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The green curry from Soi Gapao, a Thai restaurant in Sagamihara, Japan.

The green curry from Soi Gapao, a Thai restaurant in Sagamihara, Japan. (Claire Jenq/Stars and Stripes)

My least favorite Japanese word is “yoyaku,” which means reservation.

Last-minute planner that I am, I don’t often make one.

Also, not every restaurant in the United States requires a reservation, but in Japan, the yoyaku is king. I’m embarrassed to admit the number of times I have walked into a delightfully aroma-tinged restaurant with open tables; heard the host utter, “yoyaku?” and then sheepishly turned away with a twinge of regret.

My husband and I made that mistake when we went on a date recently. We planned on going to a local sushi restaurant — a place that deserves its own write-up. The restaurant was nearly empty the last time we ate there, but this evening it was a full house.

“Yoyaku?” the host asked.

And I knew we wouldn’t be having sushi that night. We turned away, a little defeated, and drove around Sagamihara, Japan, looking for an alternative, until we decided to try Soi Gapao in a last-ditch effort to rescue date night.

Soi Gapao has been recommended by many of our friends at Camp Zama, but we’d never given it a try. When we walked through the door, I was struck by the fun, warm and eclectic Thai decor.

Soi Gapao, a Thai eatery not far from Camp Zama, Japan, is a must-try.

Soi Gapao, a Thai eatery not far from Camp Zama, Japan, is a must-try. (Claire Jenq/Stars and Stripes)

“Yoyaku?”

When we tentatively shook our heads no, the host replied in Japanese, “Just a moment please.” I felt relief when he turned back around, smiled and asked in Japanese, “Two people?”

By now, we were both hungry. We ordered several dishes to split, including Chinese spinach, chicken satay, green chicken curry, soft-shelled crab and fried chicken wings. Everything was delicious.

The spinach was perfectly simmered in a flavorful sauce with garlic and spicy-sweet red peppers.

The chicken satay from Soi Gapao, a Thai restaurant in Sagamihara, Japan.

The chicken satay from Soi Gapao, a Thai restaurant in Sagamihara, Japan. (Claire Jenq/Stars and Stripes)

The chicken satay had a crunchy char on the outside and came with a pungent fish sauce and plenty of herbs. I questioned whether the soft-shelled crab was even seafood. The green curry was spicy, sweet and creamy. And if you ever see Thai fried chicken wings on a menu, order them. They’re always amazing, but these ones especially because the chef had added bits of herbs in the batter.

Soi Gapao is a must-try for anyone, whether on a date or on your own. You can bring your dog along too, since pets are welcome on the patio.

But I would recommend making a yoyaku on Soi Gapao’s website for your next visit, just in case.

Soi Gapao, a Thai eatery not far from Camp Zama, Japan, is a must-try.

Soi Gapao, a Thai eatery not far from Camp Zama, Japan, is a must-try. (Claire Jenq/Stars and Stripes)

Soi Gapao

Location: 252-0303 Kanagawa, Sagamihara, Minami Ward, Sagamiono, 5 Chome−29−10-1 shino-plaza1F, Japan

Directions: About a 20-minute drive from Camp Zama, Japan, or a short walk from Sagami-Ono Station

Hours: Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Prices: Most dishes are around 990 yen, or about $6.80

Dress: Casual

Information: Phone: 042-851-5598; Online: www.soigapao.com/en.html

author picture
Claire Jenq joined Stars and Stripes in 2022 as a digital editor and is based out of Japan. She has a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus on marketing from the University of Toledo and a Bachelor of English degree from the Ohio State University.

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