After "Shogun," there's still sushi, sake, karaoke and Kirin.
Yosaku, a Japanese nightspot on Wisconsin Avenue, offers a choice of bars -- sushi, piano and neighborhood. The cold fish is downstairs where two chefs deftly slice raw tuna, salmon and yellowtail to be served with sticky rice or wrapped in seaweed on a fat wooden platform. A samurai sword hangs behind the bar for inspiration; a vase jammed full of jonquils sits beside a tower of enameled bowls.
Upstairs, you can sample sushi appetizers or tempura with Sapporo or Kirin beer. Ordering requires gesticulation, repetition, over-enunciation, slowed speech, or, for some people, shouting. All the same, you're never quite sure you've communicated with your waitress, who's sure to be obliging.
"How do you say thank you in Japanese?" asks one customer. "Domo arigato goziemasu," says the waitress six times slowly before finally writing the phrase on her order pad. The out-of-towner tucks the memory in her purse.
The room is lacquered plum. A wilting philodendron climbs up a stained glass window and spotlights shine on Japanese prints. Over the spinet piano bar, a pair of neon lips quiver beside a selection of karaoke tapes. Karaoke is a Japanese craze that doesn't seem to be catching on too quickly here. There are karaoke clubs, discos, recording studios and at-home ghetto blasters from Tokyo to Kyoto. Karaoke makes you the performer by hooking you up via microphone to instrumental tapes. You sing along and your voice merges with the music emanating from stereo speakers. It's considered rude not to perform karaoke when asked -- a refusal to reveal your real self to those around you.
At Yosaku, anyone is welcome to try the large selection of tapes -- some in English. And some few diners do. But it's also a do-it-yourself piano bar. Guests are urged to tackle the ivories, and there are maracas and a guitar for those with other musical predelictions. It's not exactly rollicking yet, but the place has only been open 10 months. Once friends took over the spinet in a show-tune singalong and Yosaku urged them back for a return engagement.
In an anteroom, regulars sit around the Yosaku equivalent of a neighborhood bar and watch Redskins' highlights on the color TV. Waitresses with inscrutable accents ask for Johnny Walker Red, plum wine and scalding sake. Customers try not to look at themselves past the bottles reflected in the bar-long smokey mirror.
Japanese pop music seeps from the karaoke room as we leave, jump into our Honda and head home to put the Fuji cassettes on the Denon tape deck equipped with Yamaha headphones, load and set the Nikon clock/camera and then go to sleep, to dream the All-American dream. YOSAKU -- 4712 Wisconsin Avenue, 363-4453/363-4454.