The pancakes are worth it.
Ordering any food seems like a small act of courage these days; weighing your hunger with the apprehension of embarrassing yourself or annoying your server. But people are kind, and food even more forgiving.
And these pancakes, fluffy and crowned in caramel glory, served by a patient and smiling owner, are too comforting to leave room for anxiety.
Perhaps the shop owners can see your fingers twitching, because they ask you to play, and soon after, to sing. Your voice falters and your fingers stick, but you feel light, in a way you haven’t for some time.
And even though you didn’t even know enough Japanese to order a pancake, as the music plays, you all are suspended in a common language of a different kind.
The music ends, names are exchanged, and you head for the door, trailing grateful looks and arigato’s behind you like breadcrumbs on a forest trail.
When you leave, you feel full–and not just from the pancakes.