We opened the doors of the Shiritori Cafe today. Shiritori is a word game played by virtually every Japanese kid. The game uses the Japanese hiragana or katakana syllabaries. In addition to Chinese characters, written Japanese has two phonetic syllabaries, hiragana and katakana (the latter used primarily for loan words), as well as romaji or the Latin alphabet. Shiritori is a chain game that starts off with one person saying a word. It could be just any word or a word related to a particular theme like animals, or food. If we were playing shiritori I would sart with the Japanese word for apple, ringo. The next person in turn then follows by saying a word that begins with the last syllable of the word spoken by the person who went before him. In this case I said ringo, with the final hiragana syllable of "go," so the next person in the chain might say, "goma," meaning sesame. Play continues in this fashion until someone says a word that ends with the "m" or "n" sound. Since there is no word in Japanese that begins with either of these sounds the game ends (with one single solitary loser who will forever hang his head in shame or until the next round begins, which is usually immediately).
Our Shiritori Cafe is themed on this Japanese kids' game. Since shiritori always begins with the syllable "ri" our opening night menu was risotto. That means tommorrow night's menu will feature a meal that begins with the hiragana syllable, "to." I'm thinking toast right now but nothing is set in stone.
Here is what the hiragana and katakana syllabaries look like (they are written and read right to left, up and down):
Risotto ingredients: 2 cups brown rice, garlic, onion, olive oil, chicken, shimeji mushroom, love