing what I enjoy. Still, I can never get rid of the sense of background guilt that comes with spending a day doing nothing, as there is always something else I could be doing, linked to advancing myself or trying to achieve my dreams and aspirations. I fear I will never be able to get over this sense of regret from doing nothing, but this is never going to stop me doing what I enjoy. And that is, doing nothing.