Not surprisingly we were starving by 11.30 and stopped at another roadside station for lunch . For about £4 we got a big bowl of vegetable soup containing lots of udon noodles. You order your food by machine, if you're lucky there's a picture on the buttons because the descriptions are only in Japanese but we've got pretty good at ordering this way now and had no nasty surprises. Once your order is made the machine prints out a ticket that you hand in at the kitchen counter. When your order is ready your number is called out, fortunately we are such an unusual sight that the ladies in the kitchen give us a nod as well as shouting out our number, we do not know Japanese numbers. These cafes are really popular and the food is quick delicious and cheap and you can usually help yourself to free Japanese tea and iced water.
The soup was rather good but then the next stage of this event was the beating of cooked rice to make a traditional Japanese food called mochi and we were encouraged to join in and beat the rice with large wooden sledgehammers. All great fun and we got to eat the rice cakes afterwards, these were a bit of an acquired taste as they were very gelatinous and took a while to get down. So, it was cooked rice beaten to a sticky thick paste heaped into little round balls and covered in very tasty toasted soy-bean flour.
This event only takes place once a year so we're thrilled to have caught it even if it did mean two lunches in the space of an hour.